Surrounded by craggy peaks, three men in bright-red helmets stand in the midst of wilderness, surveying the mountains around them as their group of hikers break for a snack on the rocky ground. This interface with the majesty of nature is all in a day's work for this trio of adventurers—Paul Mangasarian and Jakob and Daniel Laggner. Still, their passion for open-air exploration grows with each expedition they lead. Paul, Jakob, and Daniel cofounded Treks and Tracks with the dream of orchestrating excursions into nature that combine ancient means of travel—such as sailing, horseback riding, and hitchhiking on a centaur—with modern sports ranging from surfing to rock climbing. Though they focus on introducing novice outdoorsfolk to unspoiled wilderness around the world, Treks and Tracks' cofounders also strive to leave the awe-inspiring surroundings they visit as pristine as they found them by rigorously upholding practices of environmental stewardship on each expedition.
Castle Rock Climbing School's expert guides eschew climbing walls for the raw stone faces of the Santa Cruz Mountains. PCGI-certified instructors spearhead trips ranging in duration from half a day to four days, spiriting intrepid climbers away for a nature-filled morning or 96 hours away from home to just let the neighbors get all the mail-stealing out of their system. Every guide boasts years of experience leading their wards up and down rocky inclines and is stuffed with local knowledge and teaching prowess. The school outfits climbers with the gear they need, including helmets, harnesses, and shoes, requiring that guests only take care of dressing themselves and deciding what song to yodel from the summit.
Trail And Mountain's owner inherited a love for the outdoors from his father, an avid hunter. Though the son never cared for hunting, he has followed that passion for nature for the rest of his life, honing wilderness navigation skills by hiking landscapes from the Catskill Mountains to the hills of North Carolina. Today, he marries this experience with certifications in first aid in a quest to introduce others to California's wilderness. During single- or multiple-day excursions in Santa Barbara County and beyond, he helms tours and helps coordinate activities for tourists ranging from day hikes to whale watching to paragliding.
The colorful hand and footholds that dot the sharply angled cliffs, overhangs, and arches at Santa Barbara Rock Gym almost beg visitors to climb them. The more than 8,500 square feet of climbable space, designed by El Dorado Climbing Walls, feature enough varied routes and ominous Viking runes to challenge climbers of all ability levels. This range of terrain and attention to detail is essential—the facility is Santa Barbara's only dedicated indoor rock-climbing gym.
Owner Will Russ, a former surfing photographer from Houston, created this space to bring the rocky wilderness indoors and foster a sense of adventure among climbers in a controlled environment. His instructors, each certified by the Climbing Wall Association, teach classes introducing basic belaying and sport-lead techniques. They also delve into the advanced skills required for bouldering and training mountain goats to fetch dropped carabiners.