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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Davis, California, Leading the Way in Cutting Carbon Emissions

Located near Sacramento, Davis, California, is a city of just over 65,000 people that’s perhaps best known as the first city in the country to create bike lines on their streets. Well, yesterday, they just upped the ante by announcing their intent to cut the community’s carbon emissions by up to 50 percent by 2013. Using the tenets of David Gershon’s book, “Low Carbon Diet: A 30-day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds,” Davis is creating EcoTeams, peer-support groups to help households reduce their emissions. Cool Portland (Oregon), Gershon’s first pilot program, helped reduce carbon emissions of each household by 22 percent or 6,700 pounds. 50 percent seems ambitious, but kudos to Davis and Gershon for giving it a shot!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/17/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wild China

I had the good fortune to have lunch last week in Boston with Mei Zhang, founder of Wild China. For more than a decade, the Harvard MBA grad has brought visitors to the remote parts of China, telling me that “over 80 percent of travelers to the country see less than 20 percent of the land mass.” More than likely they get a glimpse of the Great Wall in Beijing, go on a Yangtze River cruise, and, if they have time, see the Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China in Xi’an. But what about that impressive mountain and river scenery found in the backdrop of Zhang Yimou films? To immerse yourself in that otherworldly beauty, you’re going to have to sign up for one of Wild China’s trips. Zhang is keen on taking people to her native Yunnan Province, north of Laos and Burma. Here you’ll find centuries-old Hill Tribes making bricks of tea high up in the mountains and the Tea & Horse Caravan Trail, a southern Silk Route still being used that links southwestern China with Tibet. The trade route will be featured in the May issue of National Geographic, a perfect time to take the weeklong jaunt with Wild China, according to Zhang. She also offers hiking trips on the 19th-centruy French Explorers’ Route, along the Mekong and Salween Rivers, and trekking in the heart of Shangri-La.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/16/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dripping Sap

 

Maria von Trapp, the woman who inspired The Sound of Music, is no longer with us, but Trapp Family Lodge is flourishing thanks to new lodging on their spectacular grounds overlooking Stowe and new cross-country ski and mountain biking trails. When it comes to sugaring, however, the von Trapps do it the old fashion way, picking up the sap in buckets with a horse-drawn sleigh and delivering it to the sugarhouse to boil off the water and create Vermont’s “liquid gold.” The 1200 taps produce 300 gallons of syrup annually and the season lasts from mid-March until late April. Join in on the fun each Saturday, when you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or grab that horse-drawn sleigh to the sugarhouse for a traditional Sugar-on-Snow party. The hot syrup is tossed on the white snow to create a chewy maple taffy, served with donuts and dill pickles.
 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, March 12, 2010

US Open Snowboarding Championships at Stratton, Vermont Next Week

Don’t worry if you couldn’t snag those coveted halfpipe and snowboard cross tickets at Whistler. 2010 Olympic medalists Shaun White and Hannah Teter (the only athlete to have a flavor, Maple Blonde, named in her honor by Ben & Jerry’s) are headed back east for the 28th U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships March 15-22. The competition is held once again at Stratton Mountain Resort, the place 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 dude, 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 some phat table tops and rails, much higher off the ground. Easy style it (check out the jumps first) or you’ll be doing some serious face plants.

Shaun White will be performing his signature 1080s (three full rotations) on the new Olympic-sized (22-foot walls) superpipe and advanced terrain park, moved this year to the Sunriser Supertrail on Sun Bowl. You better have confidence bubbling over to try the many humps on that gnarly rollercoaster rail and the mojo to land flips onto the diving board box. Or follow Jacobellis’ cue and sweep along the banked turns and rollers on Lower East Meadow’s boarder cross course. Sick!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/12/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Active New Zealand

For thirty years, Active New Zealand has offered their signature Rimu trip. They’ve obviously doing something right because National Geographic Adventure called it one of the top 10 trips in the world. The location certainly doesn’t hurt. The two-week jaunt goes around the South Island of New Zealand. Start with a snorkel with the local seal colony at the seaside town of Kaikoura, then choose between three multi-day offerings: backpacking in Nelson Lakes National Park, sea kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds, or a mountain biking journey on the Queen Charlotte Track. The group reunites for a stroll in the Punakaiki Rainforest, before hiking at Franz Josef Glacier, and sea kayaking amidst the fjords of Milford Sound. I’ve been to the last three sites and even though it was close to 20 years ago, I still remember it vividly as some of the most stunning scenery I’ve seen on my travels. There are three upcoming trips in April, early fall in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s a great time of year to go. Cost is $3399 US per person including guides, all lodging, and food.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/11/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A New Website that Provides Travelers with Peace of Mind

