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National Parks

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Favorite Fall Outings in New England, Visiting Weir Farm, Connecticut

Sort of ironic that the only time I’ve ever been published in National Parks Magazine, the National Parks are closed due to a government shutdown. When congress gets their act together, be sure to visit the 60-acre Weir Farm National Historic Site. This serene pastoral setting in southeastern Connecticut, an hour’s drive from Manhattan, is home to the only national park unit devoted to American painting. Century-old barns and a homestead still stand, stone walls are built around fields of swaying grass, and a large pond is lost in a canopy of tall maples and birches. They would become the fodder for J. Alden Weir’s ambitious body of work. Weir’s early paintings reflect an appreciation for the scenery of rural life—dogs sleeping in the tall grass, his wife Anna sitting on the steps that lead to the house. By the latter half of the 1880s, he began to show an interest in painting landscapes, possibly due to the influence of his friends and fellow painters, Childe Hassam and John Twachtman, who often visited the farm to fish and paint the grounds. These weren’t the grand theatrical landscapes of his American predecessors, Thomas Cole and Frederick Church, but intimate portrayals of pasture, thickets of trees, barns, and meandering stone walls. Have a look and don’t forget the sketchbook. 

Photo by Tim Washer/FLICKR

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/10/13 at 10:00 AM
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Five Favorite Adventures in National Parks, Rock Climbing Joshua Tree

Three hours east of Los Angeles, huge boulder outcroppings tan in the Mojave Desert sun at Joshua Tree National Park. More than 100 million years ago, these jumbled piles of bedrock cooled and hardened into fantastic shapes. Today, there’s over 4,000 rock climbs to choose from, appropriate for any level of expertise. Reserve a site at one of two favorite climbing campsites, Hidden Valley or Ryan (no fee; first come/first serve), get your gear together, and hit that rock face.   
Climbing in Joshua Tree requires more balance than strength so trust your feet. That low-angle slab, Echo Rock, boasts a high concentration of quality routes at every level. Most of these routes are bolted or can be top-roped. New bolting is prohibited in the park. At the Wonderland of Rocks, you’ll find the largest collection of domes and walls within the park. Wander through the formations eyeing the cracks and then make your line up. You most likely will catch sight of bighorn sheep below.
Next week, I’ll be describing the special moments of my hut-to-hut hike in the White Mountains. I spent the past week trekking with my wife, Lisa, to four of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s lodges atop the 4,000 and 5,000-foot peaks, including a night at the spectacular Lake of the Clouds Hut. So stay tuned! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/28/13 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Five Favorite Adventures in National Parks, Paddling the Boundary Waters

Home to a mind-boggling 1,100 lakes and 1,300 miles of canoe routes, solitude in the Boundary Waters is only a half-day’s paddle from the town of Ely, Minnesota. Expect to hear the yodel of the loon echoing across the early morning mist and to see moose wading chest deep in the clear waters. Local folk save their paddling for September, when famished mosquitoes, biting flies, and babbling homo sapiens are long gone.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/27/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Five Favorite Adventures in National Parks, Hiking the Narrows in Zion

Zion’s most impressive hike is the Narrows, where you walk in the Virgin River through a 1,000-foot-deep-chasm that’s a mere 20-feet wide. Check with a ranger on water levels, but usually a minimum age of 8 is advisable. You’ll need a wet suit and booties, which you can rent in town, because of the cool water temperatures. That’s a small price to pay to have this magnificent slot to yourself. With each step, the walls become narrower and narrower, and you quickly became lost in this paradigm of sandstone. Sun peeks through the notch of blue sky above, illuminating the walls in various shades of caramel, rouge, and tan. Water pours down sides of the curved walls to enhance the slick appeal. Amble through as much of the river as you want before turning back. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/26/13 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Five Favorite Adventures in National Parks, Biking Acadia’s Carriage Path Trails

The Park Loop around Acadia can be congested in the summer months, so get out of the car and play in the pines. A 43-mile network of carriage path trails, narrow hard-packed gravel pathways best suited for the fat wheels of a mountain bike, line the entire eastern half of Mount Desert Island. Rent bikes at Bar Harbor’s Acadia Bike (48 Cottage Street) and then head to the shores of Eagle Lake, where a relatively level carriage path trail circles this large body of water under towering firs and over century-old stone bridges. At the southern part of the lake, Acadia's highest peak, Cadillac Mountain, comes into view, before the trail descends on a fun downhill run. Afterwards, treat the kids to warm popovers at the Jordan Pond Gatehouse.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/13 at 11:00 AM
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Monday, June 24, 2013

