Raft for the Cure in Moab this June

The Raft for the Cure event will take place in Moab this JuneThis June, the Moab Adventure Center, located in Moab, Utah will play host to the fifth annual Raft for the Cure. This fun and unique event that will offer visitors a unique blend of outdoor adventure, live music, and great food, while also raising funds for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

The Raft for the Cure event begins with a full day of rafting along the famous Colorado River, one of the top whitewater destinations in the entire American west. Participants will get the opportunity to experience some of the most well known sections of that iconic waterway, including the popular Onion Creek, Cloudburst, Ida Gulch, and White’s Rapid. This is medium level whitewater (think Class II or III) that wanders through spectacular canyons and scenic bluffs, offering plenty of adrenaline rushes to go along with the natural wonders. The on-the-river activities will run from 8AM to 4PM and are followed by dinner and live music in town that evening.

Organizers for the event have noticed a sharp increase in interest for this year’s Raft for the Cure, which is why they are spreading the word a bit earlier. In 2010, there were 330 participants that helped raise $20,000 for beast cancer research. This year, that number is expected to climb to 500 with six local rafting companies joining forces to help accommodate everyone.
The cost of the event is $100 for adults and $85 for kids 5-15. That includes lunch and dinner, a full day of rafting, commemorative T-shirt, and more. For more details check out the Raft for the Cure website and to register click here.

A hundred bucks for a full day of rafting is an excellent deal to begin with. Throw in some food and a concert and this is a real bargain for a weekend’s worth of entertainment. The fact that the proceeds are going to a great cause is just icing on the cake if you ask me.

[Photo credit: Sascha Grabow via WikiMedia Commons]

Dreaming of Bali – In search of paradise

What is paradise? Is it a place we can visit? Somewhere with palm tree-lined beaches, frosty cocktails and simmering volcanoes? Or is it an idea? A vision in dreams that never quite materializes when we wake up? Bali, an intriguingly exotic island tucked into the Indonesian Archipelago in Southeast Asia, is just such a paradise. This elusive island is everything you’ve ever dreamed – a land of otherworldly temples, postcard-worthy sand and exotic colorful wildlife. But just when you start easing into the charms of this idyll, Bali shocks you back to life with its increasing modernity and ever-evolving culture. Dreams take unexpected turns, don’t they?

Everyone in Bali, it seems, is looking for their slice of paradise. The island last year welcomed a record 2.3 Million visitors and it shows. In Bali’s tourist capital of Kuta the signs are everywhere, manifesting themselves as gaudy Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurants and mushrooming surf shops on every corner. But that doesn’t mean this paradise is lost. Simply drift your way towards the island’s serene interior, a place dotted with terraced rice paddies and gently humming frogs. Or find yourself lost inside a labyrinth of street food vendors in the city of Denpasar, your nose perfumed with scents of spice, and smoke, and kerosene heat.

Paradise isn’t just a place. It’s a way of seeing the world, particularly when you’re dreaming of Bali. Keep reading below to learn how to begin your Bali exploration.Getting There
Getting to paradise isn’t supposed to be easy, is it? This is particularly true for Bali, an island that’s hidden itself way down “in the corner” of Southeast Asia. While there are no direct flights from the United States, airlines like Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong), Korean Air (via Seoul), China Airlines (via Taipei) and Singapore Air all fly via connections to Denpasar (DPS), Bali’s main airport. Typical prices as of February 2011 start at about $1300 from the East Coast. It might be a long journey to get to Bali, but trust us, it’s well worth it!

Orientation
The vast majority of Bali’s tourism (and visitors) end up in the island’s South, centered around the coastal city of Kuta. While not all of Kuta is bad, most of the city is a mass of schlocky souvenir stands, gaudy restaurants and package tourists. Avoid it if you can. North of Kuta is its swanky cousin Seminyak, home to many of the island’s expats, upscale eateries and shopping.

Beyond Kuta and Seminyak is Ubud, a loose collection of villages, rice paddies and greenery centered on the oddly named Monkey Forest Road. Even further north the island is dominated by the massive Gunung Agung volcano, the geographical and spiritual heart of Balinese life. Beyond that is Bali’s largely undiscovered interior, full of interesting spots like Munduk and of course, Bali’s infinite stretches of coastline, populated by towns like Lovina. In the far Northwest is the wilderness of West Bali National Park.

Where to Stay
Accommodations in Bali range from the insanely luxurious (picture that last Travel + Leisure photo shoot) to modest surf shacks. Most visitors find themselves staying in the island’s south, simply because it has the biggest selection of high-quality accommodations.

