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American Women Rough It, Just for Fun

When you hear the words "adventure travel," perhaps you think of men like Marco Polo, the distinguished African adventurer David Livingstone, or North Pole explorer Robert Peary.

Nowadays, it conjures up images of muscular guys tethered to bungee cords, jumping off bridges into canyons. MEN, exploring and climbing and jumping.

But dozens of women have climbed Nepal's Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak. Others have mapped continents, commanded space flights, and mushed by dogsled to the North Pole. Two hundred years ago, it was a Native American woman who guided the treacherous Lewis & Clark exploration of the Pacific Northwest.

And now, women are the fastest-growing segment of America's "adventure travel" industry. Books with titles like Gutsy Women and travel organizations like "Arctic Ladies" serve the swelling interest in women-only canoe trips, backpacking expeditions, and other strenuous adventures.

Of course millions of women are already used to the complexities of ordinary travel. Now, many want something more invigorating.

One of the lures of adventure travel is the opportunity to share it with their daughters or granddaughters. For others, it's the chance to challenge themselves without worrying about the needs of kids or husbands or boyfriends for a change.

"There are many women who say, 'I'm afraid I couldn't keep up,'" one woman adventure traveler told The Baltimore Sun. "I love watching women get over their self-imposed limitations."

Older women already predominate on organized sightseeing tours. Now, women of all ages are getting off the bus and striding vigorously into remote, rugged, and remarkable places.