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Hiking

Friday, March 09, 2012

Kudos to Kyle Maynard

I was working out at the gym last Sunday watching SportsCenter on ESPN, when they featured a fascinating profile of quadriplegic Kyle Maynard. Maynard, 25, was born with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end at the knees. But that never stopped him from doing a damn thing, including wrestling in high school. Thus his motto, “No Excuses.” Several months ago, Maynard raised the stakes when he attempted to climb 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro without prosthetics. Joined by injured American veterans Chris Hadsall and Sandra Ambotaite, Maynard was hoping to raise awareness to the alarming statistic that 18 US Veterans commit suicide every day. After ten grueling days of climbing on all fours over boulders, through snowfields, and avoiding rockslides, Maynard and his team made it to the summit on the morning of January 15th. That should motivate you to go outside and do something active this weekend. If not, you can always hire Maynard, a motivational speaker, to inspire you.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/09/12 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

This Summer, Consider Hiking New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail

In 1978, a reporter for the Coos County Democrat named Kim Nilsen had a zany idea, to create a long distance hiking trail through remote Coos County. About the size of Rhode Island, Coos County sits at the northernmost tip of New Hampshire, connecting the White Mountains with Quebec. One of the most remote sections of New England, this swath of New Hampshire is known for its large lakes, hidden waterfalls, and 4,000-foot peaks. And now, thanks to Nilsen’s vision, a spectacular new 162-mile long-distance trek called the Cohos Trail. The last stretch of trail was cleared this past October. If you savor serenity in scenic locales, the Cohos doesn’t disappoint. Hike for a day on one of the 30 peaks and you’re more apt to see moose than humans. At least until words gets out about the debut of this new hiking trail. For now, there are three shelters on the trail, but there are plans to build ten more. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/06/12 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, September 16, 2011

My Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan

Head to the Grand Traverse Bay area, a four-hour drive northwest of Detroit, in the autumn months for a weekend, and you’ll be treated to far more than a fun frolic on a Great Lake. Slow down and explore the region at a slow pace on bike or on two feet and you’ll find diverse terrain, from the shaded wetlands of the Grass River Natural Area to the rolling countryside of the Leelanau Peninsula to the steep dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the largest sand dunes west of the Sahara Desert. The towering slopes of sand, some as high as 440 feet, slide steeply to the shores of Lake Michigan. Stroll on the 1.5-mile Cottonwood Trail and the dunes look like bowls of sand that only a giant could drink from. No wonder Good Morning America just named Sleeping Dunes the most beautiful locale in America.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/16/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Hiking Sedona, Arizona

Exchange the red leaves of fall foliage with red rocks and you arrive at Sedona, which cools down just enough in the autumn months to offer a handful of hikes with jaw-dropping views. The landscape is a blend of twisted rock formations where monoliths, mesas, some as high as 5,000 feet, hoodoos, hanging cliffs, and spires join serrated red mountain walls. The 3-mile path that weaves through Boynton Canyon is arguably Sedona’s most popular trail, and rightly so. Jagged sandstone walls line both sides of the narrow pass. Prehistoric Native American dwellings can be seen under cliff overhangs that jut out of the mountains to greet you. If you can somehow manage to turn away from the towering scenery, you might be able to spot several alligator bark juniper trees close to 2,000 years old. The tree gets its name from the thick scaly bark that resembles an alligator’s hide. On your return trip, stop for lunch or a drink at the first-rate Enchantment Resort, located at the entrance to Boynton Canyon. The glass encased dining room and lounge offer more exquisite views of the surroundings.   
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/13/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hike from Moraine Lake to Consolation Lake, Banff National Park

It was no surprise that the parking lot at Moraine Lake was filled with buses, RVs, and cars stopping to take a look at one of the most majestic sights in the Canadian Rockies. The exquisite turquoise waters of this glacial lake are dwarfed by a crown of thorny peaks. The waters became bluer as the sun rose above the tall Engelmann spruce trees and bounced off the placid lake. What was astonishing is that once we took off on one of the trails from Moraine Lake, we passed few other hikers. According to park rangers, 90 percent of the people who visit Banff don’t go more than 2 kilometers off the main road. That’s exactly why we were going three kilometers to have a picnic at Consolation Lake. We walked atop a carpet of moss shaded by the tall trees. Soon, we made it to the quiet waters of Consolation Lake, backed by a hanging glacier that my son said looked like “a fluffernutter sandwich.” We jumped from boulder to boulder until we were at the edge of the lake and dug into our sandwiches. If this is called Consolation Lake, I’d like to know what the grand prize is!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/18/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Backpacking the Fundy Footpath in New Brunswick

One of my favorite Canadian adventures was an assignment I had for Backpacker magazine and later, The Boston Globe, to backpack the Long Range Traverse in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park. Led by Bob Hicks, owner of Gros Morne Adventures, the 4-day trek took us to spine-tingling vistas of landlocked fjords and atop snowcapped peaks where the caribou and moose far outnumber other backpackers. An equally impressive backpacking excursion is along one of the last stretches of wilderness on the Atlantic Seaboard in New Brunswick. Overlooking the Bay of Fundy, the Fundy Footpath is a moderate to strenuous 24-mile trek that crosses a river, skirts the beach, and goes up and down a dozen or so ravines, rewarding backpackers with breathtaking views of the rugged shoreline. Camping at primitive sites, moose, caribou, and bald eagle are common sightings. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/19/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trekking in New Zealand

In the wake of the devastating February 22nd earthquake in the South Island of New Zealand, travel writers around the world are blogging about the country this week in hopes of convincing folks that, outside of Christchurch, the vast majority of New Zealand is intact and ready to welcome visitors. In fact, I’ll be heading there later this year for the annual Society of American Travel Writers Conference. To do my share, I’m going to reprint this list of pointers I wrote for Backpacker Magazine on trekking in New Zealand.

