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Hiking

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Hong Kong Week-Climbing Up Victoria Peak

The concierge we dealt with at the Intercontinental was exceptional, not only providing us with authentic Chinese restaurants to visit, but finding a sports bar to watch the New England Patriots playoff game. We wandered over to an Irish pub called Delaney's at 8 am, only to find the place packed with American expats. Three hours later, we wandered out of there elated after a stirring victory onto the busy streets of Kowloon, a bit of a culture shock. We took the historic Star Ferry over to the Hong Kong section of the city after making an essential stop at the ferry terminal to talk to someone at the Hong Kong Tourism Board Visitors Center. They provided a walking map to hike up to the top of Victoria Peak. Seemed easy enough, but we had no idea how steep the trail is. On a series of switchbacks on a narrow concrete path that starts to the left of the Victoria Peak tram, we snaked up the hillside past the tall apartment buildings and residential neighborhoods. Close to the top, we spotted a pair of wild boar nibbling at the scrub, which seemed apropos since the Chinese New Year is celebrating the Year of the Pig. We would later learn that the wild boars are overrunning the island and becoming a bit of a problem. One hour later, we made it to the top of the funicular to a viewpoint that offered a spectacular vista of the city skyline, surrounding waters, and neighboring islands below. We then celebrated our achievement over pizza and German beer at a place called Wildfire, before happily taking the funicular back down. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/12/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Top Dream Days of 2018, Checking Out Jasper

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Anyone who knows me knows I love the mountains. John Muir's famous quote, "The mountains are calling and I must go," a sticker found at Yosemite National Park, adorns my laptop. So it's not a stretch to say one of my dream travel days of 2018 was in Jasper, Alberta high in the Canadian Rockies. 
 
I drove with my husband Josh from Lake Louise to Jasper on the famous Icefields Parkway. It's 143 miles, with tremendous views (13 viewpoints). I can recommend stopping at the Peyto Lake Overlook, about ½ hour outside of Lake Louise. You are rewarded at the end with the view of the intensely colored lake. 
 
Once in Jasper, we checked into our terrific hotel, The Tekarra Lodge. We had a snack while sitting in Adirondack chairs, high above the confluence of the Athabasca and Miette Rivers, and watched the swirling blue water down below. Then off on a hike we went. 
 
It's hard to top the Bald Hills Trail from Maligne Lake (5 hours round-trip), recommended by a local we met. It really had it all -- forest, alpine meadows of wildflowers, mountains, and a sweeping view back to Maligne Lake. It was a "peak" experience, which we finished off with an excellent meal at Syrahs in downtown Jasper. Elk carpaccio, warm seafood salad, smoked Alberta bison brisket ragout, and port. Fantastic!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/15/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 04, 2019

AMC to Expand Trail System in Maine’s New National Monument

One of the highlights of my travels in 2018 (which I very well might discuss in my upcoming 5 Dream Days of 2018 blogs) was the weekend we spent this summer at AMC's Gorman Chairback Lodge. Smack dab in the heart of Maine's 100-Mile Wilderness in the North Woods, this last great stand of wilderness in northeastern United States is not easily accessible. You have to drive 45 minutes on rutted timber roads from Greenville, Maine to access the lodge, but once you see the pristine waters of Long Pond and hear that unmistakable yodel of a loon echoing across the lake, you immediately realize it was worth the effort to get here. Now word comes that The National Park Service has contracted the AMC to build a series of hiking trails in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, giving visitors more access to this large swath of green space. As of now, development has been limited to the main Loop Road, a 16-mile dirt road. With the AMC trail addition, each trail will extend one to two miles from the Loop Road. AMC's trail crew started work in October 2018 and will continue work through fall 2019. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/04/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Madeira, a Great Active Winter Getaway

I recently attended an event sponsored by Belmond Resorts in Boston and was intrigued by their property on the island of Madeira, Belmond Reid's Palace. While we book many vacations to Portugal and the Azores, Madeira is still off the radar for most Americans. Closer to North Africa than Europe, (540 miles from Lisbon, but only 360 miles from Morocco), the average temperatures in January are in the high 60s, ideal for active travelers. Perhaps best known for its wine and as the birthplace of soccer legend Christian Ronaldo, the volcanic island is also home to jagged peaks and lush valleys that are laced with hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Summer is the high season, when many cruise ships visit the island, with their thousands of passengers. But head to Madeira now and you have the place to yourself, much like the Azores this time of year. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/12/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Part III of My Week in the Canadian Rockies: Jasper

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches
 
From Lake Louise, take your time as you drive the famous Icefields Parkway all the way to Jasper. It's 143 miles, with tremendous views (13 viewpoints). I can recommend stopping at the Peyto Lake Overlook, about ½ hour outside of Lake Louise. You are rewarded at the end with the view of the intensely colored lake. Also, stop for a snack at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre, and walk on the trail to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. It's not far, and there are a lot of people, but it does get you up very close. (Note: Skip the $30 pp Glacier Skywalk, a walkway over the Sunwapta Valley. No glaciers to be seen.)
 
