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Miscellaneous Sports

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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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Costa Rica, Ziplining Above the Rainforest Canopy Outside of Quepos

Each year around my birthday, I try to do something a little crazy. Just my way of celebrating another year of survival and reconfirming that yes, I’m very much alive. Often this adventure has something to do with confronting my fear of heights. Last year, I went rock climbing for the first time in the Canadian Rockies. This year, on my fourth trip to Costa Rica, having more than ample opportunity to zipline above the rainforest canopy, I finally agreed to go. Having the chance to cruise with my family was the extra push I needed. We drove through the palm oil plantations high up in the hills above Quepos on the central Costa Rican coast. The company we chose, MidWorld, were extremely professional, especially when attaching our harnesses and carabineers. Then we drove a little bit higher and it was time to bite the bullet. I was worried that my stomach would drop, like on a rollercoaster ride, a dreaded feeling I’d rather not have. Instead, it was just a smooth quick cruise on a cable just above the canopy of green. There were a total of ten platforms and two rappels down from the trees. Walking from one platform to the next, we spotted a toucan and a green and yellow poison dart frog. By the third or fourth zipline, I started to become so comfortable with the sport that I turned upside down. Then I tried to right myself, but my core needs a bit more Pilates before I can pull off that move. So I spent the entire zipline upside down, watching the blur of forest whiz by. I think I earned my chocolate raspberry birthday cake tonight. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/16/12 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rangeley, Maine Hosts Moose Calling Championship

For many people, their image of Maine resembles a Winslow Homer canvas—the battering surf of the North Atlantic thrust against a boulder-strewn coastline, spewing foam high into the air. Yet, this massive state is more than mere ocean. The interior is one of the most undeveloped regions in the country, a blanket of forest filled with mile-high mountains traversed by the Appalachian Trail, colossal lakes, sinuous rivers such as the Kennebago and Penobscot, and too many ponds to count. The small village of Rangeley, hub to the Rangeley Lakes Region, is considered by many Mainers as the gateway to this vast tract of land. This is especially true if you drive out of town and spot moose searching for food at dawn or dusk. A personal favorite is Route 16, north of Rangeley to Stratton, where moose seem as prevalent as squirrels in suburbia.  

 
So it should come as no surprise that Rangeley will host the World Invitational Moose Calling Championship the weekend of June 22-24. The competitors will be judged in four categories: Cow Call, Bull Call, Other Attraction Techniques (props allowed) and Presentation/Sportsmanship. The first place winner will receive $1000. Restaurants and bars will be joining in the festivities with moose-themed specials like chocolate mousse, 'moose' whoopie pies, moose jewelry, and moose shots. Sounds like a good time for all, including the moose. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/23/12 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Spring Training Vacations

The Red Sox debuted their new spring training stadium in Fort Myers this week as the baseball season starts up again. Not only does the stadium have its own version of the Green Monster, but the facility can hold up to 11,000 fans. For families who have a passion for our national pastime, spring training is the ideal time to see your favorite players at their pre-season best, willing to sign autographs and meet the fans and not feeling the pressure of a mid-season slump. You can watch players like Derek Jeter take morning batting practice in settings so intimate it feels as if he could just as easily be at your neighborhood ball field. If you’re interested in planning your spring break around spring training, check out my article at FamilyVacationCritic.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/07/12 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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