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Miscellaneous Sports

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My Top 5 Adventures in 2009, Tubing the White River, Jamaica

In February, I had the chance for the second year in a row to float down the mountainous White River, a definite highlight of any trip to Jamaica. High in the hills above Ocho Rios, the water is cool and as clear as gin. Guides sing Bob Marley songs as you flow with the slow-moving current. Or listen to the high-pitched call of the yellow banana quit bird and peer out at the green mosaic of ferns, banana trees, and thickets of bamboo that climb the banks of this sinuous waterway like ivy climbs a wall. What's wonderful about this river cruise is that all ages love the journey, from my 79 year-old dad to my 11 year-old daughter. The River Tubing Safari is one of the many adventures offered by the reputable Jamaican outfitter, Chukka Caribbean Adventures. To see my story on Ocho Rios, visit Away.com.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/06/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Camel Trekking Across the Moroccan Desert

In the 90s, active travel outfitters like Backroads gained popularity by offering inn-to-inn biking and hiking trips. Other sports like rafting and sea kayaking started to appear in itineraries in the first decade of the new millennium. The latest trend is family adventures, taking the whole clan down to say, Costa Rice for a week and trying as many sports as possible. Also growing in popularity are more historical adventures, like this trip I just received from Baobab Expeditions. From February 20-March 1, 2010, you can join the outfitter on a 50-mile camel trek across the Moroccan desert on an old caravanserai route. The trip begins and ends in Marrakech, before heading out with Berber Guides to the oases of Lawina and Saf’Sef. You’ll sleep under the palms while enjoying traditional Berber food and listening to the music, drums, tambourines and singing of the locals. Then it’s on to Erg Chebbi to see the sand dunes rising to over 500 feet. Pricing begins at $3533 and includes lodging, food, guides, and all the drinking water you can swallow.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/25/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dripping Sap

 

Maria von Trapp, the woman who inspired The Sound of Music, is no longer with us, but Trapp Family Lodge is flourishing thanks to new lodging on their spectacular grounds overlooking Stowe and new cross-country ski and mountain biking trails. When it comes to sugaring, however, the von Trapps do it the old fashion way, picking up the sap in buckets with a horse-drawn sleigh and delivering it to the sugarhouse to boil off the water and create Vermont’s “liquid gold.” The 1200 taps produce 300 gallons of syrup annually and the season lasts from mid-March until late April. Join in on the fun each Saturday, when you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or grab that horse-drawn sleigh to the sugarhouse for a traditional Sugar-on-Snow party. The hot syrup is tossed on the white snow to create a chewy maple taffy, served with donuts and dill pickles.
 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, April 26, 2010

You’re Never Too Old to Row Across the Atlantic

Earlier this year, I wrote about Leo Rosette, 59, of Marshfield, Massachusetts. Forced to retire from the US Marshals Service after 20 years, Rosette wanted to prove to himself that he wasn’t too old to try new things. Like rowing across the Atlantic Ocean! After 101 days living in a 5-by-3 foot boat, Rosette made it to Guadeloupe this week, becoming the oldest American to ever row across the Atlantic. He faced heavy storms, surging waves, blustery winds, and the hot sun, losing 30 pounds in the process. Yet, he was happy to reach terra firma, joking with reporters: “I don’t think I can row any farther.”
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/26/10 at 12:59 PM
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Another Ridiculous Assignment from an Editor

Yesterday, I received a call from an editor of an auto magazine in Detroit, wanting me to rent a Chevy Malibu in Boston and drive to Washington, DC. A photographer will be joining me to take shots. She wants me to describe the drive. Okay, not exactly the most scenic stretch of highway in America, especially when you’re passing the chemical plants in northern New Jersey. I’ve been a travel writer for 20 years, so I’ve had my fair share of absurd assignments. The worst was a request from Men’s Journal to backpack along a stretch of the Mojave Desert with a guy who was designing a long-distance Desert Trail though the Western states. I had to backpack in with over 30 pounds of water and my own blend of dehydrated food. The heat was brutal and the only signs of civilization I saw were deflated balloons hanging from the cacti. You want to know where your kid's helium balloons go when they lose them? This forgotten hellhole. By the third day, my feet were covered with blisters, my supply of water was sucked dry, and the tape in my trusty microcassette recorder had melted. The editor ended up cutting my 1500-word story to 500 words due to space limitations. But I did better than the photographer I was traveling with, who had to schlep in his heavy camera equipment on top of the water. They didn’t accept any of his work. Must have been that glaring sun.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/18/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Top 5 Beaches in New England to Be Active: Windsurf Kalmus Beach, Hyannis, Massachusetts

