Fall is here and with it comes a childhood dream: New England Foliage. The first time I expressed my desire to drive around New England in the fall, my husband declared me crazy. But over the three years we have been together, the theme has cropped up again and again. My Aunts, my grandmother, my cousins, extra-extended family, etc. all praising the beauty of a northeastern falls that they have seen or stating their dreams of seeing them someday. This ledmy husband to change his stance and declare my entire family crazy instead. Apparently, I am not to blame for my strange travel dreams as they were engrained into me by my kin.
Despite the questionable mental state of my relations, my husband is always obliging to my whims if he can see even a hint of the adventure to which I ramble. Frustrated with constantly working, my dear partner demanded a vacation. We packed up the car and the toddler and drove north into the heart of the leaf-peeking season, driving through every New England state and stopping to see some old friends scattered at either end of our route.
We drove north past the Blue Ridge Mountains that line our corner of Virginia, into the Poconos where we stopped for lunch with an old friend from New Mexico. We continued through the Catskills of Central New York state and slept that first night in a little town nestled at the intersection of the Taconics, the Berkshires, and the Green Mountains.
Bennington, Vermont is the final resting place of American poet Robert Frost. I woke early, as I would do every day of the trip, too excited too sleep lest we miss something for lack of time. A drug my two boys, tall and short, out of bed and to the Old First Church to stand at the feet of my favorite childhood poet.
We then drove north through the Green Mountains of Vermont, stopping at a van parked on the rural roadside to buy maple syrup from a talkative middle-aged man. Always in hindsight I am shocked by how few people find things like this normal? In Oregon it is perfectly common to stop at a roadside stand to purchase hazelnuts and marionberries on the way to the coast. The syrup, by the way, is incredible!
On our second day we had lunch in Hanover, New Hampshire on the edge of Dartmouth College purely by accident. We needed our daily gas stop only to find ourselves downtown on campus following my iPhone’s google maps to the nearest station. So why not stop and eat? College towns are singularly identical. Nowhere else do you get the vibes and styles of people than near a campus, and yet every campus feels the same.
Our final stop of the day I planned to mirror the first and we found ourselves at The Frost House. It was here that Robert Frost wrote his most famous poems. His two story white house is nestled in a long valley. The woods behind are starting to encroach in an effort to reforest the area that, when Frost lived there, was entirely meadow. The most surreal moment of this trip was watching my already road-weary toddler play in Frost’s yard, chasing leaves and swinging a stick while he jaunted about the yard.
With hours to go, most of which were in the dark on the back-highways of Maine, we ended our night in Bar Harbor at a $40/night 80s-era motel and prepared for the intended highlight of our trip: Acadia National Park, for which I have created a separate post.
We made our way south after Acadia with every intention of stopping in Portland, but changed our plans on the road. We swung temporarily east off our path to stand in the shadow of the great Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s house, for whom we gave our son his middle name: Lawrence. Then we continued on to Boston, deciding that we would rather see what the area had to offer lest we don’t make it back.
Once again, I awoke early, too excited about our first stop (after IHOP, of course). I had been planning a trip to Concord, Massachusetts since we moved east just to stand on the banks of Walden Pond and imagine myself as my favorite, albeit ridiculous, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau… for whom we named our son’s stuffed elephant. On a completely different note, I think my husband and I may be nerds with too much an affinity for naming things after obscure historical figures. At one point we seriously considered naming our son Nicola after Nicola Tesla, but decided against it later.
There I stood on those favored banks, forever etched on my memory that rainy day in October. The trees splashes of gold and rust and rouge and my son knee deep in the waters of Thoreau Cove. I laid on my belly to take pictures of the ruins ofThoreau’s cabin, breathing in the scent of pine needles and decomposing leaves. My fingertips chilled by a slight fall breeze and my hair dampened by drops of water from the trees.
My husband cannot know how I felt at that moment. He does not read in any capacity that relates to my own habits. He only knows Thoreau because he is my spouse and looked upon the lake as just a nice lake. But I soaked the place in through my pores. Storing the memory of it in my cells. In my veins and my bones. Walden Pond.
At that moment I did not know that my reverie would continue throughout the day as we entered Concord and stood upon the very bridge where theMinute Men changed the western world forever with their shot heard around the world. Through a line of trees, I could see the Old Manse built by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather. A house that has stood hundreds of years. Longer than our country was a country.
Down the road was Emerson’s house, once filled with books and companions. And just a few blocks over was the crown jewel of historic houses: Orchard House. I couldn’t help myself and my inner romantic took control of my faculties. I left my husband in the car with my napping toddler for over an hour to take a tour of this house.
This house where Louisa May Alcott penned her Little Women. Where transcendentalists gathered as friends and chattered and laughed with one another. Eighty percent of the furnishings in the house belonged to the Alcotts. It was real and old and living history. It was a singular moment in my life.
And after all of this, we still had time for Boston and to see the historical highlights there. We still gazed upon the USS Constitution, drove around Bunker Hill, and stepped through the doors of Faneuil Hall. And we ended our day with a view of the Old North Church shining brightly in the dusk sky as we drove to Rhode Island to sleep.
We woke with the vacation behind us and a long drive home ahead, but the most important moment was still to come: the reunion of old friends. We strolled along the streets of downtown Mystic, Connecticut with a friend I haven’t seen since high school graduation. Filled with apprehension about such a meeting, I did what I always do: I dove in head first. She was amazing just as I remember her being. Her husband was kind and easy mannered and her children were adorable. My husband, ever the quiet guy, had whole conversations with them! My only regret is that I wish we lived by them because, like any good old friend, we were able to pick up where we left off regardless of it being twelve years later and not having been fully formed people before. I am missing that connection in my life, with all my friends scattered over the country.
There is no better way to end a trip then crawling, exhausted, into your own bed with your head full of a life lived to it’s fullest.