The Call of the Wild
1. The Mogul (Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia). If your idea of camping doesn't include bugs or dirt, there's a way to enjoy nature from the comforts of a five-star ersatz tent. Your sojourn can even include salmon fishing expeditions and Thai massages.
Camp: At Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, journey down a 1,500-foot forest boardwalk to your "tenthouse suite," which has a private veranda, a fireplace, and heated floors ($215 to $436 per night). The pagoda-like suites overlook the Pacific and are surrounded by the world's largest temperate rainforest, full of grizzly bears hunting in salmon streams. Getting There: It's a 28-minute ride from Vancouver International Airport on a float plane to the remote coast (about $80 each way). Eat: Drive a half hour to The Blue Heron Restaurant for seafood and sunsets. Start with prawns marinated in sambuca, followed by local salmon dressed in citrus fruit butter (main courses run from $23 to $35) Drink: Near the restaurant, Lighthouse Pub is no-frills, but its marina views are popular with locals. If you don't want a Molson, stop by the adjacent liquor store for a large selection of regional crisp white wines and bring a bottle back to the resort. See: Book a private day with Rob Metcalfe of Bayside Charters. He'll take you salmon fishing or crabbing ($460 for four hours) on his fisherman's boat. Tip: Don't skip the hotel's otherworldly spa, where a 90-minute Thai massage—which stretches your entire body—costs about $150.
2. The Young Professional (Marfa, Tex.) The Lone Star State is known for music festivals, tumbleweed spotting, and huge hunks of steak. Marfa, though, is an artist's colony with numerous galleries, great dining, and young tastemakers who don't mind sleeping in yurts.
Camp: Just outside town, on Highway 67, the recently renovated El Cosmico campsite offers retooled trailers with comfy beds ($90 to $125 per night) as well as yurts and teepees that come with futons and lanterns ($60 to $75 per night). You'll likely spend time in the Dutch tubs—outdoor, wood burning hot tubs (about $75 per day)—so long as there's no drought. Getting There: Fly into El Paso (round-trip flights from Chicago, Denver, and Atlanta range between $200 and $400, depending on the season) and rent a car for the three-hour drive southeast. Eat: Food Shark, a 1974 bread truck, offers Mediterranean fare such as the Marfalafal, a Texas-size version of the chick pea classic ($5.50). Drink: The Famous Burro bar has Texas beers such as Shiner Bock on tap, and the bartender makes syrups from scratch. See: The town's galleries (more than a dozen) showcase everything from minimalist prints at Inde/Jacobs to Dan Flavin's light sculptures at the Chinati Foundation. Stop by Prada Marfa, a replica of a fashion boutique on a desert highway. Tip: The town shuts down on Mondays and Tuesdays, so plan your trip for a weekend. Your cell phone may lose service—and that's the point.
3. The Family (Santa Rosa, Calif.) The same weather that makes for great wine—it's dry and never gets too hot—also makes for good camping. It doesn't hurt that there are vineyards, 400 different animals, and some innovative restaurants nearby.
Camp: Bring the kids to Safari West, a 400-acre nature preserve that's one of the only places outside Africa where you can see more than 400 different animals, including giraffes, zebras, leopards, antelopes, and nearly extinct birds. You'll sleep in cabin-sized African canvas tents that include a bathroom and bunk beds for the kids (approximatley $350 per night). Getting There: Fly into San Francisco and drive 75 miles north. Eat: Slow food meets Neapolitan pizza at Rosso. You'll get both by ordering thin pies with vegetables, cheeses, and meats from Sonoma County farms ($13 to $16 per pizza). If it's on the specials menu, order the oven-roasted Dungeness crab. Drink: Siduri, a Santa Rosa vineyard, offers free tours and a chance to taste their renowned pinot noirs. See: The trip highlight will be the Safari Tour, a three-hour introduction to blue wildebeest, cheetah, and scimitar-horned oryx, capped off by a visit to the Isle of Lemurs, which teems with the odd creatures ($68 for adults; $30 for children ages 3-12). Tip: Tours are by reservation only and take place rain or shine; unless you normally wear galoshes and ponchos, check the weather report.
4. The Adventurer (The Gobi Desert, Mongolia) For a guide to the region, among the most isolated places in the world, book with U.K.-based extreme-travel specialist Black Tomato. Its eight-day, $6,000 package includes airfare and a guide.
Camp: Black Tomato's guides will drop you off each night at "ger camps"—large yurts that serve as rest stops for tourists—during the trip. Most of the daytime travel takes place in jeeps, with locals ushering you through the vast plains. Along the way, they'll point out nomadic tribes and indigenous animals, including snow leopards, ibex, camels, and the world's only desert bear, the nearly extinct Mazaalai, which roams near oases to find leaves to eat. Getting There: From Los Angeles, fly 20 hours to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city at the north point of the desert. Your Black Tomato guide will meet you for the trip south into the remote areas. Eat: Rest-stop fare includes both steamed dumplings (buuz) and others deep fried in mutton fat (khuushuur), a staple of the Mongolian diet. Drink: Fresh water is provided for all campers. See: The trip stops in Karakorum, the ancient capital of the country that was once home to Marco Polo. The city that aspired to be a modern metropolis now lies in ruins. Don't miss the 500-year-old temples of Erdene Zuu, one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in existence. Tip: The region has long, freezing winters, so it's best to visit in July, August, or September.