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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Writing Esoterica

I was guest lecturing at Emerson College in Boston last night when a student asked me how I take notes when I’m out there in the wild, backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking, etc..? It’s actually a very good question. I used to carry a microcassette recorder until I went on a backpacking trip through the Mojave Desert for Men’s Journal magazine. On day three of that trek, I reached down for my recorder and saw that the tape had melted in the sweltering heat. I never liked transcribing notes upon my return, so I switched to writing in a CVS-bought notepad that fits easily into the one of the four pockets on my canvas shorts. That also has its problems. It sometimes gets wet from rain, water, or sweat and I can’t read my notes. Other times I simply lose  the notebook. When I returned from a biking trip to Prince Edward Island for Canadian Geographic, I couldn’t find my notebook anywhere. After freaking out, I wrote the story from memory and called the people I interviewed to confirm their quotes were correct. The magazine loved the piece. It just goes to show you that your memory works far better than you can possibly imagine. In fact, I still remember the waves of nausea I felt the first night of that Mojave Desert trek after hiking 15 miles in the heat and carrying a 50-pound pack. Freeze-dried noodles was not exactly my idea of comfort food, but my body craved carbs so I ate every last morsel.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/07/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Marsh, Billings, Rockefeller—Quite the Trio

“Every middle-aged man who revisits his birthplace after a few years of absence looks upon another landscape than that which formed the theater of his youthful toils and pleasures,” said George Perkins Marsh in 1847 in a speech at the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Vermont. Growing up in Woodstock, Vermont, Marsh had seen three-quarters of Vermont’s forest cover destroyed for potash, lumber, crops, and pasture.  17 years later, Marsh would delve further into these egregious practices in his epic book on the American environment, Man and Nature. Reflecting on what he had seen, Marsh wrote about a concept of sound husbandry where men could mend nature.

A generation younger, Frederick Billings was deeply touched by Marsh’s writings and, in 1869, purchased Marsh’s childhood home in order to make the estate a model of progressive farming and forestry. Beginning in the 1870s, Billings designed a forest with numerous tree plantations and constructed a 20-mile network of carriage roads to showcase his work. On the lowlands, Billings developed a state-of-the-art dairy. In 1982, Billings granddaughter, Mary French Rockefeller and her husband, the conservationist Laurance Rockefeller, established the farmland as the Billings Farm & Museum. In June 1998, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion and the surrounding forest became the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller is the first unit of the National Park System to focus on the theme of conservation history and stewardship, the main concern of Marsh and Billings. With their emphasis on the careful cooperation of man and nature, they had the utmost desire to pass land on, undiminished, even enhanced, to the next generation and generations to come. The Park Service will continue a program of forest management on the site, offering workshops on how to use the forest most efficiently.

Tour the exhibits in the Carriage Barn, then hit the carriage path trails like my family did this past weekend through Billings’ dream 550-acre forest. 11 of Billings’ original plantings remain including groves of Norwegian spruce and Scottish Pine from the 1880s, mixed in with the an indigenous Vermont forest of white pine, red pine, and maples. The longest carriage path trail circles around The Pogue, a shimmering body of water backed by the foliage of Mt. Tom.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/06/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Vermont Spas Help Skiers Rest Those Weary Legs

The rap on Vermont skiing was that the ski resorts were based in historic New England towns that lacked the modern amenities of the resorts out West. Not any longer. The Woodstock Inn, close to the skiing at Killington and Suicide Six, just unveiled their $10 million spa in September and it’s a beauty. Two well known Vermont artisans, glassmaker Simon Pearce and furniture maker Charles Shackleton create the hanging lamps and chaise lounge chairs in the Great Room waiting area, where floors are made of soft Vermont white oak. Just outside in the courtyard is a large outdoor hot tub and sauna, with heated stone floors to keep those tootsies warm in the winter months. That’s in addition to the eucalyptus steam rooms found in both the men and women’s changing area. Woodstock Inn’s state-of-the-facility comes on the heels of Stowe Mountain Lodge’s spa, the first offshoot of the highly regarded Cooper Wellness spa in Dallas. The new space features every treatment imaginable, including music, water, and aromatherapy, nutritional and fitness counseling, and seminars on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/05/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, October 04, 2010

Tauck Tours Announces Partnership with Ken Burns

Ken Burns, the documentarian known for his PBS series on the “Civil War,” “Baseball,” and “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” has just teamed up with Tauck World Discovery to create tours based on his documentaries. Burns will also create a series of short films to help supplement the itineraries, which are located throughout the US. Tauck, who has been bringing guests to the National Parks since 1926 and currently has 12 parks on its itinerary, seems like a perfect fit for Burns’ wealth of history. Stuck on a bus between sites, you might as well learn everything you need to know about the creation of Yellowstone National Park before you arrive. The first tour starts in 2011.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/04/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, October 01, 2010

Beyond the Craft

Each semester, I’m asked to speak at classes at Emerson College and Boston University on both magazine writing and screenwriting. On Tuesday night, when I return to Emerson, I will bring a thick folder of more than 200 rejection letters. It includes my favorite from Mad Magazine, a check next to a line that reads: “It just didn’t tickle our funny bone.” Universities do a wonderful job of teaching the craft of writing, but rarely touch on the psychological aspects of rejection and the necessary business skills to market your wares. Close to half my time, especially in those early years, was spent peddling my writing to editors and production companies. And almost every day, I would return from the mailbox with a stack of rejection letters. It was an incredible struggle, the reason why many of the creative people I met in New York are no longer in the business.

