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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Long Trail Turns 100

On March 21, 1910, 23 avid hikers (or trampers as they were called at the time) sat in a room in Burlington, Vermont, and had the wacky idea to create the first long-distance hiking trail in America. The Green Mountains had been largely unappreciated, so James P. Taylor (1872-1949) made a promise that his group would “make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.” They called their organization the Green Mountain Club and remarkably finished a 273-mile long route that snakes through the Green Mountains the entire length of the state. The high-country trail is a narrow, unforgiving footpath in the wilderness that winds through the finest greenery of this sylvan state. A century later, as our leisure time becomes more and more diminished through overwork and lack of vacation time, the Long Trail seems too long for most of us.  Only 120 hikers took a month out of their life in 2009 to complete the entire route and become certified “end-to-enders” by the Green Mountain Club. If you ever wanted to take advantage of James P. Taylor’s dream, the centennial celebration would be a good time.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/18/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Camping Area Conserved on Cape Cod

One of the last items the late Senator Kennedy worked on was protection of the North of Highland Camping Area. Located in Truro, this is an area of Cape Cod that still retains the charm of yesteryear, with its wild dunes, stretch of sublime coastline, and patches of forest. Unlike much of the Cape these days, Truro has resisted overbuilding. In 2005, North of Highland’s owner expressed interested in retiring and selling the 57-acre property, which the family had owned for over 50 years. The Trust for Public Land stepped in to prevent its sale for residential development and just announced they secured a conservation easement that will be managed by the National Park service. This makes perfect sense since the property lies inside the Cape Cod National Seashore, a half-mile walk from Head of the Meadow Beach.
 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/17/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mt. Katahdin, Maine

Katahdin is a fitting end to the Appalachian Trail in the north. Reaching the mass of rock atop the 5,267 foot summit is a challenge to the most experienced climber, even the AT thru-hiker who spent the last six months racking up more than 2,100 miles. Yet, it's somewhat of a disappointment that the AT ascends Katahdin from the Hunt Trail, the easiest (if there’s such a thing) and least spectacular path to the peak. For an unparalleled mountainous ascent in the northeast, you should opt for the Knife Edge. Like the name implies, this three to foot wide granite sidewalk sharply drops off more than 1,500 feet on either side. 

The best way to reach the Knife Edge is the Helen Taylor Trail from the Roaring Brook Campground.  All the ascents are a struggle. You start at about 1,500 feet and don't stop climbing until you run out of mountain. When the Helen Taylor trail hits Pamola Peak, a little over three miles into the climb, bear left to find the Knife Edge.  First you’ll ascend South Peak, then Baxter Peak, the summit of Katahdin. Rest those spaghetti legs and take in the exquisite vistas of northern Maine—Chesuncook Lake, the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Big and Little Spencer Mountains, and all the peaks that form massive Katahdin.

As you gloat, proud of your grand accomplishment, just remember that Henry David Thoreau climbed Katahdin without a trail. “It was vast, Titanic, such as man never inhabits. Some part of the beholder, even some vital part, seems to escape through the loose grating of his ribs as he ascends,” Thoreau noted in The Maine Woods.   No doubt, you’ll agree.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/14/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mt. Lafayette, New Hampshire

The strenuous climb up Mt. Lafayette is worthy of all accolades hikers bestow upon it.  With tumbling waterfalls, a steep ascent to three of the highest peaks in New England, and a 1.7-mile ridge walk where the spruce-studded White Mountains stand below you in a dizzying display of green, this very well could be the finest day hike in New England. 
   
Turn into the woods from the parking lot and I-93’s traffic is quickly replaced by the sounds of rushing water, compliments of a stream that accompanies you for a good mile and a half.  Three perfect falls swirl over smooth boulders to pools of water the color of gin, the ideal stop for a breather.  You’ll need your energy to get to the top of Little Haystack Mountain and the start of the Franconia Ridge Trail.  Part of the Appalachian Trail, this above-tree-line path offers a stunning panorama of New England’s highest summits, including Mount Washington.  Bag 5,108-foot Mount Lincoln and 5,249-foot Mount Lafayette before taking the Greenleaf Trail down the boulder littered slopes to AMC’s Greenleaf Hut. This deep-woods convenience store is great for lemonade refills before the trek back down. Or, better yet, grab a bunk and spend the night.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/10 at 01:00 PM
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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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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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