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Friday, March 25, 2011

Paddling and Pinot Noir in Oregon

I love the pinot noirs coming out of Oregon, especially my favorite, Cristom, which I raved about in The Boston Globe. I also love whitewater rafting. So when I heard that Rogue Wilderness Adventures was offering a new trip for nature-loving wine enthusiasts, I had to spread the word. Raft 34 miles through the Wild & Scenic Rogue River corridor, then spend the nights in historic lodges where, at dinner, you’ll be treated to a pairing of some of Oregon’s finest wines with gourmet, locally inspired cuisine. The 3 days/2 nights jaunt costs $989 per person and departs on September 5th, 2011.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/25/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rekindling My Love for Cross-Country Skiing

The Northeast has received more than its fair share of snow this winter. In fact, Boston is set to receive another 2-4 inches this evening. I’ve taken this opportunity to x-c ski at three of my favorite spots in New England. In January, I celebrated my wife’s birthday by skiing in the Berkshires at a Trustees of Reservations property called Notchview. While researching my first book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England, I skied at Notchview and remembered it being one of the premier spots for the sport. Upon my return trip, it was even more magical, with a healthy dumping of fresh snow creating a winter wonderland of bent pine branches. This past weekend, my family stayed at the historic Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. On Sunday, under clear blue skies, I took my daughter and nephew for a morning jaunt on the web of trails found at the Bretton Woods Nordic Center. Mount Washington and its broad-shouldered slopes and snowcapped peak could be seen in its entirety, not wrapped in any clouds, which is a rarity in these parts. It was another glorious outing smelling the pines while cruising along a stream. This coming weekend, we’re off to Stowe, Vermont, to cross-country ski at Trapp Family Lodge during the height of the maple sugar season (see the best trips of the month section to the right of this entry). I look forward to tackling the Parizo Trail once again and having my bowl of soup in the cozy cabin. For dessert, I’ll try the homemade maple taffy.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/24/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Watching the Spring Migration of Birds

It’s hard to focus on writing this morning, grabbing my binoculars every five minutes to view the red-tailed hawks flying by my window. They love to rest on the branches of the tall oak trees outside my third floor office. I love this time of year, when my feathered friends start to return north and their cacophony of voices wake me up at sunrise. It’s too early to spot my beloved warblers as they cruise the Atlantic Flyway to their summer retreats. I’ll be heading to Mount Auburn Cemetery, a favorite haunt of Boston birders in mid-April, to spot those beauties. Last spring, I pointed out a website, Westport Osprey, that was tracking the flight of ospreys as they were making their way north. So far in 2011, Hudson left his winter home of Venezuela and is already back in his nest on the Westport River in southeastern Massachusetts. As of March 15, Sanford was still hanging out in the Bahamas ordering another rum punch at the swim-up bar. Stay tuned to Westport Osprey to track his flight.  And make a plan to visit Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Mass Audubon, to find the nesting Westport osprey, bald eagles, piping plovers and other shore birds.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trekking in New Zealand

In the wake of the devastating February 22nd earthquake in the South Island of New Zealand, travel writers around the world are blogging about the country this week in hopes of convincing folks that, outside of Christchurch, the vast majority of New Zealand is intact and ready to welcome visitors. In fact, I’ll be heading there later this year for the annual Society of American Travel Writers Conference. To do my share, I’m going to reprint this list of pointers I wrote for Backpacker Magazine on trekking in New Zealand.

Plan: Book as early as July for the most renowned of all hikes, the 4-day Milford Track in South Island’s Fjordland National Park. Number of hikers are limited to 10,000. 

Inspiration: A rite of passage for Kiwis, the 33-mile trek weaves through rainforest and alpine meadows, passing the country’s tallest waterfall in the (Sutherland), and dumping you off at the striking fjords of Milford Sound. 

Season: The hiking season is late October to late April. Avoid the rush of Christmas school holidays from the last week of December through January.

Pack: With huts built along many of these trails, like Milford, tents and mats are often unnecessary, lightening packs. 

Clothes: The uniform of choice is usually a layer of polypro under shorts. This deters bugs, especially the nasty sand fly, and keeps you cozy in mist and fog.

