Mature travelers seeking sensibly priced "soft adventure" tours might want to check out some trips found in, of all places, American Youth Hostels' 1992 "Discovery Tours" catalogue.
Savvy seniors know that the AYH does not serve youth alone. It caters to all ages. That shouldn't be surprising since many of its teen-age hostelers of 40 or 50 years ago are today's active mature travelers still seeking adventure.
The AYH has set aside 5 of its 30 tours this year for adults age 50 and older. All of the offerings are combination van and hiking tours. Vans provide the major transport along the route, and the hiking is limited to day trips.
The tours stop mainly in AYH hostels, which run from the basic dormitory-style accommodations to a rustic cabin with sauna in Canada's Banff National Park to a turn-of-the-century dude ranch in Colorado. Some of the camping sites feature tents, utensils and stoves.
Group-prepared meals are included, and tour members are expected to help cook, serve and clean up.
Members must bring their own personal gear, which should include a day pack and water bottle; bed linen or sleep sack for hostelstays, and clothing appropriate to the trip and climate.
Trips are led by a trained AYH tour leader, but tour members participate in planning each day's activities: what to see and the type and length of hiking trails.
The amount of hiking, skill and type of terrain are rated: (B), average 7 to 12 miles per day over hilly and some mountainous terrain; (C-plus), average 5 to 10 miles a day over hilly terrain, and (C), average 4 to 7 miles per day over moderately hilly terrain.
Prices noted below do not include transportation to the start and end points of each trip. These can be arranged by yourself, your travel agent or through the AYH's travel agent. Since trips are in dorms or camps, there is no single supplement.
AYH trips for seniors in 1992 (listed according to departure dates):
"Southwest Parks/Red Rock Country," June 13-28, starting and ending in Las Vegas, $875 per person, includes hostels and camping. Convenient to Southern Californians, this van and day-hike trip includes Zion and Bryce Canyon in Utah, Canyon de Chelly and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Rated C-plus for hiking.
"Parks Alaska," June 21-July 11, starting and ending in Anchorage, $1,350, includes hostels and camping. Visits are to Denali National Park, the Alaska Highway to Tok, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (largest in the United States), Valdez, and an Alaskan ferry to the Kenai Peninsula. Rated C-plus for hiking.
"Mountain Parks West," July 11-25, starting and ending in Denver. Includes Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, with ranger-led interpretive programs in each park. Cost is $905, hostels and camping included. Rated C-plus for hiking.
"Canada's National Parks," Aug. 9-23, starting in Edmonton and ending in Calgary, Alberta. Price is $900; hostels only. Visits Banff, Jasper and Yoho national parks. This one's rated B for hiking.
"Enchanted New Mexico," Sept. 5-13, begins and ends in Albuquerque and visits north-central New Mexico, including Taos and Santa Fe, plus Native American pueblos with Hopi and Zuni dancers. Tour participants get to sample authentic Native American foods. The tour follows the Turquoise Trail, famous for its precious stones. Tour is priced at $600, with stays at hostels only. Rated C for hiking.
While the hiking on these trips is not considered strenuous, AYH asks that participants be fit, with no infirmities, medical problems or conditions requiring special medical care.
AYH membership is required but not included in the price. Membership runs $25 for those up to age 54, and $15 for seniors 54 and older.
For those interested, there are additional domestic and European bicycle, van, hiking and backpacking tours that are also open--but not limited--to mature travelers. AYH lists these in the tour catalogue under "Adult" (ages 18 and over) or "Open" (15 and over).
For more information and a free copy of the AYH "Discover Tours Catalogue," contact American Youth Hostels, Dept. 860, P.O. Box 37613, Washington, D.C. 20013-7613, (202) 783-6161.