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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiaK), Mexico

Close to the Mayan ruins of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area on the Mexican Caribbean. Grab one of the raised cottages on site and you’ll be immersed in the 1.3 million-acre mix of beach and wetlands. CESiaK runs completely on sun and wind energy, using rainwater for water needs, and utilizing a wetland waste treatment system. Grab a sea kayak to go bird watching, fish, go with a naturalist on a hike, or simply relax with a thick book in the hammock. All proceeds fund education and conservation programs at Sian Ka’an, including dune restoration and native plant propogation. Cabins start at an affordable $70 a night. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/11 at 03:00 PM
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Monday, February 07, 2011

La Loma Jungle Lodge, Isla Bastimentos, Panama

I’ve had my fill of snow this winter in Boston. So now I’m dreaming about the warm weather and an upcoming trip to Jamaica. This week, I’ll delve into my favorite eco-resorts in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. The sustainable tourism movement has grown leaps and bounds in the past decade. No longer can you simply throw compost in the back of a Marriott and call it an eco-resort. To be green, destinations have to offer indigenous culture and food, encourage outdoor recreation that highlight the region, curb greenhouse gases that impact the environment, and involve the entire community in the tourism effort. Many resorts even go a step further by helping to support local school systems and food banks. These five lodgings are green in every sense of the word. 

Increasingly, the small eco-retreat design that made such an imprint in Costa Rica has slipped farther south into Panama. On an archipelago in the northwestern part of the country, a short boat ride from the town of Bocas del Toro, is a three-cabana lodge socked in the middle of the verdant jungle and surrounded by a working cocoa plantation.  All of the cabins at the Jungle Lodge were created from fallen trees and inspired by the architecture of the local Ngobe Indians. The employees are also local, including your guide through the rainforest and beach to see sloths, armadillos, small crocs called caimans, and the graceful blue morph butterfly. At dinner, lobster and conch will not be served, as the owners try to use only sustainably harvested fish like yellow jack. Rates are $110 per person a night, including three meals, the boat ride over from Bocas town, and some of the excursions.


 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/07/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 04, 2011

Cross-Country Ski at Notchview Reservation in the Berkshires, Massachusetts

Last Friday, my wife and I headed to the Berkshires in the western part of Massachusetts to check out the incredibly detailed 500 year-old prints of Albrecht Durer at the Clark Art Museum and the wildly inventive bird and flower sculptures of Petah Coyne at Mass MoCA. The highlight of our trip, however, was cross-country skiing on the grounds of the exquisite Notchview in Windsor. Run by the Trustees of Reservations, Notchview’s trails were groomed with a fresh layer of powder when we arrived. We went counter-clockwise on the Circuit Trail, passing meadows and skiing under a tunnel of snowed-under pines. The web of white branches kept us snug within the forest, protecting us from any wind. After passing a small shelter, we turned onto the Whitestone Trail and entered a winter wonderland of uprooted trees and branches arching over the serpentine path. A downhill run brought us back to the main lodge, invigorated by the fresh smell of pine and the exercise. To top it off, we went to the Old Creamery in Cummington, a favorite local haunt that features homemade soups, grilled panini sandwiches, salads, and pies. The perfect ending to a perfect outing.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/04/11 at 01:59 PM
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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Spotting Bald Eagles in Red Wing, Minnesota

An hour’s drive south of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River, Red Wing, Minnesota is best known for its restored century-old Sheldon Theatre and the 1875 St. James Hotel.  National Geographic Traveler magazine recently named it the 23rd most historic destination in the world. Come winter, folks come to Red Wing to spot a bald eagle. Hundreds of eagles gather along the riverfront to search for fish and other small prey. Each weekend from February 19th through March 13th, naturalists will be on hand at Red Wing’s Covill Park to provide scopes and binoculars and answer questions about eagle behavior and the recovery of America’s most famous bird.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Bird Watching in Costa Rica

Just as divers think of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as that ultimate diving locale, bird watchers flock to Costa Rica. In a small country the size of West Virginia, you can find more than 850 species of birdlife. Take the entire United States and combine it with Canada and you won’t come up with that many birds. And we’re not talking ordinary birds in Costa Rica like the backyard sparrow, but spectacular toucans, scarlet macaws, quetzals, 50 types of hummingbirds, and tall storks. The great multitude of birdlife in Costa Rica stems from its diverse terrain sandwiched into a sliver of Central American terrain. Within a relatively short driving distance, you can be atop 12,000 foot peaks or down at sea level on the Pacific coast, immersed in the dense rainforest or slicing through the hazy cloud forest. Sendero Tranquillo in the Cloud Forest, La Selva Biological Station, and Carara National Park are great places to start.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Snowboard Among Champs

If you just saw Shaun White nail his signature Double McTwist to snag gold once again at the Winter X Games and want to see the Flying Tomato do it live, head to Vermont for the 27th U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. Held March 7-13, the competition takes place at Stratton Mountain Resort, the spot that put snowboarding on the map. This is where Jake Burton first tried the sport and where a young Lindsey Jacobellis took up boarding after her family’s vacation house caught fire, burning all of the ski equipment. Cheer them on, but don’t just be a spectator. There’s a reason why Ski Magazine has voted Stratton the best terrain parks in the east for the past decade. Little rippers can test their freestyle skills on Burton’s Parkway, a kid-friendly area built with the novice in mind. One step larger than Parkway is Tyrolienne, featuring neophyte table-tops to catch air, and wider, lower rails to start grinding. Once you’ve mastered Tyrolienne, it’s on to Old Smoothie for challenging table tops and rails, much higher off the ground. Check out the jumps first or you’ll be doing some serious face plants.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/01/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 31, 2011

