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March 2010

March 31, 2010

Hiking Trail Resources on the Web

By Kate Chandler

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Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Kate Chandler)

Trail junkies rejoice! Hiking season is upon us in some parts of the country, and it's fast approaching elsewhere. When us hikers find a trail we love, it's natural to want to return to it year after year. But in the interest of adding to your "favorite-trails portfolio," we've culled some resources from around the web.

Start with our very own GORP Trail Finder, home to info on more than 19,000 trails in the U.S. and Canada. You can narrow your search by state, park name, trail length, difficulty, and crowds (or, hopefully for you, lack thereof). Plus, the trail finder is a wiki, so you can add your own comments and photos to trails that you've hiked.

If you're planning to get to Europe this summer, there are tons of English-language sites that will help you find the right trail. features nearly 250 hikes in the mountains of Spain, covering Asturias, Aragon, Andalusia, Cantabria, Leon, and Valencia. Each route has a detailed description, GPS waypoints, maps, and photos. If you need help narrowing it down, use the Top Ten Section for a list of the best hikes in each region.

Continue reading "Hiking Trail Resources on the Web" »

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Related Topics: Cheap Vacation Ideas · European Travel · From Around the Web · Outdoor Adventures

March 30, 2010

Destination 3 Degrees: Adventures Against Plastic

By Guest Blogger

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Both-horny toad
Morgan Hoesterey and Jenny Kalmbach (Destination 3 Degrees)

In April, a unique adventure is launching from the Big Island of Hawaii with Kauai as its endpoint. Taking to the storied waters that connect the islands, stand-up paddlers Morgan Hoesterey and Jenny Kalmbach are headed for a destination that stretches across three degrees of latitude—over 200 nautical miles—and, as recent reports tell us, a whole lot of plastic debris.

Hoesterey and Kalmbach will paddle from one island to the next, exploring above and below the waterline to help illuminate the impact of plastics contamination on some of the world's most celebrated shorelines and the creatures these coasts shelter.

Bound only by the elements, the women will have unprecedented access to parts of the islands most people never get to see. They'll cross channels more than 80 miles long and 10,000 feet deep, sometimes under the light of the moon, and always with the cooperation of the winds. For their efforts we'll all be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking natural beauty our oceans have to offer.

Continue reading "Destination 3 Degrees: Adventures Against Plastic" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Eco-Tourism

Is it Too Late to Plan a Trip to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

HERE WE GO!: Soccer fans in South Africa (South African Tourism)

The good news is that it's not too late to plan a trip to this year's soccer World Cup in South Africa. The bad news? The experience won't come cheap. Here's a quick guide to where things stand on the travel-planning front if you haven't already booked your tickets for the big quadrennial soccer fiesta. We'll be posting updates here on the Travel Blog as we receive them in the run-up to the World Cup's kickoff in June. (The tournament is scheduled to run from June 11 to July 11 in nine host cities throughout South Africa.)

Game Tickets
Tickets to individual games are currently being sold through the tournament organizer, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Now in the fourth and final phase of worldwide public ticketing, you can apply for tickets to individual games (up to seven choices available) or a bundle of team-specific tickets. Tickets are allocated based on availability on a first-come, first-serve basis. The application window for the fourth phase closes on April 7, after which the remaining tickets will only be made available through FIFA's official in-country kiosks. Given the late date, tickets to see the tournament's more popular teams and more competitive group-stage games, as well as games during the final knockout phases, are all sold out. However, there are still tickets available to watch matches in the qualifying stages that will be once-in-a-lifetime experiences nonetheless. Your other option for following the team of your choice or to attend the later-stage games is to buy an all-inclusive vacation package that will include tickets along with accommodation and travel. If you're a U.S. soccer fan, you can purchase tickets for group-stage games involving the United States national team via the U.S. Soccer Federation's website.

Continue reading "Is it Too Late to Plan a Trip to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?" »

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Related Topics: 2010 World Cup · Africa Travel · Travel Tips

March 29, 2010

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dripping Sap

Lodge fall
(Trapp Family Lodge)

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 1,200 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.

