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Miscellaneous Sports

Thursday, January 09, 2014

5 Favorite Travel Days in 2013, Snowmobiling from Maine to New Brunswick

Last January, I flew to Presque Isle, Maine, the northern tip of the state to pen stories for The Boston Globe and Men’s Journal on snowmobiling from Maine into New Brunswick. Aroostook County, Maine, is the largest county east of the Mississippi River, known by avid snowmobilers as one of the top locales in the country to sample the sport. Potato farms connect with long dormant railroad corridors, seemingly endless logging roads through dense forest, and iced-over lakes and rivers to create a mind-boggling 2300 miles of snowmobile trails. But that’s not all. Simply bring a passport and you can cross into the province of New Brunswick to add another 4,000 miles of trail, half of which flows through state forests and parks. That was too good a story angle to pass up. 

In the morning, I met Kevin Freeman at his sled shop in Presque Isle. Freeman, a former professional snowmobile race, has logged more than 250,000 miles on snowmobiles in the region so he knows the routes like the back of his hand. He hooked me up with a 110 horsepower Ski-Doo, insulated snowmobile pants, jacket, helmet, and panniers so I could bring a change of clothing for an overnight in Canada. On a 250-mile weekend jaunt, we headed west to Portage Lake to have lunch at Dean’s, a favorite snowmobile stop known for their fish and lobster stews. Then we hit ITS 105, leading northeast from Washburn to Stockholm, a narrow and level railroad corridor where you can easily reach speeds of 75 miles per hour. 
At Hamplin, I went through Customs on snowmobile. The Canadians didn’t blink. But when I returned the next day into America, the guy was asking me questions for 20 minutes, like I was some sort of snowmobiling smuggler. “How come your passport is filled with stamps to Israel, Kenya, Ecuador?” “I’m a travel writer.” “Step aside from the snowmobile, please.” 
On the New Brunswick side, I snowmobiled with Ross Antworth, general manager of The New Brunswick Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. He led me across a long suspension bridge that glides above the St. John River. Then we made our way to the New Brunswick interior on logging roads past mills and on railroad beds where snowed-over balsams stood like spectators at a marathon. We spotted deer and the rare white ermine that call this forest home. 
To top it off, when I returned to Presque Isle, I went out that night with an incredibly talented photographer, Paul Cyr, who’s made a name for himself shooting the northern lights and wildlife. In typical Maine fashion, he humbly insists he’s an amateur photographer. Yeah, and Hendrix is an amateur guitarist. Check out his magnificent work online and then read my story

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/09/14 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Adventures in the Florida Keys, Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Islamorada

Pull over at Marker 88 in Islamorada on the bay side of the Keys and you’ll find a van. This is the home of Annette Robertson, the premier stand-up paddleboarding instructor and guide in the region. Miami Dolphins great Jason Taylor and his family are just one of the many clientele who regularly make the 90-minute trek south of Miami to spend the day on the bay paddleboarding. While I’ve seen my kids play around with paddleboards, I’ve never tried it until now. Annette was the perfect instructor, showing me how to balance and find my sweet spot on the board before we started on our merry way. We paddled along the shoreline on the calm waters, looking below to find fish. Annette has seen turtles and sharks on her numerous jaunts to the nearby mangroves. Rent paddleboards from her and go out as long as you like. It’s a great workout for your core. In fact, Annette has started to offer pilates and yoga classes atop the boards. So be sure to ask. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/18/13 at 11:00 AM
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Ice climb, Then Find Comfort at the Omni Mount Washington Resort

There’s a reason inn-to-inn bike and hike trips are growing in popularity. People love to have a day of adventure and then reward themselves with a night of fine food and pampering. That’s the premise behind Mount Washington Resort’s customized backcountry adventures. Steve Nichipor has been leading the intrepid on winter explorations of the Whites for two decades. Now he’s offering more adventurous guests the chance to partake in an introductory ice climb on the Bretton Woods property or tackle the legendary Frankenstein Cliff. Located in Crawford Notch State Park, Frankenstein Cliff attracts all levels of ice climbers, from beginners just learning to use their ice ax and crampons to experts who can climb up an iced-over waterfall like Spiderman. Then it’s back to the historic Mount Washington to rave about your experience over a four-course meal in the formal dining room, while listening to the pianist play Count Basie tunes. Cost of a semi-private tour with Nichipor is $185 per person, private tour at $275 per person. Rates at the resort start at $170 a night per room in winter.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/13/13 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Extreme Sled Down Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont

