2002 T+L 100 Great Escapes: Outdoors
80 Karma Trip
Want to do good on your downtime?The Earthwatch Institute matches altruistic vacationers with 135 research and conservation projects in 50 countries. Among the choices: studying insects in Costa Rica; hunting dinosaur fossils in Argentina; and distributing medicine to villagers in Cameroon. Tax-deductible "contributions" start at $700 (excluding airfare), with accommodations ranging from wilderness camps to small local hotels. 800/776-0188; www.earthwatch.org.
81 Beyond Scuba
The Breathing Observation Bubble is perfect for exploring tropical reefs. The one-person electric mini-sub (imagine a scooter and helmet in one) steers like a bike and can descend to 50 feet. For a spin around Mexico's Baha de Mujeres—no experience necessary—call Cancn All Tours (52-9/848-1060; $75 for three hours).
82 Set My River Free
Over the past three years, anti-dam activists have liberated more than 1,000 rivers. In their most successful campaign, 17 miles of Maine's Kennebec River were undammed in 1999, spawning a boom in striped bass, shad, salmon, sturgeon, ospreys, kingfishers, and herons. What's good for the wildlife is good for paddlers and fishermen, too. See for yourself this summer, on a canoe trip with Maine Wilderness Tours (207/465-4333; www.mainewildernesstours.com).
83 Keep on Trekking
For those who find the Appalachian Trail (2,160 miles, Maine to Georgia) child's play, several new monster trails—including the American Discovery Trail (6,357 miles, Delaware to California) and the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles, New Mexico to Montana)—might prove a challenge. But even these are for pikers compared to the Trans Canada Trail, slated for completion in 2005. Running from Newfoundland to British Columbia, with a spur up to the Arctic Circle, it will log in at a cool 10,718 miles. Wear sensible shoes.
84 All Aboard
With women-only surf camps all the rage, it was just a matter of time before the no-boys-allowed concept spread to other sports. Now Beverly Sanders, founder of Las Olas Surf Safari in central Mexico, has introduced Las Snolas Snow Safari for women who want to learn snowboarding without guys around. Many instructors are professional female boarders; between lessons, students can unwind with yoga classes and spa treatments. The next session takes place at the Whistler Blackcomb resort in British Columbia in February. 707/746-6435; www.surflasolas.com; from $1,395.
85 High Flying
The water-sport thrill of the moment: strapping yourself onto a wakeboard-style plank, launching a wing-shaped traction kite, and zooming over the water at up to 25 mph. The best spot for kiteboarding is the north shore of Maui, where trade winds meet winter swells from Alaska. The Kiteboarding School of Maui promises to have beginners up and flying in just four hours. 808/873-0015; www.ksmaui.com.
86 Armchair Travel
MUST-SEA TV A&E's Shackleton, a four-hour epic starring Kenneth Branagh, chronicles the aristocratic adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton's harrowing 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole. (Airs early this year.)
87 Climb Every Mountain
Ecuador: It's not just the Galápagos anymore. Outfitters are starting to stake out the fertile highlands around Quito, home to colorful native markets, active volcanoes, 16th-century haciendas, and the country's only Relais & Châteaux property, Hostería La Mirage (593-6/915-237, fax 593-6/915-065). Mountain Travel—Sobek conducts a nine-day hiking tour of the area (888/687-6235; www.mtsobek.com), while Country Walkers offers an 11-day combo package that includes both the Galápagos and the highlands (800/464-9255; www.countrywalkers.com).
88 Downward Bound
Jump on a bike at the snow-covered Andean pass of La Cumbre and let gravity whisk you down 11,800 feet. For five hours, coast along winding mountain roads past grazing llamas and tiny villages, along towering cliff faces, through steaming Amazonian jungle, to the Bolivian town of Yolosa—courtesy of Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking (591-2/374-204; www.gravitybolivia.com; $49; February—November).
The 19 new national monuments established by presidential decree in the past decade, including the surreal rock formations of Utah's Grand Staircase—Escalante, are a great alternative to overcrowded national parks—national monuments don't draw nearly as many visitors (if they do, Congress could select them for an upgrade, as it did with Death Valley and the Grand Canyon). Why visit now?The Ministry of the Interior is considering the option of allowing mineral exploration at some, including coal mining at Escalante. www.ut.blm.gov/monument.