Day 29: Lake Umbagog State Park, New Hampshire to Lisbon, New Hampshire
I left the campground on a foggy morning and drove through the stillness. On a two-lane highway in an area called “13 Mile Woods” along the river, the sky began to clear and the sun came out. Signs warned me to “brake for moose” and the trees were at that perfect peak when all the leaves have changed but have not yet started to fall. Wild turkeys pecked at the side of the road and men in hip waders stood in the river, poles flashing in the sun.
I saw a shop selling only moose antlers and wanted to stop, but couldn’t find a place to park or turn around. This keeps happening: I see a sign for a place I want to find out more about, but by the time it registers I have already passed by, the trailer pushing at me from behind. At least it keeps me moving, but I regret not seeing the moose antlers.
In Lisbon, a local recommended a nearby dog park in Vermont on private land held by a foundation for its late owner, artist Stephen Huneck. It was 160 acres of off-leash freedom. A small shop sold the artist’s colorful dog drawings, a chapel was decorated with messages to departed pets, and over two miles of trails wound through the forest. We stayed for three hours, and Chesky didn’t stop running the whole time. He paused from time to time for a drink, but otherwise was on the go playing with other dogs, exploring the grounds, or leading the way as I walked through the forest.
It made me love Vermont, and I plan to donate a portion of the proceeds of the book to this place and places like it.
Day 30: Lisbon, New Hampshire to Lake Placid, New York
The Champlain Valley of Vermont was fertile and verdant, and a flat and easy drive. When I crossed the lake into New York, it felt like coming home. I paused on the west side of the river at the visitor center and sat in the grass with Chesky and took pictures.
The shine was taken off the day a little bit as I drove through depressed and run-down Essex County. I passed mobile homes and peeling paint and cramped gas stations frequented by rusty and beaten cars.
The roads leading to the High Peaks area were steep and winding both uphill and down, and I stood on my brakes for long minutes and worried they wouldn’t last. Chesky rolled around in the backseat, moaning in annoyance as centrifugal force disturbed his nap.
After setting up camp, I went into Lake Placid to make a phone call and check out a green grocery store, which was as crunchy and overpriced as I expected. I have been to a few health food stores over the past few weeks, and they are a dying breed. The big supermarket chains have wizened up to the natural market and most of the items can be found in the bigger stores, and not at boutique prices. I paid $4.79 for a kombucha that cost $3.50 anywhere else, and decided not to drink any more kombucha.
Day 31: Lake Placid, NY
The hiking guide said Cobble Lookout near Whiteface Mountain was one of the best views in the Adirondacks, and I agree. We were the only ones on the trail, so I let Chesky off leash and he scrambled around in the woods and sprinted from place to place.
After a late lunch, we had a quick nap and then hiked along the Ausable River next to the campsite. It was a fast-flowing stream cascading down through giant gray rocks with a yellow-leaved tree shining in the sunlight at the top end of the chasm. The leaves here continue to amaze me.
In Lake Placid, I saw yet another bookstore cleaned out, its shelves gone, floors dusty and empty. It was right in the middle of town, on a heavily trafficked pedestrian avenue, yet it had still succumbed. I feel keenly the loss of a great American tradition of browsing. Steinbeck would be horrified. I knew bookstores were decreasing, but it’s been sad to see in person. I seem to be traveling at a tipping point, when a lot of stores have recently closed, leaving empty spaces.
Day 32: Lake Placid, New York to Watertown, New York
I used to vacation in the Adirondack Park as a kid, so today’s drive was familiar and filled with happy memories, but I never realized how remote or poor the Park was outside of the High Peaks before. I drove for hours through rough ragged country, the trees small and crowded with underbrush. Run-down mobile homes sat on unkempt lots. Car repair shops and gas stations were the only industry I could see. I stopped at a grocery store that carried standard American food in boxes and played the Doors way too loud.
I made some book recommendations to an interested party via email and he rejected the global affairs suggestions outright. I thought this a fairly typical American response: we mostly think about our own neighborhoods. It’s a wonderful benefit that Americans have the safety and privilege to do this, but I believe we need to pay attention to what’s going on in the world. Events elsewhere will affect us all eventually.
Day 33: Watertown, New York to Cayuga Lake State Park, Geneva, New York
Driving into Western New York is like going back in time: the trees here in the lowlands are still green as a result of the moderating temperature influence of the Great Lakes. It also seems as if every business plays 80s music.
I stopped at Syracuse airport to pick up my husband, and Chesky was beside himself with glee. We went to a dog park in the pouring rain, then to local supermarket behemoth Wegmans for supplies. We met up with a friend of mine from high school and her daughter and had a nice campfire and told stories until after dark.
The state park campsites were very close together and populated by campers playing the top hits of the 80s. In the non-electric sites where we stayed, several campers had thunderously loud generators. The electric sites were even more crowded than the non-electric, with RVs parked inches away from one another. The whole park smacked of profit-maximizing rather than natural enjoyment, but nonetheless it was still filled over the holiday weekend.
Day 34: Geneva, New York to Rochester, New York
My husband and I stopped in the affluent village of Pittsford, New York, and had crepes while sitting outside in the sun with Chesky. Our waitress was a true dog lover. With ground guides assisting, I parked the trailer in my aunt’s very narrow city driveway and then spent the evening with family.
Day 35: Rochester, NY
I caught up with family and friends, then shopped and went back for more crepes in Pittsford. My husband flew back to Washington, and I won’t see him again until December. This is my last family and friends stop until I hit Portland, Oregon, but Chesky and I are looking forward to some space and solitude!
The states this week, in two words:
VT: Dog park
NY: Brilliant colors