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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top 5 Adventures in Florida, Sailing the Keys

With first rate charts and other navigational aids, the Florida Keys are an ideal cruising ground for all sailors, regardless of experience. The famously warm, clear waters of the Keys are a snorkeler’s paradise—shipwrecks and coral parks are plentiful—and secluded beaches number in the hundreds. If you crave terra firma, you can always stop at Key West for a nightcap at Sloppy Joe’s, a favorite hangout of writer Ernest Hemingway.  One full day’s sail west of Key West brings you to the Dry Tortugas, home to Fort Jefferson, which dates back to Civil War days. This is a popular sailing route. If you feel like you’re off the charts, anchor at any harbor and ask the nearest boater for directions. Thankfully, yachting is no longer a sport only for the affluent. Florida Keys Bareboat Charter Company in Marathon bareboat charters a 27-foot Catalina for a cost of $899 per week (7 days/6 nights). 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/19/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Top 5 Adventures in Florida, Sea Kayaking the Great Calusa Blueway

This past month, temperatures in Florida have been unseasonably cold. Yet, mid-January is the time of year when the weather heats up and so does the outdoor activity. This week, I’m focusing on the Sunshine State, divulging my favorite adventures in the state. First up is sea kayaking the Great Calusa Blueway on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast. Whether you’re an advanced paddler or a novice, you’ll savor the sheltered bays, remote islands, and hidden beaches on this 190-mile wet and wild corridor outside of Fort Myers. Choose to spend the day kayaking around Estero Bay or spend a night camping at the tip of Pine Island just north of Captiva Island. There are also inn-to-inn options. The highlight is the abundant sealife, including sightings of manatees, dolphins, and turtles. 
 

(Photo credit Cythia Gilbert from Kayak SW Florida)


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/18/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Dream Trips 2010, Mountain Biking Bend, Oregon

Working these past 20 years primarily as an outdoors writer, it’s hard for me to admit that I’ve never been to Bend, Oregon, one of the renowned outdoor hubs in America and a mecca for serious mountain bikers. North, Middle, and South Sister Mountains rise 10,000 feet above town, forming part of the Cascade Range. Due north is Black Butte, one of the region's many cinder cones that create a volcanic landscape unparalleled in the U.S. outside of Hawaii. I plan to bike on the Butte Loops Trail as it circles Black Butte on old logging roads that have been closed to motorized vehicles and are now part of the roads-to-trails program. Then I’m heading to the eastern part of the state to hike in the Oregon desert with my travel writing buddy, Eric Lucas.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/15/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dream Trips 2010, Safari in Botswana

With the World Cup heading to South Africa in 2010, that should be reason enough to head back to Mother Africa. Catch a game, then head to Kruger for a little safari action, surf in Plett, grab some wine in Stellenbosch, hike up Table Mountain in glorious Capetown, my vote for the most beautiful city in the world, then bike around Hout Bay. But I’ve already done that, so it’s time to check out some neighboring countries like Namibia, Mozambique, and Botswana. What’s attractive about the Okavango Delta in Botswana is that you can actually ride atop an elephant on safari. My brother, Jim, and I took the elephant trek through the Hill Tribes of Thailand and it was a blast. It certainly beats sitting in the back of a jeep all morning, smelling exhaust. I prefer to see the lions atop an elephant, though I’m not sure how close an elephant would get to the king of the jungle before being scared away.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/14/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dream Trips 2010, Biking Vietnam

Vietnam is that coveted destination that’s jaw-droppingly beautiful, yet still not overrun with tourism. Traveling this lush, mostly flat country by bike (the locals’ preferred transportation method) is an ideal way to see it. Many biking outfitters like VBT, Backroads, and Butterfield & Robinson now offer guided bike trips across the country. Pedaling 15 to 50 miles per day, you’ll roll past untrammeled coastline, terraced emerald rice paddies, ultra-green mountains, and rarely visited rural villages. Many of the trips starts in Ho Chi Minh City and ends in Hanoi, so you’ll have time to explore urban Vietnam, as well. All include post-trips to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Sign me up!