My brother once had his passport stolen in Turkey and was forced to spend the next month in the country before he was handed a new passport and could leave. He ended up having the time of his life and making lifelong friends, but that’s beside the point. A lost or stolen passport can cause a lot of stress. Just ask my wife who lost her passport on a train behind communist lines in the old East Germany. She was booted off the train and, unlike my brother, did not make any lifelong friends. Now entering the travel world is accessMYID.com, a new website that stores all pertinent travel information like a copy of that passport, travel visas, health insurance cards, and necessary prescriptions. Much like my beloved Carbonite backs up my hard drive, this website will store all travel info for a yearly fee that’s as low as twenty bucks a year. That seems like a low price to pay to offset a potential heart attack.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/10/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Miami’s Den of Tranquility

While we’re on the subject of Miami, I drove the family over to my favorite hideaway in the area last week, the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables. This lush oasis is a mix of ponds, palms, ferns, big birds, and whimsical sculpture. One step inside the serene environs and I’m staring at an anhinga drying its wings in the sun next to giant polka dotted pumpkins created by Japan’s Yayoi Kusama. One of Dale Chihuly’s colorful works of glass perfectly blends in with the orchids and big-leaf ferns in the conservatory. But it’s the serpentine trails that take you into a waterfall-laden rainforest shaded by vanilla trees, under the Spanish moss hanging from a southern live oak, and past the massive roots of a 70-year old baobab tree that keeps me coming back to this 83-acre gem. Add the large collection of herons and warblers that are fortunate to call the Fairchild home and you have the perfect rendezvous.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/09/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 08, 2010

Biking the 15-mile Shark Valley Loop, Everglades National Park, Florida

If you happen to be in Miami and crave an authentic outdoor experience away from the trendy restaurants and clubs in South Beach, take an hour-long drive on the Tamiami Trail (Route 41) to Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park. Try to get here on the early side (before 11 am), because the parking lot fills up quick, and bring water and sandwiches for lunch. Then rent a bike and head out on the 15-mile paved Shark Valley Loop. Far from the deafening noise of a propeller boat, a tourist magnet in these parts, you get to bike at your own pace along canals teeming with alligators, turtles, and an extraordinary amount of large birds. It took my family of four almost an hour to bike one mile because we had to stop every 50 yards to get a photo of that gator basking in the sun next to the bike trail. Don’t worry. They could care less about you and no one’s ever been attacked on the route. Usually near the alligator was an anhinga drying its wings on a branch and wood storks and white whooping cranes standing tall in the shallow water. There was every type of heron imaginable, from the stocky black-crowned night heron to the long-legged great blue heron. Another highlight were the pink roseate spoonbills resting in the dense sagebrush along the canal. Stop midway at the observation deck to get a good overview of the Everglades topography, a mix of sinuous waterways and tall swaying grass. This is also a good spot to have that sandwich or snack you brought before heading back.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/08/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, March 05, 2010

The Perfect Weekend to Hit the Slopes and Trails

March is my favorite time to ski. The days are longer and brighter, the snow softer, and with spring just around the corner, it’s time to get my last runs in before the season quickly comes to end. With a deluge of snowfall across America this past week, from two feet in Vermont to three feet in the Tahoe area, we have even more reason to hit the slopes. Hardcore athletes looking to work up a definite sweat this weekend should head to Pittsfield, Vermont, on Saturday. Called the Winter Brutality Weekend, the town will feature a marathon, half-marathon, and 6.5-miler race, all on snowshoes. For the truly insane, there’s a 100-mile Snowshoe Marathon! One of the leaders of this endurance test is Noel Hanna, who in December achieved his goal of climbing to the summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents and then running down. The last was Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. So whether you’re a bunny slope skier or serious athlete, you have no excuse not to get out there this weekend and go play.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/05/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Swim With Your Ipod

I like my tunes, especially when working out. Throw on my favorite R&B and electronica and I’m ripping through those 40 minutes on the elliptical or my free weight curls. That’s probably the main reason why I stopped doing laps in the pool. I hated listening to the sound of my breath wheezing for air. Well, now I can listen to my Ipod and still crank out the music thanks to H20 Audio’s waterproof cases and headphones that keeps all sizes of Ipods dry. Not surprisingly, Olympic swimming stars Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin are partnering with the company to help get the word out and fill up those lanes once again.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/10 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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