Extreme Outdoors

Sitting on a beach. Walking tours. Visiting Museums.

Did simply reading that first line nearly put you to sleep? I nearly feel asleep writing it. Let’s try this again.

Helicopter rides. White water rafting. Off-roading.

If reading that line spiked your heart rate, I’d reckon you’re longing for a good old fashioned outdoor adventure. But not just any romp in the wilderness, you fancy something a little more extreme. Well my thrill-seeking friend, you are far from alone.

In fact, more travelers than ever before are ditching their Mai Tais, walking shoes and audio guides for water bottles, hiking boots and helmets as they seek out the thrills of adventure travel. This thirst for heart-pounding activities has turned adventure travel into a $263 billion a year industry (that doesn’t include the $82 billion spent on related adventure gear, apparel and accessories) and the fastest growing segment of the leisure travel industry according to a 2013 study conducted by George Washington University.

While extreme outdoor adventure can, in some cases, be found near traditional hotels, why would you just dip your toe into the great outdoors when you could jump all the way in? Why drive into nature for only a few hours when you could stay, eat, sleep, and play in nature 24-hours a day?

That’s where glamping comes in. With glamping, you can experience the comforts of a hotel, all while being within the epicenter of the outdoor adventures you’re seeking. And the sounds of crickets, babbling brooks and crackling campfires, those won’t be coming from a sound machine.

So to get you thinking about your wild escape, here are just a few epic outdoor activities and a sampling of properties that’ll let you release your inner adrenaline junky like never before.

Helicopter Adventures

PHOTO 1 Image Credit “Nimmo Bay Website”

For the ultimate in helicopter adventures, look no further than Nimmo Bay, a tiny, family-owned wilderness resort located in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Here, you can heli fly fish, heli kayak, heli stand up paddle board, heli hike or just heli picnic. What exactly does that mean? It means you and your provided gear will be picked up by a chopper and flown to remote and pristine locations to fly fish, kayak, paddle board, hike or dine. Now that’s extreme!


PHOTO 2 Image Credit “The Resort at Paws Up Website”

Picture this: you’re standing on the edge of a 170 foot cliff, the Blackfoot River tumbles by below and beyond that, a picture perfect Montana valley-scape. This is the scene for your rappelling adventure at The Resort at Paws Up. With harness and ropes secure, you turn around, back facing the 170 drop below, and take your first step off and down the cliff. A few leaps and bounds later, you’ll be at the bottom smiling from ear to ear ready to do it again.

Hot Air Ballooning

PHOTO 3 Image Credit “Mahali Mzuri Website”

The views on the ground at Sir Richard Branson’s safari camp, Mahali Mzuri, in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve are legendary (from the comfort of your tent’s balcony you’ll see giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and more). But gently and quietly float hundreds of feet above the ground in a hot air balloon at sunrise, and this landscape, one of the world’s most awe-inspiring, will truly get your heart racing like never before.


PHOTO 4 Image Credit “ Brush Creek Ranch Website”

If your idea of a extreme outdoor adventure calls for a little more firepower, then hunting at Wyoming’s The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is for you. Amidst massages and fine dining, you can head out into the 30,000 acre property with expert guides to hunt for ducks, deer, antelope, elk and more. The trill of the hunt never felt this good.

River & Ocean Kayaking

PHOTO 5 Image Credit:Credit “Clayoquot Wilderness Resort Website”

While Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, located on west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, has it all (from heli adventures, to rock climbing, to fishing and horseback riding), don’t pass up the opportunity to hone your kayaking skills under the supervision of expert guides. Whether you want to learn to navigate small rapids or paddle in search of bears, whales and eagles, you’ll end your day feeling even more confident for tomorrow’s extreme adventures.

Main Image Credit:“ Brush Creek Ranch Website”

3rd Day at the Ranch at Rock Creek

When I woke up on Wednesday at the Ranch at Rock Creek, it was clear that old man winter wanted to make an appearance– not really a surprise in March– and there was light snow. We once again skipped the full breakfast because we didn’t want to overindulge before heading out to our trail ride. Instead we took advantage of the coffee service and muffins served in the bar at the Granite Lodge. Then I decided to try out the claw foot bath tub and found there was ample hot water to fill it. I very much enjoyed finishing my coffee while soaking in the tub.

