Working wanderlust

Explore nature's secret places with the Nissens

Their business―and romance―started in the summer of 1993. David Nissen was working the microphone on motor-coach tours of the Canadian Rockies. Aleta Wolin was covering the same territory for another tour company. Each dreamed of starting an ecotourism company someday. They met, they clicked, they moved to Bend, Oregon, that fall, and the following May they were leading their first trips for what had become a joint venture: Wanderlust Tours.

Eleven years later, the Nissens (they married in 1995) are still leading. Not tours (their guides do most of that now), but the direction of sustainable adventure tourism in Oregon. Rather than taking huge groups down the same stretch of whitewater day after day, their groups of 10 or so blaze trails over lava flows, into caves, up snowy hillsides, and around mountain lakes―on foot, on snowshoes, and in canoes. New this year: formal catered dinners on a mountain lakeshore followed by an evening canoe trip under the stars ($105; Jul 16 and Aug 13, or by appointment).

More than 4,000 clients joined them on tours last year. That's a fraction of the number of tourists herded down the Deschutes River in rafts last summer―which suits the Nissens just fine.

"We both enjoy rafting. But when you're blasting down the river, you miss a lot," David says. "We want to do something at a little slower pace, under our own power, in small groups, so we can take a better look at what this phenomenal bit of Mother Nature is all about."

Go play

Wanderlust Tours (from $40 for a half-day tour; www.wanderlust tours.com or 800/962-2862)