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Summer Goes Rogue: 13 Trips Outside Your Comfort Zone

Goodbye, mesh folding chair. Farewell, trusty beer koozie. This summer is all about breaking out of that lazy beach vacation rut.

Better than hitchhiking: your inflatable ride to San Miguel Island.

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It looks icy, but in the summer the waters in Yakuat, Alaksa, are as warm as in Santa Cruz.

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Park's BBQ in Los Angeles.

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The International Night Market in Richmond, British Columbia.

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Jaws times 100? Luckily, they're friendly... we think.

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Multnomah Whiskey Library, Portland

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Just you and the jaguars: Cuixmala, Mexico's most remote nature reserve.

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Ditch the s'mores (but bring the crampons) for high-altitude camping on Mount Rainer.

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A grow room in Denver.

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Orr Hot Springs in Ukiah.

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Go social-media silent: California's most remote island has zero reception.

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8. Unwind at an Eco-Retreat (with Crocodiles)
Jalisco, Mexico
Don’t expect mainstream luxury at Cuixmala (from $400,cuixmala.com), a seductively unconventional Mexican resort a swift drive south of the swim-up bars in Puerto Vallarta. Paved roads on the property are few, but no matter. What you’ve come for is exotic, unabashed wilderness: The 25,000-acre nature reserve and organic fruit plantation stretching along the lush, rugged coast is a refuge for 189 animal species—crocodiles, zebras, antelope, sea turtles, and endangered jaguars roam free, as well as spiders as sizable andcolorful as the tropical flowers that blossom in early summer. For the best vantage point, saddle up and follow the resident ranchero along the seemingly endless trails. It’s only when you reach the mangrove, an eerie but beautiful passageway where dozens of crocodiles glide through the water, that you realize just how wild this place really is. Luckily, it also has a soft side: a dozen tangerine villas and casitas spread throughout the property and decorated with international wares, each offering a private infinity pool and an in-house chef. —J.A.S. 

9. Summit a 14er (Still Covered in Snow)
Mount Rainier, WA
Instead of taking a summer sabbatical from snow sports, brave Washington’s notorious 14er, Mount Rainier—one of the only mountains in the West with a year-round snowpack. Summer is the best time to climb, as the weather is more predictable and the views go on for miles. But be forewarned: As the most heavily glaciated mountain in the Lower 48, this is where serious trailblazers train for trekking the Himalayas and Denali, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Get to know the mountain’s glacial terrain with Ashford-based RMI Expeditions (from $1,000, rmiguides.com), whose instructors cover essential mountain survival techniques and teach you how to put that badass ice ax to good use. After that, don your crampons for the outfitter’s four-day climb to a series of camps. When you hit 10,000 feet, your shelter for the night is a one-room rudimentary mountain hut, surrounded by slick glaciers. The next morning, you conquer the summit. —Jill K. Robinson

10. Take a Lesson in Horticulture (on Cannabis)
Denver, CO
While it’s not quite the New Amsterdam some had hoped for—you can’t smoke a joint in public, and there are no “coffee shops”—Colorado has rolled out a fledgling cannabis tourism industry over the last year. My 420 Tours (from $920, all inclusive, my420tours.com) is the first legit outfitter in North America, introducing people to the, ahem, budding scene in Denver through vacations like the Cannabis Sampler Tour. Don’t expect the special brownies of your dorm days; the cooking classes cover refined edibles—think quinoa fried rice and chocolate truffles. A high point is the behind-the-scenes grow-room tour, during which an expert guides you through a skunky forest in a 30,000-square-foot facility. Transportation back to your room at a 420-friendly hotel in downtown Denver is provided via the Cannabus. —Serena Renner

11. Go on a Foodie Road Trip (That’s Not About Farm-to-Table)
Columbia River, OR
Don’t tell Alice Waters, but even the most dedicated San Francisco foodie deserves a break from organic orthodoxy. Embark on a sugar-and-carb-fueled trip along Oregon’s Columbia River Highway, where old-school comfort cooking proudly reigns. Start in Troutdale, then eat your way 48 miles east: First, hit the logger and biker hangout Shirley’s Tippy Canoe (shirleysfood.com), which serves sloppy joes—homemade sauce smothering a beef patty set on a Frisbee-size plate—in a delightfully kitsch setting. Next, look for the neon roadside sign for Tad’s Chicken ’N Dumplins (tadschicdump.com), a landmark as famous as the stewed chicken and gravy-soaked dough balls that it references. Walk up to East Wind Drive-In (541-374-8380) for soft-serve cones taller than your kombucha bottle. And lastly, Big Jim’s Drive-In (bigjimsdrivein.com) looks like a fast-food joint, but the burgers are fresh, as are the tater tots dipped in pots of homemade fry sauce. You’ll find redemption at the juice bar at Mother’s Marketplace (mothersmarketplace.info), where the first shot of fresh ginger is on the house. —K.L.

12. Soak in a Natural Hot Spring (in the Buff)
Ukiah, CA
If the prospect of spending a weekend naked—like, totally naked: no shirt, no pants, no Internet or cell reception—incites existential dread, Orr Hot Springs (yurts and cottages from $155, 707-462-6277) will soothe your fears. This isn’t a creeper hangout; in fact, you might not see many people here, as the clothing-optional refuge is tucked away on 27 acres in the Mendocino redwoods. By day, make the circuit between the sauna, the cold pool, and two communal open-air spring-fed tubs, with 105-degree water so mineral-rich that it’s downright cloudy. Out of the water, there are trails for hiking and sundecks for curing tan lines. At night, score a spot in a rooftop claw-foot bathtub for stargazing beneath the unpolluted sky before retiring to your yurt or cottage. —E.C.

13. Unplug on a Deserted Island (Right off the California Coast)
San Miguel Island, CA
You don’t come here to make friends: The most remote of the Channel Islands, 60 miles from the mainland, offers only one campground and sees fewer than 200 visitors a year. You’ll arrive like a castaway, sloshing through aquamarine waters from a dinghy to the crescent-shaped, white-sand beach. From the point that Ventura-based outfitter Island Packers (from $147, islandpackers.com) drops you off, you’re on your own until it returns three days later. Traverse a landscape filled with calcified remnants of a prehistoric forest, mountainous dunes, endemic fauna like the island fox, and the largest congregation of seals and sea lions on the planet. Plus, summer is prime blue whale–watching time—they migrate through the watery channel in droves. It might not be Tahiti, but it’s tranquil and blissfully removed from civilization. —Garrick Ramirez

 

Originally published in the May issue of San Francisco

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