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Friday, October 03, 2014

Hiking in the Alps from Leysin to Berneuse

Come winter, Montreux serves as a base for skiers who want the cosmopolitan feel of a city after spending a day on the slopes. It’s only an hour train ride to the exclusive resort town of Gstaad, 90 minutes to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. If you want to stay closer to town, you can simply hop on a train to Aigle and then take the mountain train up to Leysin, a great family ski area. Yesterday we did exactly that to hike up to the top of the ski area and lunch at the revolving restaurant, Le Kuklos. The Swiss trains that climb slowly up the steep mountainside are an engineering marvel, rewarding us with great views of the green valley below. 

Our hike started in Leysin, where we spotted a class of young schoolchildren rock climbing. Obviously, a love of outdoor recreation in the mountains starts at an early age in Switzerland. We were at an altitude of 4,429 feet surrounded by the mighty peaks of the Swiss and French Alps, but unfortunately socked in by thick clouds. Our first stop was a cheesemaker, L’Alpage Temeley, who was creating rounds of Gruyere and Tomme Vaudoise cheese in massive 900 liter vats. Soon we were climbing up a series of switchbacks, smelling the sweet pine and hearing church bells and the occasion cow bells from the valley below. Every now and then the layers of clouds would disrobe and we were treated to a mind-boggling view of the Dents du Midi, a dome of serrated ridges that top out over 10,000 feet. The summit of mighty Mont Blanc, standing to the left of the Dents du Midi at 15,781 feet, pierced a dense cloud. 
Two hours and 2300 feet later, we were dining at Le Kuklos, staring at the nearby twin peaks of the Tour d’Ai (look like arrowheads) as the restaurant moved around in a circle. We dined on venison and cheese rösti, not my typical lunch food, washed down with a delightful dry white wine from nearby Aigle, Merveilles des Roches. Thankfully, we only had to take the gondola ride back to town because after the heavy food, I was ready for a nap! 
I want to thank Gayle Conran, François Michel, and everyone else at the Région du Léman (Lake Geneva Region) Tourism Office who came up with authentic travel suggestions and helped make this a very special week! I’ll be back home on Monday with my favorite food finds in the Lake Geneva Region. Ciao for now and merci beaucoup for checking in!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/03/14 at 04:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Hiking the Skyline Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The landscape of Cape Breton is a mesmerizing mix of rolling summits, precipitous cliffs, high headlands, sweeping white sand beaches, and glacially carved lakes, all bordered by the ocean. The Cabot Trail is a road that hugs the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the rugged northwestern edge of Nova Scotia, where around every bend you want to pull over, spew expletives of joy at the stupendous vista, and take another snapshot. Indeed, it’s as close to Big Sur as the East Coast gets. Add bald eagles, moose, coyotes, and pilot whales fluking in the nearby waters and you want to leave the car behind and soak it all up on two legs. 

In October 2012, I visited Cape Breton and sampled one of the most popular trails, Skyline, a 5.7-mile loop atop the ridge of a coastal headland. I took deep breaths of the sweet pines as I meandered over the roots and rocks on the grassy path. Eventually, the trail snakes to the left offering expansive views of the sea. At the halfway point, a boardwalk leads down the headland and wow, what a majestic stroll it is. To the left is a backbone of peaks, to the right is all ocean as far as the eye can see. I sat down on a bench and bit into my honeycrisp apple, watching a whale spout. It was hard to leave, but after having my fill, I made my way back on the loop. Within minutes, I was staring at a mother moose and her calf. Memorable! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/09/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Urban Adventures: Climb Piestewa Peak, Phoenix

Piestewa Peak, formerly known as Squaw Peak, is part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. Piestewa is 2,608 feet high, with a total elevation gain from the Summit Trail of 1,190 feet. That might not sound high, but hikers of all levels can get a decent workout climbing this mountain and then be rewarded with excellent views of the city once they reach the top. Realize, however, you won't be alone. According to the City of Phoenix, the Summit Trail is one of the most heavily used trails in the nation with 4,000 to 10,000 hikers per week. The reason why dogs and bicycles are not permitted.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/10/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Climb Mount Chocorua, New Hampshire

I spent Memorial Day Weekend in the White Mountains with family and friends, finally bagging Mount Chocorua. Standing 3,478-feet high, it doesn’t make the 4,000-foot club and therefore many avid climbers blow it off. They shouldn’t. This is a classic New England climb with an exquisite panorama of the southern Presidential range and enough granite to leave your quads burning by the end of the trek. We took the Champney Falls Trail, named after the artist who painted the distinctive rocky summit of this peak. Within an hour, we reached picturesque Champney Falls and watched the rushing water stream down a series of ledges. Two hours later, after scrambling through rock, we reached the summit, initially socked in a cloud. Once it started to clear up, we were treated to glorious views of the lakes and green valley below, the snow-covered trails of Mt. Washington in the distance. 
Instead of staying in the honky-tonk town of North Conway, we chose the pastoral setting of the Snowvillage Inn in Eaton, with easy access to the Kancamagus Highway and Chocorua’s trailhead. The inn was just named in Yankee Magazine’s Best of New England issue for Best New Menu. Indeed, the food was excellent, from the fresh johns river oysters and lobster fettuccine we had at dinner to the blueberry pancakes, genuine maple syrup, and homemade sausage we had for breakfast (included in the room price). It was a treat to sit on the patio, look out past the apple trees to the peaks, and see hummingbirds dart in and out of the feeders. This is especially true when you have a can of Moat Mountain Iron Mike Pale Ale in your hand after climbing a White Mountain. Be on the lookout for my story in an upcoming Boston Globe travel issue.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/28/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

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. 