Not a Good Time to Be a Rhino in South Africa

South Africa officials said 333 rhinos were poached in 2010, nearly three times as many that were lost in 2009. Another five rhinos were killed in the first several weeks of 2011. The increased demand for the rhino horn as a cure for impotence in Asian countries or as a ceremonial dagger in Middle Eastern countries has fueled the latest killings. In neighboring Zimbabwe, another seven rhinos have been murdered in the past month. This is not some random shooting by locals. Zimbabwean park rangers said the poaching is so sophisticated now that the villains are using helicopters and light aircraft to land, get their treasured horn, and fly away. They are well organized and funded by big money syndicates. Equipped with night vision goggles and a slew of artillery, this new breed of poacher will be hard to stop. Expect the 21,000 rhinos in South Africa, the most of any country, to dwindle quickly if the government can’t provide the resources to do battle with these criminals.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/31/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Join the Freelancers Union

These past several years have been tough on all of us. In the beginning of 2009, I lost many of my editors, who went down with the death of their magazine or were simply let go. The need for editorial content was reduced to a trickle because those sought after advertising dollars that the publishing world feeds on was gone. Yet, even though I was making very little, I couldn’t receive unemployment benefits because I was self-employed. Independent workers comprise one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy, almost 1/3 of all workers, yet we’re still not recognized by the Department of Labor. When my freelance work started to pick up again, several publishers made me wait over six to seven months to be paid. Twice, I had to use the services of a good friend who’s a lawyer to make sure my check was forthcoming. We were lucky the first time when he realized that one of the investors in a website I wrote for does business with his law firm. One simple phone call to that investor and I was paid within the week. When a company’s employee is not paid, they can go to a state’s Department of Labor who can levy fines and impose jail time on that employer. All an independent contractor can do is ask repeatedly and then go to a small claims court.

So when I heard about the Freelancers Union that is now 150,000 members strong and growing quickly, one that has its own Political Action Committee to fight for the rights of the self-employed, I immediately joined. The union was started by Sara Horowitz 16 years ago and she has since received a MacArthur “genius” grant for her work. Based in New York, Horowitz graduated from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, or ILR as it was dubbed when my brother, Jim, graduated. She then went on to get her law degree and work as a public defender, before spending a year at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. So far, IT professionals, television and film producers, advertising workers, and graphic designers make up the bulk of the union, but freelance writers and other self-employed workers would be wise to join the swelling ranks. The Freelancers Union has already opened an insurance company to help with health care, and is working diligently to create unemployment protection, fight against unpaid wages, and eliminate any punitive double taxes on independent workers, like the one in New York City that was recently thrown out. Please go to the Freelancers Union website and become a member.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/28/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast

When I was researching my first book, “Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England,” in 1995, I assembled quite a collection of books on the region. Two books in particular, “Maine: An Explorer's Guide” by Christina Tree and “Classic Backcountry Skiing” by David Goodman stood out among the rest. Both authors went far beyond the norm to delve into their subject, introducing me to areas of New England I would have never found. Now Goodman has revised his book and come out with a new edition titled “Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York,” published by AMC Books. Included in the book are a detailed account of the  CCC Trails on the backside of Mount Mansfield, including Bruce, Teardrop, and Skytop, hand-cut serpentine trails that Goodman considers the “gold standard of backcountry skiing.” Goodman finally gets to cross Lake Champlain and taste the terrain of the Adirondacks, like the 35-mile wonder, the Jackrabbit Trail, that connects Saranac Lake with Lake Placid. He also delves into the carriage path trails at Acadia National Park in winter, one of my favorite spots to backcountry ski, and the emerging AMC sporting camps network in the 100-Mile Wilderness section of Maine’s North Woods. The book is a must for any skier who likes to carve their turns away from the crowds, where the only spectators lining your trails are tall pines and birches.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/27/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ski Tahoe

Lake Tahoe resorts are currently boasting the deepest season-to-date snowpack levels since they began keeping records more than a half century ago. Thanks to the snowiest early season on record, skiers and snowboarders have been enjoying powder conditions on almost a daily basis with over 25 feet of snow already blanketing the slopes of the Sierras. This winter’s bountiful snowfall has been attributed to a powerful La Nina weather pattern off the Pacific Coast, with Lake Tahoe’s ideal location channeling powerful winter storms into deep powder. While you’re in the area, check out the latest developments at Northstar-at-Tahoe. The same Ritz-Carlton team that helped transform Colorado’s Beaver Creek from Vail’s forgotten little sister into one of the finest family-friendly mountains in the country has descended on Northstar. A Ritz made its debut December 2009 mid-mountain, surrounded by a greatly expanded teaching area and a new Burton Snowboard Academy. If they have the same success as their Colorado cousin, expect Northstar to rise out of the shadows and challenge Squaw Creek and Heavenly as one of Tahoe’s premier ski areas.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/26/11 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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