Weather: Expect a mix of clouds and sun, with frequent changes in weather. Average daytime temps are in the high 50s to mid-60s, Fahrenheit, but often dip to just above freezing at night. 

Food: Granola, fresh bread and cheese, dried fruit, even freeze-dried meals are easy to find once you get to New Zealand.

Extras: Kiwis love their tea, so have extra bags on hand and you’ll win friends easily.

Caveat:
Serious backpackers who might find the Milford Track overly regulated (you’re required to overnight at the Clinton Hut, a mere hour’s hike from the trailhead) should opt for Fjordland’s less visited and far more rigorous Dusty Track. It has much of the same scenery Milford features, without the foot traffic.

Wildlife: Watch for the luminous glowworm, hidden under ferns at night, and listen for the call of the elusive Kiwi bird. 

Guides:
Kiwi Wilderness Walks in Queenstown is a respected authority on South Island tracks.

Book:
Tramping in New Zealand (published by Australian-based Lonely Planet), by Jim DuFresne.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/22/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, March 21, 2011

New York City Unveils $3.3 Billion Plan to Improve Waterfront

On a bike trip around Manhattan last summer, I was delighted to witness the improvements New York was making along its shoreline. Like many American cities, New York has reconnected with its waterfront setting over the past decade, converting dilapidated docks and toxic marsh along the rivers into manicured parkland. Biking near 170th Street under the steel arch High Bridge, we spotted recent additions to the Harlem River shoreline, most noticeably a new boathouse at Swindler Cove Park and an adjoining children’s garden. Now Mayor Bloomberg has announced a $3.3 billion plan for new parks and environmental improvements to its 578 miles of shoreline to help boost recreation and real estate. I look forward to experiencing the new parks and shoreline walks in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/21/11 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Sea Kayaking Saguenay Fjord with H2Outfitters

Writer Walt Whitman described the waters of Quebec’s Saguenay Fjord as “dark as ink, exquisitely polished and sheeny under the August sun.”  That’s exactly the time of year you’ll be headed to Saguenay on a weeklong camping trip with the highly reputable sea kayaking outfitter, H2Outfitters. From August 13-20, you'll kayak the length of the fjord as you slice through this St. Lawrence estuary, a Marine Park in Canada, alongside walls of ash colored rock that rise some 1,150 feet.  An added bonus is that this sheltered cove is a rich feeding ground for whales. Humpbacks, smaller minkes, and the cuddly white belugas have all been spotted on past trips. The put-in is located 2 ½ hours northeast of Quebec City and cost is $975 per person, including camping fees, guides, kayaks, and all meals.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/18/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walking Through Venice and Veneto with the Wayfarers

Named by National Geographic Adventure as one of the “Best Hiking Companies,” The Wayfarers offers an eco-sensitive “walking” holiday that merges fitness with culture in 15 countries across the globe.  Now in its 28th year, founder Michael West is particularly excited about the upcoming Venice and The Veneto trip. Averaging 7 to 10 miles a day of walking, the weeklong journey will take you to Asiago to sample the famous cow’s milk cheese, visit the birthplace of grappa in Bassano del Grappa, and view two of Palladio’s magnificent villas, including the Renaissance architect’s masterwork, La Rotonda. “The highlight,” says West, “is when we arrive in Venice at the finale of the trip on a private launch directly from the mainland. I have never experienced (in almost fifty years in the business) a thrill like arriving at the steps of our hotel having cruised in celebrity style through one of the most famous skylines in the world!” The farewell dinner is in a restaurant known only by locals on the quayside watching the sun set over the city. “Magic!” says West.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/17/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bike the Texas Hill Country with Sojourn