The best option for those not rolling in dough but still looking to enjoy some of Bali’s legendary retreats is one the fantastic, plentiful and reasonably priced private villa options on sites like VRBO or Homeaway. For less than you think, you’ll be living it up in your own beautifully manicured tropical estate (here’s where we stayed) or condo.

Beyond the villa scene, there’s a huge range of accomodations on offer in Bali. In Ubud in the island’s relaxed interior, try the Alam Indah. Travelers near Kuta swear by the All Seasons Legian. Jimbaran tends to be the island’s most luxurious (and expensive) area, hosting upscale properties like the Four Seasons and Puri Bali.

What to Do
Whether you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure or a nice beach where you can eat Lotus Blossoms, Bali has an activity for you. In addition to our tips below, check out these 10 suggestions for your Bali visit.

  • See the Kecak at Ulu WatuKecak, a form of Balinese musical theater retelling the myths of the Hindu religion, is re-enacted at sunset at the island’s Pura Luhur temple, perched dramatically on towering cliffs above the ocean. A truly awesome and interesting spectacle to see.
  • Learn to surf – Due to favorable ocean currents and a uniquely suitable coastline, Bali has emerged as one of the world’s great surfing meccas. Try a class at the surfing mecca of Kuta beach, or head to points further South for some legendary “breaks” at spots like Ulu Watu.
  • Head to the spa – tired and sore from that surfing lesson? Why not hit the spa? Bali is increasingly known as one of the world’s “spa capitals,” whether you’re looking for an insanely luxurious spa treatment or simple inexpensive massage on the beach, Bali has it all.
  • Inland adventures – Bali isn’t just about great beaches and spas. Travelers who venture into the island’s interior will find a wealth of challenging activities and beautiful views ranging from laid-back bike rides among the rice paddies in Ubud, to hikes up volcanoes at Gunung Agung to whitewater rafting.

Dreaming of your own visit to Bali? Read more about Gadling’s “visit to paradise” HERE.

West Virginia’s scenic Gauley River: class V rafting, fall colors

“Holy crap, what a sausage fest.” This was my first thought, as I glanced around the crowded parking lot. It was a cool, drizzly September morning at Adventures on the Gorge, but that wasn’t stopping 40 men–many of certain age and wafting last night’s whiskey fumes–from preparing to raft the Class V+ Upper Gauley River.

I was in Lansing, (southeastern) West Virginia, fulfilling a 20-year goal to run the notorious Gauley. Every weekend, from mid-September to mid-October, water from the Summersville Dam is released into the Upper portion, raising the river to epic proportions (a raging 2800 cfs is average Gauley flow this time of year). In layman’s terms, the rapids remain at a solid Class III to V+, making for one of the wildest whitewater experiences in the United States.

Since it first opened to commercial trips in 1974, this 26-mile stretch of river, which contains over 100 rapids, has drawn whitewater enthusiasts from all over the world. The dam was built in 1965 for flood control, and the release extends the “Gauley season” well past other American rivers. An added bonus are the fall colors that peak in October, making for a visually stunning trip.

The Upper Gauley in particular is known for its steep, drop/pool rapids. A gauntlet of five consecutive Class V+’s–Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, and Sweet’s Falls–form the most famous stretch. The Lower is more sedate, although it still has plenty of Class III, and a couple of Class IV/V’s.

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I’m not the only one with Gauley fever. Over 60,000 adventurers annually converge for the dam release, which is why the infamous Gauley Fest is held in September. The New River is also located in this region. Now believed to be the oldest in the world, after the Nile, the New ranges from Class I to V, depending upon season, but has long stretches ideal for sunset paddles and float trips.

The New and Gauley are located within the New River Gorge National River and Gauley River National Recreation Area, respectively. But there are other charms in the region as well: the stunning New River Gorge Bridge (formerly the largest arch bridge in the world, and a BASE jumping mecca), climbing, mountain biking, and fishing. The scenery runs toward rolling farmland dotted with dilapidated barns, historic hamlets, and thick swathes of forest. The New River Gorge Convention & Visitors Bureau site is a good resource for area attractions and amenities.

Many outfitters exist in this region, nearby Fayetteville being the whitewater epicenter of West Virginia. The town’s National Historic District, while small, is very charming, and has pretty much anything you might need. Grab a coffee and afternoon snack at The Cathedral Café, located in an actual former church, or, to quell a hangover, pick up something cheap and carby at the awesomely-named Tudor’s Biscuit World.

Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG), which bills itself as an “outdoor adventure destination company,” was named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,” in a 2009 National Geographic survey. They’ve capitalized on the region’s multi-sport opportunities by creating a 1,000-acre “campus” bordering the New River Gorge National Park. The property also has accommodations ranging from camping and rustic platform tents, to new, deluxe cabins and vacation homes.

