Touring New England in the fall is a travel dream of just about every red-blooded American. It is something I’d wanted to do my whole life and I recently had a great excuse to do so when one of my best friends got married in the Green Mountain State. She arranged blue skies, 80-degree temps and according to her, she hand painted all the leaves. She did a really good job.
At the Burlington, Vermont, USA airport, they gave me a Canadian rental car. I didn’t think much of this until I was going down the highway at 100 and thought to myself, Wow! This Kia Soul handles really well at 100 mph. Then I realized I was going 100 kilometers per hour. Then I noticed a gauge telling me I was getting 7.4 liters per kilometer. I had no idea what that meant.
So I was a little annoyed at having a Canadian rental car. This is ‘Merica, Damn it! But then I got to touring the backroads of Vermont and my mindset changed, because I drove like a 100-year-old blind man with a car full of screaming children. I am used to driving in Alaska, with frequent turnouts, wide shoulders and virtually no traffic. Roads in Vermont are extremely narrow, the shoulder is about half an inch wide and there are never any turnouts. Whenever we’d pass a scenic lake, a colorful grove of trees or a photogenic barn, which was about every 100 feet, I’d slow down to look at it, drawing the ire of the line of cars that had amassed behind me. “I’m Canadian,” I’d say and give a friendly, languorous wave.
Canadian tags gave me permission to commit a multitude of sins. Is that a parking spot? Not sure, well, it is now. I’m Canadian! Whose turn is it now at this 4-way stop? I guess I’ll go. I’m Canadian!
Once I was driving down the road, looking over at a cemetery, debating whether to stop and take a photo, while simultaneously trying to read a road atlas and drink a coffee. A motorcycle passed me, the driver looked over and shook his head in disbelief as he cautiously passed me, allowing a wide berth, I might add. I am sure he expected to see a half-paralyed, blue-haired octogenarian but instead saw what should have been a capable young man.
Being Canadian was liberating. It gave me permission to drive like an asshole.
Aside from touring the backroads, attending weddings and permanently harming American-Canadian relations, we made time to go on a few hikes. I am a huge fan of national parks and at first glance there are no massive parklands in Vermont in which to explore. However, I realized that the entire state is a giant park, with excellent hiking trails, lakes and waterfalls scattered all over. The state is a true outdoor lover’s dream.
We hiked an excellent trail to Sterling Pond in Smugglers Notch State Park. The area was ruggedly beautiful, with towering granite peaks. The park was also crowded as just about everybody in the area woke up, put on hiking boots and made a pilgrimage to the area as if drawn by some magical force. The next day we drove to the Northeast Kingdom, hiked Mt. Wheeler and only saw five other hikers. I also made an early morning hike to Moss Glenn Falls near Stowe and was the only person there. The crowds can be avoided, I learned.
I am sure I will be back in New England again for some more leaf peeping. I managed to get some decent photos, but as you might imagine, on the days with clear blue skies I was busy with wedding activities, and on the days devoted to exploration and photography I was cursed with thin, ugly clouds. I will have to return and try this again someday, and I’ll be requesting a Quebecois rental car.
Where is your favorite spot for fall foliage?