Tag Archive | "rafting"

The Interview: Steve Markle, O.A.R.S.

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Rafting with O.A.R.S.

Rafting with O.A.R.S.

Interview by Everett Potter

 We’re giving away an amazing multi-sport trip with O.A.R.S. this month, to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks. if you haven’t entered yet, take a minute to do so,. And then read this interview with Steve Markle, Director of Sales & Marketing for the O.A.R.S. Family of Companies. He’s spent a decade with the company and is passionate about both conservation and adventure, leading O.A.R.S. into partnerships with  environmental organizations and strategic partners around the world. He led O.A.R.S. into the world of social media long before the competition knew what a tweet was. Steve lives with his wife Nichole and their Son Preston in the Sierra Foothills overlooking the Stanislaus River Canyon in California. I’ve known Steve for years and we regularly run into each other at the Adventure Travel World Summit. He’s a busy guy and I caught up with him this morning.

Steve and Preston Markle on an adventure

Steve and Preston Markle on an adventure

EP: Rafting legend George Wendt founded O.A.R.S. more than 40 years ago, and still has a role in the company. But where do you, as the younger guy, see the rafting world in 2013?

 SM: Aside from the pure enjoyment of getting repeatedly splashed in the face on a hot day, I still see rafting less as an adrenaline-inducing thrill ride and more as a means of access to some of the most untouched, pristine regions of the world. And, at the heart of the company, rafting is about exposing people to natural areas and inspiring them to care and take action for the future of wildness. River trips just have a way of taking people out of their comfort zone and removing all the distractions of daily life, which really opens the door for meaningful interactions with the natural world and their fellow travelers. I see river trips becoming increasingly popular as outfitters continue to raise the bar on comfort and more people seek to take a break from technology.

EP: Is adventure travel still a new experience for most guests or are you dealing with a clientele that needs new thrills and seems a bit jaded?

SM: A lot of the folks who join us have never been rafting before and many have never camped. It’s never gets old hearing about how people were scared of bugs, or whatever, before their trip and by the end of it, they’re sleeping under the stars outside of their tent. We have some veteran rafters too, but with some 30+ stretches of river and more than a dozen sea kayaking and multi-sport adventures around the world, we can always find something that will knock your socks off.

Rafting Cataract Canyon with O.A.R.S.

Rafting Cataract Canyon with O.A.R.S.

EP: How important are multi-sport trips to O.A.R.S., like the Yellowstone & Grand Teton Explorer that we’re giving away with you?

SM: By our standards, our Yellowstone operation is a pretty big piece of the puzzle. It gives us a solid foothold in two of the most popular national parks in the country, but what we offer is really unique. Generally people don’t think of Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks as good sea kayaking destinations, but it’s a great way to explore off the beaten path and away from the crowds. Like rafting, the boats are just the vehicle of access to some of the most extraordinary hikes and sites in the region and our small groups are ideal for exploring. And, generally, our multi-sport trips tend to attract a slightly younger, more active set of travelers, which gives us a great opportunity to introduce people to the world of O.A.R.S.

EP: There seems to be a big move to custom trips these past few years, trips where an extended family or a group of friends get together to raft or hike. What kind of numbers are we looking at – how many people do you need to make it cost effective, and what would a ballpark price per person be for a given trip?

SM: Indeed. We’re seeing more and more cases of grandparents booking trips for the entire family. Generally, you’re going to need to recruit 16-20 people to make it a private affair and prices will range from under $1,000/person to more than $2,000/person for a 5- or 6-day trip. However, in some cases we can bring our minimum number down to 10 or 12 people on a trip like the Rogue River in Oregon or our trips in Grand Teton National Park.

On the Yampa River with O.A.R.S.

On the Yampa River with O.A.R.S.

EP: You do sea kayaking trips as well, which people may now know about. Do you actually get to cover some distance on these trips?

SM: We do. On most of our sea kayaking trips we cover 5-8 miles/day at a pace of about 2-3 miles/hour. The rest of the time is generally spent exploring on foot and relaxing in camp, on a catamaran or in a family-owned inn.

EP: Your Crete sea kayaking trip looked pretty amazing to me. How tough is it, and are you staying in hotels on this one?

SM: Our Crete Sea Kayaking trip is pretty special and arguably one of our more active trips. We stay in local inns and eat at seaside tavernas while kayaking in crystal blue waters. This is the trip I’d like to take my wife on next…

Fiji with O.A.R.S.

Fiji with O.A.R.S.

EP: What do you think your most unsung destination is – anywhere on the planet?  

SM: Fiji. It’s rafting in paradise with some of the friendliest guides on the planet. We employ exclusively native Fijians and compensate the community to help ensure the protection of the Upper Navua Conservation Area. This unique public-private partnership protects the UNCA from future logging or gravel extraction and, to date, the community has earned more than $1,000,000 through trip fees.  It really is the model for ecotourism in the world today and I’m always surprised we don’t get more recognition from the travel press.

EP: Steve, let’s say I’ve done the Colorado River with O.A.R.S.. I want to do another rafting trip in the US with you guys, but what on earth could compare to doing the big one?

SM: I honestly think Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River is as good as it gets. Maybe I just prefer more mild summer temperatures, alpine scenery, crystal clear water, hot springs, wildlife and the nearly continuous whitewater, but I could run the Middle Fork over and over and it would never get old.