AOTG was founded in 2008, the result of a merger of two existing–and exceedingly well-regarded–local whitewater companies. Founding Director Dave Arnold has been guiding on the Gauley since the ’70’s. His Class VI-Mountain River merged with The Rivermen; collectively, they possess the most whitewater experience in the region. Safety being my number one criteria for choosing an outfitter, I knew I was in good hands.

AOTG has plenty of seasonal options (April-October) if you don’t go in for big hydraulics, can’t afford a multi-day raft trip, or don’t want to rough it. The company offers half-day, full-day, and overnight runs on the New and Gauley Rivers, ranging from Class I float trips to epic Class V (you must be at least 15 years of age to run the Upper Gauley). The overnights are actually “glamping” on the river (think hot tub, primitive showers and pit toilets, Baggo, fire pit, kegs of Anchor Steam and PBR, and prime rib and salmon for dinner).

As for the testosterone-fueled parking lot scenario, it turned out my trip was comprised primarily of several groups of men who do Gauley season annually. If you’re a solo female planning to run the river and aren’t into crushing beer cans on your head, you can always talk to a rep about booking a trip with a more balanced male-to-female ratio. Private women’s groups do book with AOTG, but the guides I spoke with told me the Gauley tends to be rather penis-centric. Don’t let it dissuade you. The most important things are listening to your guide, paying attention to what’s going on around you, and digging in hard.

As much as I love major whitewater, however, I don’t enjoy courting death or yardsales (something of a sport on the Gauley, which is admittedly very entertaining to watch). Fortunately, Miles, the guide in our nine-person raft, had outgrown the urge to capsize for kicks, although he took us down more technical lines when they presented themselves. A native Coloradan with vast whitewater experience, he was top-notch: patient, skilled, and an all-around good guy. His fiancee, Julie, was the sole female guide. Tough woman, that Julie.

The Gauley isn’t the biggest whitewater I’ve run (that would be the Futaleufu, in Chile), but it’s pretty damn big. What makes it scary are the drops, undercut rocks the size of houses, and churning hydraulics–these are not rapids you want to swim. Thanks to Miles, we didn’t have to. We had a fantastic day on the Upper, and pulled into our campground at the “Canyon Doors” rapid, at the start of the Lower Gauley.

Whether or not glamping is your thing, AOTG has a great set-up. The location is gorgeous–steep canyon walls glowing dusky rose with the setting sun–and a hot shower, drink, and slab o’meat at the end of a cold, exhausting day on the water were very much welcomed. If you require down-and-dirty primitive camping; check with other outfitters, as everyone offers something different. Go to the NPS site for camping permit information if you’re paddling independently.

AOTG offers a total of 14 experiences that can be done independently, or as part of an all-inclusive package. Besides whitewater, there’s rock climbing, horseback riding, tree canopy tours and ziplines (the badass new Gravity zip debuted on Sept. 26), caving, biking, and a Gorge Bridgewalk. There are four restaurants/bars (have a sunset beer at Chetty’s Pub, which has an open-air deck and fantastic view of the Gorge), and three camp stores/outfitters. The property is definitely geared toward families and couples, and customized options like team-building and youth groups. But even if you’re traveling solo and on a tight budget, there are affordable options, with prices starting at $39 for activities/$8 BYOT camping (depending upon season). It does have the feel of a summer camp, so be forewarned.

I actually much prefer independent travel, but I like that AOTG makes adventure activities accessible for the solo adventurer who might otherwise be thwarted by logistical or financial constraints. I ended up doing a package, with two nights in one the sweet deluxe cabins (hot tub, hardwood floors, fully-equipped kitchen, outdoor grill, and fire pit), and the river trip. Also included was a full day doing the Treetops Canopy Tour, and the Gravity Zipline–not stuff I’d ordinarily do, but I’m glad I did. The Treetops Canopy Tour ($99/pp), which debuted in May, ’09, is a three-and-a-half hours, and includes ten ziplines and five sky bridges.

It’s not extreme, but the tour is a fun, educational way to spend the morning. In between zipping over Mill Creek and through ancient hemlock, hickory and magnolia forest, the guides talked about the history and botany of the region. The course is also designed with sustainability in mind, and is part of a project to help save the threatened Eastern Hemlock from wooly ageldid infestation. Thus far, AOTG guides and staff have tagged and treated 6,000 trees, some of which are over 300 years old. Although it rained steadily throughout my tour, it only served to heighten the desolate beauty of the forest. The tours run year-round, so you can also experience zipping in the snow.

