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1,000 Miles Across the Northeast

The subtitle for this post is, The Thanksgiving That Wasn't. Well, no one's Thanksgiving was really supposed to happen, so I didn't feel too let down when my dad called me the Saturday before to say that he and my mom weren't feeling well. And I also wasn't too eager to show up anyway and take my chances getting sick. 

Adaptability has always been an important skill for travelling, but it's even more crucial in the time of COVID-19. Even though my travels have just begun, several of my plans have changed already. For example, I was hoping to visit a friend in Nova Scotia after leaving Maine but Canada still won't let us in. I was hoping to go to Turkey for Christmas and New Years but COVID-19 went bonkers and Air France cancelled my flight. And I was planning on being in Asheville right now (more on that next week) or Savannah as a backup, and yet I'm in West Virginia. 

Fortunately, when everything I need can fit in my car, it's not that hard to be flexible and simply go where the road takes me. And over Thanksgiving week, it took me on a winding trajectory through the northeast before settling in my current location. Should you find yourself on a general Bangor to Roanoke trajectory, here are some places you might want to stop.

New Hampshire

dog in forest near castle ruins
  • America's Stonehenge. I wasn't all that interested in the building ruins because something about it all felt artificial to me. What was fascinating was the astronomy walk around the property. The owners created a map that pointed out the old monoliths that aligned with the sun at certain times of the year. I suppose you'd have to be there a whole year to really appreciate it, but I have a strong imagination. Also the alpacas. Alpacas are always cool.
  • Salem Town Forest. Since Trotsky wasn't allowed to explore America's Stonehenge with me, we stopped at this little spot for some nature wandering. I love how so many New England towns I stopped in have their own little town forest. Like all the rest this time of year, the trails weren't crowded at all. Many of the trails were covered in crunchy, fallen leaves, indicating they were seldom used, which is just the way I like it.
  • The Common Man. Years ago I had a boyfriend who was from New Hampshire, and any time we went there to visit his family, we'd always go to The Common Man. It's a NH staple and for good reason. When I saw there was a location minutes from Salem, I knew what my dinner plan was. Dine-in please, COVID-19 be damned. I'll take the risk! The atmosphere and my dinner were everything I remembered, right down to the complementary cracker and cheese plate that came out before my dinner and the lovely chat I had with the general manager. 
  • Madame Sherri's Forest and Castle. I love the ruins of American aristocracy and if they are in a forest, all the better. After checking out what was left of this (technically French) singer and costume designer's party castle, my old dog and I did a slow hike through the forest up to Indian Pond, which was almost as beautiful as any alpine lake back in Colorado.


old building in cemetery
  • Mt. Greylock. I missed out on summitting the high peak in Maine since the trailhead was closed for restoration while I was there, so I wasn't going to miss out on the highest peak in Massachusetts. I didn't actually make it to the top, but I enjoyed several hikes from different entry points lower down.
  • Susan B Anthony Birthplace. This was a random find as I was driving to a hike. Drove right on by, hit the breaks, and turned around to check it out. An appropriate stop for November 2020 for sure.
  • Windsor State Forest. Another deserted hike, but I think that's because Google maps took me to the wrong entrance. I have learned on this trip that Google is as bad everywhere else as it is in Colorado. But it worked out. I hiked in among impossibly tall trees until the trail turned into an impassible bog. Then I went back up to where I came in and down another trail which purported to be a refuge of some sort. But I got a bit freaked out because it was getting late and we passed a house back in the woods and no one else was around and I've probably watched too many horror movies in my day.
  • Harmonic Bridge. I didn't hear any harmonies.
  • The Mount (Edith Wharton's House). Another destination I had no idea was around, but there it was, right on my way to Pennsylvania and before a quick stop at the original Alice's Restaurant in the perfect Berkshires town of Stockbridge. (Funny that the song lyrics go "it all started two Thanksgivings ago" and that's the day of the year I stopped by Alice's, but I digress.) Edith Wharton. What a property she had! The grounds were open for strolling, and in the big theme of this whole trip, I was the only person there for almost the whole time. She had a beautiful lake, a huge home, and even a pet cemetery. I'm quite content even not having been able to go inside.

New York and Pennsylvania

river and winding road
  • Hawk's Nest Highway. The small stone wall prevents this road from being as scary as the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado, but it was quite pretty, as was the whole drive through the Massachusetts backroads and along the Taconic State Parkway (which I'd never heard of despite spending more than two decades in New York State) I took to get here.
  • Grey Towers. More American aristocratic ruins, these now owned by the forest service. They host dinners and tea and other events in non-pandemic times, but much like The Mount, the property was still lovely to walk around.
  • The Appalachian Trail. I finally made it to a piece of this fabled trail. Just a tiny 1.5 mile stretch on the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border, but it happened. This was the first trail I was on since Acadia National Park that actually had a significant number of other people on it. I wasn't inspired to hike the whole thing and neither was Trotsky, but we enjoyed the little segment we did.
  • Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This hike was nothing worth mentioning...except I chose it entirely by chance and it happened to share a parking lot with a winery. And since I had friends up from Philadelphia for the day exploring with me, you know what we did after our "hike."
The Berkshires and the Poconos are some of those classic northeast American vacation spots that I'll probably never intentionally book a vacation to, and especially not in summer with the mobs of tourists, so it was nice to have the opportunity to check them out for a few days. Even with the trees stripped of their leaves for the winter, they were both lovely spots, though for my money, I'd pick the Berkshires every time. I also swung through Brattleboro and southern Vermont ever so briefly and might have that area on my radar for next fall now.

One small tip before I close, although AirBnB has the most options and (slightly) lower fees than VRBO, VRBO has much better cancellation policies. Most AirBnB monthly rentals give you only 48 hours for a 100 percent refund, even if you book several months in advance. This isn't a consumer-friendly policy, especially now. VRBO owners give much better terms, often with 100 percent up to three weeks before or 50 percent two weeks before. I also compare the listings on both sites, and I'm happy I found a VRBO place in January. You'll have to stay tuned to see where. 

dog in forest