EP: Where are you looking next to expand to?

SM: We’ve got our eye on a new series of lodge-based river trips around the world that will include new adventures in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America.

Camping next to the Tatshenshini River in Alaska with O.A.R.S.

Camping next to the Tatshenshini River in Alaska with O.A.R.S.

EP: How about you own dream trip – where would you go tomorrow if you could?

SM: Alaska. There’s nothing I enjoy more than big mountains and wild, untouched wilderness where wildlife roams free. The Tatshenshini River is calling my name…

For more information, visit O.A.R.S.

Rafting with O.A.R.S.

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Smart Deals: Raft the Grand Canyon with O.A.R.S.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon with O.A.R.S.

What’s the Deal: O.A.R.S. is one of the leading rafting companies in the world and their Grand Canyon trips tend to sell out a year in advance. But there’s now space available on their September 3 to 9, 2012 trip.

What Can I Expect: Hike 9.7 miles into the heart of the Grand Canyon, raft some of the biggest whitewater in North America and spend a week experiencing the beautiful side streams and waterfalls. Daily adventures may include the fern grottoes of Elves Chasm, the 100-foot drop of Deer Creek Falls, the limestone chutes of Matkatamiba Canyon, and turquoise pools of Havasu Canyon. This section of the canyon concludes with a spectacular helicopter flight to the rim.

Fine Print: From $3,667 per person

Details: Contact O.A.R.S.

 

Active Travels: Rafting the Grand Canyon

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Rafting the Grand Canyon

Most folks make the mistake of driving to Grand Canyon, take a peek down at the mile-deep canyon and then leave. To truly appreciate the Grand Canyon, you need to spend some time at the bottom of that hole, rafting on the Colorado River. Whitewater enthusiasts take two weeks off to do the entire canyon run via paddles. If you don’t have that luxury of time, grab one of the six or seven-day motored trips that speed up when the river gets too mellow. That doesn’t happen often because this portion of the Colorado is an adrenalin-pumping Class IV run with some Class V rapids thrown in for good measure. Realize that the water on the river in the Grand Canyon is dam released and ice cold. To get excited for the journey, read The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons by John Wesley Powell.

  Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

Rafting the Chilko in BC with ROAM

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Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Rafting the Chilko River, British Columbia

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Chilko lake
It was 1997 when I first met Brian McCutcheon, owner of Rivers, Oceans,
and Mountains, or simply ROAM. I had been hired by Men’s Journal
magazine to write about the first descent of the Klinaklini River in
British Columbia. It was a spectacular journey down a rip-roaring river
dwarfed by snowcapped peaks and glaciers. I was accompanying Johnny
Morris, the owner of Bass Pro Shops, who came to the Northwest with his
entourage to hook salmon on the fly. The fish weren’t biting but the
scenery and excitement of riding the Klinaklini more than made up for
the lack of salmon.

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The Interview: George Wendt, O.A.R.S.

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George_rowing (2)

About six years ago, when I first met George Wendt, the founder and president of O.A.R.S., I knew I was in the presence of a legend. But you wouldn’t know it from talking with this tall, soft spoken man with a quirky sense of humor. George is one of the godfathers of adventure travel, one of the first people to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon back in the 60's. It was a word-of-mouth trip back then, but in 1969 he officially got into the rafting business. That first company, Gooch-Wendt Expeditions, ran the first professional trips on the Colorado River and was selected as the first exclusively oar-powered rafting operator in Grand Canyon National Park, when it was renamed O.A.R.S. (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists). O.A.R.S. is now the gold standard for rafting companies. When George is not in a raft, he can be found at home in the small northern California community of Angels Camp in Calaveras County.

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Rafting the Grand Canyon. Photo by James Kaiser.

George, how did you get into river rafting?
 
I got into river rafting as a component of my educational studies at UCLA in the early 1960s.  Because of my interest in the outdoors – honed through my time as a Scout as I earned the rank of Eagle, I joined the Bruin Mountaineers – a group that did hiking, rock climbing, caving, skiing and mountaineering.  One summer, one of the group organized a trip on the Colorado River going through Glen Canyon.  Right after school got out in June, we headed to Utah for a 10-day river trip.  This experience changed my life!

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Smart Deals: ROW Adventures Montana-Idaho-Washington Multisport

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The Deal
: ROW Adventures' " Bitterroot Bonanza" multisport
The Backstory: Named one of the "25 Best New Trips in the World 2010" by National Geographic Adventure, ROW Adventures' " Bitterroot Bonanza" is a multisport trip that features biking, lake kayaking and whitewater rafting in Washington, Idaho and Montana. The Idaho-based ROW, one of the best outfitters in the world, says that it's the first trip in history to link the region's world-class bike trails.
What's the Deal: The five-day camping trip is $1,395 per person and the lodge version is $1,595 per person. Trips begin and end in Spokane, Washington
Caveat: It's a short season. There are just five departures scheduled in July and August.
Details: ROW Adventures

Smart Traveler: Five Questions You Must Ask Before Your Next Adventure

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Kayak7

Planning your next adventure? Regardless of whether you’re going hiking in Chile’s Atacama Desert, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez or biking in Vietnam, there are five questions you should ask yourself before you commit with your credit card.

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