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Monday, June 07, 2010

Maine Huts & Trails Begins Construction on Third Hut

Maine Huts & Trails, the nonprofit organization hoping to build 12 backcountry huts over 180 miles of trails in the remote western mountains of the state, has just announced the creation of their third lodging. Slated to be completed by the end of 2010, the hut will be built on the banks of the Dead River, two miles below the cascading waters of Grand Falls. Each of the three huts, including the Poplar Stream Falls and the Flagstaff Lake hut, are spaced about 11 miles apart, so people can reach it within one day of hiking. For less than $100 per person per adult and under $50 per children, each hiker gets a night’s sleep on a bed, hot showers, dinner, and breakfast. Not a bad way to be lost in this vast tract of wilderness, treasured for its mountains, large lakes, sinuous rivers, and waterfalls.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/07/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Long Trail Turns 100

On March 21, 1910, 23 avid hikers (or trampers as they were called at the time) sat in a room in Burlington, Vermont, and had the wacky idea to create the first long-distance hiking trail in America. The Green Mountains had been largely unappreciated, so James P. Taylor (1872-1949) made a promise that his group would “make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.” They called their organization the Green Mountain Club and remarkably finished a 273-mile long route that snakes through the Green Mountains the entire length of the state. The high-country trail is a narrow, unforgiving footpath in the wilderness that winds through the finest greenery of this sylvan state. A century later, as our leisure time becomes more and more diminished through overwork and lack of vacation time, the Long Trail seems too long for most of us.  Only 120 hikers took a month out of their life in 2009 to complete the entire route and become certified “end-to-enders” by the Green Mountain Club. If you ever wanted to take advantage of James P. Taylor’s dream, the centennial celebration would be a good time.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/18/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mt. Katahdin, Maine

Katahdin is a fitting end to the Appalachian Trail in the north. Reaching the mass of rock atop the 5,267 foot summit is a challenge to the most experienced climber, even the AT thru-hiker who spent the last six months racking up more than 2,100 miles. Yet, it's somewhat of a disappointment that the AT ascends Katahdin from the Hunt Trail, the easiest (if there’s such a thing) and least spectacular path to the peak. For an unparalleled mountainous ascent in the northeast, you should opt for the Knife Edge. Like the name implies, this three to foot wide granite sidewalk sharply drops off more than 1,500 feet on either side. 

The best way to reach the Knife Edge is the Helen Taylor Trail from the Roaring Brook Campground.  All the ascents are a struggle. You start at about 1,500 feet and don't stop climbing until you run out of mountain. When the Helen Taylor trail hits Pamola Peak, a little over three miles into the climb, bear left to find the Knife Edge.  First you’ll ascend South Peak, then Baxter Peak, the summit of Katahdin. Rest those spaghetti legs and take in the exquisite vistas of northern Maine—Chesuncook Lake, the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Big and Little Spencer Mountains, and all the peaks that form massive Katahdin.

As you gloat, proud of your grand accomplishment, just remember that Henry David Thoreau climbed Katahdin without a trail. “It was vast, Titanic, such as man never inhabits. Some part of the beholder, even some vital part, seems to escape through the loose grating of his ribs as he ascends,” Thoreau noted in The Maine Woods.   No doubt, you’ll agree.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/14/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mt. Lafayette, New Hampshire

The strenuous climb up Mt. Lafayette is worthy of all accolades hikers bestow upon it.  With tumbling waterfalls, a steep ascent to three of the highest peaks in New England, and a 1.7-mile ridge walk where the spruce-studded White Mountains stand below you in a dizzying display of green, this very well could be the finest day hike in New England. 
Turn into the woods from the parking lot and I-93’s traffic is quickly replaced by the sounds of rushing water, compliments of a stream that accompanies you for a good mile and a half.  Three perfect falls swirl over smooth boulders to pools of water the color of gin, the ideal stop for a breather.  You’ll need your energy to get to the top of Little Haystack Mountain and the start of the Franconia Ridge Trail.  Part of the Appalachian Trail, this above-tree-line path offers a stunning panorama of New England’s highest summits, including Mount Washington.  Bag 5,108-foot Mount Lincoln and 5,249-foot Mount Lafayette before taking the Greenleaf Trail down the boulder littered slopes to AMC’s Greenleaf Hut. This deep-woods convenience store is great for lemonade refills before the trek back down. Or, better yet, grab a bunk and spend the night.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/10 at 01:00 PM
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Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mount Willard, New Hampshire

If the thought of climbing a mountain makes you sweat long before leaving your car, wipe your brow and give 2,804-foot Willard a try. 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 slight efforts. Not surprisingly, this easy climb is a favorite for families. 
The hike begins behind the Crawford Notch Visitor Center, former site of the Crawford railroad station. The trail starts off sharply but becomes more gradual as you criss-cross through a forest of dense pines. Eventually, sunshine seeps into the woods and you’ll reach a large opening, the light at the end of the tunnel. Look down from the rocky ledge at the old railroad line, carved into the mountainside, and the onslaught of cars that snake through Crawford Notch on Route 302. Then pat yourself on the back for climbing a White Mountain.