Steve Jermanok is the publisher of, a site that offers expert advice to travelers, not tourists, on connecting with nature, people, and wildlife around the world while working up a sweat.

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March 26, 2010

Hotel Spotlight: Hacienda Tres Rios, Playa del Carmen


Open since early 2009, Playa del Carmen's all-inclusive Hacienda Tres Ríos is charting a new course in sustainable resort development in an area that's heretofore been synonymous with quite the opposite. Located 35 miles south of Cancun's concrete-clad "Hotel Zone," the 273-room Hacienda is the first of five planned hotels in the ambitious Tres Ríos development. Given its prime location in 326-acre Tres Ríos Nature Park, the property adheres to strict eco-friendly practices, from landscape design to recycling to on-site water desalination, all of which is overseen by the hotel's "Green Team." Beside its green-building efforts, the Tres Ríos project seeks to foster sustainable tourism through interactions with local artisans, cuisine, and the area's rich culture and history. The all-inclusive offering doesn't scrimp on luxury, either, with multiple restaurants, freeform swimming pools every which way you turn, full-service spa, endless cocktails available at the wave of your hand, and enough activities and amenities to keep an ADD family busy for a week. Pick of the activities include self-guided kayak tours through the nature preserve's knotty mangrove forests, snorkeling and swimming excursions through freshwater cenotes, and guided nature hikes and bike rides. Among its recent accolades, Hacienda Tres Ríos was voted a "Top 10 Relaxation/Spa Hotel in the Caribbean & Mexico" in's 2010 Travelers' Choice awards.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Mexico Travel · Places to Stay

March 25, 2010

Top Ten College Towns

By awayblog

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Ithaca Commons, Summer(Downtown Partnership-IthacaCVB)
Students stroll Ithaca Commons, a downtown shopping district in Ithaca, New York (Downtown Partnership/Ithaca Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Every so often, an intoxicating combination of American spirit, extreme natural beauty, and youthful charisma charms a town into being a haven for indubitable good times. Earthy Athens, Georgia, and its musical roots are evident in the town's beloved 40 Watt Club, where people gather for live shows almost every night of the week. For an outdoors paradise, head to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where waterfalls, suspension bridges, and four state parks are enough to keep even the most extreme outdoorsman satisfied. Head out West, where Boulder, Colorado, residents have some of the most mouthwatering sub shops, can enjoy a plethora of local-brewsky serving breweries, and are only a short carpool (it's all about the environment here) ride away from the Rocky Mountains. Whether it be the surrounding rivers, lakes, and mountains; the first-class cuisine; or an extreme devotion to their hometown football team, these top ten college towns have that special something that makes magic…magic.

10. Athens, Georgia
University of Georgia

9. Oxford, Mississippi
University of Mississippi

8. Ithaca, New York
Cornell University and Ithaca College

7. Amherst, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and Hampshire College

6. Ann Arbor, Michigan
University of Michigan

5. Madison, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin

4. Boulder, Colorado
University of Boulder

3. Iowa City, Iowa
University of Iowa

2. Davis, California
University of California

1. Eugene, Oregon
University of Oregon

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Related Topics: Top 10 Lists

March 24, 2010

No Mountain Too High

Sit Skier at PCMR
Sit Skier at Park City Mountain Resort, Utah (Gerry Wingenbach)

I am skiing with David. And I'm talking a pretty good game, even though I'm snowplowing my turns. I’ve got to talk when I ski with David. I am his eyes. David is blind.

Can you see me at all, David? No. I'm just a big blob, like a stained-glass image. Wow, David, that sounds better than I really look.

My buddy Mike McBee hooked me up with David. Mike and I enjoy epic powder days together in Park City. We make perfect figure 8s on black-diamond Widow Maker. Mike was born with the birth defect spina bifida and for most of the year he’s confined to a wheelchair, monotony probably his worse enemy. But everything changes come ski season when the schism between his physical will and actual capacities vanish.

Mike skis in a sit ski (a plastic bucket seat mounted on a ski) and plugs away as a ski instructor at Park City’s National Ability Center (NAC). He’s played a role with many of the 1,600-plus skiers with physical, cognitive, or developmental disabilities that NAC has worked with so far this season. The non-profit operates out of a slope-side trailer at Park City Mountain Resort, and the place reeks of courage and glory.

