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August 31, 2008|Jane Engle; Hugo Martin; Chris Erskine; Mary Forgione

Train tour firm to shut down

GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, a company based in Evergreen, Colo., that runs luxury U.S. train tours, was expected to halt operations late last week because of financial problems, said Tom Rader, the company's chairman. The action affects customers on dozens of trips scheduled this year and next who each paid thousands of dollars to travel in private cabins with vintage furnishings on four- to 12-day rail journeys. Destinations include the American West and South and, what was to have been new next year, Mexico's Copper Canyon. Industry insiders expressed surprise at the shutdown of GrandLuxe, which earlier this year was named one of the world's top 25 trains by the Society of International Railway Travelers. Customers with bookings should contact their credit-card company about getting refunds, Rader said, or contact GrandLuxe by e-mail at reservations@grandluxerail.com (the preferred method) or call (800) 320-4206.

-- Jane Engle

Sleeping softly

Camping doesn't usually mean a comfortable night's sleep. You're too cold or too hot; the ground under your sleeping bag is too hard or too lumpy. And if you packed an inflatable mattress, you'll probably roll off of it during the night. Big Agnes Inc. of Steamboat Springs, Colo., offers a sleeping bag with a built-in pocket to hold a full-length inflatable mattress. This design keeps the bag and the pad together, as they should be. We tested the Big Agnes Encampment 15 model on a recent camping trip and enjoyed a warm, comfortable night's sleep. And green-minded shoppers will be happy to know that the pad we tested is made of recycled material. The bag and the pad together weigh about 4.5 pounds. Prices range from $110 to $260 for the bags and $40 to $145 for the pads. Info: Bags are available at REI and Sport Chalet, or go to www.bigagnes.com.

-- Hugo Martin

Charitable travels

An 11-year-old Illinois girl is one of the forces behind a new travel booking service that donates a chunk of commissions to charity. Megan Maloney teamed up with her dad, Brad (both pictured above), to launch Charity Pro Travel this year after loved ones died of cancer and other longtime illnesses. The company donates 25% of commissions to the charity of the customer's choice, plus 10% to the charity of the month. In September, the company is raising the percentage to 50% for "Stand Up to Cancer," a major fundraiser. The dad and daughter team from Pekin will attend the fundraiser's telecast at 8 p.m. Friday on CBS, NBC and ABC. Info: www.charityprotravel.com.

-- Chris Erskine

Women rock out

The Yosemite Mountaineering School is starting Girls on Granite, a women's-only rock-climbing instruction class from Sept. 12 to 14 and Sept. 26 to 28. Participants -- led by certified women climbers -- get a one-day climbing class on the granite giants of Yosemite followed by a wilderness hike the second day. The package also includes two nights at Curry Village. Per person price: $299, not including tax. Info: (209) 372-8344, www.yosemitemountaineering.com.

Mary Forgione

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For more travel news, go to latimes.com/travelblog.

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