(Photo by Clyde Sisler)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mount Mansfield, Vermont

Bagging Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield, is a formidable challenge but certainly no strenuous climb like mighty Katahdin in Maine or the highest ascent in New England, Mt. Washington. It’s a steady ascent that rewards you with views of Lake Champlain in its entirety, Burlington, a 45-minute drive to the East, and the highest peak in New York, Mount Marcy. 

There are many ways up Mansfield. Families should opt for the Long Trail south from Route 108. A little steeper is the Laura Cowles and Sunset Ridge Trails from the backside at Underhill State Park. If you really want to test your mettle, go on the Hell Brook trail.  The unrelenting path starts from Route 108 at about 1900 feet and 1.3 miles later, you’ve hit the 4,000-foot mark. It’s a favorite of locals as evidenced by the number of Vermonters listed in the logbook at the trailhead. About 2 hours into the climb or the 1.3 mile mark, you’ll reach the so-called Adam’s Apple of the mountain. There’s also the Forehead and Nose of Mansfield, but for some reason The Chin, at 4,393 feet, is the highest point.  It must be one of those Yankee chins. 

See the story I wrote on hiking Mount Mansfield for The Boston Globe.

(Painting by Barbara Hamm)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/11/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Top 5 Mountain Climbs in the Northeast, Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

May and June are my favorite times to climb the peaks in New England and upstate New York before the mosquitoes and masses start to arrive in the high peak months of summer. This week, I’m going to divulge my top five mountain climbs. First up, Mount Monadnock.

For many New England children, their first mountain climb is up that broad-shouldered peak Henry David Thoreau called a “sublime mass.” 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 the second most popular mountain ascent in the world (averaging about 130,000 climbers a year). Only Mt. Fuji in Japan has more foot traffic.

Head up the White Dot trail, one of the steepest ascents to the peak, but also one that rewards with you with incredible vistas in a very short time. Above tree-line, 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 Currier and Ives setting below—a 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 3,165-foot summit, where Thoreau watched in dismay as his fellow mid-19th century trampers inscribed their names in rock. This didn’t stop him from writing in large letters atop the biggest boulder “H.D.T. Ate Gorp Here, 1860.”  I’m joking, but you can see many other names clearly marked like “T.S. Spaulding, 1853.”

Spend the night at the Monadnock Inn, whose century-old porch is the perfect place to rest those weary legs. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/10/10 at 12:59 PM
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

You Don’t Have to Travel Halfway Around the World to Be Active

I’m a travel writer, so it’s my job to turn you on to places around the globe I think you should definitely check out. But after spending a glorious weekend at home in the Boston area, I’m just as happy to see you venture outdoors in your own backyard and remain active. I spent Saturday at my favorite oasis, Broadmoor, a Mass Audubon retreat, staring at numerous turtles sunbathing on upturned logs in the Charles River, found three snakes, and watched Canadian Geese and their cute furry goslings go for a dip. On Sunday, I went biking in Dover and Millis past horse farms, pasture, and absurdly large homes. Spring is finally here, so make sure to take advantage and Go Play!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/04/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Veteran Travel Writer Everett Potter Leads UK Walking Tour

What do you get when you combine one of the most majestic locales in the UK with a gifted travel writer known for his insatiable curiosity and an outfitter keen on guiding visitors away from the typical tourist fare? A truly memorable trip! Everett Potter has teamed with Wayfarers to lead an 8-day hike through the English countryside in Devon County. You’ll explore the farms and historic hamlets of Dartmoor and Exmoor, the backdrop for Sherlock Holmes’s adventures in “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” grab a boat up the River Dart to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s summer home, and visit Castle Drogo, said to be the last castle built in the country. You’ll also walk some 12 to 14 miles a day, stay at country inns, and grab lunch at pubs that have been serving bitter since the times of Shakespeare. Dates are September 26-October 3 and the price is $3795 per person, including all accommodations, meals, and transport in the UK.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/27/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Explore the Canadian Wilderness with Several of Canada’s Best-Known Explorers

It’s not enough that Canadian Mountain Holidays runs two lodges in some of the most glorious British Columbia mountain ranges, the Bugaboos and Selkirk, where granite peaks and spires pierce the peak over 7,000 feet high. No, it’s not enough that this well-known heli-ski company uses those same helicopters in the summer time to take hikers to trails traversed by far more bear, elk, and caribou than humans. Now you’ll get to explore those same trails in the company of Dr. Joe MacInnis and Dr. Roberta Bondar. MacInnis led the first team of divers under the North Pole and was one of the first to dive the Titanic. Bondar is Canada’s first woman astronaut and a neurologist to boot. Dates are July 24-27 with MacInnis and August 17-20 with Bondar.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/13/10 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

Adventure Travel Trade Association