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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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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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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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