Not far from the shores of Lake Champlain are the corporate headquarters of the Hammerhead Sled. This is not your grandmother’s Flexible Flyer with heavy wood and steel gliders. The Hammerhead boasts a lightweight aluminum frame with skis. You lie down on the mesh fabric and steer the sled from the front, easily maneuvering away from any obstacle, be it an uprooted tree or another sledder. To slow down, you can either drag a foot or make turns like you do on skis. Vermont roads that are closed in winter, like the pass that connects the Stowe Ski Resort to the town of Jeffersonville through Smugglers’ Notch, have become popular venues for the sport. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday afternoon in winter, Stowe’s Umiak Outfitters leads people on snowshoes up the notch and then back down on a Hammerhead Sled. Cost is $69 per person and includes a snack of hot apple cider from the nearby Cold Hollow Cider Mill and cheese from Cabot.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/12/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Snowshoe to an AMC High Hut in the White Mountains

The Appalachian Mountain Club keeps three of its huts in the Whites in New Hampshire open in winter. For snowshoers who relish a good climb, try the 3.8-mile (one-way) hike from Pinkham Notch to the Carter Notch hut. The 19-mile Brook Trail will bring you to this unique accommodation, situated between the dramatic ridges of Carter Dome and Wildcat “A.” Here, you can spend the night at the AMC’s oldest standing hut, a stone building constructed in 1914, perched just above two glacial lakes. The trail splits at the 1.8-mile mark, veering left to the top of Carter Dome or straight to Carter Notch. As you cross a bridge and continue the ascent to the notch, the northern hardwood forest is soon replaced by a boreal forest of sweet-smelling spruces and firs. The last section of the trail snakes between the ridges and the majestic glacial lakes to the old hut. Inside the cozy walls, you’ve earned your dinner and a night’s sleep on a mattress.

An easier hike is the 1.75-mile trail from the campground at Franconia Notch State Park to Lonesome Lake Hut. The trail leads through a sheltered birch, pine, and spruce forest to the shores of this bowl-shaped lake. Savor Franconia’s carved granite and the surrounding 5,000-foot mountains in all their splendor, with rarely a peep heard. All three huts, including the Zealand Falls Hut, are self-serve, so bring winter sleeping bags and food. Rates start at $25 a night for members, $30 for nonmembers.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/11/13 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dogsled Umbagog Lake on the Maine-New Hampshire Border

Polly Mahoney and Kevin Slater, owners of Mahoosuc Guide Service have chosen a good base for their dogsledding operations. They live on the outskirts of Grafton Notch State Park in the heart of the Maine woods. Almost every weekend in winter, the couple, with 15 of their dogs, drive some 30 miles to the remote shores of Umbagog Lake. Here, guests learn the basics of the sport: standing on the back of the sled and shouting the magic words “Let’s go!” to see the dogs romp through the snow or yelling “Whoa!” to slow them down. You’ll take turns dogsledding and cross-country skiing on iced-over lakes, fringed by mountains of pines. At night, you’ll sleep in heated tents on a floor of cushiony fir needles, only to awaken to the sounds of the dogs howling in the predawn hours.

Mahoney breeds her own type of dog, which she calls a Yukon husky. A native Mainer, she spent a decade learning her trade in the Yukon bush. She returned home and met Slater at a nearby Outward Bound center when he was in dire need of a skilled dogsledder. Two and three-day outings start at $575 and include food, tents, sleeping bags, even cozy parkas, mukluks, and leg gaiters. If winter camping sounds too ambitious, ask about their cabin-to-cabin option in late January, where you stay at three classic Maine sporting camps now run by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/10/13 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kitesurfing Aruba’s Boca Grandi Beach

