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Hiking

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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Monday, September 07, 2015

Acadia National Park Week: Hiking Acadia Mountain

Acadia National Park turns 100 in 2016. So if you need a good excuse to get here, their centennial should do the trick. But why wait? September and October, when the crowds are gone along with the black flies and mosquitoes is an ideal time to experience this breathtaking mix of mountains and sea. I always tell my friends in the Boston area to wake up early and try to leave by 7:30 am so you can arrive just in time for lunch. Grab your National Park vehicle pass at the Thompson Island Visitors Center and continue south on Route 102 bypassing the far better known Bar Harbor for now and heading straight for the quintessential Maine coastal village of Southwest Harbor. Turn left on Clark Point Road and drive to the end to reach one of my favorite lobster-in-the-rough joints in the state, Beal’s Lobster Pier

The food was just as good as I remember yesterday when my buddy Jeff and I entered the joint. My lobster roll was chockful of fresh meat from a lobster that was probably sitting in a trap that morning. Jeff ordered the blackened haddock and the fish was just as moist. Both dishes were accompanied by tasty cole slaw and chips, both made in house. We sat outdoors on picnic tables overlooking the water and enjoyed our meal. 
 
Energized from our food, it was time to play in arguably my favorite outdoor playground in the northeast. One of the best introductions to the astounding beauty of this park is a short climb up Acadia Mountain. This area of the park is also known as the Quiet Side, since it’s on the island's far less popular western side. The trail weaves slowly through a forest of birches and pines before crossing a fire road and continuing straight up a rocky path. Here, the quick ascent to the peak begins. A series of flat ledges overlook Echo Lake—each plateau offering a slightly better view than the last.  
 
When we reach the top, the vista becomes a glorious panorama, a wonderful reward for a climb that’s not more than 45 minutes. Fishing boats and yachts were anchored in Southwest Harbor, the Cranberry Islands looked more like green peas in the distance. We followed the blue dashes and continued down the rock stairs to the easternmost point of Acadia's peak for another mind-blowing view. Norumbega Mountain practically plunges into Somes Sound creating the only true fjord on the Eastern seaboard. Resting on a bare summit overlooking this majestic sight, I started to realize why so many people are drawn to Acadia. Everything is on a human scale. Mountains and forest, oceans and fjords are all within grasp on this compact island. Everything seems manageable, even climbing a mountain after a hearty lunch. The intense bond between nature and nature lover grows even stronger when you find yourself sitting on a bare summit on a cloudless September day all by your lonesome.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/07/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Hike Maiden Cliff, Camden, Maine

Maine's midcoast mountains reward hikers with views of the Atlantic, picturesque harbors, and three-masted schooners sailing on open waters—all for an hour or two of effort. The Maiden Cliff Trail strolls through hemlocks until it comes to a junction at the half-mile mark. Turn right onto Ridge Trail, and the ledges open up onto Megunticook Lake. The view only gets better when you turn left at the Scenic Trail and continue to the summit. Follow the white blazes, and you'll find a huge, white cross. This marks the spot where 11-year-old Elenora French plunged to her death on May 7, 1864. She was running to catch her hat. It might be the fastest way down, but not recommended. To get to the trailhead from Camden, take Route 52 West 3 miles from the intersection of Route 1. There will be a small parking area on the right-hand side of the road just before Route 52 borders the lake.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/01/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Five Favorite Adventures in the Caribbean, Hiking to Boiling Lake, Dominica

Dominica’s volcanoes might be dormant yet there’s still fire in the belly of this island. The Valley of Desolation was just one of the highlights on a 7-hour round-trip hike inside Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Our guide, Kent, led my friend and me over muddy trails through a dense forest of tall gommier trees, used to make dugout canoes for 20 to 30 paddlers, and past the massive trunks of the banyan-like chatagnier trees, some more than 300 years old. As we made our ascent out of the darkness of the rainforest canopy, purple-throated hummingbirds kept us company as they stuck their heads into the tubular red heliconia flowers.

 
At the far end of the Valley of Desolation, we climbed through chest-high vegetation along a river, then up and down a series of hills to finally arrive at the rim of the crater known as Boiling Lake. The second largest lake of its kind in the world, steam emanates from this cauldron of bubbling water where temperatures top out at 198 degrees Fahrenheit. “Don’t get too close to the edge,” said Kent as I peered down, wondering how many people met their demise in this unforgiving witch’s brew. Kent works for Ken’s Hinterland, an outfitter that specializes in guided hikes all over the island. Hiking boots and an experienced pair of legs are advised for the somewhat strenuous Boiling Lake trek.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/04/15 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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