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The faint chime of cowbells amid a high altitude backdrop, an up close and personal view of a snow topped “wedding cake” mountain and an impulsive dip in a natural springs pool only yards from the crashing sea; all are mere perks of traversing the globe by hiking its trails. Motives vary: from searching for adventure and seeking out nature to gaining fitness and losing pounds. But whatever the inspiration to indulge in this out of doors phenomenon, it’s clear that the passion gives the directive “Take a hike!” a meaning that is good for all soles. Here are six one of a kind hiking haunts.
AUSTRIAN ALPS (Northeastern Tyrol, Austria) Hiking in the heart of the Alps translates to 600 peaks topping the 10,000 ft. mark, more than 9,000 miles of marked trails and nearly 500 mountain farmhouses and taverns for rest and relaxation (interpretation: pints of beer and platters of hearty grub). A favorite is Gruttenhutte, a famous hiking hut reached after an ominous trek up Wilder Kaiser (Wild Emperor).
GREEN MOUNTAINS (Central Vermont, U.S.) “New England quaint” best describes the landscape, known for colorful farmhouses, Victorian B&B’s and densely forested hills. Many hiking paths follow the renowned Long and Appalachian Trails; of the others, Mt. Tom is one of the most picturesque, where a walk through a covered bridge from the Norman Rockwell-like town of Woodstock leads to the trailhead. Prime time: foliage season (typically 1st week in October).
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK (Maui, Hawaii, U.S.) Though 27 miles of trails may seem modest, the varied landscape is staggering – from a sun-drenched path that drops into the volcanic Haleakala crater to the lush land of O’heo Gulch (informally called Seven Sacred Pools). This trek passes a series of pools (many more than seven) and through a highly concentrated bamboo forest before culminating at the dramatic 400 ft. Waimoku Falls.
KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK (Pakchong District, Thailand) Home to one of Asia’s largest untouched monsoon forests, the country’s oldest national park is populated with bears, tigers and one of earth’s few remaining wild elephant herds. Guided hikes are advised on some of the 13 tracks (many configured by animal activity) that zigzag the park. The best viewing spot for elephants: Elephant Crossing.
KOOTENAY LAKE FOREST DISTRICT (British Columbia, Canada) The setting is pristine – an alpine lake flanked by the rugged Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges. Negotiating fast flowing rivers and flower-laden meadows, most paths follow turn of the 20th century miner trails. Highlight: after traversing grizzly bear country and scrambling over innumerable boulders, the reward of Whitewater Mountain trail is an unparalleled view of the glacier topped peak.
NEW ENGLAND NATIONAL PARK (New South Wales, Australia) An ecosystem wonderland, the World Heritage park includes an Antarctic beech rainforest. Situated on the edge of the Great Divide is Point Lookout platform (5,000 ft.), which treats hikers to a Pacific Ocean view on a clear day. Bushwalking throughout the trek network varies; 1.5 mi. Eagle’s Nest circuit along a steep cliffside is one of the most dramatic.
As a freelance travel writer and photographer since 1988, Cynthia Dial has visited the world’s seven continents (most recently Antarctica) in quest of a good story . . . from getting her hair cut in Paris, horse whispering in Hawaii and touring Burma (Myanmar) only months after Aung San Suu Kyi’s release . . . to celebrating Summer Solstice within Finland’s Arctic Circle, hiking to Machu Picchu and visiting Molakai’s former leper colony atop a mule alongside a plunging cliff. In short, she experiences and writes about topics at the top of many readers’ bucket lists. Cynthia is author of the award-winning non-fiction book, Get Your Travel Writing Published. Now in its third printing, it was published in London, England, and sold worldwide (U.S. distributor is McGraw-Hill). Among her outlets are national and international newspapers and magazines including, Time magazine, Hemispheres, Destinations Weddings & Honeymoons, Shape, Dallas Morning News and the Toronto Star (which featured her around-the-world shopping column, Shopping Trips). She also contributes to TraveLife Magazine (distributed throughout Canada) and JustLuxe.com (a luxury portal receiving 2.1 million monthly hits). Cynthia’s radio experience includes World Footprints Radio (formerly Travel’n On) and the Travel Hub show on WorldTalk Radio, on which her No Passport Required segment was a regular feature. She additionally appears as a travel specialist on LiveFitMagazine.com. The travel-addicted writer admits that each time she steps onto an international flight, boards a train or steps onto a ship’s promenade deck to go to work, she congratulates herself on her career choice.
“Follow me around the corner and around the world as I share the ins, the outs, the good, the bad, the funny, the sad – all pieces of the traveling puzzle.” - Cynthia Dial