Adventures with a formerly distant but now quite lovely dad
January 5, 2021 4:25 PM   Subscribe

My father is taking my brother on an expensive fly fishing trip next year, and while I was invited, we decided the cost would be wasted on my much lower level of fly fishing interests/abilities. But my dad wants to make things fair and so he's sent me a check for the same amount of money that he says I could put toward student loans, or whatever I'd like. "OR," he says, "maybe WE could take a trip?" I want to do a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing, on the order of fly fishing in Alaska. But what should we do?

Dad is retired and in his late sixties, but he's always been very physically fit/athletic and he doesn't really have ongoing health issues. I do a lot of mountaineering and climbing and Dad is sort of curious about it, but we both recognize that he might not physically be up to a lot of that these days. I would like to do something on the "adventurous" side of the spectrum, though.

Some other parameters:
  • I think Dad might be willing to travel abroad, but he definitely would not enjoy travel as the point of the trip. (So, say, going to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro might be on the table, but just going to a foreign country to faff about is not.) We are both in the U.S. Perhaps relatedly, he is a somewhat picky eater with a Midwestern palate.
  • I'd also like to find something that is somewhat organized for us, so we don't have to make a lot of decisions together while traveling. It should have an obvious beginning and end, rather than something like, "Travel to this beautiful place and go on some hikes."
  • Something guided sounds particularly appealing since it means someone else makes decisions for us and also perhaps makes us our dinners at night. (We're both pretty hardy and used to roughing it, but genuinely enjoying each other's company is a bit new for us and I would like to keep that up by reducing opportunities for friction.)
  • Length of time is flexible, but I'm probably aiming for the 1-2 week range.
  • Budget is around $10K for the two of us.
  • This trip wouldn't happen for a year or two, so I am not thinking in terms of a pandemic-restricted framework.
Rafting the Grand Canyon is the most promising thing I've come up with, but I'd love more ideas in that vein. Kayaking the Inside Passage? Canoeing in the Yukon? Mushing dogsleds in Quebec? Climbing Kilimanjaro? Extra points if you can recommend a particular outfitter or company you have experience with, but hardly necessary. In all honesty, I could really use the daydream right now so all suggestions are welcomed.
posted by adiabat to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
My wife and I spent a week in Cinque Terra, Italy a few years ago, and it was great. There are hiking trails between the 5 villages of various difficulties, and a train line to take back. There are beaches if you are tired of hiking. The food is great, and shouldn't be too adventurous for the average American palette.

Feel free to memail me for more info.
posted by Horselover Fat at 4:32 PM on January 5, 2021 [7 favorites]

My 60-something parents did an inn-to-inn trek across part of Scotland a couple years ago and loved it so much they planned another trip for this past summer, which didn't happen, obviously. Some days were quite long (~15 miles, maybe?) and others much shorter. The company they booked through drove their bags from place to place, so they were just hiking with their daypacks.
posted by coppermoss at 4:37 PM on January 5, 2021 [12 favorites]

For guided trips, here are two ideas:

1. Mac's Adventure. Primarily focused on walking tours. Our family was supposed to do one of these last summer (womp womp) with a mix of 30-something and late-60s adults. The cool thing is that they transport your luggage for you so you're hiking day after day but you only have to carry a small day pack. It's basically easy mode backpacking. My in-laws know people who've done these trips and recommended them. Something like the tour of Mount Blanc might be pretty cool for you. They aren't guided per se but they make an itinerary and make all the bookings for you. Nice thing about that is that it means the scheduling is very flexible, as opposed to more seriously guided trips that might only be offered a few times a year.

2. REI Adventures. Some would be over your budget but there are many that would be affordable and that sound very cool. The multisport trips seem neat, from an adventure point of view - getting to do a variety of things. I don't personally know anyone who has done of these but they're definitely good daydream fodder.
posted by mandanza at 4:46 PM on January 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

One or two of the New Zealand great walks? (Book early.)

The so-called Inca Trail is another idea, depending on how much he'd enjoy some of the getting to and from bits.
posted by eotvos at 4:50 PM on January 5, 2021

never done, but dream of it: kayaking or zodiac-ing w beluga whales in Canada.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:52 PM on January 5, 2021

Walk the Camino de Santiago? My mom loved it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:57 PM on January 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Does a cruise sound too vanilla? No cooking involved, big decisions made but lots of room to select from menus of activities, some on the adventurous spectrum.

Want to make the same idea racier? I've dreamt of a cruise down the Amazon.
posted by cacao at 5:00 PM on January 5, 2021

We had a good experience with G Adventures. We went on one of their upgraded tours of Iceland and it was perfect for us. Fewer than a dozen people plus an excellent tour guide and driver. The benefit of everything being planned out but with a small group that could be flexible in the way a larger tour or cruise could not. We found them because they are cross-listed with National Geographic but they have more active tours as well.
posted by metahawk at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2021

Might be worth checking out heli-hiking/Canadian Mountain holidays. You can do hikes together or do your own, more intense thing like mountaineering on some days. They have really lovely lodges and great food. Not to mention it’s gorgeous there. Might be on the expensive side for your budget, not sure.
posted by moogs at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2021

nols wind river?
posted by j_curiouser at 5:18 PM on January 5, 2021

scuba dive in roatan?
posted by j_curiouser at 5:19 PM on January 5, 2021

A dude ranch vacation.
posted by yawper at 5:24 PM on January 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

To add to my comment above, they’re call CMH Summer Adventures now. And after looking at the website, I neeed to go back!
posted by moogs at 5:33 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Outfitter organized river rafting trip?