All a windsurfer needs is a prevailing wind and steady diet of waves to catch some air. On Nantucket Sound, wind speeds exceeding 20 knots are the norm, not the exception, and the shallow water help windsurfers mount waves quickly. Kalmus Beach, south of Hyannis, is the boardsailing mecca, be it spring summer, or fall. If the crowds get to you, try nearby West Dennis Beach or Forest Beach, at the end of Forest Beach Road in Chatham.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

See the Stars at Natural Bridges National Monument

Last Sunday, I wrote in The Boston Globe about my favorite place to spend the longest day of the year in America, Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah. People who venture here can’t wait for the sun to finally set. Designated the world’s first International Dark Sky Park, the night skies above the park are considered the darkest in the country due to lack of light pollution. Under the guidance of an astronomy ranger, you’ll see a gazillion stars light up the Milky Way and find constellations you never knew existed. The bright night sky shines an ethereal light on the canyon walls and rock bridges to create a magical lunar-like landscape. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/29/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Windsurf Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Lining the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks are barriers of sand 150 miles long and never more than a few miles wide. These islands serve as welcome mats to the Atlantic and her many changing moods. Hurricanes, northeasters, and low pressure disturbances along the jet stream are quite common here. This might create havoc for the fisherman or sailor, but unleashes a steady stream of wind for the windsurfer. Most of the sailing is on a 50-mile stretch of the Pamlico Sound off of Hatteras Island. Shallow water, sandy bottoms, and prevailing winds are cherished by both novices and experts alike. If you want to be with the crowds, catch the waves at Canadian Hole. Otherwise, choose from hundreds of more secluded launch sites along the coast. Wind-NC in Avon rents boards and offers lessons.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/13/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scull Hosmer Pond, Vermont

Sandwiched between the hills of Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom, Hosmer Pond is the idyllic setting for the Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s sculling school. Now in its 35th year, Craftsbury is the first rowing camp in America. If you ever wanted to learn the sport of sculling or already scull and want to perfect your stroke, Craftsbury is arguably the best place in the States to do just that. The 5-day course goes over all aspects of rowing, and depending on expertise, splits groups up on the lake with instructors. Balancing the boat is always the hardest part for beginners, many of whom will spend the better part of the first day swimming. Oar handles have to be together at all times or the boat quickly tips to the left or right. Legs are thrust up against a board to scoot back as you propel the oars forward. Indeed, many of the coaches have immense quad muscles proving that legs are more important than arms in the stroke. 5-day programs including room, board, and training start at $1037.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/14/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Cemetery Hopping in Boston

I spent the past week checking out two local cemeteries in Boston, Mount Auburn and Forest Hills, for a story I’m writing around Halloween for American Airlines’ in-flight magazine. Surprising as it might sound, many folks venture to these cemeteries not to remember a loved one, but to stroll under the towering trees, jog, bike, and bird watch. Created in the first half of the 19th century, these are America’s first garden or rural cemeteries, built with a landscaping aesthetic in mind. They became incredibly popular with locals who came to breathe in the fresh air and picnic on the grounds. In essence, they were the first urban parks in America, created 40 to 50 years before Central Park in New York and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. Today, wandering into these two cemeteries is like taking a walk in a Victorian-era estate, down shady paths, under centuries-old oaks, cypress, and beech trees, next to lily-pad laden ponds. At Mount Auburn, climb the steps of the Washington Tower for panoramic vistas of the city.

