Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lake Tahoe Family Multisport

Because I just ran two trips back-to-back, this posting is right on the heels of the previous one about our Colorado Adventure. While both trips were multisport adventures, the one in Lake Tahoe, as a Family tour, was wildly different.

We only started running Family Adventures last year, with an initial Yellowstone trip done as a test. It was incredibly successful and we had all 14 participants from that trip sign up for the Lake Tahoe Family Adventure this year. In addition, my niece and nephew, Erica and Brian, brought with them their parents (my brother Dave and sister-in-law Sharon) and their grandparents (my parents Spencer and Beverly). So, this was indeed a family trip for me!

Our family adventures are designed with both the parents and kids in mind. The key concept is to structure the tour so some activities are enjoyed by everyone as a group while other activities are done separately. For example, on one day our entire group went rafting on the Truckee River, coming home with wet clothes and exciting stories of the "Jaws" rapid. The next day we split the group for a hiking day. Most of the parents and older kids did a long hiking route of six miles that went uphill to the top of Squaw Valley. The short route, attended by all the younger kids and some of the parents, took a gondola ride to the top where the group did a shorter hike. So, everyone enjoyed the rafting together but those parents who wanted a workout could do the tougher hike without worrying about their kids.

After three days, because of the activities I was leading, I found that I had spent most of my time with the adults and older kids. I hadn't yet bonded (on this trip at least) with the younger kids. One of my best experiences of the tour was to quickly change that! Getting done early from a biking day, I drove the kids back to the hotel and the outdoor pool. I jumped in with Erica, Brian, Wendy, Adam, Noah, and Rebecca and was the immediate center of the kids' attention. For the next two hours, I got a workout by throwing balls, playing Marco Polo, and carrying kids around on my back.

It was great fun and I think indicative of the family tours. The kids just want to have fun and that is what happens on the family tours. While the parents might love that they are not responsible for making decisions, don't have to drive a car, and can leave their kids in our hands for much of the tour, the kids simply want to have fun. And whether it is singing in the car, playing games in the park, or taking part in our scheduled activities, they definitely know how to do it!

Next year we will have two Family Adventures: Yellowstone and Colorado. I am sure glad we added the family trips!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Colorado Hike & Wheel

We have been running our Colorado Skating Adventure for years. Last summer, four of our High Rollers (repeat customers with at least 20 Zephyr trip days) asked us to add hiking to the itinerary. Happy to oblige, we created our Colorado Hike & Wheel Adventure that ran from July 30 through August 3.

The trip was structured to have alternating activities: hiking in the Colorado mountains and either skating or biking on some of Colorado's best paved trails. 18 people joined guide Terry Lynch and myself on this tour.

The trip took place in Summit County, Leadville, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs. All are great areas with incredible mountain views and fantastic trails, both dirt and paved.

I won't go over the five-day trip in detail but wanted to write about one highlight. The best hiking day was near Breckenridge when we had two distinct options. The "easy" option was a six-mile round trip hike to Mohawk Lake. The group who did this hike came back with raving reviews about the trail, the scenery, and the bag lunch everyone enjoyed sitting at the base of an alpine waterfall.

I led the second group on the harder option, a climb up 14,265-foot Quandry Peak. While the hike itself is not long (6.75 miles and 3400 feet of elevation gain) and requires no technical skills, hiking at altitude is always much more taxing than hiking at sea level. We discussed this at length the night before the hike and the nine people who chose to attempt Quandry knew they all had the option to turn around part way up the trail.

The ten of us quickly spread out on the trail as we each found a comfortable walking pace. We soon rose above the treeline and could see the long, uphill trail in front of us. The secret to hiking at this type of altitude is to go slowly; at the same time, we were very aware that we needed to make progress before the afternoon thunderstorms arrived. Starting in the back and working my way forward, I tried to make sure each member of our group had a realistic understanding of his or her chances of reaching the summit. I was also constantly watching the thunderclouds on the horizon, checking to see if they were headed our direction.

I eventually made my way to the front of our group where two members (Kirk and Tina) looked very strong. Tina was even hiking in open-toed sandals! By the time we reached about 13,500 feet, however, Kirk and Tina were discussing whether they would continue. I asked to take the lead, slowed down the pace, and the three of us continued steadily to the summit. It felt great to be on top! Eventually, two other hikers (Rick and Tony) also summited and I celebrated with them as we took photos and signed the register on top.

While four made the summit, the rest turned around at one point or another. Neither they nor I saw this as a failure, however. Instead, I think each person who attempted Quandry Peak that day learned something about high altitude hiking - and perhaps about himself or herself individually. It was a great experience that I know others would love to have. We'll leave Quandry Peak or another 14,000-foot mountain on the itinerary.

Overall, I thought the trip went extremely well. The mix of activities was fun and Colorado is the perfect state to host an adventure tour, with its amazing scenery, towns, and recreation.