We headed out to the stables where cowboy Joe, a former rodeo rider and Emily the cowgirl got us on our horses and made sure we were properly attired and got us situated on our horses. We were in capable hands with Joe and Emily. Zan hadn’t ridden a horse in years and Joe and Emily made sure she was comfortable and in command. Zan’s previous riding experience was English but she was riding western style in no time. Emily told us that my horse, Yukon, and Kemosabe, the horse Zan would be riding, were best friends which made us giggle.

Granite Lodge & Last morning breakfast photos-4V1C9959

Since it was just the three of us, once Joe and Emily got us situated, we got to ride and trot a bit as we rode along Rock Creek and up towards Trapper Cabin. I’ve never gone horseback riding during the winter and it was far more pleasant than I imagined. The dusting of snow wasn’t daunting to a group of horses who just spent the winter in Montana. Joe pointed out that the horses still had their shaggy winter coats and mentioned they’ll be more attractive in a few months after they’ve shed their winter coats.

I always enjoy cowboys and find they have some interesting stories. Cowboy Joe was no exception. He had some fun stories about life on the rodeo circuit and his sons. One of his sons is now a rodeo coach, and his youngest two are named Rodee Owen and Bronc Rider. Talk about committed to the cause! We had a great time on the 90 minute ride and the overall experience was very pleasant. The weather turned out to be was more atmospheric than annoying, and we had dressed in layers so it wasn’t really an issue.

Granite Lodge & Last morning breakfast photos-4V1C9995

Lunch back at the dining room and I was a creature of habit and ordered the Pintler Range Steak Salad with organic red kale. The chef had told us that Kale is something that grows well in Montana he was enjoying seeing the leafy green being embraced by the masses, it since it had once been primarily used as a garnish. I really enjoyed the sweet potatoes on the salad. They were lightly cooked and added a nice touch of earthiness to the dish.

After lunch we cleaned up and got ready for our afternoon’s adventure – a trip into downtown Philipsburg. John, our driver, picked us up at Cattail Cabin to drive us into downtown P-burg. The sun had come out a bit and it was starting to feel more like spring again.

Philipsburg & Ranch at Rock Creek Photos-4V1C0015

Philipsburg, Montana is an old mining town has a population of around 820. There is one stoplight in town. But there is also an incredible candy store, The Sweet Palace, which is located in a former hardware store. I was absolutely blown away by the selection of homemade fudge and artisanal chocolate goodness! After sampling a few different varieties, we decided on a brick of Salty Dog– hand made peanut butter fudge with caramel and peanuts. We also brought quite the assortment of candy. Seriously yum.

Philipsburg & Ranch at Rock Creek Photos-4V1C0051

Next we headed to The Philipsburg Brewing Company a few doors down. Located in an historic building that used to be a bank in a former life, the craft brewery opened in 2012 and has friendly staff and dogs are welcome. We got to sample several styles of beers which were kept nicely chilled because of the refrigerated cold copper rail that runs down the top of the bar. The locals were nice to chat with and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. John, our driver, thought we should also check out the White Front Bar across the street. The White Front Bar has a long history and an an epic jukebox (selections range from Roy Orbison to Naughty by Nature). One wall is covered with photographs of the locals. Gwen, who works behind the bar, let us pose with the bar’s jackalope. It was great visiting this local hole in the wall.Philipsburg & Ranch at Rock Creek Photos-4V1C0086

After a round of beer John drove us back to the ranch and we stopped a few times to enjoy the Montana scenery. We snacked on goodies from the Sweet Palace on the ride back and were in full-on sugar shock by the time we arrived back at Cattail Cabin. We were so full, we decided not to have a full-on dinner, but the staff brought us a tray to the cabin. After all the sweets the salad was welcome. It was made with organic red leaf lettuce, chevre, Marcona almonds and a muddled strawberry vinaigrette. For the main course there was a choice of Pacific Steelhead salmon or Muscovy Duck Breast. I went for the duck and really enjoyed the fiddlehead ferns and Hedgehog mushrooms served with it. As much as I wanted to resist desert, the homemade apple crisp served with nutmeg ice cream was spot on delightful, served in a personal sized skillet.