The next two weeks, I’ll be traveling in France and the UK and will not be doing my daily blog. However, if I feel inspired, I might sporadically write from the road. Hope you’re enjoying the summer and staying active!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Biking Along the Canals in Hertfordshire

After spending 10 days in the cities of Paris and London, we wisely chose to book our last night of travel in the UK at The Grove, a country manor less than an hour’s drive from London and Heathrow. Perched on a hillside with rolling grounds, the place is best known for its golf course. But it’s also a wonderful family retreat, complete with outdoor and indoor pools, beach volleyball, lawn tennis, croquet, and a gluttonous feast at the breakfast and dinner buffet. Yet, our favorite activity was renting bikes and finding a canal that borders the perimeter of the property. Narrowboats were riding through the locks, on their way north to Northampton or south to London. This web of waterways has been traveled for centuries.  Indeed, these canals were Britain’s first business superhighway, transporting goods around the country. Once the railroads were built, they were abandoned, only to emerge in the last 30 years as recreational areas. It was fun to see these long slender boats, many rented for a week holiday, making their way through the forested shoreline under bridges and past families of swans and local anglers. We pedaled alongside the canal for some time on a dirt path before returning to the resort and having fish and chips, washed down with a pint of lager, at their casual pub, the Stables.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/11/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Henry the Eighth, I Am, I Am

A mere 37-minute train ride from Waterloo Station in London brings you to Hampton Court Palace, the best-loved abode of King Henry VIII. All of Henry’s six wives lived at the palace at one point, including his last wife, Kathryn Parr, who married Henry in the upstairs chapel. Take the audio tour of the Grand Hall, apartments, and cooking area, where they would roast large quantities of beef on a spit, washed down with kegs of beer and far too young wine. Then stroll the grounds and try your luck at the Maze, the oldest maze in England, originally built in 1702. With hedges towering close to 8-feet high, the narrow, winding paths are over a half-mile long. It’s a special treat for the kids after touring the palace. A special treat for music lovers is happening on August 30th, when two of my favorite groups, Brand New Heavies and Incognito play a live concert at the palace. Check it out!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/13/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blown Away in Chicago

The largest annual skydiving contest in the US, the USPA National Skydiving Championships, will return to Chicago from September 10 to 24. Located southwest of the city along the banks of the Fox River, Skydive Chicago will feature the world’s greatest skydivers competing for gold, silver, and bronze in five disciplines. They include formation diving, where teams of 4, 8, 10, and 16 skydivers create formations in the sky before opening their parachutes, and the freestyle artist event, where a jumper performs a graceful dance in freefall. All the championships are free and open to the public.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/19/10 at 12:59 PM
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Friday, October 08, 2010

Wife Carrying Championship This Weekend at Sunday River, Maine

Still no plans for Columbus Day Weekend? Head on over to the Sunday River Ski Resort in Bethel, Maine, tomorrow and watch the 11th Annual North American Wife Carrying Championship. Winners qualify for the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland, held next July. Last year’s winner, Dave and Lacy Castro of Lewiston, Maine, beat out 46 other couples from as far away as California. Their time was a speedy 54.45 seconds. Whatever you do, have a great weekend and do something active!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/08/10 at 12:59 PM
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winter Survival in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

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. Yes, wilderness, one of the most misused words in the English language. Any green space with a chunk of land the size of a suburban backyard seems to fit the bill. But here on Newfoundland’s western coast, a mere hour drive from the airport in Deer Lake, there are no roads, no power lines. The only sign of humanity tampering with the terrain was the dock we landed on. 

This is a paragraph taken from a story I wrote on backpacking Gros Morne National Park that originally appeared in Backpacker Magazine. Now this spectacular park, a favorite of caribou and moose, is the setting for a three-day winter wilderness survival course run by Linkum Tours. Learn to build snow shelters, light a fire, and cross-country ski atop mountain ridges that overlook magnificent fjords. The course is being held from January through March, 2011.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/26/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hot Air Balloon Rides Above the Sonoran Desert

