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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Abercrombie & Kent Extreme Adventures

Just the name, Abercrombie & Kent, evokes images of a mysterious Africa, a hidden continent where one goes searching deep into the bush to find gorillas and lions, only to be pampered at night in the most luxurious tents you’ve ever seen. Indeed, days of adventure and nights of utmost civilization seems to be a winning combination as A&K continues to attract such luminaries as Prince Charles, Bill Gates, and the Clintons. Not bad for a company Geoffrey Kent and his parents started on the front steps of their Nairobi, Kenya, farmhouse. New in 2011 are 15 Extreme Adventures. Drive your own 4x4 though the high dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, hike on the largest glacier in Europe, Iceland’s Vatnajökull, sea kayak in Mexico’s Sea of Cortes accompanied by dolphins and whales, and climb up to the Everest base camp in Nepal. Other adventures are slated for Mali, Mongolia, Jordan, and Alaska.

(Photo by Marek Wykowski)

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/25/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 24, 2011

The New 7 Wonders of Nature

A Swiss-based organization is sponsoring a campaign on the web to vote for your favorite natural wonder. A list of 28 finalists has already been announced and they include Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, Table Mountain in Capetown, and New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy, and America’s lone entry in the contest, the Grand Canyon. Some 1 billion votes are expected by 11/11/11, when the final 7 will be announced.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/24/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend

As many bird watchers will tell you, some of the best birding happens in the height of winter. North of Boston, Cape Ann is known for its exciting collection of winter seabirds, including loons, grebes, gannets, sea ducks, and the region’s signature winter bird, the harlequin winter duck. The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with Mass Audubon to present a Winter Birding Weekend February 4-6, led by local naturalists. There will also be an opportunity to venture out on a wWhale watch boat to spot humpback, fin, and minke whales along with white-sided dolphins, harbor porpoises, and gray seals. The event will be held at the Elks Club at Bass Rocks and costs $25 per person (12 and under free), $45 per person for the boat ride.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/21/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

3 Great Things to Do On Vermont’s Lake Champlain in Winter

Fish It
If you think ice fishing means dangling a line on some remote pond while extremities turn numb and lips go blue, you’re in for a big surprise. These days, winter anglers can sit in a heated shanty and watch Super Bowl while checking their lines for any nibbles. February and the March are the two best months for hooking landlocked salmon, northern pike, lake trout and bass on Lake Champlain. Rent a shanty from Captain Gill Gagner for $90 a day or he’ll guide you all day for $200, including all fishing gear.

Kite It
Head to Cape Cod in summer and you’ll no doubt find kitesurfers catching air and zipping across the ocean. Now with the help of a good wind, you can glide on iced-over lakes and snow-covered meadows. Called snowkiting, the sport has its annual powwow, Kitestorm, on February 26th and 27th on Lake Champlain. Come with skis or snowboard, boots, and a helmet, and instructors will attach you to a kite and get you started. If you can’t make it to Burlington over those dates, contact Rachael Miller, owner of Stormboarding, for lessons and equipment.

Coast It
Take cross-country skiing and merge it with ice skating and you get the new phenomenon sweeping across the wild rivers and lakes of New England, nordic skating. Equipped with boots that are more comfortable than typical figure or hockey skates, and blades that glide atop the ice much like a speed skater, this Scandinavian craze lets skaters travel great distances at a much faster speed than cross-country skiing. Try the sport in the town of North Hero on Lake Champlain February 6th or at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont, on Sunday mornings in February.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/20/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dog Sledding in New England

Maybe it’s the rare chance to get lost in the wilderness without the masses during winter, breathing in the scent of pines in relative quietude, listening only to the pitter-patter of dogs’ legs running through the snow. Or maybe you want to cuddle with a team of soft-furred huskies. Whatever the reason, dog sledding outfitters are popping up all over New England. One of the best is Mahoosuc Guide Service in Newry, Maine, which made its debut 20 years ago. Polly Mahoney and her husband Kevin Slater lead day and overnight trips to Umbagog Lake on the New Hampshire border. Cost for the overnight tours start at $555 per person, including food, camping, winterized tents, and requisite doggies. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/19/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

World Class Toboggan Run in Camden, Maine

Try to name another sport where you can win a National Championship without any prior experience? Just ask the two-man team from Tennessee who came in 2nd place at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships in 2005 without ever seeing snow before their arrival at the Camden Snow Bowl on the mid-Maine coast. This year marks the 21st anniversary of the event, which will be held February 11-13. Even if you’re not one of the 400-plus entrants, by all means try the thrilling chute, open throughout the winter. Originally built in 1936 and reopened in 1990, this two-foot wide track will have the whole family whooping it up as they drop off the side of the mountain at 30-plus miles per hour. Cost of the ride is a mere dollar if you rent a toboggan, half that price if you bring your own.