In Jasper, we loved our hotel, The Tekarra Lodge. We stayed in a simple and adequate King Lodge room, above the Dining Room, but I'd definitely recommend the cabins. If you reserve well in advance, there are small, medium, and large cabins. Ask for one near the river. Then you can sit in an Adirondack chair, high above the confluence of the Athabasca and Miette Rivers, and watch the swirling blue water down below. Breakfast at Tekarra (included in the price) was great, and an elk conveniently graced the grass just outside the dining room window one morning. 
 
For meals, Jasper is a real town, with lots of choices for excellent food that isn't fried tourist fare. We loved Syrahs so much, we went back twice. For starters, we enjoyed the elk carpaccio and the warm seafood salad, followed by the smoked Alberta bison brisket ragout, and the port and fig chicken. My husband Josh said the gin and tonic was the best he's ever had. Make a reservation and enjoy. 
 
In terms of hikes and things to do, Jasper is in Jasper National Park, so you need a different trail map than the one for Banff and Lake Louise. Grab a Jasper map at the Icefields Discovery Centre on your way between Lake Louise and Jasper, or at the Parks Canada Visitor Center in Jasper (500 Connaught Drive). We didn't really plan a longer hike on the day we drove into Jasper (we wanted to allow time for short walks off the Icefields Parkway during the long ride), but you could pre-arrange a hike on the glacier if you have 3 hours to spare. 
 
We enjoyed all our hikes in Jasper but it's hard to top the Bald Hills Trail from Maligne Lake (5 hours round-trip), recommended by the host we met at Syrahs. It really had it all-forest, alpine meadow of wildflowers, mountains, a sweeping view back to Maligne Lake. It was our longest and hardest hike of the week, a "peak" experience, and at times a little narrow when you are up very high. We felt very pleased with our accomplishment and a wee bit tired. It was the perfect way to end our trip to the Canadian Rockies. 
 
Don't hesitate to contact ActiveTravels and I'll give you the scoop on Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff, including other exhilarating adventures, like rafting down the Sunwapta River. We'll be back next week with a new slate of blogs. Thanks, as always, for spending the time with us!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/08/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Part II of My Week in the Canadian Rockies: Lake Louise

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

In Lake Louise, I would strongly suggest staying at The Post Hotel. Known originally as the Lake Louise Ski Lodge, the Post first opened in 1942. It has 100 luxurious guest rooms and suites, and an award-winning dining room (see more below); it's part of the Relais & Chateaux brand, which means it must excel in the areas of comfort, cuisine, service and special character. Josh and I have neighbors in Toronto who go to the Post Hotel every year for their anniversary, it's that special.
 
Before your Lake Louise hikes, go to Bill Peyto's Cafe for breakfast, inside the Lake Louise hostel. We ate there twice and can surely recommend their simple fare, done well. After your hikes, splurge and eat at the Post Hotel. For ambiance (though mediocre cuisine), we liked the Lake Louise Station (inside the original train station). If you want to see the classic Chateau Lake Louise, you could try a drink in one of their restaurants like the Lakeview Lounge after your hike. 
 
To see Lake Louise itself, you need to arrive in the parking lot before 9 am or after 5:30 pm; it's kind of a "must-do" in this area, and there is a walking trail halfway around the lake which you can take (1 hour round-trip). We did this at around 8 am one morning, with mist rising off the lake. Beautiful! Moraine Lake was even more magical. We arrived about 7 pm and lucked out finding a parking spot. We strolled on the lake trail (45 minutes round-trip), and the light was amazing. During main daytime hours, you can take a canoe out on the lake as well. 
 
For hikes, I can easily recommend the one we did. Stanley Glacier Trail (3.5 hours round-trip) was actually in Kootenay National Park (British Columbia), but directly between Banff and Lake Louise (in the Castle Junction area of the Lake Louise Trail map). Away from the large crowds, this hike rewarded us with a spectacular view of both the glacier and cascading waterfalls, as well as the area's mountains and valleys. Scrambling up the rocks at the end of the hike, as we drew closer to the glacier, was challenging and fun.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/07/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 06, 2018

Hiking in Banff

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

I just returned from a fantastic week in the Canadian Rockies with my husband Josh. At ActiveTravels, we often have members wanting the inside scoop for planning an itinerary to Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. Josh and I are hikers who like a comfortable bed and excellent food after a day of mountains, so that's what I'll be focusing on. 
 