With a chill in the air this Election Day, many of us folks in the cooler climes are already thinking about the warmth of the Southwest. Scottsdale beckons with swim-up bars and world-class golf courses. Yet, if you can somehow tear yourself away from that exclusive resort (in the darkness of early morning, no less), you’ll get to experience my favorite adventure in the Phoenix area. Rainbow Ryders has been offering sunrise balloon jaunts in both Albuquerque and the Phoenix area for the past 30 years. There’s no better way to start the day than seeing the craggy peaks and tall saguaro cacti from above. After the soothing hour-long flight, you toast to your good fortune with a glass of champagne. L’chayim!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

World Class Toboggan Run in Camden, Maine

Try to name another sport where you can win a National Championship without any prior experience? Just ask the two-man team from Tennessee who came in 2nd place at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships in 2005 without ever seeing snow before their arrival at the Camden Snow Bowl on the mid-Maine coast. This year marks the 21st anniversary of the event, which will be held February 11-13. Even if you’re not one of the 400-plus entrants, by all means try the thrilling chute, open throughout the winter. Originally built in 1936 and reopened in 1990, this two-foot wide track will have the whole family whooping it up as they drop off the side of the mountain at 30-plus miles per hour. Cost of the ride is a mere dollar if you rent a toboggan, half that price if you bring your own.

Camden Snow Bowl is the oldest ski area in the state and the only one still owned and operated by the town recreation department. Ride the double chair to the top of 1300-foot Ragged Mountain and you’ll soon understand the allure. The smell of early morning powder is overpowered by a blast of salty mist from the sea. Yes, this Maine ski area is the only spot in America where you can carve your turn and look at an expanse of ocean. Below is the rock-strewn harbor of Camden, a favorite anchorage of yachters come summer, but now only visited by fishermen hauling in their winter catch of shrimp. Close proximity to the Atlantic also means that the weather can be dicey. An early morning fog rolls in and the snow turns to cornmeal. That 440-foot-long ice coated toboggan chute is the only reason the Snow Bowl continues to thrive.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/18/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dog Sledding in New England

Maybe it’s the rare chance to get lost in the wilderness without the masses during winter, breathing in the scent of pines in relative quietude, listening only to the pitter-patter of dogs’ legs running through the snow. Or maybe you want to cuddle with a team of soft-furred huskies. Whatever the reason, dog sledding outfitters are popping up all over New England. One of the best is Mahoosuc Guide Service in Newry, Maine, which made its debut 20 years ago. Polly Mahoney and her husband Kevin Slater lead day and overnight trips to Umbagog Lake on the New Hampshire border. Cost for the overnight tours start at $555 per person, including food, camping, winterized tents, and requisite doggies. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/19/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

3 Great Things to Do On Vermont’s Lake Champlain in Winter

Fish It
If you think ice fishing means dangling a line on some remote pond while extremities turn numb and lips go blue, you’re in for a big surprise. These days, winter anglers can sit in a heated shanty and watch Super Bowl while checking their lines for any nibbles. February and the March are the two best months for hooking landlocked salmon, northern pike, lake trout and bass on Lake Champlain. Rent a shanty from Captain Gill Gagner for $90 a day or he’ll guide you all day for $200, including all fishing gear.

Kite It
Head to Cape Cod in summer and you’ll no doubt find kitesurfers catching air and zipping across the ocean. Now with the help of a good wind, you can glide on iced-over lakes and snow-covered meadows. Called snowkiting, the sport has its annual powwow, Kitestorm, on February 26th and 27th on Lake Champlain. Come with skis or snowboard, boots, and a helmet, and instructors will attach you to a kite and get you started. If you can’t make it to Burlington over those dates, contact Rachael Miller, owner of Stormboarding, for lessons and equipment.

Coast It
Take cross-country skiing and merge it with ice skating and you get the new phenomenon sweeping across the wild rivers and lakes of New England, nordic skating. Equipped with boots that are more comfortable than typical figure or hockey skates, and blades that glide atop the ice much like a speed skater, this Scandinavian craze lets skaters travel great distances at a much faster speed than cross-country skiing. Try the sport in the town of North Hero on Lake Champlain February 6th or at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont, on Sunday mornings in February.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/20/11 at 02:00 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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