For much of his adult life, Paul Lehman of Chicago was in the auto parts business. Then about two decades ago he heard the call of the wild -- the mildly wild at any rate -- and with a Montana man named Dan Austin formed Austin-Lehman Adventures, an upscale soft-adventure travel company. Since then, Lehman has been on at least a dozen of the trips he sells and is looking forward to many more.
That's the pull of adventure travel. Those who decide to see a portion of the world on a bike, in a kayak or other vessel, on a horse, or on foot quickly become hooked and, once a trip is completed, immediately start planning their next adventure. Fortunately, many are available. Among them:
Austin-Lehman concentrates on North American destinations from Alaska to Mexico, with trips to South America to be added soon. The trips are limited to groups of 12 plus two guides, with an average cost of $400 a day, which includes everything but air fare: lodging at top hotels, dinner at well-known restaurants, trailside lunches and afternoon snacks, and equipment. For example, a six-day exploration of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula costs $2,398 to $2,598, with several summer departures, a couple of which are earmarked for families. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and boating are involved, as is learning about wildlife recovery at the Alaska SeaLife Center and understanding how glaciers and earthquakes formed Alaska's topography.
Call 800-575-1540 or visit www.austinlehman.com.
Those are high-end trips. For the do-it-yourself bargain-seeker, go-today.com offers hiking and biking tours in several European countries. For instance, an eight-day self-guided biking tour from Vienna to Budapest costs $799, including seven nights' accommodations, daily breakfasts, pickup in Vienna and dropoff in Budapest, luggage transfers between hotels, a bicycle and equipment, a local contact, and maps and other information. Air fare is not included, guided tours are available for extra cost, and departures are daily through October.
Active Journeys has an independent cycling tour and both an independent and escorted walking tour of Italy's Umbria region. The independent walking tour, available daily through October, starts in Todi and travels to Assisi; accommodations, breakfasts, and luggage transfers are included. You walk four to five hours a day. The price is $990, or $1,325 with upgraded hotels. The cycling tour costs the same plus $100 for bicycle rental and follows the same route with four to five hours of cycling a day. Guided walking tours, departing June 7, Aug. 16, Sept. 27, Oct. 18, and Dec. 22, include all meals and cost $1,450.
Call 800-597-5594 or visit www.activejourneys.com.
Or maybe you would prefer helicopter-hiking in the Canadian Rockies combined with yoga. Canadian Mountain Holidays plans a six-day retreat Aug. 5-11 with a hiking guide and certified yoga instructor. The trip begins with a night at the Relais & Chteaux Post Hotel in Banff, Alberta, then it's a helicopter ride up on high for four nights at the CMH Cariboo Lodge, including all meals; daily hiking with all the needed gear; two yoga classes daily, and discussions on holistic lifestyle and stress management. All of this costs about $2,575 US plus the air fare to get you to Canada.
Call 800-661-0252 or visit www.canadianmountainholidays.com.
Here's an adventurous expedition to Iceland for women only July 2-10. The cost of $2,795 is all-inclusive except for air fare, and features activities such as dog sledding on a glacier, white-water rafting, soaking in natural hot springs, watching whales and puffins, exploring mud pools and geysers, boating among glaciers, and riding ponies.
Phone Canyon Calling, Adventures for Women, at 800-664-8922 or visit www.canyoncalling.com.
Butterfield & Robinson, which conducts upscale adventures, wants to take you walking on New Zealand's South Island. The eight-night trip covers a lot of ground, from walks and wine-tasting among the fiords and vineyards of Marlborough Sounds to the bustle of Queenstown. The cost, which includes accommodations, is $4,495. Trips are available in January, February, March, November, and December.
Call 800-678-1147 or visit www.butterfield.com.
By now you may have gathered that many of these trips are expensive. If you're just looking for activities on your own, consider Westchester County just north of New York City. Among recreational opportunites are kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, bicycling, bird watching, camping, hiking, and horseback riding.
For a brochure, ''Outdoor Adventure, the Westchester Way," call 800-833-9282 or visit www.westchestertourism.com.
Grandparents can introduce grandchildren to the world of adventure travel for not too much money. The Hulbert Outdoor Center and Elderhostel have planned an intergenerational canoe trip on Rangeley Lakes in Maine July 8-24 or Aug. 8-14 for $489 a person. Waking to the call of loons and sleeping on the the edge of the lakes in tents, grandparents and grandchildren will cook outdoors and participate in such natural history observations as bird watching, astronomy, and animal habitats. This trip is fully outfitted and includes transportation, canoes, cooking gear, group equipment, instruction, and food.
The ''New England Outdoor Adventure Savings Guide" isn't a guidebook but a 28-page paper booklet containing such offers as $50 off a Maine Windjammer cruise, $25 off a day of fly fishing in Vermont, and $30 off a hot-air balloon ride. The booklet costs $4.95 plus $2 postage.
Jazz for free The Montreal Jazz Festival, June 30-July 11, will have 480 free concerts on 10 outdoor stages, and that's just part of the no-charge entertainment, because the myriad street performers put on quite a show, too.
Read all about it at www.montrealjazzfest.com, including information on hotels and festival packs that include everything from T-shirts to access to reserved seating for indoor concerts.