Tucked away in the north east corner of the USA are the New England states and these were to be the locations of our search for the fall colours. The USA has 51 states and to really confuse us foreigners it also has states which are in fact not real states but are states of several states, are you still with me? That is right New England State consists of 5 states; Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhodes Island and Connecticut, and we planned to travel across them in search of the fall colours.
Thousands of people flock to gaze in wonder at the annual changing of the leaf colours in the New England State. It is nature at her best, a riotous display of browns, yellow, red, crimson, orange and maroon splashed across the mountains and valleys. It is the time of the year when the trees are in their glory as they remind us of the winter ahead.
We drove into New York State and headed south to the heavily wooded 6 million acres Adirondack Park. It is bigger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemite National parks combined. When I hear New York I think of a bustling city not of wilderness and yet this area is one fifth of New York State’s total area. Hopefully it will be forever wild. (As a note New York State is not part of the New England States)
Tucked into the mountains is Lake Placid, a picturesque village on Mirror Lake and home of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics. We wondered through the village before heading north along the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Hwy to a campsite on Lake Champlain. The following morning we took a ferry across the lake and entered Vermont.
Staying off the main roads and highways we found ourselves traveling along a dirt track amongst the fall colours before arriving at the Green Mountain National Park. We crossed our first “covered bridge.” Covered bridges were made famous in the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Bridges in Madison County,” which I loved but the book is better.
We kept moving, traveling faster than planned, as the weather was cold, windy and raining. I decided I needed to buy a hot water bottle as I was so chilly. Tom said I was becoming too soft and would never make it to Ushuaia if I didn’t toughen up, but he did try to find me one. We entered the drug store and he asked the young girl if they had any “hot water bottles.”
She gave him this confused look and asked him, “What is that?” Trying to explain a hot water bottle to her he told her it is to put hot water in.
“Like a thermos flask?” she asked and when he said no, she asked him what he does with it.
“I take it to bed with me,” he replied at which point she raised her eyebrows and walked away. Oh yea the days of electric blankets and central heating have taken all the romance out of camping.
We entered New Hampshire and headed for the White National Forest, New Hampshire’s most beautiful wilderness area. Driving the Kancamagus Highway we were treated to spectacular scenery and despite the cold, wind and rain I survived. I loved the covered bridges although I could never figure out the reason for making them covered. The Albany covered bridge built originally in 1857 was packed with photographers while we were there. The U.S. Forest Service modified the structure in 1981-1982, replacing the wooden floor timbers with steel but it hasn’t lost any of its charm.
After travelling many miles from the Arctic Ocean we finally stood on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Maine. Reaching the Atlantic was a milestone for us. We had crossed the North American continent and were reminded that the last time we stood on the shores of the Atlantic we were in Africa looking across the world to America. It was time to celebrate with a Maine lobster meal. Sitting in the Lobster Shack alongside Two Lights State Park we had a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean and Casco Bay. Life was good and the lobster delicious and the weather dramatic.
With the USA election days away, election posters replace the leaves alongside the roads in the urban areas in Maine. We are watching the USA mid term elections with interest and their election process seems so different from Canada’s. There is much more passionate debate and the locals seem more involved in their politics, when compared to the laid back Canadians during their elections.
Unfortunately due to the continuous rain and fog we decided to leave Maine and head towards Boston.
As we travel across the Americas we are drawn to locations and areas where stories have been written, battles were fought and history made. Our curiosity about the men and women whose lives are weaved into the fabric of this nation draw us towards them, and so a visit to some of America’s pivotal historical and famous locations are for us a fascinating journey. Massachusetts is rich in American historical events and so we headed for Boston to explore the city and its surroundings.
The coastal town of Salem is best known for the infamous witch trials of 1692 which resulted in the death by hanging of nineteen men and women accused of being witches. In addition, one 80 year old man was crushed to death by heavy stones which were placed on his body; seven others died in prison, and the lives of many were irrevocably changed. The hysteria which swept through Salem resulted in 200 people being accused of being witches. It makes for fascinating reading. Why it happened has been analyzed for 300 years, many questions still remain unanswered.
As we drove into Salem it became apparent very quickly that the little town was packed with tourists, all eager to explore the witch’s stories, have their futures told to by the psychics, their tarot cards read and any other activity associated with Halloween. We strolled amongst the tourists and the local children who were all dressed up. Today there is a festive atmosphere seeming to exploit a tragedy that occurred so many years ago, a mixture of macabre fascination of the hanging of innocent people and festivities of ghosts and goblins of today.
