Travelocity video contest awards winners $5,000 voluntourism vacation grants

Travelocity knows you work hard. That’s why the online travel company would like to give you a $5,000 grant to go on vacation.

Calm down now. You have to work to win your just reward. And by work, I mean you or a team need to submit a winning video. Then you have to use your five thousand smackers to take a Signature Trip volunteer vacation offered by Travelocity’s voluntourism partners. Examples include doing trail work in Alaska with the American Hiking Society, developing community projects in Tanzania with Cross-Cultural Solutions, working side-by-side with scientists on an Amazonian riverboat with Earthwatch Institute, or living in a children’s home in Peru with Globe Aware. Oh, and there’s one more catch. The top 25 finalists will be determined based on the number of online votes they receive from social networking sites.

Since 2006, Travelocity’s Travel for Good® program has been annually awarding eight, $5,000 volunteer vacation grants to American applicants. Travel for Good’s main objectives are green hotels and voluntourism. As Gadling has previously reported, voluntourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the travel industry.

If hands-on, experiential travel is up your alley, go to The site will walk you through the easy process to upload your video. You can then promote your video on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and send it to friends and family for voting.
Each video should explain why you deserve to win, and which Signature Trip from Travelocity’s voluntourism partners inspires you. Volunteers and grant winners also have use of the site’s free blogging platform to share their experiences.

The top 25 finalists will be determined by 50 percent audience support and 50 percent quality of their videos. There are two contest cycles per year, and Travelocity employees will select four winners from the top 25 finalists from each cycle. There are two deadlines for entries: March 31 (voting is April 1-May 31), and July 1-September 31 (voting October 1-November 30). Get filming!

A December hike along the Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail is a spectacular hike along northern California‘s Pacific Coast. The trail is roughtly 25 miles in length, running from Shelter Cove to Mattole Beach, and is only accessible by a few narrow, twisty roads. It is a rugged, lightly traveled route that alternates from Pacific beaches to mountain passes, with more than 8000 feet of elevation gain over the course of its length.

For many trekkers, the Lost Coast Trail is one of the top hikes in all of North America, and it was with that in mind that filmmaker Ryan Commons and three of his friends, set out to trek the challenging route over a seven day period earlier this month. The result is the great video below that captures the essense of the Lost Coast from it’s chilly beaches to its sprawling mountain ridges.

For remote hikes it is difficult to beat the Lost Coast Trail. As you can see from the video, it is aptly named and a worthy hike for any backpacker looking for solitude on their next adventure.

[Photo credit: Rick McCharles via Flickr]

The Lost Coast Trail from Ryan Commons on Vimeo.

Favorite hiking spots near Madrid

While most people come Madrid to sample the cuisine and see the art museums, Spain has much more to offer. Just an hour from the capital Madrid is the Sierra de Guadarrama, a chain of rough mountains wreathed in pine forest. While the strange rock formations of La Pedriza are perhaps more impressive, the Sierra de Guadarrama is the favorite getaway spot for madrileños because it’s so easy to get to and provides a variety of hikes for all fitness levels. Even out-of-towners will be able to get there and navigate the trails with no trouble.

The hikes start at the little town of Cercedilla, which can be reached by bus from Madrid’s Moncloa station or by train from Atocha station. Both take about an hour. If you want to stay overnight, several hostels and pensions offer cheap accommodation and the little local restaurants serve up traditional food at small-town prices.

First stop should be the visitors’ center just 2km (1.2 miles) uphill from the station. Here you can get a free map (in Spanish, but easy to understand without any linguistic knowledge) and advice on current conditions. There are also the usual nature exhibits to tell you a bit about the land you’re about to see.

From here you can branch off onto one of many trails. Cercedilla is at the head of the dead-end valley of Fuenfría, surrounded on three sides by the Guadarramas. Unlike many trails in Spain, the ones here are actually well marked with color-coded spots on trees and rocks. Various hikes go up the sides of the valley to viewpoints on the surrounding mountains. There’s also a dirt road that loops around the valley high enough to give excellent views and easy access to the peaks. The sides of the valley are sheltered by pine forest, but once you get up towards the peaks you’ll be exposed to the elements. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, and if the weather is at all cool don’t forget some warm clothing. Wet weather gear is necessary sometimes too!

Beau Macksoud of the English-language hiking group Hiking in the Community of Madrid recommends Los Miradores, marked as the orange trail on the map.

“It’s not super difficult but has great views. It’s about 9 km (5.5 miles). Also, if you want to change your path for something more challenging, it crosses with other routes.”

