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Spring training: up close and personal

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Associated Press / February 16, 2005

NEW YORK -- Some travelers head south to the beach as winter gives way to spring. Others use their travels this time of year to seek out wildlife or blooming flowers.

But for baseball fans, a vacation in March wouldn't be complete without watching a favorite team gear up for Opening Day.

Spring training for major league baseball starts March 1 and continues through April 3, with training camps located throughout Florida and Arizona.

You can watch the Red Sox host the Twins in Fort Myers on March 3, or the Pirates against the Yankees in Tampa on the same day.

Other locations include: St. Petersburg, Winter Haven, Port St. Lucie, Sarasota, and Kissimmee in Florida, and Phoenix, Tempe, Tuscon, and Scottsdale in Arizona.

Most tickets are well under $20 and the stadiums are smaller than the teams' home arenas, so spectators have a more intimate view of the game.

Ardent fans may also be rewarded with an additional thrill usually unavailable at big-league showdowns -- the chance to meet the players, who tend to be more accessible during spring training than they are once the regular season begins.

For a complete list of teams, schedules, locations, and ticket information, log on to www.mlb.com or contact your local team or Ticketmaster.

Take a hike

NEW YORK -- Where in the world are the most breathtaking hikes?

Peter Potterfield answers that question in a new book, ''Classic Hikes of the World" (W.W. Norton, $39.95). The author traveled to every continent and came up with a list of his 23 favorite treks.

The book includes maps, photos, descriptions, and practical information about routes, seasons, permits, supply points, and transportation near each hike.

Locations for the 11 North America hikes listed in the book are: the John Muir Trail in Southern California; the Grand Canyon in Arizona; Chesler Park and Buckskin Gulch in Utah; Maroon Bells Circuit in Colorado; the Wonderland Trail and the route from Diablo Lake to Lake Chelan in Washington; the White Mountain Traverse in New Hampshire; McGonagall Pass in Alaska; the West Coast Trail in British Columbia, Canada; and the Rockwall Trail in Canada's Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

The Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Hawaii, is listed as a Pacific trek, along with the Routeburn Track on New Zealand's South Island.

In South America, Potterfield picked out the Fitz Roy Grand Tour in the Argentine Patagonia and the Torres del Paine Circuit in the Chilean Patagonia.

In Europe, he recommends the Kungsleden, in Lapland in Arctic Sweden; the Tour de la Vanoise Glaciers in the French Alps; and West Highland Way in Scotland.

Antarctica is represented with the Shackleton Crossing on South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic, and in Africa, there is Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Asia offers the Royal Trek in Nepal's Annapurna Region; the Everest Base Camp Trek in the Himalayas; and the route between Pakistan's Baltoro Glacier and the base camp for K2, the second-highest peak on earth.

California dreamin'

SAN DIEGO -- If you're planning a trip to California, check out these free visitors guides to help you create an itinerary and find accommodations.

The 2005 ''Monterey Land & See" guide covers Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur, Carmel Valley, Marina, and beyond. The brochure includes a trekking map listing tasting rooms for the area's booming wine industry. It also lists unique excursions and lodging, including an elkhorn safari, a chocolate factory tour, and a stay at an exotic animal training center. Call 888-221-1010 or visit www.montereyinfo.org for a copy of the guide.

In the new Santa Cruz County Official Traveler's Guide, you'll read about the old-growth trees in Big Basin Redwoods State Park; a seaside wooden roller coaster from the 1920s; and the seals, dolphins, and other wildlife found in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

If you're a surfer, hit the beach, but if you view surfing as a spectator sport, check out the Surfing Museum or stop by the bronze surfer statue on West Cliff Drive. For a copy of the guide, go to www.santacruz.org or call 800-833-3494.

San Diego is a perfect family destination, renowned for its zoo, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, and Balboa Park.

The USS Midway San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum opened last year, as did PETCO Park, the city's new baseball stadium, home to the Padres.

Upcoming events include the blossoming of bright ranunculus flowers at Flower Fields, March 1-31; ''Art Walk 2005," April 23-24, an arts festival in downtown San Diego's Little Italy; and a Mexican-style Cinco de Mayo event, April 30-May 1, in Old Town San Diego.

For a guide, visit www.sandiego.org or call 619-236-3101.

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