Children paraded in delightful Halloween customs, participated in pumpkin carving competitions, had their faces painted and got lost in the maze made of hay bales. It was a fun day for all.
We headed for the tunnel into Boston only to be told by the lady at the toll booth we could not take the propane bottle into the tunnel. We asked if we could turn around, but she said no that we would have to pull over and wait for a State trooper. So that was what HC with a slash through it means, no propane bottles and other hazardous materials allowed in the tunnel. The trooper was helpful and said the danger was if someone rear ended us so offered to follow us through the tunnel. We entered Boston under a police escort no siren however, just the regular back seat driving advice to Tom from me.
Boston is a major centre of American history, culture and learning. It also has more sites related to the American Revolution than any other city. The city has linked these sites on the “Freedom Trail” a 4km walk through the city.
It is a fascinating walk starting in the Boston Commons with a wonderful view of the Massachusetts State building which was completed in 1798.
A hopscotch like mosaic embedded in the sidewalk makes the site of the first public school and I remember so well playing that as a little girl.
The old State House now dwarfed by the towers of the financial district was the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770.
Paul Revere wasted no time in capitalizing on the Massacre to highlight British tyranny and stir up anti-British sentiment among his fellow colonists. His famous “Midnight Ride” on horse back to warn the patriots of the British intent to march from Boston to Lexington to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams and seize weapons stores in Concord. Today his statue stands in the Paul Revere Mall a hero of his times.
Boston has some very innovative and creative street art such as this bronzed ‘garbage’. Had us fooled for a brief moment.
We stopped at a memorial garden to honour the men and women in the Armed Forces and the civilians who have lost their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. It is a touching site with dog tags blowing in the wind and reminder that wars continue even today.
We wandered through old burial sites, the final resting place of many legends of American history. Many gravestones are the only historical record of ancient Bostonians especially women and children. I was fascinated by the headstones called “Death’s Head” with non religious symbols and the meanings which are variable but it is generally assumed to remind the viewer of the inevitability of death or just how times flies. Some were simple others more ornate but most included a skull.
We stopped at Faneuil Hall Marketplace for coffee where people have been meeting since 1742 and often referred to as the “cradle of liberty.” On top of the building is a grasshopper weather vane gilded with gold leaf, the copper weather vane weighs eighty pounds and is four feet long. Apparently knowledge of the grasshopper was used as a test to determine if people were spies during the Revolution period. The people would ask suspected spies the identity of the object on the top of Faneuil Hall; if they answered correctly, then they were free; if not, they were convicted as British spies. See it is important to know your facts!!
We walked across the bridge to the USS constitution a ship which earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” for the resilience of her oak hull against canon fire during the war of 1812. As we stood below deck on the ship I could only imagine how grim it must have been to be a sailor in those days and I was glad we did not have to travel the world in such conditions.
We strolled through Beacon Hill once the most sort after neighbourhood until the wealthy moved to Black Bay. I loved the area, delightful homes decorated for the fall season. I love the way the Americans decorate their homes.
Our visit to the President John Kennedy Library and Museum was very interesting and we learnt a lot. What a fascinating man, how does one person achieve so much in life? I decided that the one of most important attributes of someone so successful is excellent time management and organizational skill. No matter how smart you are if you can’t organize yourself and manage your time you ain’t going anywhere fast. I resolved to get more organized and better manage my time. It is hard to believe that he was assassinated 48 years ago, time certainly has moved on but his legacy is still so much alive.
Arriving at Plymouth we visited the Mayflower 2 a replica of the 17th century ship, the Mayflower, the ship that transported the Pilgrims to North America in 1620, another story of hardship with so many dying in the first winter. It was on these shores that the first pilgrims began their lives and so began the history of a new world.
Feeling overloaded with historical facts and information it was time for a break and so we headed for Cape Cod. I had romantic visions of this part of the world and I was not disappointed. It is beautiful, sand dunes across the beaches of soft sand, grass blowing gently in the wind on the shore and trees with the magnificent colours of fall. Off the main highway we passed through quaint little villages with charming homes and gardens and cute little stores and past the cranberry patches being harvested We hiked through parts of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park which was set aside during Kennedy’s presidency as he loved this area and Cape Cod is home to the Kennedy estate. It is stunning and I decided I could quite easily live in this part of the world. We breathed the fresh air and were reminded once again how we love the outdoors.