Older adventurers still riding high

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SEDONA, Ariz. -- Adventure operators are taming the face of travel for a generation of rugged explorers.

Call it assisted adventure: a soft, even cushy outdoors experience directed toward -- shall we say it? -- baby boomers on the other side of 45.

A number of tour outfits have itineraries that put away the tents and provide a comfortable place to lay the head after miles of biking and hiking. Among them is Austin-Lehman Adventures, which offers multisports vacations in Arizona and other U.S. states and Canada.

The Billings, Mont.-based outfit's five-night Sedona & the Grand Canyon package features a hike 1,000 feet down the South Kaibab Trail into the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon; biking to an inactive volcano; walking on lakes of lava; and visiting the Painted Desert and ancient Native American ruins.

Cool-down amenities include shopping in Flagstaff and Sedona and dinners at local restaurants.

"We can accommodate any skill level," according to owner Dan Austin, who said he also sees a rise in bookings for his soft-adventure packages from cross-generational families. "I'm 46. All of us folks that used to do the big miles -- we'd get together at the end of the day and boast, 'I did 80 miles today on my bike,' -- now, we want to do 30 miles, with fine dining and a comfortable bed [to follow]."

The land-only trips run a circuit from Flagstaff and back in a 15-passenger van, with an itinerary that affords less time on the vehicle and more on the ground, exercising and soaking up local culture, Austin said. Trips are limited to 12 people.

Accommodations are at the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Inn at 410 in Flagstaff and Los Abrigados Resort & Spa in Sedona.

Dining is at a variety of restaurants. "El Tovar has a great dining room," Austin said. In Flagstaff, the group samples local favorites.

All meals, snacks and attractions are included in the package price of $2,198 per person, double. Remaining tour dates in 2003 are Oct. 12 to 17. Austin-Lehman Adventures pays 12% commission.

For details, call (800) 575-1540.

To contact reporter Margaret Myre, send e-mail to [email protected].

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