Whale watching was a relatively new concept when John Fish's grandfather started giving tours. "We kind of originated it," Mr. Fish says. "Thirty years ago we were the only ones doing whale watching." As the company became more successful over the years, additional captains were brought on to cover the demand. Today, these crews continue to ferry groups into the habitats of several whale species, including humpback whales and sperm whales. Though the whales seen along Cap'n Fish's Whale Watch's journeys still breach and refuse to sign autographs, other things have changed over the years. Below deck, the current fleet's engines work to reduce emissions and provide a fume-free experience. Above deck, 360-degree viewing decks and modern technology help bring whales into sight. Onboard computers display large maps of where the aquatic mammals are known to swim, and GPS systems reroute boats around mermen constructing new reefs. In addition to illuminating the behavior of whales for passengers, the crew's wildlife experts point passengers toward other animals they spot along the way, such as white-sided dolphins and harbor seals. Though some variables are beyond their control, the crew members almost always spot whales and boasted a 98% success rate in 2009.
Within both MetroRock locations, visitors ascend via bouldering walls and rope-climbing walls or take to aerobic exercise machines and fitness equipment to build strength. With this setup available to climbers of all skill levels, the founders of the climbing arenas achieved their goal of creating a community where scalers can congregate, share their passions, and hone their climbing skills.
During indoor and outdoor classes, instructors create lessons that help each climber reach their goals. Indoor courses help instill students with basic climbing skills, rescue techniques, or the brute strength needed for bouldering or to intimidate mountains out of their lunch money. Outdoors, American Mountain Guide Association and Single Pitch–certified instructors teach alpinists skills that include how to secure top-rope anchors and how to climb ice or scale for sport. The centers' founders and their teams also organize climbing-centric programming that includes youth climbing teams and team-building events that challenge groups while forming bonds.
At Evolution Rock + Fitness, the climbing courses, fitness programs, and climbing parties follow its mission statement's goal "To build upon, strengthen, and evolve with climbers and the climbing community." Boasting 16,000 square feet of climbing surface, the center provides some of the most modern and extensive climbing walls in northern New England. On a given day, a mix of expert and novice climbers scale surfaces through lead climbing, speed climbing, and bouldering. Energy-efficient and nontoxic furnishings earned the center accolades as a top energy efficient and environmentally friendly climbing gym in the region. A team of design experts at Rockwerx in Barre, Mass., also sculpted the signature walls, which welcome all ranges of climbers throughout the week. In addition to whipping people into shape, Evolution Rock + Fitness seeks to be "the conduit between this rich history and the future of climbing." The Fitness center also offers yoga and Pilates mat classes, aerial fabric yoga, zumba, and a mix of fitness equipment.
It seemed inevitable that the owners would found Northeast Mountaineering, as both grew up in central Massachusetts and both have ascended an array of local and faraway mountains, including Mt. McKinley. With another experienced climber in tow, Northeast Mountaineering's trio of climbers share their passion for the outdoors with pupils during climbs up Mt. Adams, Mt. Washington, or custom trails forged by their pet mountain goats. They also orchestrate trips to Ecuador to climb the second-highest mountain in the country, the 19,347-foot Mt. Cotopaxi. As certified Wilderness First Responders, each guide is dedicated to safe climbing techniques, which they instill in students during courses that are tailored to all skill levels.
Rebel Race's military-style obstacle courses challenge athletes from all backgrounds to shed humdrum day-to-day routines to experience the primal joys of mud, sweat and glory. Emerging from the mire in various states across the country, each Rebel Race packs its rucksack with tests of physical and mental toughness, rousing racers and washing machines alike to triumph in the face of sloppy opposition. After dashing through fire, climbing walls, and scaling mountains of hay, race participants bask in the collective kudos of parties, which include live entertainment, food, and beer for purchase. Camping options encourage participants and spectators to transform races into weekend getaways, while awards recognize each day's standout competitors and most-humble mud pits.
5,000 square feet of indoor rock walls outfitted for top-rope belaying and bouldering entertain guests of all experience levels at Maine Rock Gym. Visitors can partner up to climb meandering problems across varying angles and overhangs while staff climbers remain on hand to serve as belayers and to fend off curious mountain goats. Indoor, onsite clinics instruct climbers at introductory or advanced levels, and guides lead outdoor excursions to Maine's granite cliffs and New Hampshire's White Mountains. The gym also sets up a portable climbing tower at outdoor events and orchestrates team-building challenges, which improve communication and problem-solving skills more effectively than trying to teach the quadratic equation through interpretive dance.