Camden Snow Bowl is the oldest ski area in the state and the only one still owned and operated by the town recreation department. Ride the double chair to the top of 1300-foot Ragged Mountain and you’ll soon understand the allure. The smell of early morning powder is overpowered by a blast of salty mist from the sea. Yes, this Maine ski area is the only spot in America where you can carve your turn and look at an expanse of ocean. Below is the rock-strewn harbor of Camden, a favorite anchorage of yachters come summer, but now only visited by fishermen hauling in their winter catch of shrimp. Close proximity to the Atlantic also means that the weather can be dicey. An early morning fog rolls in and the snow turns to cornmeal. That 440-foot-long ice coated toboggan chute is the only reason the Snow Bowl continues to thrive.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/18/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Three of My Favorite Places to Cross-Country Ski in New England

Since Boston just got walloped with another winter nor’easter, dropping more than 15 inches of snow, I thought I’d devote this week to winter adventure in New England. First up, three wonderful cross-country ski areas:

Grafton Ponds
Grafton Ponds is one of the few cross-country ski centers in New England that provides snowmaking (a 5 km loop). If there’s already decent snow coverage, head from the center’s main lodge up through the dense forest on 30 kilometers of groomed trails. Make it to Big Bear Shelter atop the ridge and your reward is a cup of piping hot chocolate and views of the village of Grafton below.

Blueberry Hill
Lost within the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, 12 miles down the road from Middlebury, is the classic Vermont inn and cross-country ski center, Blueberry Hill, celebrating its 40th season in 2011. The 50 kilometers of groomed trails include the highest run in the state, at an elevation over 3,000 feet, and gentler routes through the pines.

Jackson Ski Touring Foundation
With over 150 kilometers of trails, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation is the largest cross-country skiing network in the northeast.  Novices can opt for the easy Ellis River Trail, which borders a babbling brook as it heads into the forest, while more experienced skiers should sample the challenging Wildcat Valley Trail, a classic 1930s throwback that slides steeply down the backside of the Wildcat ski area to the town of Jackson. Or take the Groomed Trail Challenge on February 12th, where avid x-c skiers try to do as much of the network as possible in an eleven-hour day.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/17/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 14, 2011

National Park Service Announces Free Days for 2011

If you’re planning to hit one of America’s National Parks in 2011, you might save yourself some cash if you visit during one of their free dates during the year. Staring with the upcoming Martin Luther King weekend (January 15-17), other free days at the Parks include National Park Week (April 16-24), the first day of summer (June 21), National Public Lands Day (September 24), and the weekend of Veterans Day (November 11-13). Many park concessions will also offer discounts on fee free days, saving visitors money on food, lodging, tours, and souvenirs.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/14/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Keep Up the Speed

This seems rather intuitive but researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have found a correlation between walking at a brisk pace and living longer. Studying data from nine studies involving some 35,000 people, they found that only 35 percent of the slowest walking 75 year-old women made it to their 85th birthday. Males did even worse, with only 19 percent of slowest walking men reaching 85.  Bottom line: try your best to maintain a good brisk pace throughout life.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/13/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zegrahm Expeditions Branching into Adventure Tours in Bhutan and Uganda

Seattle-based Zegrahm Expeditions is best known for their naturalist-led small-size expedition cruises that venture to the far corners of the globe, from Antarctica to Iceland, Yap to the Azores. In 2011, the company plans to add active adventures to their excursions, featuring two 14-day land-based treks in Bhutan and Uganda. Scheduled from April 10-23, the Bhutan jaunt will be led by Asian-culture expert, Gary Wintz, and will include a hike to Tiger’s Nest, the most famous monastery in this high-altitude Himalayan kingdom, and Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital and main residence of the king. Uganda is slated for November 30-December 13, 2011, and will be led by Zegrahm field director Jonathan Rossouw. The itinerary includes two days gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, visiting the large community of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, and white water rafting down the Nile. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/12/11 at 02:00 PM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
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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