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.
When Cliff Hodges, the founder and CEO of Adventure Out, graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering, he knew a traditional desk job wasn't for him. According to Technology Review, he quickly gave up his engineering career for the wireless world of the great outdoors, where he began to hike, climb, and surf his way around the world, always staying true to his philosophy of environmental respect and protection.
His travels and business accomplishments have gained some measure of notoriety; he's coached on MTV's Made, consulted for ABC News, and was selected as one of four winners of the 2011 Santa Cruz County Civic Service Award: The Nextie. Adventure Out was also identified for meeting survival skills training standards by The New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Chef.
Today, he and his program consultant Tom McElroy lead excursions into the California wilderness to teach backpacking and survival skills, including the tracking of animals and wild ice-cream trucks, and they also guide novices through surfing, rock-climbing, and mountain-biking sojourns. Through fundraising, Adventure Out has helped save Castle Rock State Park from closure and a portion of their proceeds is put directly back into the park.
The designers of Zip Yosemite, Experience Based Learning, focuses on adventure and safety in building their courses, but they also take care to look after the environment. The company uses Professional Ropes Course Association–accredited builders, who anchor single cables to trees using an environmentally-friendly system. Using this system, the company can string seven ziplines up to 1,000 feet long at heights of up to 80 feet through the aromatic canopies of incense cedars and ponderosa pine trees. Guides take visitors darting down these single-cable paths and across three suspension bridges. Then, they rappel toward the forest floor at one of two rappelling stations. As visitors glide through the forest, they can catch glimpses of wildlife as well as the Fresno Dome and other natural rock formations.
The next time you're on the roof of a five-story building, look down at the ground, and you'll get a rough idea of just how high people climb at Touchstone Climbing. The gym's seven locations feature lead walls that rise as high as 50 feet off the ground, though height isn't the only dimension that makes the space feel immense. Each spot has at least 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain, not to mention as much as 3,000 square feet of bouldering.
To prevent newcomers from feeling intimidated by the magnitude of the environment, the gym holds introductory classes. During these sessions, participants learn the basic techniques they'll need if they want to conquer the gym's crack systems and boulder problems. The classes are also an opportunity for students to scope out the terrain features at each location, such as Diablo Rock Gym's steep prow, which juts out crookedly like a thumbs up from a dizzy ballerina. While they're at it, the visitors might notice something else: the social nature of the gym. As the San Francisco Chronicle recounts, the fact that lead climbs require two people means that climbers are constantly asking around for new partners and chatting back and forth as they ascend.
Each location also boasts a weight room, cardio machines, and a studio space for everything from yoga to spinning to core classes.
Here are the sounds you'll hear at a typical marathon: huff, puff, wheeze, snort, repeat. Here are the sounds you'll hear at the Hit and Run 5K: sploosh, boing, splat, whoopee, and other onomatopoeias that haven't yet been invented. Less like a race and more like running through a living cartoon, the Hit and Run 5K's obstacle course of inflatable onslaughts has been known to "make ninjas cry."
Dodging, ducking, leaping, and balancing across a wet-and-rubbery battlefield, contestants face formidable foes such as the giant spinning balls of the Duck or Dive, the unreliable puffy poles of the Wobble Walk, the flying wet menaces at the Whacking Wall, and the Bouncy Bridge, which is kind of like London's Tower Bridge if it were any fun. All contestants receive their own spiffy T-shirts and matching headbands?a fetching ensemble that instantly deflates roving dodge balls?along with a hearty packet of deals from the race's sponsors.