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/13/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dream Trips 2010, Rafting the Yampa River, Colorado

With a proposed water pipeline in the works, 2010 might be the last year folks will be able to cruise down the Yampa River in its natural state. Roaring 72 miles through northwestern Colorado, the Yampa River is the last major free-flowing tributary in the entire Colorado River system. This Class III river, ideal for families, is in its prime in early June when the snowmelt fills the channel of Dinosaur National Monument. Butch Cassidy found these slickrock walls and layers of cavernous rock to be the perfect hideaway. 2,000-foot deep sandstone gorges create a colorful canyon maze that effectively blocks out the world. In its place, you’ll find one of the largest concentrations of endangered peregrine falcons in the States, golden eagles, and bighorn sheep. Adrift Adventures features five-day runs on the Yampa.  Minimum age is 7.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/12/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Dream Trips 2010, Hiking the Milford Track, South Island, New Zealand

It’s 2010, my friends. A fresh new decade to achieve those goals and check off the places you’ve been yearning to see. You can cower in a corner fearful of the next Al Qaeda operative, count your remaining pennies in the piggy bank, or leave the world’s worries behind and go on that dream trip. I prefer the latter. This week, I delve into the adventures I’m trying to fit into my calendar this year.

When I visited New Zealand on my last trip, I made the mistake of not booking the 4-day Milford Track. The country limits the number of hikers to 10,000. So this July, I’ll be the first on line to get my permit and hike this glorious route later in the year. The hiking season stems from late October to late April. Avoid the rush of Christmas school holidays from the last week of December through January. Set in the South Island’s Fjordland National Park, the Milford Track is a rite of passage for Kiwis. The 33-mile trail weaves through rainforest and alpine meadows, passing the country’s tallest waterfall, and dumping you off at the striking fjords of Milford Sound. I've cruised through these fhords before and they're spectacular, an amazing spot to end a hike.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/11/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 08, 2010

My Top 5 Adventures in 2009, Biking the Shores of Keuka Lake

Known for its award-winning Rieslings, the Finger Lakes deserve its reputation as one of the best spots in America to go wine tasting. Yet, its resplendent beauty also lends itself well to adventure. At the southern end of Seneca Lake, we hiked alongside a handful of waterfalls in the famous gorge of Watkins Glen. The next morning, my wife and I kayaked through a cattail-laden marsh and saw countless herons, turtles, and a beaver. Talk about adventure—a 40-pound carp jumped out of the marsh and slammed against my arm as I shrieked. But my favorite part of the weeklong trip was a quiet bike ride along a peninsula that juts into Keuka Lake. Start your ride from Keuka College and follow East and West Bluff Roads as they pass the small waterfront cottages with cute names like Hide N’ Seek. There’s one killer hill on the 20-mile ride that takes you atop a bluff, before cruising downhill back to the college. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a lobster roll and glass of semi-dry Riesling at Heron Hill’s outdoor café. We were fortunate to book the next two nights at the Black Sheep Inn in Hammondsport, on the northern tip of Keuka Lake. Owners Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman spent over 6 years refurbishing the rare octagonal-shaped house, which celebrated its 150th birthday in 2009. See my review of the wines at Everett Potter's Travel Report.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 07, 2010

My Top 5 Adventures in 2009, Mountain Biking the Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Last Memorial Day, I returned to a network of mountain biking trails I first wrote about in 1996 for Men’s Journal magazine. Back then, two or three avid fat wheelers were connecting farmland and cutting a web of trails through the woods of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The rolling countryside dotted with mountains, rivers, meadows, forest, and dilapidated barns is one of the most majestic sites in the Northeast, especially behind Darling Hill Road. So I wasn’t surprised to see cars from as far away as Connecticut and Ontario sampling the trails. And they were sweet, rolling up and down the hillside under the towering pines and atop ridges with vistas of the whole valley. What surprised me even more than the popularity of the mountain biking was how quickly my 13-year old son Jake took to the sport, grinding up and sweeping down the challenging terrain. He kicked my ass and I was happy to write about the experience for The Boston Globe.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/07/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My Top 5 Adventures in 2009, Tubing the White River, Jamaica

In February, I had the chance for the second year in a row to float down the mountainous White River, a definite highlight of any trip to Jamaica. High in the hills above Ocho Rios, the water is cool and as clear as gin. Guides sing Bob Marley songs as you flow with the slow-moving current. Or listen to the high-pitched call of the yellow banana quit bird and peer out at the green mosaic of ferns, banana trees, and thickets of bamboo that climb the banks of this sinuous waterway like ivy climbs a wall. What's wonderful about this river cruise is that all ages love the journey, from my 79 year-old dad to my 11 year-old daughter. The River Tubing Safari is one of the many adventures offered by the reputable Jamaican outfitter, Chukka Caribbean Adventures. To see my story on Ocho Rios, visit Away.com.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/06/10 at 02:00 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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