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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mount Willard, New Hampshire

If the thought of climbing a mountain makes you sweat long before leaving your car, wipe your brow and give 2,804-foot Willard a try. In less than an hour, you’ll make it to the peak where jaw-dropping views of Crawford Notch stand below you, a reward for your slight efforts. Not surprisingly, this easy climb is a favorite for families. 
   
The hike begins behind the Crawford Notch Visitor Center, former site of the Crawford railroad station. The trail starts off sharply but becomes more gradual as you criss-cross through a forest of dense pines. Eventually, sunshine seeps into the woods and you’ll reach a large opening, the light at the end of the tunnel. Look down from the rocky ledge at the old railroad line, carved into the mountainside, and the onslaught of cars that snake through Crawford Notch on Route 302. Then pat yourself on the back for climbing a White Mountain.
 

(Photo by Clyde Sisler)


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mount Mansfield, Vermont

Bagging Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, is a formidable challenge but certainly no strenuous climb like mighty Katahdin in Maine or the highest ascent in New England, Mt. Washington. It’s a steady ascent that rewards you with views of Lake Champlain in its entirety, Burlington, a 45-minute drive to the East, and the highest peak in New York, Mount Marcy. 

There are many ways up Mansfield. Families should opt for the Long Trail south from Route 108. A little steeper is the Laura Cowles and Sunset Ridge Trails from the backside at Underhill State Park. If you really want to test your mettle, go on the Hell Brook trail.  The unrelenting path starts from Route 108 at about 1900 feet and 1.3 miles later, you’ve hit the 4,000-foot mark. It’s a favorite of locals as evidenced by the number of Vermonters listed in the logbook at the trailhead. About 2 hours into the climb or the 1.3 mile mark, you’ll reach the so-called Adam’s Apple of the mountain. There’s also the Forehead and Nose of Mansfield, but for some reason The Chin, at 4,393 feet, is the highest point.  It must be one of those Yankee chins. 

See the story I wrote on hiking Mount Mansfield for The Boston Globe.

(Painting by Barbara Hamm)
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/11/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

May and June are my favorite times to climb the peaks in New England and upstate New York before the mosquitoes and masses start to arrive in the high peak months of summer. This week, I’m going to divulge my top five mountain climbs. First up, Mount Monadnock.

For many New England children, their first mountain climb is up that broad-shouldered peak Henry David Thoreau called a “sublime mass.” Just over the border of Massachusetts in southern New Hampshire, Monadnock is less than a two-hour drive from Boston. Its accessibility and locale, smack dab in the center of New England, has made it the second most popular mountain ascent in the world (averaging about 130,000 climbers a year). Only Mt. Fuji in Japan has more foot traffic.

Head up the White Dot trail, one of the steepest ascents to the peak, but also one that rewards with you with incredible vistas in a very short time. Above tree-line, the forest recedes to form open ledges covered with low-lying shrubs like mountain cranberry bushes. This gives you ample opportunity to rest and peer down at the Currier and Ives setting below—a soft blanket of treetops, small towns with their requisite white steeples, a smattering of lakes and ponds, and farms that fan out to anonymous ridges. 

Soon you’ll reach the 3,165-foot summit, where Thoreau watched in dismay as his fellow mid-19th century trampers inscribed their names in rock. This didn’t stop him from writing in large letters atop the biggest boulder “H.D.T. Ate Gorp Here, 1860.”  I’m joking, but you can see many other names clearly marked like “T.S. Spaulding, 1853.”

Spend the night at the Monadnock Inn, whose century-old porch is the perfect place to rest those weary legs. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/10/10 at 12:59 PM
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Friday, May 07, 2010

A Mountain Doesn’t Discriminate

Vancouver’s Sarah Doherty, 50, has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, skied competitively, and lit the Olympic torch. All with one leg! At the age of 13, while biking around her neighborhood in eastern Massachusetts, a drunk driver hit her, crushing her right leg. The accident might have altered her life, but it didn’t change her desire to keep active. In fact, she has devoted herself to getting people back on the trail, working as an occupational therapist. Her most recent contribution is SideStix, a shock-absorbent crutch that can withstand any rock-littered, root studded trail. Let’s just call it the mountain bike version of a crutch. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and with Sarah Doherty, there’s a strong desire to picnic on summits.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/07/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Bike Denver

Kudos to the Mile High City for implementing the first bike-sharing program in the United States. Comparable to Paris, Amsterdam, and Montreal, you can pick up a shiny new red 3-speed Trek bike at any of the 40 stations around town and drop them off at another station. A 24-hour membership is $5 while a yearly membership will set you back $65. Simply pick up the bike at say the Colorado Convention Center and drop it off near the Denver Art Museum. From the Denver Art Museum, grab another bike and cruise to your hotel. Starting in June, the bikes will be equipped with RFID chips and computers to track mileage, calories burned, and carbon offsets. So you can monitor your fi