Spend a week on Aruba’s Palm or Eagle Beaches, like I just did with my family, and you get used to the steady breeze and the swaying palms. But this is nothing compared to what you witness on the eastern shores of the island, where winds are far more severe and the waves crash ashore, spewing foam into the air. That doesn’t deter the best kitesurfers in the world from descending on Boca Grandi Beach on the southeastern tip of the island. While cruising around Aruba, we stopped at Boca Grandi and were mesmerized by kitesurfers zipping across the bay at incredibly fast speeds, catching air for a good five seconds, and turning their boards around with the slightest of ease, while the choppy sea swirled around them. This is not a place I would learn the sport, but if you already feel comfortable kitesurfing, I would certainly make my way down to Aruba for its consistent wind. Judging from the smiles plastered on these kitesurfers’ faces, they loved every minute of it. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/26/13 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, November 09, 2012

The Birdmen of Bocawina

Guest Blog by John Reed
Set in the southern Belize and surrounded by 7100 acres of lush jungle, waterfalls, and ancient Mayan sites, you’ll find Mama Noots Eco Resort. This “off the grid” style jungle lodge is home to Bocawina Adventure & Eco-Tours, site of the longest zipline in Belize, in the heart of Mayflower Bocawina National Park. And as always, getting there is half the fun.
The month of June in the southern part of this Central American country is in one word, wet. The diving is incredible, the lush rainforest something out of a Tarzan movie, but after 2 hours of sleep at an ancient Mayan site the night before, in a massive thunderstorm that easily reached the nearby Guatemalan border, I was convinced that by morning we would be paddling our way to Bocawina. But mysteriously, as in a dream, the rainforest was once again at peace.
As we groggily stepped out of the car, met our guides, and ascended to our first zipline tower, donned in harness, helmet, and gloves (the tools of the trade), the skies and my mind seemed to instantaneously clear. “Pick up your feet, keep your hand behind the pulley, and pay attention when I signal you to break, but don’t break too soon, otherwise …”, and all of a sudden I was flying through the canopy.  
The afternoon turned out to be one of the most exhilarating things I did in Belize, and if constant ear to ear grins and laughter are indicators of true praise, then there is no higher compliment for the experience provided by Bocawina’s fully accredited guide team. The next time you’re in Belize looking for some high flying fun, check out Bocawina in the heart of the Belizean jungle. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/09/12 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Go Play!

I just spent the morning biking in nearby Dover and Sherborn as I get ready for a bike trip next month with my college buddies in Zion National Park. My usual ride around the surrounding towns gets even more enticing in autumn, when the air is crisp and sweetened with the smell of pine and fallen leaves. I ride past horse farms, 18th century homesteads that have been transformed into stylish properties, sprawling meadows, faded red barns, old stone walls, and ponds lost in a forest of maples. It’s a quintessential New England backdrop, one that deserves to be savored slowly on two wheels. September is a gift, before the dark, chilly days of winter return. Take advantage of this time to do something active this weekend—a stroll on a beach, bike ride through the countryside or on a bike trail through the city, or simply climbing a tree to pick apples, which I plan to do tomorrow morning. I’ll be back next week with my favorite Connecticut haunts in autumn, including the hidden gem, Weir Farm, which I checked out yesterday. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/21/12 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Year After Irene, Vermont Is Fully Open for Fall Foliage Traffic

All eyes were on the Atlantic shoreline one year ago today as Hurricane Irene, downgraded to Tropical Storm Irene, slowly made her treacherous way north. We would soon find out that this perilous storm had far more of an affinity for New England’s mountains than sea, wreaking havoc in her wake as she followed the spine of peaks from the Berkshires into Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Southern Vermont took the brunt of the hit, not necessarily from the wind as much as the deluge of rain causing rivers to overflow, washing away bridges and resulting in more than 200 sections of collapsed road. Fall foliage season, the height of travel to the region, was reduced to a trickle. This season, there hopefully will be no surprises. After Labor Day, I’m going to spend the week talking about my favorite places to be in Vermont during fall foliage, including biking Addison County, mountain biking the Kingdom Trails, sea kayaking the Lake Champlain islands, and hiking Mount Hunger. Stick around. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/28/12 at 12:00 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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