Leaf Peeping in new england

Hello friends and family!

It’s been a while! I took a hiatus from this blog over the summer while I settled down for three months in Minden, working at an LCBO. It was good fun, but I got restless to be back out on the road. I don’t really know why. Last year it was a fun adventure for me and Eric, and then when all that fell to shit the adventure became more of an attempt to stave off the sadness, a way to push off the real world for a little bit while I picked up the pieces of myself. I had a good time despite the circumstances, but this year I want to do it all again, just happier!

Seeing as the border is still closed, I had to pull the same trick as last year and fly into the US while my American companion drove the van across the border. We reunited in Albany. This is a loophole that many Canadian snowbirds have to pass through, and for all I can tell it’s really just a boon for the airlines and the companies that have cropped up offering to drive your RV from Niagara to Buffalo for a large fee.

I’ve accidentally timed my arrival in New England with what the newspapers here adorably call “leaf peeping” season, when hordes of tourists come to gawk at the progression of summer into autumn. License plates from Washington, Florida and California are a testament to the drawing power of the fall colours, as is the abundance of corn mazes, pumpkin patches and apple orchards that cater to these visitors. Every overpriced chocolaterie, brewery and roastery has an attached gift shop to hoover up any excess tourist dollars. Stopping at a cider mill the other day I was tickled to see a coach bus (emblazoned with “Christian Bus Tours”) unloading a hundred elderly North Carolinian Christians all wearing matching green lanyards. I watched them shovel up great piles of maple and cider-themed products – souvenirs for those back home who have never seen a deciduous tree? Besides the commercial boon, all of the easier hikes around here are packed with people using canes and wearing white canvas sneakers (in the mud!) picking their way up and down slippery rocks. The tourists, perhaps hailing from the flatlands, careen wildly around the mountain roads, hogging the switchbacks and gumming up the hairpin turns and parking in the middle of the highway to take blurry photos of the hills. It’s mad.

Colours of Fall

That’s not to say the fall colours aren’t magnificent – sublime, even. When the sun emerges and touches the tops of the trees, it’s enough to turn your heart over. Photographs can’t do it justice, and even Bob Ross would struggle to replicate the patchwork of reds, oranges, purples, yellows and greens that make up the mountains here. It’s not just the leaves, though, that are at their peak (“PEAK PEEPING SEASON,” as a local newspaper put it). The mushrooms are thriving in the wet weather, too. I’ve been noting down dozens of types I cannot identify with their actual names, in the process of creating a new taxonomy: “ear wax” and “caulking” and “popcorn” and “spray foam insulation” and “white plates being spun on a delicate white stalk.” Next on my agenda is to buy a mushroom identification guide and become an amateur mycologist.

Mushrooms galore

I’ve spent the past two weeks hiking in the Adirondacks of upstate New York and nabbing the state “high points” in Vermont and New Hampshire (Mt. Mansfield and Mt. Washington, respectively). After a few days I started to feel the fundamental spookiness of New England. October, when the days feel so short and the Halloween decorations start to come out, is the perfect time for a visit. There’s an overall sense of secrecy here, of homes hidden in the forest, glimpsed only in patches of white seen through the trees. I’ve seen too many three-legged dogs to count. It feels like a bad omen. The bridges are covered, the mornings misty, the houses abandoned. It doesn’t help that most residences in New England resemble a Hollywood-style haunted house: high turrets, mysterious windows, shingled roofs, peeling paint, wraparound porches. A rocking chair out front, moving in the breeze. In town, most stores have impossible hours (closed after noon, closed weekdays, open only by appointment) that leave you wondering how they stay in business at all. It’s all very Amityville, very Salem. Hiking through a grove of hemlocks, you half-expect to stumble across a coven of witches practicing their latest spell.

View from Marcy Dam

I track the signs as I drive. There is an obsession with privacy here, freedom from government meddling. NO ZONING. NO TRESPASS. NO LANDFILL. A woman sits in a camp chair holding homemade signs at a small town intersection: NO MASKS FOR KIDS. BREATHING IS HEALTHY. As with every business in America, the labour crisis is at an apex. Every window has a HELP WANTED sign, some offering hiring bonuses and extra perks. There’s also an anger, a sort of “red-voter-in-a-blue-state” anger found outside the cities. TRUMP 2024 signs are common, as are Confederate flags (the universal shorthand for “a racist lives here”). CHILD RAPISTS BELONG IN JAIL, reads one of a series of increasingly aggressive signs outside of a sprawling compound. THERE COULD BE ONE CAMPED NEXT TO YOU. The flipside of that is the painfully self-conscious liberal signage. BLACK LIVES MATTER in front of every house (in an all-white town – this is still Vermont). YOU ARE WELCOME HERE. BELIEVE SCIENCE. And, of course, the telltale sign of a Democrat voter in New England: a battered Subaru plastered in hiking, skiing and sailing stickers.

It just feels so good to be back on the road, jotting down my observations and keeping my eyes open. Breathing in the new air and finding new things to appreciate and learn about. I don’t know where I’m headed next, but I’ll let you know!

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