Surviving Oregon’s Grand Canyon
The lower stretch of the Owyhee River in southwestern Oregon is known as the state’s Grand Canyon, said Mark Sundeen in The New York Times. Its middle stretch, whose Class V rapids—“the second most difficult” rating in the international system—are prized by watersports aficionados for their brutal headwinds and a 20-foot waterfall. After loading our kayaks with bourbon, cigars, and beer, six friends and I set off from Three Forks. The river meandered lazily at first. Then “the walls steepened,” we encountered our first rapids, and one kayak flipped over. The next day, navigating the narrow passages and chaotic drops of Half Mile rapid “scared the hell out of me.” It was “pure contact boating.” Later we found shelter in a cave from rising water, a cold front, and driving rain, and “celebrated still being alive” with pastrami sandwiches and beer. The next day, when we reached the even more difficult Class V+ falls, called “the Widowmaker,” it started to hail.

A progressive Vermont town
Brattleboro in southern Vermont may be the most “progressive” place in America, said Tom Clynes in National Geographic Adventure. A town with a population of only 11,740, it boasts “five independent bookstores, two bike and kayak shops, and a brew pub.” Though Brattleboro is small, its left-liberal political agenda often makes national news. Residents voted to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Animal-rights activists once marched naked because there was no law against public nudity (there is now). The state of Vermont itself is “hardly half the size of a single national park in Alaska,” but only a two-hour drive away are two famed trail systems—the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail, “which merge in the southern sections of the Green Mountains National Forest.” Outdoor attractions popular with tourists include low-traffic bike routes, lakes and reservoirs, and 20 ski areas. Many residents of Brattleboro, however, “favor Nordic and backcountry routes over pricey resorts.”