Five Favorite Adventures in National Parks, Hiking the Rim of Crater Lake

I call it a “Holy Shit” moment. One of those rare occurrences in travel when you round a bend and see something so stupendous that you’re shouting expletives of joy. This is exactly what happens when you reach the rim of Crater Lake. You’ve never seen water such a shade of vibrant blue, the result of sunlight pouring down on the deepest lake in America. Ringed by jagged peaks, it’s a captivating site that you’ll want to see from every available parking site. Though if you were wise, you booked a room at the Crater Lake Lodge when they went on sale July 1st for the following year. Rooms with lake view are booked, on average, 13 months in advance says Assistant General Manger Tim Mahoney. That’s not a surprise when you realize the closest lodging after the lodge is in Klamath Falls, a good 59-mile drive. Throw down your bags and take the short hike from the lodge to 8,054-foot Garfield Peak. The views below, especially to the lone island, Wizard Island, are more astounding the higher the elevation. Afterwards, relax on the back porch of the lodge in the rocking chairs and listen to the daily 4 pm lecture by a park ranger on the rugged individuals who were determined to make this special caldera a national park. You can toast to them at dinner that night while dining on bison meatloaf. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/24/13 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Free Entrance Days at National Parks for 2013

If you’re thinking of visiting Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches, all five national parks in Utah, you might want to head there in late April. This year’s National Park Week is April 22-26, when all national parks in the United States are free. Click here for a complete list of free days at the national parks, including August 25th and September 28th. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/13/13 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Spring

Last week, I talked about some of my favorite national parks to visit in winter. There’s one park where I would wait until the flowers bloom, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 45 miles from Knoxville or 60 miles from Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains are in bloom almost year round. There are more than 1,600 kinds of flowering plants within the boundaries of the park. These include the summer display of bright red cardinal flowers and purple-fringed orchids, and autumn’s bounty of goldenrod and sunflowers. Add flowering shrubs like mountain laurel, rhododendrons and flame azaleas, and trees like sourwood, that form bell-shaped white flowers that attract honey bees, and you understand why this wildflower-laden park is the best natural greenhouse in America. A good place to stop and smell the flowers is the self-guided Harwood Cove Nature Trail that begins at the Chimneys Picnic Area. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/28/13 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park in Winter

At the mile-deep Grand Canyon, it’s not uncommon to start in down parkas at the South Rim (7,000 feet) and, two hours later, meet hikers in shorts and tank tops. Indeed, temperatures can be 20 degrees warmer on the shores of the Colorado River. The warmest winter corridor to the bottom is the route from Bright Angel to South Kaibab.  Hike down the steeper 7-mile Kaibab Trail and then loop back on the far gentler 9.5-mile Bright Angel Trail. You’ll find that the canyon’s colors look even more dramatic as winter’s sun casts long shadows. All campgrounds on the South Rim stay open year-round while the much colder and snowier North Rim (1,000 feet higher than the South Rim) requires a backcountry use permit and is inaccessible to cars. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/25/13 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Visiting Voyageurs National Park in Winter

Two centuries ago, only Native Americans and French Canadian “voyageurs” saw the pelt-rich terrain of northern Minnesota. Today, Voyageurs National Park is still a haven for furry animals and hardy souls in winter. Brave the often extreme weather conditions (ice on the lakes, for example, can be five feet thick) and you’ll be in the good company of moose, white-tailed deer, mink, beavers, bald eagles, and the eastern timber wolf. Rangers at Voyageurs’ Rainy Lake Visitor Center teach clinics on how to make your own snowshoe and, once finished, take people deep into the forest of pines, birches and cedars on evening wolf howls. Two of the best ways to get lost is on the 2.5-mile Sullivan Bay snowshoe trail and the 11-mile Black Bay cross-country ski trail. Sullivan Bay is a hard-packed up-and-down route on the shores of Kabetogama Lake (one of Voyageurs network of 30 lakes). The groomed Black Bay Trail zips past beaver ponds under a grove of aspens. Spearfishing for northern pikes is popular on Kabetogama in winter, but that’s one sport rangers don’t teach. However, the park staff does plow a 7-mile road on Rainy Lake so anglers can set up their ice houses to fish for walleye and burbot.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/24/13 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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