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Friday, May 21, 2010

Adventures in North America with the Family

As an adventure travel writer, I’ve been paid to bike around the Big Island of Hawaii, sea kayak the Fijian islands, dive the Great Barrier Reef, and paddle the Allagash River during a memorable foliage. Then I had my first child and the canoes, skies, and other outdoor paraphernalia started to collect dust in the basement of my suburban Boston home. Going stir crazy one summer day, I called my dad who gave me the sage advice to integrate family into my work. The next thing I know I’m going up and down the hills of Vermont with my toddler on the back of my bike. Like many parents, I began to realize that I don’t have to give up my passion simply because I have little ones. It was time to introduce my kids to the real me. Now I travel with Jake, 13, and Melanie, 11, as much as possible without getting scolded by their teachers. And they’re the ones teaching me a thing or two about every sport they try.  
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/21/10 at 12:59 PM
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Great Food and Great Biking Can Only Mean a Phenomenal Time in Italy

One of the latest trends for active travel outfitters is to combine their specialty with a noted chef or sommelier. After all, what can be better than biking in Veneto, from the foot of the Dolomites to waters of the Adriatic Sea, and then having your dinner menu prepared by a James Beard-award winning chef? If that chef happens to be Jody Adams, owner of the beloved Rialto in Cambridge, Massachusetts, than you can expect the most tantalizing Italian ingredients in that dinner. Adams has teamed up with Vernon McClure, owner of Active Italy Tours, to create a customized biking trip through Veneto, stopping to find fresh produce and fish from the Rialto Market in Venice and wine from the Prosecco region. Dates are June 26-July 3 and September 25-October 2. If you can’t make it to Italy with Adams, do the next best thing and book a table at her new outdoor extension to Rialto, La Dolce Vita, set to open in Cambridge in mid-June.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/20/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where to Put Your Keys or Camera? Spibelt!

Drive somewhere to go for a run or bike ride and you are quickly aware of the problem of what to do with your keys. Do you really want them jiggling in your pocket, worried about the keys falling out somewhere along the way? That’s exactly the dilemma facing Kim Overton when she went for a jog one day. But instead of just dealing with it, she invented the SPIbelt, a belt that wraps easily around your waist that contains a small pocket. I love it and have quickly used it on many of my outdoor excursions. It’s so light and non-invasive that I quickly forget it’s there. The fabric of the pocket is thin enough that I can also throw in an iPod and change the songs easily. I’ve also used the pocket to carry my Flip camera when traveling instead of having to hold it all day.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/19/10 at 01:00 PM
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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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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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