Pumpkin patches are a common sight along the roads of Pennsylvania’s Amish country in fall. // Photograph by Joelle Morris, My Shot

From the October 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler and the National Geographic book Drives of a Lifetime

Road fare doesn’t have to be from a chain restaurant. Here are routes where you can savor local produce.

Cheese, Vermont
To enjoy artisanal cheeses year-round, follow U.S. 7, within the “Vermont Cheese Trail,” north from Bennington, through to Middlebury (with seven cheesemakers in the vicinity), then to Burlington. Aside from the famously aged Vermont cheddar, choices now include feta, goat cheese, and ewe’s milk cheese. Planning: The Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival is held every July. www.vtcheese.com

Blueberries, Rhode Island
As you journey along R.I. 77 from historic Tiverton Four Corners to Sakonnet Point, watch as the landscape changes from stone-fenced pastures and woodlands to vineyards. After a wine tasting at Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, enjoy the cooling breezes at Sakonnet Point, then return to Tiverton for blueberry ice cream at Gray’s Ice Cream Shop. Planning: Visit in August when the produce at Rhode Island roadside stalls runs from blueberries to sweet corn. www.gonewport.com

Pumpkins and Chocolate, Pennsylvania
From Philadelphia, head west on U.S. 30 through Amish farm country to Lancaster, where the Landis Valley Museum hosts “Harvest Days with the Pumpkin Patch” in October. The same weekend (this year on October 9), a “Chocolate Walk” in nearby Lititz invites you to visit over 20 chocolate-tasting sites. Take the slow lane on an Amish buggy ride in Bird-in-Hand or Ronks, down roads lined with amber autumn color. Planning: For all things chocolate, and a theme park, spa, and zoo visit Hershey, 25 miles northwest of Lititz. www.padutchcountry.com

Peaches, Georgia
Start a tour of the Peach State at Macon and head south to the town of Byron. In June’s warmth, peaches are at their peak, weighing down the farm stalls and starring at the Fort Valley Georgia Peach Festival. This is a chance to see—and taste—the world’s largest (11 feet wide) peach cobbler. It’s so big that its sweet biscuit topping has to be stirred with canoe paddles. Planning: Ga. 49 south of Byron is known as Peach Parkway. www.gapeachfestival.com

Cherries, Michigan
Throughout Michigan, May is the time for cherry blossoms. In mid-July, just as the cherries ripen and are ready for picking, Traverse City hosts the National Cherry Festival, first held in 1926. Here cherries are used in everything from vodka to cheesecake. Take Rte. 22 outlining the Leelanau Peninsula—stopping to sample cherry wine en route—through orchards and vineyards to Glen Arbor, where cherry-themed goodies can be found at the Cherry Republic Shop. Planning: You will need to buy tickets in advance for many events during the popular National Cherry Festival. www.absolutemichigan.com


Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Photograph by Jimmy Chin, National GeographicAlex Honnold takes on the third zigzag of Half Dome without a rope. He has just one more difficult section, or pitch, in the last three before reaching the summit.

This spring en route to Mount Everest, Hilaree O’Neill, 39, a ski-mountaineer from Colorado who is part of our 2012 Everest expedition which will be covered live in the National Geographic iPad app, will trek the same valleys and work up to Base Camp just as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did 59 years ago when the duo claimed the first ascent. But on the mountain, fortunately, O’Neill will not be using the antiquated gear—think woolen suits and wood-handled ice axes—that Hillary hauled. In this gallery, we take a look at the equipment Hillary and Norgay used in 1953 and the high-tech gear O’Neill will use to climb the world’s tallest peak in 2012. —Stephen Regenold

Meet the: Adventurer | Climber | Hiker | Kayakers | Mountaineer | Rider | Skier | Snowboarder | Surfer | The Ultimate Descent

Photograph by Sano Babu Sunuwar
The Ultimate Descent: Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa and Sano Babu Sunuwar

Two Nepalis complete a mission to launch a paraglider from Mount Everest’s summit and kayak the Ganges to the Indian Ocean.

When Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa first saw paragliders arrive in the Himalaya, he dreamed of flying above the massive peaks of his home—the Khumbu region. After his third successful summit guiding trip on Everest, he viewed paragliding as a simpler, faster, and more graceful way of descending through the peak’s perilous slopes.

In October of 2010, Lakpa borrowed a paraglider, got a few pointers, and launched from a hillside above his home. He promptly crashed into a tree. With his paraglider wing badly damaged, Lakpa set out for the town of Pokhara, considered to be the gathering spot for paragliders, to seek repairs and find a mentor. He ran into Sano Babu Sunuwar, whom Lakpa had met years earlier on Island Peak. Babu repaired the glider and the two men hatched the plan for the Ultimate Descent.

They would climb to the world’s highest point, launch a paraglider and fly for as long as possible, bicycle to a point where streams gathered into rivers, kayak across the Nepali border into India, and paddle the Ganges River all the way to the Indian Ocean. It would be an unprecedented first, but it was the overall combination of sports, audacity, and friendship that drew the duo to the idea. Babu, 28, had no climbing experience. Lakpa, 37, had never kayaked and didn’t even know how to swim.

In April of 2011, the duo had borrowed gear, slapped a basic plan together, and began their ascent of Everest. On May 21, they became the third party to launch a paraglider from the summit and set a new world record of 8,865 meters for free flight in the process. On the Kosi River’s Class V rapids, Babu got caught recirculating in a massive whirlpool in their two-man kayak, while Lakpa floated down river. Once they reached the Ganges, they paddled flatwater through unfamiliar country. They were robbed at knifepoint and had to live off fruit trees. After 850 kilometers, Lakpa and Babu reached the Bay of Bengal. On June 27, they became the first people to complete the descent from Everest’s summit to the Indian Ocean.

“When we arrived on the beach, we were frightened. We were surrounded by giant red scorpions,” says Babu. Later after showing pictures to friends, he would learn that these “scorpions” were in fact harmless crabs.

The Ultimate Descent team earned recognition from the international paragliding community, and the Nepali press hailed them as national heroes. Western adventurers admired their spunk, simplicity, and bare-bones budget. There were no social media campaigns, corporate sponsors, or expedition websites, just the essential ingredients for adventure—vision, creativity, and friendship.

—Fitz Cahall

(Source: National Geographic)

Here they are. The 20 most extreme, hair-raising, legendary adventures on the planet, daunting even for the world’s elite athletes. If you’ve got the mettle, add these to your lifetime to-do list. Not quite ready? Check out the 20 next-best adventures—and start planning. —Kate Siber