Gravity ($69/pp) is a total blast. With lines running 1800-,1600-, and 1300-feet in length, at a height of 200 feet, you can really haul ass (up to 45 mph). The location atop one of the highest points in the valley makes for incredible views of fall foliage and farmland. Do it. What the hell. Do it all.

The New River Gorge is a five-hour drive from Washington, DC. The closest airport to the region is Charleston, WV

Suit up: The best whitewater rafting in the U.S.


When it comes to whitewater, bigger is not always better. In fact, some of the best whitewater paddling experiences can be had on rivers that barely break the Class III rating. Those who love to run these rivers know the importance of the rush, but also appreciate the scenery, local culture, and accessibility of a river. Here are some of the best US whitewater destinations based on the overall experience they provide.

Nantahala River, North Carolina – Class II-III
The Nantahala is a great way to take on a whitewater challenge suitable for paddlers of all experience levels. After running this lushly forested river in a raft of inflatable ducky boaters can take out at the Nantahala Outdoor Center and celebrate with a brew and a burger at the River’s End restaurant.

Upper Gauley River, West Virginia – Class III-V
Consistently named one of the top whitewater rivers in the US and the world, the Gauley is a thrilling ride. Not for the faint of heart, the Gauley drops 650 feet in 24 miles and features over 100 rapids. The Upper Gauley should only be run by experts or with a guide service. River Expeditions provides guided trips throughout the summer months and during September and October when the dam is released and the river really goes wild.

Arkansas River, Colorado – Class IV
The Arkansas is a popular river, and for good reason. It touts heart pumping whitewater close to a major city, Denver. The Browns Canyon run is the best way to get away from the highway and sometimes the crowds. As the river drops into a gorge it runs fast and narrow and supplies plenty of hair-raising rapids.Dechutes River, Oregon – Class III
Paddling through the white caps of this Class III river will keep one focused on the task at hand. Between running rapids, take a look around and notice the ancient lava flows that carve the landscape. Playful river otters also provide entertainment along this beautiful stretch of river.

Colorado River, Arizona – Class IV+
Twisting its way through the Grand Canyon, the Colorado river is an icon of the American West. Running the river with a commercial service will ensure not only safety but passage on the river. The coveted non-commercial permits are first-come first-served and must be requested at least one year in advance.

Klamath River, California – Class IV-V
Fishing and irrigation rights have been hotly debated on the Klamath for some time. But, what is truly hot are the series of runs that carve their way through the upper section of the Klamath river near Hell’s Corner.

Cumberland River, Kentucky – Class III
The mostly serene Cumberland takes a wild turn as it enters the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. Boats must maneuver around house-sized boulders as the “below the falls” run descends toward Tennessee.

Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho – Class III
The remote location and strict permit system on the Salmon river help protect the pristine wilderness experience it provides. These isolated rapids can be run May through August.

New River, West Virginia – Class III-V
Despite being named the “New” river, this is the second oldest river on the planet. The lower New river has something for everyone, from roller coaster style rapids to the huge raft-sucking holes. Rafters can even pass beneath or take out under the massive New River Gorge Bridge, home each year to the Bridge Day festival.

Getting out of the city and into the rapids of a whitewater river is the perfect way to challenge yourself. If spectacular scenery and the thrill of a rushing river are what you crave in a paddling trip, these rivers are sure to please.

Teva giving away adventure vacation to Fiji

Teva, the company that manufactures a host of great outdoor and travel footwear, is preparing to send a few lucky travelers on a once in a lifetime adventure to the South Pacific, where they’ll have the opportunity explore Fiji aboard a private yacht, while hiking, snorkeling, and rafting through beautiful tropical locations.

The Teva House 2011 contest will select one lucky winner from the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Korea, and Australia, and award them a trip for two to Tui Tai, Fiji in April of 2011. Once there, they’ll spend 10 days living aboard a 140′ long luxury adventure class yacht while exploring remote places that few travelers ever have the opportunity to see. They’ll occupy their time by hiking jungle trails and snorkeling coral reefs that are 100 miles from the closest resorts, while meeting local villagers who seldom see visitors of any kind.

One of the highlights of the trip will be a whitewater rafting excursion, conducted by O.A.R.S., that will send the travelers down the Upper Navua Gorge on Viti Levu Island. Towering walls of black lava, overgrown with giant ferns and other jungle foliage, are the hallmark of this spectacular trip, which has been described as a “river of Eden” unlike any other place on Earth. That full day adventure will include lunch on a sandbar at the heart of the canyon and a chance to interact with villagers that still travel the river on their own handmade bamboo rafts.

For more information on this amazing trip and to enter the contest, simply go to TevaHouse.com and select the flag of your home country. Then, fill out the form and start working on your tan. It gets very sunny in Fiji.

[Photo credit: OARS]