In Banff, we stayed at The Moose Hotel & Suites, Banff Lodging Company's new 4-star hotel property featuring 174 air-conditioned guests rooms (AC is not common here, but it's a nice add-on) and a rooftop pool and hot tub. Early in your stay, stroll over to the Banff Visitor Centre (224 Banff Avenue, which is on the super busy and crowded main drag). It's open 9 am-5 pm year-round, with extended hours in the summer. We picked up trail maps for both the Banff and the Lake Louise areas, and received great recommendations for hikes to suit our preference by talking to the knowledgeable Parks Canada staff. 
 
To get energized for those Banff hikes, head to Tooloulou's for breakfast. It's a local hotspot, and there's often a well-deserved wait. If you give up, next door, Coyote's, offers a good breakfast as well. We sampled both! After your hikes, reward yourself with a brew and a view at these fun bars: The Maclab Bistro at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity and the Rundle Lounge at the Banff Springs Hotel. The hotel is a Rocky Mountain Classic built by the Canadian railroads in the 1880s. Definitely worth seeing! 
 
In terms of hikes, I highly recommend the two we did. Visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, where the 1883 discovery of a cave full of hot mineral spring waters helped create Canada's first national park (the site also features an interesting exhibit on internment of Canadian residents during World War I, who then built the Park's infrastructure). From here, hike up to Sundance Canyon (3 hours round-trip). It was not too crowded, and we had stellar views. The climb starts with a paved trail and soon opens up to a mountain panorama across the Bow River. The next day, for a longer venture, we braved the hordes at Johnston Canyon just outside of town (toward Lake Louise) because we wanted to hike up to the Ink Pots (4 hours round-trip), which requires going past Lower Falls and Upper Falls. You eventually reach an open meadow where warm water bubbles up from deep below the Earth's surface. 
 
Please contact ActiveTravels for assistance with Banff. We're happy to help! On to Lake Louise tomorrow. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Three Mainers Complete the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail in Winter

April is usually the month when Appalachian Trail thru-hikers give themselves a nickname and start the 2,190-mile five to seven-month trek from the southern terminus, Springer Mountain, Georgia. For many, the most grueling 100 miles will be the last, on the notorious 100-Mile Wilderness Trail in Maine. This is an arduous up and down grind where the occasional logging road is the only sign of civilization. That's why I love this story out of the Bangor Daily News, which reports that 3 Maine hikers completed the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail the beginning of March. Using snowshoes and backcountry skis, and carrying hefty backpacks, they trekked in hip-deep snow, summited 4,000-foot peaks in howling winds, and often had to clamber over downed trees. A remarkable inspiration, which I hope to remember when I next climb a mountain in summer. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/12/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, February 16, 2018

Trekking Annapurna with Indo Asia Tours

We recently had the pleasure of meeting Sunirmol Ghosh in Boston. Director of Indo Asia Tours, a highly respected travel company that designs custom-made tours to the Indian subcontinent since 1987, Ghosh was once a trekking guide in the lofty peaks of Afghanistan and adventure is still his true love. His company now designs walking tours of Bhutan, horseback riding trips outside of Jaipur, cycling in the Madikeri, fishing in Srinagar, scuba diving in the Andaman Islands, even golfing at the circa-1829 Royal Calcutta Golf Club. But it’s his guided treks to Everest Base Camp and the legendary Annapurna in Nepal that has me licking my lips with anticipation. If you want to do the Indian subcontinent with the pros, please contact ActiveTravels and we’ll find a trip that fits your passion.  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/16/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Top Dream Days of 2017, Hiking the Eiger Trail, Switzerland

To be honest, every day of our Backroads family trip to the Swiss Alps was a dream, from biking the shoreline of glorious Lake Brienz to hiking 6 miles of the Bachalpsee Route high above Grindelwald, then taking the Trotti bike back to town. Yet, if I had to choose one day above the rest, it would be the day we hiked on the Eiger Trail. We took a short train ride from Grindelwald to Alpiglen to start our long uphill climb, over 3,000 feet. Lofty Eiger Peak, standing 13,020 feet, was socked in with clouds, until we were practically beside the North Face. Then the clouds started to part and we were treated to magical views of Eiger and Jungfrau and the hanging glaciers that snaked down the hillside in between. For the next hour, we walked alongside these craggy snow-topped peaks before reaching the village of Kleine Scheidegg, home to the highest major train station in Switzerland. After lunch, we left the crowds behind as we made our way on relatively level ground to the Männlichen Gondola. The only obstacle was a herd of cows we met up with on the narrow path. One cow came straight toward me and I wisely ran into the grass above the trail to avoid being trampled. My legs weren’t working too well at that point but I’m happy to see my brain was. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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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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