Dealing with rejection and building a strong support group to help attain your creative aspirations is just one of the numerous topics my brother, Jim, and I will discuss in a 3-hour seminar we’re doing in Boston, Providence, Portland, New Bedford, and Stamford this October. Called Beyond the Craft: How to Be Proactive and Take Charge of Your Creative Career, the motivational workshop will also delve into finding mentors to guide you, distinguishing yourself from the rest of the pack, the art of schmoozing, creating an effective networking system, finding time to work on your craft while paying the rent, and getting your work out there any way possible.

For close to a decade, Jim worked as a talent agent at ICM representing some of the entertainment world’s greatest success stories—Academy-Award winning actor Alan Arkin, the grande dame of Broadway, Helen Hayes, and the most popular man on television in the 80s, “the Fonz,” otherwise known as Henry Winkler. When he left that job to pursue his creative ambitions as screenwriter, director, and producer, he would face wave after wave of rejection, often wondering how people like Alan Arkin and Helen Hayes could endure such negativity and hardship to make it to the top. His relentless perseverance and serious dose of patience have paid off with the release of the critically acclaimed Samuel Goldwyn film, Passionada (which I co-wrote), in 2003, and the heart-wrenching, Em, winner of the Grand Jury Prize as best film in the 2008 Seattle Film Festival. Please help spread the word. Thank you!   

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/01/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Couple Paddles the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and Hikes the Appalachian Trail…in the Same Summer!

In August, I had an assignment to write about an inn-to-inn bike trip in Vermont. After biking up and down short steep hills for a good 40 miles, I arrived at the first inn exhausted but proud of my accomplishment. That was until the owner of the B&B told me that she had another biker who just came through last week, one who was biking the entire country from Seattle to Boston! That’s what I thought about when I first read about Catherine and Ryan Thompson, from Old Forge, New York. On April 15th, they began paddling the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail and arrived at the northern terminus of Fort Kent on May 10th. An incredible feat for most humans, but that was just the beginning for the Thompsons. After completing their paddle, they walked 100 miles to Baxter State Park and started the Appalachian Trail. They completed the 2,179-mile trail last Thursday! As they said in their final blog entry, “We made quite a scene at the summit. Poles were flying in the air, as well as Toofpick's pack. It came down with a thud - a satisfying thud that signaled our end. It was a burst of celebration, and then suddenly we were standing there in silence. We were there...” Congratulations! You deserve a Couples Massage!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/30/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Park City Preview

I just returned from my annual dim sum lunch in Boston with Craig McCarthy, Communications Manager at the Park City Chamber of Commerce. Park City has always been one of my favorite mountain locales in the West, be it winter or summer. Its history as a former mining town lends to its authenticity. It’s not your run-of-the-mill prefabricated ski town. But that’s not to say things don’t change. The Park City area is in the midst of a building spree. The Waldorf Astoria Park City was built at the base of the Canyons Resort last winter and this year, the Montage Resort, known for its spectacular property in Laguna Beach, plans to open at Deer Valley. The Canyons is also unveiling an orange-bubbled heated high-speed quad, the first of its kind in the States. Park City Mountain Resort is expanding their night skiing. But the big news is off the town lift in downtown Park City, where the High West Distillery opened its doors last year. Distilling small batch whiskeys and vodkas, it’s the first distillery to open in Utah since Prohibition. Throw back a glass of that rye whiskey and you have that extra edge you might need to try that double diamond.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/29/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

REI Adventures Across the Globe

Most people know REI as a place to purchase all their outdoor garb and equipment. Few active travelers realize the Seattle-based company also has been offering human-powered outdoor adventures since 1987. Rated on a scale of one (relaxed) to five (strenuous), these guided trips are far more reasonably priced compared to their competition. They just came out with their list of 2011 trips, which include a 10-day jaunt biking around Portugal and Spain to hiking in Utah’s Arches & Canyonlands National Parks to four days of mountain biking in the Sonoran Desert (only $675 including camping equipment, bike rentals, and most meals).

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/28/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Favorite Fall Foliage Outings in Vermont

The last week in September is prime foliage colors in northern Vermont. Then the color change makes its way south through the state, peaking around Columbus Day. Having written more than 100 stories and close to a dozen book chapters on the state, these are a handful of my favorite outings: mountain biking the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, roaming (or biking) the Trapp Family Lodge grounds in Stowe, hiking Camel’s Hump, stopping at the Warren Country Store for a sandwich, paddling Lowell Lake near Stratton, road biking along the shores of Lake Champlain on Button Bay Road, going for a hawk walk at the Equinox, walking around the historic town of Grafton, biking along the Ottauquechee River in Taftsville, and as I mentioned last week, dining at the Simon Pearce restaurant in Quechee.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/27/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Ski the Alps

I had lunch yesterday with 12 ski resorts from the Swiss, French, Italian, German, and Austrian Alps. Travel to the Alps from America was up a whopping 50 percent this past summer and 30 percent last winter. Americans, especially from the East Coast, are finally realizing that you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to ski the region. On average, lift tickets are $50-$60 per day, far less than Stowe or Vail. Yes, you can splurge on some grand hotel at St. Moritz, but there are also many affordable pensions around town. And not all the ski areas are as challenging as Chamonix. Remember, you’re not skiing down the Matterhorn. You’re looking up at the Matterhorn as you ski the base area in Zermatt, a far less threatening proposition with a vast amount of intermediate and novice terrain. The trails are long, relaxed, and thankfully in the past decade, groomed with snowmaking capabilities. Best of all, you’re in Europe, dining on exceptional food and savoring the culture. One day you can be in Kitzbühel, downing large mugs of beer, the next day enjoying a glass of Bordeaux and exceptional French food in Megève. Cortina, in the Italian Dolomites, is only a two-hour drive from Venice, so you can combine Carnevale in February with several nights of skiing. Overseas flights are also much more reasonable in the winter months. So grab those skies and fondue forks and hit the Alps this winter.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/10 at 01:00 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. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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