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Active lifestyle: Vacationers today try to pack lots of adventure into a little time

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Finding things to do isn't the problem. Finding time is, especially for today's active crowd.

Fewer and fewer vacationers are opting for the simpler life: Drive to the intended location, complete the planned activity, such as a long river trip, and then drive home.

The growing trend is to get as many activities squeezed into the available time as possible. That can go something like this: Hiking in the early morning, then saddling up for a horseback ride until noon, taking a half-day rafting trip, followed by a dip in the pool and an evening Hummer ride to see the sunset. Then it's back to the room for a short night's sleep, then scheduled biking, hiking, touring, ATV riding and even a go at rock climbing.

One survey says fewer than 8 percent of the vacationing public in America will take off for longer than a week. Seventy-two percent will take vacations ranging from three to seven days.

"And within the days they have," explained Myke Hughes, owner of Adrift Adventures, a rafting company in Moab, "they want to squeeze in as much as they can.

"As recent as 10 years ago, our most popular rafting trips were the longer trips, four and five days, on Cataract (Canyon) and Desolation. Now it's our one- and two-day trips. People want to experience the river but then want to go off and do something else."

Even the more passive travelers are looking for multiple activities, such as a raft trip, scenic flight, Hummer excursions and guided four-wheel-drive trips.

All of which has a number of companies joining together to offer packages.

"The individual travelers today have bought into the idea of packages. The travel industry introduced the packages, and now it's something people expect," said Colin Fryer, owner of Red Cliff Lodge, east of Moab along the Colorado River.

"The Internet has made it all possible. It's created a world of shoppers all looking for a good deal on a package that includes room, meals and a full range of activities . . . the more the better."

Few places in the country have fine-tuned the package market better than Moab. But then few places in the country have such a wide range of resources to draw from, all complemented by the close presence of two national parks, the Colorado River and a landscape unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Available options include daily rafting trips on the Colorado River, mountain biking on the famed Slickrock Trail, horseback riding into country movies like "City Slickers" are made in, four-wheeling in Canyonlands National Park, hiking in Arches National Park, taking an evening ride over the red-rock country in a Hummer to watch the sunset, golfing on the green fairways with red-rock cliffs as the backdrop, and even climbing sheer rock cliffs along the popular area known as "Wall Street."

"It's all based on what the active crowd is looking for these days, and it's multiple activities. In our case, most people are looking for the half-day horseback trip and then some kind of river experience," Fryer said.

"If you look at it, the baby-boomer generation is more active than their parents, and younger families today are more active than those of the baby-boomer generation. People want an active, healthy lifestyle, and when they come here that's what they expect."

Where it used to take a minimum of four to five days to float Cataract Canyon from Moab to Hite on the upper reaches of Lake Powell, several river companies now offer one-day trips. High-speed jet boats carry passengers to the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers in hours; it used to take two days. At the confluence there are smaller boats waiting to take passengers through the rapids, then motors are used for the final 25 miles.

"We encourage people to at least spend two days and one night on the river to get the full experience. Some people will, but others want to run Cataract in a day and then want to go off and do something else," Hughes said.

"It's something that started gradually about three to four years ago, but it's starting to steamroll. More and more people are asking for the shorter trips. Of course, we would sooner see the longer trips. They're much easier to organize. But, you have to adjust to the market. We're going into partnerships with other businesses, which means now people can do all of their activity shopping in one location."

Fryer said he offers 15 packages, "which is really too many. We'll look at our packages this fall and narrow things down a little.

"Our most popular activity is our horseback rides, and even here we've tried to offer more. People actually have to ride, not just sit on a horse and walk along a path. Our ride is an adventure. We ride through water and up hills and gullies and end at a spectacular overlook at Castle Valley. When people get off the horse, they know they've been riding."

Fryer's packages include mountain and road biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, four-by-four backcountry tours, ATV rides, scenic flights, tours of the national parks, rock climbing and golfing.

The Moab Adventure Center offers a number of Hummer tours, from four hours into the slickrock country to rides under the stars. It also combines biking, rafting, hiking, scenic flights and horseback rides.

Other activities include nighttime tours on the river. Hughes focuses mainly on rafting but has partnered with other businesses in Moab to offer biking, hiking, touring and horseback riding. He also works with Highpoint Hummer and ATV Tours.

Activities run anywhere from $50 for a half-day river trip, lunch included, to $160 for a half-day river run followed by a Hummer tour, to $325 for a one-day Cataract trip, jet-boat ride, lunch and shuttle included.

For information call Red Cliff Lodge at 1-866-812 2002, Adrift Adventure at 1-800-874-4483, Moab Adventure Center at 1-888-622-4097 or Highpoint Tours at 1-877-HUMMVEE.

E-mail: grass@desnews.com