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Thursday, June 07, 2012

My Favorite Small Outfitters, Ken’s Hinterland Adventure Tours, Dominica

Unlike the rest of the Caribbean, the attraction in Dominica is not the beach, 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. My guide for a week of treks into the interior was Kent Augiste of Ken’s Hinterland Adventure Tours. The highlight was a 7-hour round-trip hike inside Morne Trois Pitons National Park to the crater known as Boiling Lake. We hiked through a dense forest of tall gommier trees, staring at the iridescent purple-throated hummingbirds as they kept us company. Afterwards, we lounged 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. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/07/12 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

My Favorite Small Outfitters, Bob Hicks at Gros Morne Adventures


In the summer of 2002, I had the pleasure of backpacking the stunning Long Range Traverse, on assignment for Backpacker magazine. Nestled within Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique combination of quartzite rock and wetland terrain, the Long Range Mountains could very well be the one of the last remnants of pristine wilderness within a three-hour flight of New York and Boston. There were no manicured trails with requisite wooden signs showing us which way to go and exact mileage to get there. The Long Range Traverse is a 35 kilometer semi-circular route where topo maps and a compass are a necessity to find your way among the web of caribou paths. Indeed, caribou and moose far outnumbered the four other backpackers we saw on the four-day traverse, averaging one hiker per day. 
With limited amount of time, my friend and I decided to hire an outfitter, Bob Hicks, co-owner of Gros Morne Adventures. The advantage of having a guide is obviously you won’t get lost for hours, sliding knee-deep in the muck or coming out of the brush with sharp tuckamore branches nesting in your hair (tuckamore is Newfoundland’s version of the stunted balsam tree, comparable in appearance to krummholz in the Alps). You also won’t miss the slight detours from the route that lead to striking overlooks above three landlocked fjords. I’m sure you’ve seen a version of this photo on many advertisements for clothing and travel. This is a shot of Bob Hicks taken by my buddy, Jeff Katz. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/05/12 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hiking Gulf Hagas from Lodge to Lodge

The people of Maine often refer to Gulf Hagas as the "Grand Canyon" of the state. There’s nothing wrong with a little zealous pride, but Gulf Hagas is no Grand Canyon.  However, it is one of Maine’s most spectacular hikes. Hidden amidst the 100 Mile Wilderness of the Appalachian Trail, a 45-minute drive on dirt roads from Greenville, Gulf Hagas is a gorge carved by the pounding waters of the Pleasant River and the lumbermen’s dynamite. A series of exquisite waterfalls await you as the river drops nearly 500 feet in 2.5 miles through the narrow walls of the slate canyon. Buttermilk Falls is an apt name for the frothy white foam the water becomes as it churns down the rocks. A swimming hole just beyond the falls is a favorite place for hikers to strip down to their undergarments and plunge into the auburn-red waters. Those piercing screams heard are just folks getting used to the cool temperature.  

Now you can hike the Gulf Hagas trail as part of a new lodge to lodge route offered by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Spend the night at Gorman Chairback Lodge, then take the Henderson Brook Trail through a scenic gorge for 1.6 miles. This trail connects with the Rim Trail that will bring you through Gulf Hagas, where you’ll spend the night at the nearby Little Lyford Lodge. The total distance is 8.9 miles, perfect for a day’s trek. If you can add an additional day of hiking at Gorman Chairback, consider heading up to Third Mountain across the Appalachian Trail and back down to the lodge via the Henderson Brook Trail. This is serious moose country, so don’t be surprised to run into one. First opened as a private sporting camp in 1867, it’s hard to top the locale of Gorman Chairback, located on the shores of Long Pond in the shadows of the Barren-Chairback Range.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/18/12 at 12:00 PM
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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.

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. 

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

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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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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