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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Favorite Fall Outings in New England, Climbing 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. 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 crisscross 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. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/05/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Climbing the Via Ferrata at Palissades De Charlevoix

Just when I thought I had my fill of adventure in the Saguenay/Charlevoix region—biking, hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, sea kayaking, and whitewater rafting—I topped it all with this morning’s activity. Charlevoix is home to one of the few Via Ferratas in the world outside of the famous Dolomites. Using cables affixed to an 1187-foot rock face, we attached our carabiners and used iron rungs on the steep sections to clamber up the rock wall at Palissades De Charlevoix. Following our relaxed guide, Vincent, (me, not so relaxed), we slowly and carefully made it to the top of the steep cliff. We stopped to pick wild blueberries and to peer down at a sinuous creek below where we spotted a beaver swimming next to his oversized dam. The real excitement starts at the top when we crossed a suspension bridge made of wobbly planks high above the canyon floor. Then Vincent says to me, “now it’s time to rappel down.” I looked down the 230-foot rock ledge and panicked. But Vincent slowly got me to lean off the ledge and believe in the equipment. I descended, kicking off the smooth face of the wall, and quickly found myself at the bottom, heart racing but proud of my accomplishment. That’s one climb I won’t soon forget. 
To top it off, we went whalewatching on a zodiac that afternoon from Baie-Saint-Catherine with Croisières AML. Near the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, the St. Lawrence feels vast here, like an ocean. We zipped out to the heart of the river on the speedy raft and soon were watching the second largest mammal in the world, the fin whale blowing its spout and surfacing the water with its long arching back. Suddenly we heard a huge splash and the naturalist got very excited pointing to a minke whale that was completely out of the water breaching. He noted that the whales breach to wash off all parasites and to communicate to the other whales. Or simply to perform for us. He would breach 3 or 4 times, flipping out of the water like a flying fish. We then cruised over to a colony of gray seals before making our way into the fjord to see a tall waterfalls called the Caribou Falls. At the corner of my eye, I caught a splash of white and soon we were following a pod of beluga whales, jumping in and out of the water like dolphins. That’s what I call a dream day. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/21/16 at 05:30 AM
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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Favorite Day Hike in Nova Scotia

“Probably not going to see a moose today,” said a park ranger at the beginning of the Skyline Trail. “It’s a hot day and they’re lying low in the brush,” he added. Not that it matters. The Skyline is one of the most glorious hikes in the Maritimes, a great overview of the breathtaking terrain displayed at Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Listening to bullfrogs and a woodpecker hammering away, we took a serene stroll through a boreal forest lined with buttercups. Every now and then we would get a glimpse of the sea in front of us and look back at the mountains and the carpet of forest. Then you reach the piece de resistance, a series of steps and platforms that reward you with magnificent vistas of the water and the circuitous road rising through the velvet green hillside that’s one of the best coastal drives in North America, the Cabot Trail. After our fill of the scenery, we made our way back down and said goodbye to the park ranger. Less than a 5-minute walk from our car, we heard loud ruffling to our left and spotted a mother moose and her two young calves chowing down on the foliage. Some days, you can get your icing on the cake. 

That afternoon, we signed up for a zodiac tour with Captain’s Mark’s Whale and Seal Cruise in nearby Pleasant Bay and were treated to the bounty of sealife. Within 5 minutes from the dock, we spotted the graceful arch and fin of a minke whale, one of 40 minkes we probably found over a 2-hour span. Adding to the pleasure was a colony of gray seals popping their heads out of the water like periscopes, harbor porpoises, a bald eagle perched on a tree high atop a bluff, and the frightening tentacles of a lion’s mane jellyfish. Then we drove another hour on the Cabot Trail to the Keltic Lodge, where we downed pints of Big Spruce Regatta Red Ale while staring at the massive bluff they call Cape Smoky jutting out into the Atlantic. Not a bad day. 

(Photos by Michael Berger)


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/29/16 at 04:30 AM
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trustees Sites Not To Be Missed, Bartholomew’s Cobble, Sheffield

At the southernmost point of the Berkshires, near the Connecticut border, you’ll find Bartholomew’s Cobble. Walking on the Ledges Trail, the Housatonic River snakes through dairy farms on the left while eroding limestone and quartzite rocks form the cobble to your right. Take a slight detour at Corbin’s Neck to get a closer view of the river and the cows resting on its banks. Then continue on the Tulip Tree Trail to stroll uphill through a forest of tall hemlocks before reaching a clearing. At a short summit, take advantage of the bench to sit and take in the views of Mount Everett and Mount Race, part of the Appalachian Trail. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/17/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wild About Wild China

When I first met Mei Zhang, founder of Wild China, six years ago at my favorite dim sum spot in Boston, she told me it was her passion it to take travelers to see the authentic China. Now our clients are reaping the benefits. For more than 15 years, the Harvard MBA grad has brought visitors to the remote parts of China, stating that “over 80 percent of travelers to the country see less than 20 percent of the land mass.” More than likely they get a glimpse of the Great Wall in Beijing, go on a Yangtze River cruise, and, if they have time, see the Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China in Xi’an. But what about that impressive mountain and river scenery found in the backdrop of Zhang Yimou films? To immerse yourself in that otherworldly beauty, you’re going to have to sign up for one of Wild China’s trips. One of the best is the Tea & Horse Caravan Trail, a southern Silk Route still being used that links southwestern China with Tibet. This October, the 10-day trip is being led by explorer and talented photographer, Jeff Fuchs. Fuchs is the first westerner to have completed the entire Tea Horse Road, stretching almost 6,000 kilometers through a dozen cultures in the Himalayas. His book “The Ancient Tea Horse Road” details his 8-month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world's great trade routes. If you ever wanted to see the real China and be led by the expert on the subject, book this trip with us.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/27/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Climb Mount Monadnock