Early May, when the black flies have yet to arrive, 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. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/14/14 at 10:00 AM
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Hike the Brandywine Gorge Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Nestled between Akron and Cleveland along a 22-mile corridor of the Cuyahoga River is one of America’s newest national parks, Cuyahoga Valley. This pastoral chunk of land attracts horseback riders who ride on meadows in a former farmstead, bikers who pedal along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath, and hikers who take advantage of the 125 miles of paths. The highlight of the park is the 1.5-mile Brandywine Gorge Trail that leads to one of the prettiest waterfalls in the Midwest, Brandywine Falls. At a height of only 60 feet, Brandywine is not a long drop. Instead, it’s terraced like the tiers of a wedding cake, with frothy water tumbling down the color of a creamy white frosting. The boardwalk brings you right up to the falls, surrounded by moss-covered stone and shaded by a stand of eastern hemlocks. Once you get your fill of Brandywine, visit the two other waterfalls in the park, Blue Hen and Buttermilk. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/18/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hiking the Acadia Mountain Trail, Acadia National Park

With the highest mountains on the Atlantic coast north of Brazil, slicing fjords, deserted offshore islands, and 41 miles of rugged shoreline, it’s easy to understand why Acadia is the sole national park in the northeast. Take the hour-long hike to the short peak of Acadia Mountain, and you’ll be peering down at the lobster boats anchored in Southwest Harbor, captivated by the meeting of mountains and sea. Unlike the iconic national parks of the West, with their lofty five-digit peaks, everything in Acadia is on a human scale, creating the ideal family-friendly retreat. After the hike, treat yourselves to strawberry lemonade and piping hot popovers, fresh out of the oven, at the Jordan Pond Gatehouse. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/15/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

134-Mile John Muir Way to Debut in Scotland in April

Most folks associate John Muir with his boundless efforts to make Yosemite a national park and as the father of the Sierra Club. Yet, the great naturalist is just as celebrated in his homeland of Scotland. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Muir's death in 1914 and as part of the yearlong Homecoming celebration in 2014, the country has developed a 134-mile route called the John Muir Way. The trail begins in Dunbar, Scotland, where Muir was born, and concludes in Helensburgh, where Muir set sail for America in 1849. Estimated time to complete the route is 8-10 days on foot, 4-6 days by mountain bike. Along the way, hikers will savor the following sights: the famed Arthur's Seat, with stunning views over Edinburgh; Glengoyne Distillery; historic castles and palaces such as Blackness, Dirleton, Balloch and Linlithgow; and Antonine’s Wall, a World Heritage Site. Keith Geddes, Chair of Central Scotland Green Network Partnership Board and the man who came up with the idea for the new John Muir Way, recommends the section from Helensburgh to Balloch and onto Strathblane (27 miles) as the perfect 3-day hike. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Loch Lomond against the mountainous National Park backdrop. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/05/14 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

5 Favorite Travel Days in 2013, A Night at AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut, New Hampshire

The conditions weren’t ideal when my wife, Lisa, and I decided to backpack hut-to-hut in the White Mountains in late June. The black flies were still biting and a daily dose of rain had slickened the trails, making that unforgiving White Mountain granite that much more treacherous. By the time we reached the third of the AMC huts, Mizpah Springs, after an incredibly humid day where I really felt my age, I was spent. I had more than enough material to write my story on hut-to-hut hiking in the Whites for The Washington Post and I just wanted to head back to civilization. Conditions needed to be ideal the next morning to walk the historic Crawford Path through the Presidential Range. Once you venture beyond Mizpah Springs Hut to Mount Pierce, you’re above treeline on a ridge walk, entirely exposed to the weather since there’s really nowhere to hide. 

Socked in to a large cloud with the threat of lightening the next morning, it was time to head down. Or was it? At a juncture just below the peak of Pierce, we had to make a decision—up or down. That’s when we ran into a couple we befriended the night before, on vacation from Beijing, happy to breathe in the fresh alpine air. “C’mon, I have sardines,” Micah said. The next thing you know we’re atop the ridge, the layers of mist disrobing, and we were treated to views of the bald knob atop Mount Eisenhower. It was like walking on a lunar landscape, bordered by velvety green sedge and moss, often staring in awe at alpine wildflowers in bloom like bog laurel, white bunchberry, and purple fireweed. 
Then we spotted the Lakes of the Clouds hut, our lodging for the night, and its lofty perch atop a 5200-foot ridge with stunning vistas of Mount Washington Hotel below and the Cog Railroad ambling slowly up to the Mount Washington summit. We spent the twilight hours looking at the glorious view and then peering at the twinkling stars above (no light pollution here). The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we climbed on hardscrabble rock the last 1.4 miles to the summit of Mount Washington, New England’s tallest peak. The winds subsided, the sun peeked through the clouds, and we were rewarded with wondrous views of Mounts Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. Lisa and I were elated that we made the decision to continue onward. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/14 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

When a Friendship Becomes a Hardship

In 1990, I left my job as an insurance broker in Manhattan and booked a four-month trip to the South Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia. The day before I left on that fateful journey, I was strolling through the Fifth Avenue Book Fair when I found a book titled “Travel Writing, For Profit and Pleasure” by Perry Garfinkel. I did exactly what the author advised, kept a journal when I was away, and when I returned home I sold my first story, “Learning to Scuba Dive in the Cook Islands” to The Miami Herald. It was the start of a prolific travel writing career, where I would write more than 1500 articles and close to a dozen books. Another one of the stories sold from that inaugural journey was this disastrous hike I took in Fiji. It originally appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune, before other publications like The Boston Globe purchased the story.

If you want to know more about my early years as a travel writer, check out this Q&A with Highbrow Magazine

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/04/13 at 11:00 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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