We went to bed happy and extremely full.

Glamping Review: C Lazy U Ranch – Granby, CO

When planning your next dream trip, what plays the biggest role in deciding where to go?  Is it your budget . . . time of year . . . activities . . . accommodations?  How about the number of vacation days you have left?  Well it just might be that the weather ends up being the biggest factor.

 To mark our 20th wedding anniversary, my wife and I booked a trip to Colorado this past September to take advantage of a shoulder season that (usually) features beautiful fall weather.  It turns out that two weeks before our scheduled flight, we sadly watched unrelenting torrential rains devastated the state. I was convinced we’d be forced to change our plans.

Fortunately, the massive flooding that forced the evacuation of several towns north of Denver didn’t impact our visit to the C Lazy U Ranch 100 miles to the west.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the same for our stay in Estes Park, where road closures made us detour over two hours to get there.  Thankfully, the golden foliage was out in full force and the temperatures managed to hover in the 60s/70s during the daytime.

C Lazy U 6-2012 429

Like most “nature lovers”, our idea of the perfect romantic getaway includes plenty of outdoor recreation and accommodations that offer refinements that go well beyond the standard hotel room.  When planning for this particular occasion, the C Lazy U Ranch easily met this criteria.

There would be plenty of activities like fly fishing, tennis, trap shooting, archery, mountain biking, ropes courses, and of course, horseback riding to choose from.  Better yet, they were all available amidst an awe-inspiring, untamed landscape.

The ranch encompasses over 8,500 acres of lush meadows, Aspen lined mountain trails, and the Colorado River.  It’s one of the few remaining places where you can experience the traditions of the American West from the moment you arrive. Family, horsemanship and land preservation form the foundation of their mission: Honoring and preserving the traditions of the Great American West.

YPO Photos 105

Ultimately, we chose the C Lazy U Ranch for the opportunity to try some “glamping”.  After all, how better to experience this special part of the country than with an overnight campout?

After a savory gourmet dinner at The Lodge, we hung around the fire pit with some guests we had just met from California and Canada.  As the drinks wound down, a ranch hand escorted us in a motorized golf cart to the outpost where our tent was all set up and waiting for us.  Inside, we found a king size bed and a pair of twins.  Since this was one of the rare times we weren’t traveling with the kids, there’d be no need for the extra sleeping arrangements, other than to prop up our suitcases.

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Besides four solid walls, indoor plumbing, and a reliable climate control system, we pretty much enjoyed the same amenities found in the cabins back at the ranch.  The rustic ambience included oil lamps, all-wooden furniture, and to our great delight, our very own S’mores kit!

With temperatures dropping down into the lower 40s, starting a fire in our own fire pit was appealing for more than just the S’mores.  After warming up and successfully sandwiching roasted marshmallows between two pieces of graham cracker and some Hershey’s chocolate, it was time to get cozy.

Although my wife and I love the whole camping experience, sleeping with only a thin layer of canvas between you and the great outdoors does present its challenges when it comes to getting a good night’s rest.  Even though the late night silence was often broken by howling coyotes and bugling elk, I didn’t mind the interrupted slumber.  Waking up to a glorious sunrise glistening through the morning mist made the restless night more than worth it.

After returning to the ranch, our daily activities revolved mainly around two central locations:  The Barn, originally built in 1925 and now houses the supplies for over 180 horses, and The Patio House, where we enjoyed lunch and dinner cook-outs, lounged by the pool, and soaked in the hot tub (the kids, if they were with us, would likely have ditched us for its game room).

If the Patio House was the center for all the casual activities, The Five Spur Spa is where we got centered.  In the spirit of glamping and getting more in-touch with our natural surroundings, two of the massage tents are suspended over the river and have glass floors, so you can contemplate the movement of the water during a massage.

And unlike many other dude ranches out west, the onset of freezing temperatures and snow doesn’t close things down at C Lazy U.  Snowcat skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding & snowtubing, snowmobiling, and even horseback riding (both indoors and out) offer enough to keep you active.