%Gallery-106170%The trails range from short loop hikes you can do in an hour to all-day slogs that will test even the most fit. Most have a marked change in elevation that will get your heart pumping, and don’t forget to explore the bottom of the valley and its sparkling stream.

The Sierra de Guadarrama played a key role in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. The forces of the Second Republic, an uneasy coalition of liberal, socialist, communist, and anarchist parties, defended Madrid in a long siege against the fascist and Catholic forces of General Franco. The mountains were the city’s northern bulwark, and you can still see a string of concrete bunkers that protected the passes and valleys of the Guadarramas. Most aren’t fenced off and are safe to explore.

The Guadarramas are the scene for most of the action in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, considered by many to be the classic book on the war, although George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia gives a more realistic view of what the war was really like.

So if you’re headed to Madrid, set aside the wine and art museums for a day and head to the mountains!

Park service dedicates ‘trail of time’ at Grand Canyon

The National Park Service is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon today as they dedicate a new trail that has been hundreds of millions of years in the making. The official ceremony will take place at 2:30 PM local time, with an informal hike along the trail taking place between 3:00 and 5:00 PM. The event is part of the park’s celebration of Earth Science Week.

The new path has been dubbed the “Trail of Time” and it is designed to be an interpretive walk that focuses on the amazing geologic processes that are on display in and around the Grand Canyon. The new exhibit follows an existing trail, but incorporates some interesting new elements that help to define the magnitude of the natural forces that are on display to visitors. For instance, there are now brass markers every meter along the route, with each of those markers representing 1 million years of geologic history. Viewing tubes have also been added which help to put into context where certain visible rocks fall along the Earth’s historical timeline.

The Trail of Time can be hiked in two different directions. If visitors start at the Yavapai Geology Museum they can walk backwards in time, slowly approaching the oldest rock in the park, the Elves Canyon gneiss. This ancient formation is more than 1.8 billion years old. On the other hand, hikers who begin at the Verkamp’s Visitor Center will actually move forward in time, approaching the youngest rock in the Grand Canyon the Kaibab Limestone, which is a mere 270 million years old.

The Grand Canyon is one of the best places on Earth to view first hand the impressive geological processes that go on around us on a daily basis. Those processes are so small that their effects can only be seen over the course of millions of years, but in the Canyon, more than a billion years of Earth history is open to examination, giving a all a very humbling glimpse into the powerful forces that are in play on our planet.

For more information on this fun and educational new trail, check out the virtual Trail of Time by clicking here.

[Photo credit: Micahel Quinn of the NPS]

7 of the craziest, most dangerous, most dizzying hikes in the world (VIDEOS)

Hiking is, of course, a common outdoor sport and leisure activity, enjoyed by millions of people every day. However, there are several hiking trails throughout the world that only the bravest would attempt. They’re dangerous and are only meant for the most adventurous of people (or the craziest!). The videos below provide a glimpse into seven of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails. Pull on your gloves, your hiking boots — and your Brave Hat! — and check these out.

A hike through Spain‘s El Caminito del Rey (“The King’s Little Pathway”) is not for the faint of heart. In fact, the narrow pathways, incredible height, and sharp rocks below are the stuff of nightmares. I don’t know how the person filmed and walked at the same time.

Hiking takes on a completely different look at Mount Hua, which has been called “the world’s most dangerous hike” This is the perfect hiking spot for those who have dreamed of hiking on old wood chained to the side of a mountain thousands of feet in the air. The clip gets really nerve-racking at about the 2-minute mark (not surprisingly, that’s where the occasional expletive slips out…).

If caves and wild life are your thing a hike through Tennessee‘s Mount LeConte may be just what the doctor ordered. Just beware of the bats and the really steep inclines. Fortunately, this video has a really nice tour guide explaining all the dangers and annoyances.

Machu Picchu offers beautiful sights, stunning flora, and one of the steepest tumbles — I mean hiking trails — in the world. Don’t. Look. Down.

Angel’s Landing in Utah is one of the narrowest hiking trails in the world. Those who are afraid of heights or small spaces may want to skip this incredibly sheer hiking trail.

The Philippines‘ Mount Pinatubo attracts adrenaline-junkies from all over the world. The views are stunning, the paths are steep, and… Oh yeah!, it’s a volcano that erupted in 1991. Be sure to bring your rock climbing equipment, and your lucky rabbit’s foot.

Just for grins, here’s another clip of Mount Hua, further proving this hike is best reserved for those who love taking the stairs. [Ed’s note: instead of “Beautiful Day,” the most appropriate U2 song should’ve been “Vertigo.”]

Now, let’s go hiking!

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