Continue reading "No Mountain Too High" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Skiing & Snowboarding

March 23, 2010

Au Pair Adventures: Life in Leysin

By Guest Blogger

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Leysin, Switzerland (Wikipedia)

For those trying to dodge the ritzy air that can cloud fancy ski resorts, the small town of Leysin, Switzerland, offers a young, hip ski scene.

Nestled in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, the town is an hour and 20 minutes from Geneva by train. Try to catch a lift near sundown so you can see the Alps at their finest as you pass through some of the vineyards that make the country famous.

When day breaks you will understand why Leysin is often referred to as the sun porch of Switzerland—there is hardly a day when the weather isn't breathtakingly awesome. The sunny mountain location means it is often warmer than in the valley, creating a very nice ski environment.

Day lift tickets are around $47, with a half-day pass available at 1 P.M. Your pass includes Leysin's 60 kilometres (37 miles) of pisted trails (though many people prefer off-piste areas), along with access to nearby resort Les Mosses. Skis, snowboards, snowshoes, etc. can be rented at Hefti's, a shop across the street from the lift ticket office.

Continue reading "Au Pair Adventures: Life in Leysin" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Skiing & Snowboarding

March 22, 2010

What Makes Great Nature Photography?

Grand Prize Winner, 2009 Nature's Best Photography contest. Photographer: John Reiter

“These are some of the best photos I’ve ever seen,” whispers a complete stranger as we stand in front of a four-by-six-foot print of an underwater diver dwarfed by the eerie shape of a humpback whale. The whisper seems uncalled for, as we're standing a noisy exhibit hall on a holiday weekend at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. But the quiet repose of the photo, like the other Windland Hill Smith Award Winners included in the Nature’s Best Photography 2009 exhibit, instill a sense of library quiet, like we're at an exclusive gallery showing rather than a hallway tucked between the Hope Diamond and the gift shop. Surely, these images—of the northern lights, pandas in the snow, penguins on the beach near Cape Town, South Africa—are the work of high-paid professionals on once-in-a-lifetime trips. Right?

Slideshow of the Nature’s Best Photography 2009 award winners.

Not necessarily, says Steve Freligh, editor and founder of Nature’s Best Photography magazine and curator of the annual photo contest and exhibit. Though most of the award winners are professionals or aspiring professionals, Freligh says that digital photography has helped open the doors to people who don’t travel on a national magazine’s dime.

“After launching the magazine, I was looking to recognize the professionals we all know and admire, but I was also very interested in uncovering emerging photographers,” says Freligh. “These shooters truly appreciate this prestigious venue for their work and are forever grateful for the experience, both in the field and at the museum. With the explosion of new photo technology, there have certainly been more ‘amateurs’ entering the competition, but we do not judge whether they are a professional or amateur—it's the image that speaks to us.”

Continue reading "What Makes Great Nature Photography?" »

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March 19, 2010

Water While Traveling: What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy

By WorldNomads

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Editor's Note: Thanks to Chris Cranshaw, founder of Hydropal, for providing this information. Chris is a seasoned traveler who has been working to help the environment and provide safe drinking water for 15 years.

Water is something most of us take for granted until we step on a plane and head out into the world. Then we suddenly realize that this precious liquid so necessary to sustain life can also cause serious ill health and even worse.

Nothing ruins a good trip like a bout of diarrhea, nausea, feeling totally exhausted, feverish, and in no mood for anything but bed! Waterborne illness is one of the leading sources of health problems for travelers, and can have serious immediate consequences and after-effects for months.

Where are you at risk?
High-risk areas include Central America, most of Africa and Asia and the Middle East. Moderate-risk areas include Eastern Europe, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, and the Caribbean. Even developed countries aren't necessarily risk-free.

Basically if you want to be safe, assume the worst and plan accordingly.

Continue reading "Water While Traveling: What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Asia Travel · Central America Travel · South America Travel · Travel Tips

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