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/06/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Safaris for Kids

Safaris were once such a luxury that they were reserved only by honeymooners for that trip of a lifetime. Well, times have certainly changed. These days more and more safari outfitters are catering to the post-honeymoon crowd, otherwise known as families. At Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa, their “Kids on Safari” package (geared to children ages 4 and up) lets the little ones see the Big Five. They also visit the Born Free Foundation to watch animals that almost died in captivity released into the wild. In Zambia, Norman Carr Safaris has a special “Kids Go Wild” trip that teaches about the conservation of lions in the dense bush. Families also learn to play traditional African drums and mold clay pottery into African sculpture. At Olonana Sanctuary in Masai Mara, Kenya, owned by Abercrombie & Kent, children spend a morning with kids at the local Maasai school after touring their village.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/05/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

You Don’t Have to Travel Halfway Around the World to Be Active

I’m a travel writer, so it’s my job to turn you on to places around the globe I think you should definitely check out. But after spending a glorious weekend at home in the Boston area, I’m just as happy to see you venture outdoors in your own backyard and remain active. I spent Saturday at my favorite oasis, Broadmoor, a Mass Audubon retreat, staring at numerous turtles sunbathing on upturned logs in the Charles River, found three snakes, and watched Canadian Geese and their cute furry goslings go for a dip. On Sunday, I went biking in Dover and Millis past horse farms, pasture, and absurdly large homes. Spring is finally here, so make sure to take advantage and Go Play!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/04/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, May 03, 2010

Pedal and Paddle Package in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont

The Kingdom Trails, which I’ve often praised as my favorite mountain biking spot in the Northeast, just reopened this past weekend. This has prompted the owners of the Wildflower Inn (another one of my top New England picks), which borders the Kingdom Trails, to offer a Pedal and Paddle Package. For as low as $375 for two people, you receive two nights lodging, full country breakfast each morning, picnic lunch, trail pass for the Kingdom Trails, a $25 voucher good for their restaurant, Juniper’s, and a half-day canoe rental on the Clyde River, part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Deep tissue massages, perfect after a day of riding hard, are just down the road at Stepping Stone Spa.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/03/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, April 30, 2010

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail

In the May issue of Sierra Magazine, I wrote about paddling the West Branch of the Penobscot River in northern Maine. More paddlers are soon to follow, now that the West Branch of the Penobscot is part of a 740-mile water corridor called the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Launched in June 2006 by the former owners of Mad River Canoe Company, Rob Center and his wife, Kay Henry, the route starts in Old Forge, New York, linking together more than 75 lakes and rivers before reaching its northern terminus in Fort Kent, Maine. Unlike the Appalachian Trail, Center does not believe the non-profit will attract a significant number of thru-paddlers. So far, the list of canoers who’ve traversed the entire circuit in one trip numbers around thirty.  He hopes to entice paddlers to try each section of the route in chunks, going back year after year and thus support the struggling economies of small communities along the waterway. The non-profit also designs exquisite maps for each segment of the trail that not only pinpoint campsites and portages in the area, but delve into the ecology and history of the region. To become a member and learn more about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, visit their website.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/30/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Life Gives You Lemons, Make Pastrami

We were all packed to go on our kid’s first jaunt to Europe last week when our flight was cancelled because of the volcanic ash. There would be no touring of the Tate Modern or dinners at French bistros, at least for now. Obviously, we were all disappointed when we realized there was no way we could get a flight to Europe over our children’s April break.  So we did the next best thing. Got in the car and drove to Manhattan for four days. Instead of Madame Tussauds in London, we visited Madame Tussauds in Times Square. Instead of dining at L’Entrecote in the 17th arrondissement, we dined at the new L’Entrecote at the corner of Lexington and 52nd Street. There is only one item on the menu, steak frites, served tartare, rare, medium, or well-done, and paired perfectly with crispy French fries.

Our favorite day was going down to the Lower East Side to take one of the tours at the Tenement Museum, grab a sour dill from the Pickle Guy at the corner of Essex and Grant, a crème brulee doughnut from Doughnut Plant around the corner, taste the lox at the century-old Russ and Daughters, and then feast on the best pastrami in the city at Katz’s Deli. After lunch, we ran into the artist Shepard Fairey, creating his latest work on the corner of Houston and the Bowery. An added bonus was seeing Green Day perform live after seeing a performance of “American Idiot,” the new Broadway musical based on their music. In the end, we had a great time and London and Paris will have to wait until the summer. After all, the nature of travel is to be spontaneous. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/29/10 at 01:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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