Climbing the broad-shouldered peak Henry David Thoreau called a “sublime mass,” Mt. Monadnock, is a rite of passage for many New England children. 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 one of the two most popular mountain ascents in the world going toe-to-toe with Japan’s Mount Fuji. Late April, early May, when the black flies have yet to arrive and the snow is gone, is the ideal time to bag this 3,165-foot peak. Head up the White Dot trail, one of the steepest ascents, but also one that rewards with you with incredible vistas in a very short time. Above treeline, 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 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 summit, where Thoreau watched in dismay as his fellow mid-19th century trampers inscribed their names in rock. You can still spot names like “T.S. Spaulding, 1853” clearly etched in the stone. Hopefully you bagged a lunch so you can sit back, relax, and savor the views. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/19/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hike the Amalfi Coast with Chef Dante de Magistris

Knowing that their guests like to play hard and then relish their physical accomplishments over an exceptional meal, many active travel operators in the past decade have invited well-known chefs to join them. Ciclismo Classico, best known for their biking and hiking trips throughout Italy, has teamed up with talented Boston chef, Dante de Magistris, chef at Il Casale and Dante to present an exceptional itinerary along the Amalfi Coast September 17-23. Hike amidst the cliffs of Positano, ferry over to Capri to walk secluded seaside towns, and then dine on private meals prepared by Chef Dante. He’ll also provide picnic lunches, offer cooking lessons, and invite guests into his family’s home. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/12/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

When Staying in Stowe in Winter, Ski or Hike into Smugglers’ Notch

Whenever I stay at Stowe Mountain Lodge at the base of Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, I relish the opportunity to hike into Smugglers’ Notch. Simply take the Over Easy Gondola to the base of the Stowe Ski Area and walk to the end of the plowed portion of Mountain Road, where there’s a small parking lot. The road through the notch is closed in winter. This allows outdoor lovers the opportunity to ascend into a fantastic winter landscape of tall pines and birches, large glacial boulders on the side of the twisting snowed-over road, and iced-over cliffs that form the notch. I’m surrounded by winter enthusiasts of all stripes—hikers, snowshoers, telemark and cross-country skiers, backcountry boarders, and mountain men with full packs strapped to their backs who amble off the road onto small trails, excited to ice climb or bag the peak of Mansfield via the Hellbent Trail. Everyone seems to have a dog that accompanies him or her on their adventure. Breathe in the piney air and peer up in awe at the iced over cliffs. This is one of the many reasons why I return to Stowe winter after winter. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/13/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 16, 2015

St. Lucia Week: Hiking Pigeon Island

A perfect introduction to the lush volcanic island of St. Lucia, especially if you’re staying at one of the resorts at the northern end of the island, is to simply take a hike at Pigeon Island National Landmark. Once surrounded by water, a causeway was built in 1972. Pay the $7 admission fee and soon you’re walking in the shade under a row of casuarina trees. As you climb the hillside, the beaches and resorts on Rodney Bay come into view. There was a slight drizzle when I took the walk yesterday and the tropical vegetation smelled ripe with humidity. The high-pitched calls of birds greeted me to the walls, ramparts, and cannons still standing at Fort Romney. The 18th century fortress perched atop the promontory was an important chunk of land for the British trying to hold off the French in their many battles over the island. I walked past an intrepid group from the resort, BodyHoliday, who were rappelling down the cliffs before sea kayaking back to the property. Then continued to climb up the rocky path to the top of Signal Peak. To the north, I could see the ridges of the long island of Martinique. To the south, I could make out the two jagged volcanic peaks on St. Lucia known as the Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  
Then it was back to my private plunge pool at my resort for the first two nights, Windjammer Landing. Known for its villas that climb a hillside offering spectacular views of the sunset, the resort is popular with families. They feature a Kids Club, long sloping shallow beach, and spacious villas with full kitchenettes. Judging from all the people carrying around scuba gear, tennis racquets, and golf clubs, the resort is also known as a playground for adults. I took full advantage of the opportunity to take out a Hobie Cat in the sheltered bay. So far, it’s been smooth sailing in St. Lucia, my friends. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/16/15 at 05:00 AM
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Friday, November 13, 2015

Top 5 Caribbean Adventures, Hiking to Boiling Lake, Dominica

Devastated by Tropical Storm Erika in late August, the island of Dominica is bouncing back and needs your support. All you do is travel there and hike its lush interior to understand the allure. Around every bend is another raging waterfall, a serene swimming hole nestled in the thick bush, or a hidden hot springs to rest your weary body after a day in the outdoors. Ken’s Hinterland Adventure Tours will take guide you on a 7-hour round-trip hike inside Morne Trois Pitons National Park to the crater known as Boiling Lake. You’ll hike through a dense forest of tall gommier trees, staring at the iridescent purple-throated hummingbirds as they keep you company. Relax your muscles afterwards in the natural hot spring at Papillote Wilderness Retreat. Owner Anne Jno Baptiste first came to the island from the States in 1961. Eight years later, she bought a 7-acre chunk of land enveloped by the rainforest that she would cultivate into a flower-rich botanical garden and one of the Caribbean’s first eco-resorts, using Dominica’s wealth of fruits and vegetables for her meals. 

I’m off to St. Lucia next week to sample all the exciting adventures there. Please follow along on this blog, Twitter @ActiveTravels, and Facebook. Enjoy the weekend and keep active! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/13/15 at 06:00 AM
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about us
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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