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Fun and adventure: At home and around the globe

by Paul Smyre

Wilderness Network of the Carolinas has organized trips to Alaska.

Alyson Adventures offers exciting experiences like white water rafting.

Wilderness Network of the Carolinas offers hiking trips around the Carolinas and more

In 1990 in Greensboro, N.C., a group of gay men got together and organized a group that would offer the LGBT community the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with individuals that shared similar interests and backgrounds.

Over the last decade that group has expanded to include both men and women and reinvented itself as the Wilderness Network of the Carolinas (WNC). In the process the club has become a way for gays and lesbians to participate in outdoor activities outside the pressures of a bar.

For those who are adventurous and who like to challenge themselves, WNC offers a way to meet kindred spirits. Camping, canoeing and hiking with other enthusiasts is a wonderful bonding experience, even more so in a gay environment.

After a decade plus of growth, the club has expanded the variety and range of trips available. Starting with simple day hikes in the local or state parks, the club has progressed to offering canoe trips, whitewater rafting, kayaking, skiing and backpacking, as well as an expanded once-a-year outdoor adventure.

In cooperation with other clubs, WNC has been able to sponsor activities that took members throughout North America. In the past there have been backpacking expeditions to Canada, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Alaska. Wilderness Network of Georgia in Atlanta and Chiltern in Boston are just two of several clubs that have invited WNC to join them on trips or been initiated by WNC to participate in a WNC event. Some of these events are true group efforts and involve people from all over the country.

While larger and more distant excursions may sound like a challenge for some, WNC is not designed just for the brave of heart. “We all enjoy the opportunity to take off and go hike in Denali, [Alaska], but not all of us have the time or the funds to do so,” says Brad Batch, a past president of WNC. “So WNC makes a special effort to also include other trips several times a season, including day hikes, which anyone in normal condition can attend. We try to be an inclusive club and offer those of us who live in North Carolina some of the outdoor opportunities that are found in larger gay communities in other parts of the country.”

info: wildnetc@aol.com or 919-819-3570

Alyson Adventures offers the experiences of a lifetime

Now in its 10th year of leading great gay adventure tours, Alyson Adventures continues to offer exciting vacations for gay men, lesbians and friends to destinations as varied as France, Italy, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand. What began with a passion for biking, hiking and exploring the great outdoors with small groups of like-minded people grew into a successful business with a faithful following of clients who have helped shape the future of the company.

Alyson Adventures was founded by Sasha Alyson in 1995, after selling his pioneering publishing company Alyson Publications. Alyson sought to break stereotypes while enhancing travel experiences for his friends and their loved ones. Alyson owner and director Philip Sheldon had worked with Hanns Ebensten, the “inventor” of gay travel, and eventually purchased Ebensten’s famed tour company. Hanns Ebensten began his company in 1973 escorting groups of gay men to the Grand Canyon for whitewater rafting, the very first organized gay travel of any kind. The philosophy of both companies was the same: to enhance travel for gay men, lesbians and friends with an emphasis on activities, small groups and expanding the experience by getting closer to the environment.

Today, the two companies still offer the popular trips down the Grand Canyon as well as others to destinations as far flung as Laos and Cambodia, as remote as Easter Island, and as popular as Tuscany.

Alyson trips are active vacations, full of options and opportunities. On biking trips, for example, you can follow our suggested route with the group; take the same path at your own pace; or venture off on your own to explore uncharted territory. The active nature of our trips makes it easy to get to know others in the group — and to make new friends in the areas we pass through.

If you want a tightly organized group tour, this may not be the right vacation for you. But if you find it exciting to bike along a country road, stopping to soak your feet in a stream, or to hike along a mountain trail with a friend, not knowing what’s just around the corner, then Alyson could be the experience for you.

info: 800-825-9766. www.alysonadventures.com


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