The canyons in the American Southwest are gorgeous and offer a range of outdoorsy activities (hiking, kayaking, fishing).
posted by forkisbetter at 5:44 PM on January 5, 2021

One of my dreams is to go hiking one of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails in Western Japan. You visit a couple of temples but mostly are just hiking during the day and staying at small hotels/hostels at night.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:51 PM on January 5, 2021 [13 favorites]

Rafting the Grand Canyon was my first impulse, but a guided climb of Machu Picchu might be a good fit too.
posted by mjcon at 6:04 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a trip in one of the plexiglass trains that goes through the Canadian Rockies (and a few other options) on my bucket list if I ever have a bunch of money to blow on a trip like that. It might not be quite as adventurous as you're thinking but it provides a bunch of structure while still giving you an opportunity to get out and do things in some gorgeous scenery. Kayaking in the glacial rivers is lovely.
posted by Candleman at 6:18 PM on January 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've long had this place bookmarked - an off-the-grid 100,000 acre ranch in Patagonia. A once-in-a-lifetime adventure for sure.
posted by minervous at 6:37 PM on January 5, 2021

I did the Coast-to-Coast hike in England through Mac's Adventures about five years ago. It was beautiful and fun and not too strenuous: a fit 65-year-old should be able to handle it fine. And the food was okay, if not adventurous. You don't have to make a lot of decisions and there's plenty of time to just talk while dodging cowflats and sheep poo. :D
posted by suelac at 7:52 PM on January 5, 2021

I suggest guided trips in and around Yellowstone. Short travel time makes every trip better. Throw in some fly fishing for something your dad really loves and wants to share with you. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming sides of the park all offer different experiences. Hiking, camping, climbing, boating, seeing wildlife and geysers, dinners cooked by guides or nights spent in quaint hotels.

You could travel down to Utah to see the incredible national parks there. You could do Yellowstone and Utah in one trip.
posted by KayQuestions at 8:00 PM on January 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

I bet one of Wilderness Inquiry's trips would fit the bill.
posted by shadygrove at 9:22 PM on January 5, 2021

I hiked rim to rim across the Grand Canyon with my oddly similar to yours dad with REI adventures, the entire trip was about a week (including travel there, getting to the canyon, some side trips, etc), overall sounds exactly like what you’re looking for. REI did a great job, and YES they did figure out dinner for us each night which was very helpful in minimizing potential points of friction :)
posted by annie o at 10:21 PM on January 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

My family, ages 20s - 60s, rafted down the Colorado To Lake Powell. An amazing trip Still talked about decades later. It was guided. Rafting, hiking, camping, and even some river swimming.
posted by AugustWest at 10:22 PM on January 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Galapagos? There are cheaper options to keep overall costs down, and it's genuine trip of a lifetime stuff.
posted by StephenF at 11:53 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Perhaps relatedly, he is a somewhat picky eater with a Midwestern palate.

Walk Hadrian's wall.
posted by pompomtom at 4:16 AM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

My husband's grandmother did Machu Picchu about a decade ago, and she's not fit at all. Feels like once you're in the area you can adventure as much or as little as you see fit, but it would certainly be an amazing way to build memories.
posted by aggyface at 6:45 AM on January 6, 2021

I did a Haida Gwaii wilderness kayak tour with this outfitter in 2002 and would go back in a heartbeat.

There are also many, many walking routes in the United Kingdom that follow set paths and have accommodation with meals enroute.
posted by TORunner at 7:07 AM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Walk the Camino de Santiago? My mom loved it.

Seconding this. My (atheist) dad did it, and also loved it - he wants to go back and rewalk it someday.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 7:36 AM on January 6, 2021

Adding to KayQuestions's Yellowstone suggestion, there's lots more amazing places within a day or two (or less!) of Yellowstone. The Grand Tetons are the obvious nearby star, but there's -- there's -- there's SO MUCH, including LOTS of guided-tour outfits. If rafting or kayaking is in bounds, I know there are guided trips on the Gallatin River, for example.

You could also consider South Dakota -- hang out near the Badlands, tool around the Black Hills, go to Custer State Park (despite the name, sigh), see a cave or two, check out the Mammoth Site.

In those areas you'll find it pretty easy to cater to your dad's Midwestern palate, I think.
posted by humbug at 8:19 AM on January 6, 2021

Zero gravity flight?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 12:17 PM on January 6, 2021

Mt. Whitney in CA is the tallest peak in the lower 48 and there is a cottage industry of guides that will take you up as a daytrip, or, more to your preference, as a weeklong backpacking trip that culminates in the ascent. It's not comfortable, but the guides help by carrying fuel so it's not exactly full-on backpacking. My problem with these trips is that they expect you to average what feels like a punishing amount of mileage per day, like 5-10 miles with a heavy pack. Plus Whitney is very crowded with daytrippers. If I had the money, I would book a private trip to a shorter peak and stretch it over two weeks.
posted by wnissen at 1:17 PM on January 7, 2021

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