Many of the people I meet who founded their active travel company have a genuine passion for the sport. Tom Hale spent over 5,000 miles on a bike the summer of 1979 prior to opening Backroads. When Susan Rand was in college, she would load her panniers witch camping gear and clothes and hit the road. Then she became athletic director at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, and worked for four years at Vermont Bicycle Tours prior to starting her own company, Sojourn, in 1995. Her fall foliage trips along the shores of Lake Champlain in her native Vermont are still the most popular weeklong jaunts. Yet, it’s the itineraries I don’t normally see in a catalog that I find most intriguing. In the summer, Sojourn heads to the Columbia River Gorge to bike between glorious Mount Hood and Mount Adams. In late fall and mid-winter, Rand takes riders to the Sonoran Desert outside Tucson to bike, hike in Saguaro National Park, and horseback ride in John Wayne country at the Rancho De La Osa Guest Ranch. New this spring is a trip to Texas Hill Country, an overlooked biking region outside of San Antonio that I’ve written about for National Geographic Adventure. Rand personally tries all of the trips she designs and this has quickly become one of her favorites. You’ll be biking under tall cypress trees on lonely backcountry roads past large cattle ranches and fields of bluebonnets that are in bloom in early spring. You’ll also visit the Alamo and LBJ Ranch. So saddle up and get out there on your next sojourn.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/16/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Raft the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with Tim Cahill and Michael Shapiro

One of the original rivers in the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and a centerpiece of Idaho’s 2.2 million acre River of No Return Wilderness, the Salmon River deserves its reputation as one of the premier whitewater runs in North America. Especially the Middle Fork which boasts more than a hundred rapids in as many miles. What this means is a rip-roaring ride through narrow canyon walls, with glimpses of bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain elk on the shores and eagles and ospreys flying overhead. Once you reach land, you can hike up side canyons, soak in natural hot springs, fish to your heart’s content, or use the time to gather your thoughts and write down your notes. The Middle Fork, after all, is great fodder for a travel story. And lucky for you, you’ll be traveling with two of the finest travel writers in the business, Michael Shapiro and Tim Cahill. I had the good fortune to travel with Shapiro to Kenya last November and he made my life easy, always asking that poignant question before I had the chance. He’s also incredibly sociable without the slightest hint of pretension. Cahill is known for his uproarious romps in such books as Jaguars Ripped My Flesh and Pecked to Death by Ducks. Together, they will be teaching the craft of storytelling to aspiring writers on a five-day jaunt down the Middle Fork August 17-21. Cost is $1895 per person, including guides, food, and one finished manuscript (which you’ll hopefully sell and recoup some of that cost).
 

(Photo by Woods Wheatcroft)


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Family Adventure in the Canadian Rockies with Austin-Lehman

As an adventure travel writer, I’ve been paid to bike around the Big Island of Hawaii, sea kayak the Fijian islands, dive the Great Barrier Reef, and paddle the Allagash River during a memorable foliage. Then I had my first child and the canoes, skies, and other outdoor paraphernalia started to collect dust in the basement of my suburban Boston home. Going stir crazy one summer day, I called my dad who gave me the sage advice to integrate family into my work. The next thing I know I’m going up and down the hills of Vermont with my toddler on the back of my bike. Like many parents, I began to realize that I don’t have to give up my passion simply because I have little ones. It was time to introduce my kids to the real me. Now I travel with Jake, 14, and Melanie, 12, as much as possible without getting scolded by their teachers. And they’re the ones teaching me a thing or two about every sport they try. 

This coming summer, we’re already booked on a six-day multisport trip with Austin-Lehman Adventures in the Canadian Rockies. ALA is known for their guided family trips to the most stunning locales across the globe, from Costa Rica to Alaska, Africa, and yes, the Canadian Rockies. In the Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise region, we’ll trek with crampons across the Athabasca Glacier, whitewater raft down the Kananaskis River, and bike through the tall cedars and pines on the Evans Thomas path. Another highlight is the 64-mile drive through the peaks and deep swaths of forest on Icefields Parkway. Elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, maybe even a bear or cougar can be seen as you make your way to the largest ice cap in the Canadian Rockies, the Columbia Icefield, on the boundary of Banff and Jasper National Parks. At night, we’ll be staying at Baker Creek Chalets, along a quiet stream smack dab in the center of the snowcapped summits.

As we begin to plan our summer vacations, I want to take the time this week to describe some of my favorite trips offered by outfitters.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/14/11 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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