On a sunny afternoon, guests board a reproduction 1900s cable car to admire scenic Sonoma Valley while sipping fine wines. The designated driver–helmed trolley then heads to one of the area's esteemed wineries, where passengers disembark to sample more vino, view art galleries, and gossip with fellow travelers. After a few such stops, the trolley also serves as a kind of traveling lounge complete with open-air seating, an onboard gourmet kitchen, wine samples, and a knowledgeable guide.The guide is Jonnie McCormick, a former executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance and vice president of Bank of America. After leaving the corporate world, she set up Sonoma Wine Country Trolley with her husband to combine their love of the scenic landscape with their passion and expertise in wines. While he drives the rig and passes an occasional joke, she shares historical facts and describes area points of interest—such as the area's first discovered wine well, whose derrick is still visible—to private or public groups of up to 14.
Anheuser-Busch's Beermaster Tour regales guests with an edifying excursion behind the scenes of the brewery's charming, picturesque facilities. View secretive master sudsmiths as they frolic in their natural brewhouse habitat, and savor the hearty bouquet of the hop room, which brims with the scents of the powerful flowers. The fermentation cellar and packaging facility reveal the early stages of a magical life cycle, similar to watching a nest of panda eggs hatch. At tour’s end, guests can soothe their flabbergasted faces with a sample directly from the finishing tank before receiving souvenirs and keepsakes. Brimming with an immense array of seasonal and newfangled brews, the hospitality room showcases Anheuser-Busch's frothy masterpieces, poured out by the brewery's famously intelligent clydesdales. Summer tours take place Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (with an additional 12 p.m. tour on Saturday). Winter tours take place Tuesday through Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
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.
When the climbers of Planet Granite say that community anchors everything they do, they have a history of outreach to back it up. After Castle Rock State Park appeared on California?s closure list, Planet Granite?s team quickly organized a fundraiser to save the sanctuary. They pledged $10,000 in matching funds, threw an auction, scheduled guest speakers, and obtained support from companies such as REI. In one night, they raised $20,725.
This kind of response has typified Planet Granite?s team since opening its first facility in 1994. One of the first climbing gyms in the country, Planet Granite has expanded to three gyms in Belmont, San Francisco, and Sunnyvale. The diverse array of climbing resources at each location led Popsugar to name the gym conglomerate one of the top five in San Francisco in 2011. At the Sunnyvale location, members scale 25,000 square feet of climbable surfaces that ascend from low bouldering terrains to 60-foot walls.
In keeping with their commitment to community, the staff tailors instruction and climbing routes to every ability level and affinity for hand sweatiness. They also supervise each gyms? fully equipped fitness centers, ranging from CrossFit to yoga, which provides a peaceful counterbalance to the full-body workout of rock climbing.
The Trans-Sierra Club's experienced guides lead groups on challenging backpacking treks across Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park and through Grand Canyon National Park. In small groups, participants conquer miles of some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in California and Arizona, all while unplugged from their phones, tablets, and cotton-candy machines. The multiday treks are intense, but no prior backpacking experience is necessary and all ages are welcome.
On the Trans-Sierra Xtreme Challenge, participants backpack for 75 miles across Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The inspirational journey includes a trek across some of the most remote regions of the Sierra Nevada.
On the 35-mile Grand Canyon Xtreme Challenge, groups climb down the Grand Canyon, explore its hidden gorges, and camp out by the Colorado River before ascending again.