The fast-growing Over the Hill Gang, a national organization for people older than 50 who are interested in travel and group sports activities, has started a branch in Orange County. Until now, Los Angeles-area members have been making their arrangements through the San Diego branch.
When founded, the Gang's primary interest was cross-country and downhill skiing, but it has grown to include a wide range of mostly outdoor recreational activities such as bicycling, golf, tennis, walking, backpacking and sailing. More new activities include bridge, folk dancing, theater parties, picnics, social dancing and attending spectator sports events.
Membership fees are $50 per person or $80 for a couple. Occasionally events are open to non-members. A trip open to non-members is a ski tour for seniors to Austria from next Feb. 27 through March 5. Set in the scenic beauty of Kitzbuehel in the Austrian Alps, the seven-day package includes seven nights at a four-star hotel, along with daily breakfast and dinner. Package price is $1,217 per person, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles. Lift tickets are not included.
For membership details on the Over the Hill Gang or additional information on the ski package, write to OTH Gang, 14421 Redhill Ave., No. 11, Tustin 92680; (714) 544-7447. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
One activity that's becoming increasingly popular with mature travelers is prospecting for gold. This does not mean striking out with a mule across the trackless desert, but rather operating from the comfort of an RV or at established campgrounds or mining camps.
Though panning for gold can be done independently in areas controlled by the Bureau of Land Management or the National Forest Service, it's usually more rewarding to patronize one of several mining camps maintained in the West. Weekend prospectors have reported finding enough gold to pay for their expenses, or even enough to make jewelry.
The Gold Prospectors Assn. of America has a membership of almost 70,000, two-thirds of them older than 45. An offshoot of the group is Lost Dutchman Mining Assn., which operates several Western mining camps, all of which have proven gold reserves. Modern-day prospectors can keep all the gold they find in these camps, and also participate in social activities. There's a monthly magazine for association members.
For a brochure on gold mining and membership information, write to the association at Dept. MT, 521 E. Alvarado Ave., Fallbrook, Calif. 92028.
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"A Victorian Christmas at the Empress," available through Trieloff Tours, is an eight-day visit to the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia, where a full schedule of holiday activities is capped by an Elizabethan Christmas dinner.
Beginning in Vancouver, the tour moves by ferry to Victoria, where three nights at the Empress Hotel are included. Guests will enjoy three theme dinners at the Empress, including traditional Christmas activities such as the Yule Log ceremony, with a costumed cast performing the ancient ritual. Three breakfasts are also included at the Empress along with city tours, movies and afternoon tea. Admissions to attractions in Victoria are included, as is all transportation.
Departing Los Angeles on Dec. 20, the complete tour is priced at $999 per person, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, transfers and baggage handling, deluxe hotels and all holiday festivities. For a descriptive brochure and other information, California residents may call toll-free (800) 432-7125. Or write to Trieloff Tours, P.O. Box 2100, Laguna Hills 92663. Trieloff specializes in travel for seniors.
Christmas travel packages are also offered by another group specializing in senior tours, Saga Holidays, to destinations including Santa Fe, N.M.; Savannah, Ga.; Hershey, Pa.; St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, and Bermuda. The tours include side trips to nearby cities and points of interest. For example, the Hershey tour includes a visit to the Amish country and to New York. Boston is a stopover on the New Brunswick tour.
All of the tours run for eight days and begin Dec. 21. Activities include a gala Christmas dinner. The cost per person, including round-trip air fare, ranges from $729 for Santa Fe to $1,419 for Bermuda. You can get complete details from Saga Holidays by calling toll-free (800) 343-0273.
It is strongly recommended to mature travelers planning any holiday travel that they obtain confirmed reservations as soon as possible because airline space for the holidays is already heavily booked.