Plan: Book as early as July for the most renowned of all hikes, the 4-day Milford Track in South Island’s Fjordland National Park. Number of hikers are limited to 10,000. 

Inspiration: A rite of passage for Kiwis, the 33-mile trek weaves through rainforest and alpine meadows, passing the country’s tallest waterfall in the (Sutherland), and dumping you off at the striking fjords of Milford Sound. 

Season: The hiking season is late October to late April. Avoid the rush of Christmas school holidays from the last week of December through January.

Pack: With huts built along many of these trails, like Milford, tents and mats are often unnecessary, lightening packs. 

Clothes: The uniform of choice is usually a layer of polypro under shorts. This deters bugs, especially the nasty sand fly, and keeps you cozy in mist and fog.

Weather: Expect a mix of clouds and sun, with frequent changes in weather. Average daytime temps are in the high 50s to mid-60s, Fahrenheit, but often dip to just above freezing at night. 

Food: Granola, fresh bread and cheese, dried fruit, even freeze-dried meals are easy to find once you get to New Zealand.

Extras: Kiwis love their tea, so have extra bags on hand and you’ll win friends easily.

Caveat:
Serious backpackers who might find the Milford Track overly regulated (you’re required to overnight at the Clinton Hut, a mere hour’s hike from the trailhead) should opt for Fjordland’s less visited and far more rigorous Dusty Track. It has much of the same scenery Milford features, without the foot traffic.

Wildlife: Watch for the luminous glowworm, hidden under ferns at night, and listen for the call of the elusive Kiwi bird. 

Guides:
Kiwi Wilderness Walks in Queenstown is a respected authority on South Island tracks.

Book:
Tramping in New Zealand (published by Australian-based Lonely Planet), by Jim DuFresne.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/22/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hiking Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica

“Follow me closely,” says our guide Kent Augiste as we make our final steps down the steep flanks of Morne Watt into the so-called Valley of Desolation. The landscape is a study of contrasts, from the rock slides that create the barren brown slopes to our right to the green mountain ridges straight ahead that rise dramatically from almost every viewpoint in Dominica. At the moment, however, it is the white smoke billowing up from the scorching stream at our feet that holds my interest. The smell of sulfur is overwhelming and the sounds of foamy, gurgling water doesn’t exactly instill confidence in my footing. I’m on Kent like an avocado clings to its branch on this nature isle. 

People flock to the Caribbean to sift their toes in the pearly white sands. But in Dominica, the attraction is not the relatively few beaches, but a lush mountainous interior ripe with every tropical fruit and vegetable imaginable, and inundated with so much water that around every bend is another raging waterfall, a serene swimming hole nestled in the thick bush, or a hidden hot spring to rest your weary body after a day in the outdoors.  Indeed, this island closest to Martinique, has become an affordable haven for the active traveler who yearns to hike through a jungle-like forest, scuba dive and snorkel on living reefs, and sea kayak in sheltered coves with little if any boat traffic. Sure, you can still lounge with a good book, but it won’t be on an overdeveloped strip of sand. You’ll be high up in the hills on some small eco-resort balcony sipping fresh passionfruit juice and listening to the waves of the Atlantic crash onto the rocky shores below.

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. Kent led my climbing partner 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 and aerial roots 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, iridescent purple-throated hummingbirds kept us company as they stuck their heads into the tubular orange and 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 Augiste works for Ken’s Hinterland Tours, 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 02/28/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Now’s the Time to Visit Zion National Park

With winter daytime temperatures in the mid-50s, Utah's Zion National Park is a coveted off-season secret with hikers. The red and amber canyon walls that form a tower of massive rock is usually blanketed by snow at higher elevations (7,000 to 9,000 feet). Down at the 4,000-foot high Park Headquarters, however, all you’ll need is a decent pair of boots. Flurries rarely make it to these lower heights. A good warm-up near headquarters is the 2-mile round-trip Watchman Trail. Climbing to a plateau near the base of a twisted monolith, the trail offers views of lower Zion Canyon, the Towers of the Virgin, and West Temple formations. Far more impressive is a hike in the Narrows where you walk in the Virgin River through a 1,000-foot-deep-chasm that’s a mere 20 feet wide. You’ll need a wet suit and booties because of the cool water temperatures, but that’s a small price to pay to have this monster slot to yourself. If you have your heart set on cross-country skiing, head to the rarely visited Kolob section of Zion. Pinnacles project out of the high mesa floor that, at 7,000 feet, is covered with snow.  


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/22/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Top 5 Fall Foliage Picks in New England, Hiking a White Mountain, New Hampshire

The bugs are gone, the threat of a late spring snow washed away, and the leaves are already starting to change color. Not to mention, you don’t have to face the summer crowds on the trails. These reasons alone should make you want to fill up your water bottle, bag a lunch with requisite mackintosh apples and hit the Whites. Start with the Falling Waters trail up to the peak of 5,228-foot Mt. Lafayette. Strolling alongside a series of spectacular waterfalls, and then making the climb to a 1.7-mile ridge walk between two of the White Mountains' loftiest peaks, it’s no wonder this is one of the finest day hikes in New England. Grab some lemonade at the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut, or if you were wise, you booked a bunk for the night to savor the spectacular mountain panorama without rushing down. If you prefer a less strenuous hike, try Mt. Willard. 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 accomplishment.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/01/10 at 01:00 PM
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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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