Leaving Acadia National Park in Maine felt premature, there definitely was more fun to be had in that northeast corner of the states, but this girl was ready to start heading west (FINALLY). This segment was over the course of a week, and to summarize immensely: drove approximately 1800 miles, hiked some mountains, crossed the U.S./ Canadian border twice, and hitchhiked for the first time.
New Hampshire was a busy 24 hours, starting with a pre-dawn hike into the White Mountains (perks of hiking super early, you usually have the mountain to yourself). Stopped at a laundry mat for the first time, an experience that possibly would have been very dull if not for the company of Dan & Rachel (@banana.van.adventures). I got to meet up with a friend from high school as her and her boyfriend were thru hiking the Appalachian Trail (which they’ve since completed, talk about an accomplishment!)
Vermont looked like it could be a really pretty state to delve into. Unfortunately, all I experienced in this state was a hefty ticket.
The full story:
I was driving up a mountain, and my GPS started re-routing me, which led to me looking at the map trying to figure out where the heck I needed to turn. Yes, I could have pulled over, but I was on my way to the Adirondacks to get a solid hike in and didn’t want to waste any time. I glance over to my sideview mirror randomly (since I can’t see out my rearview), see police lights behind me, immediately pull over, and begin to grab my license and insurance. A few seconds later, I’m getting yelled at to hold my hands out of the window, and see the officer draw his gun behind his back as he approaches my van. WHAT?!
To summarize: he had tried to pull me over further back (which I did not see), thought I was avoiding arrest, and treated me accordingly- him also being a retired Marine, you can imagine how that went. (I mean, it’s not like I really could outrun him if I tried, and I certainly can’t hide in a hightop van, but I totally understand and respect the fact that he was doing his job and has to be hyper-vigilante to ensure his safety). After a few minutes of talking to me, the situation calmed down, he believed I wasn’t a total renegade and canceled the backup he had initially called, and I may or may not have cried a good deal. Oh, and to top it, I couldn’t find my insurance or registration in the heat of the moment. GREAT. He gave me a ticket for being on my phone, talked to me about the hike I was still planning on (because after this ordeal I really needed some nature in my life to woosah), and sent me on my emotionally distraught way. Cool story, right? So yeah, that was my Vermont experience, moving on…
New York. Prior to this trip, I’d disliked pretty much every visit made to this state. Hiking in the Adirondack Mountains (specifically, the High Peaks Region) definitely helped reshape my former perspective of the state- because viewing the surrounding peaks from the highest mountain in New York (Mount Marcy) was definitely my kind of sightseeing! The High Peaks region includes all of the mountains in the area that are over 4000′ in elevation (which may not sound like much to my West coast friends, but keep in mind that you’re basically starting at a bit above sea level out there).
Spending 4th of July with friends hanging out on the water was pretty fantastic too- another aspect of this state I had not experienced prior, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity to do so. That’s something that I’ve been so blessed with on this trip, having friends include me into their lives for a brief time: it not only adds to the fun, but also makes this whole “solo road trip” thing much less lonely.
Niagra Falls, from both the US and Canada side, was precisely what I expected and nothing more. Really pretty waterfalls… with crowds of tourists, bustling shops, and congested traffic hugging both sides. While visiting the Canadian side of Niagra Falls I had my first “bad vibe” experience with a person (to be clear, this was an exception to the normal, for the most part I’ve encountered friendly and awesome people). I was standing on a wall to try to look over the hordes of people, and slipped off (no big deal, pretty typical for me). A guy grabbed my arm to help me, okay thank you for trying to save my balance… but then he didn’t let go. He strikes up a conversation, asking me lots of questions, while blatantly looking me up and down (I told myself he was probably just checking out the tattoo displayed on my leg to make it less creepy). Questions included where I was going, who I was staying with, etc… all while still having his hand on my arm. I’m a huge advocate of being an honest person- but in this moment, I lied SO hard. “I’m staying with a friend”. Even if his intentions were good, I believe you should always following your gut instincts, and in this scenario my gut instinct screamed “do NOT tell this guy you’re traveling in a van by yourself”. All in all, if that’s the worst human interaction I have this trip, consider me thrilled.
My phone decided to quit picking up service while in Canada, so I was feeling really isolated and a bit lost through this stretch of my trip. Prior to then I’d always been a fan of ‘disconnecting’, but I began to realize it’s much more enjoyable to disconnect when you choose to, and not be forced to do so for extended periods of time.
As I was driving through Canada, I picked up a hitchhiker on the side of the road- something I’d specifically promised not to do this trip, but no way could I pass by another solo female traveler and not help her out. Her name was Emma, age 21, the same name and age as my younger sister ironically. A day later in Canada, I went hiking to find some caves I had read about, and decided to walk to the trail instead of driving. This turned out to be a TERRIBLE idea, as my quick mental calculation of kilometers to miles was incredibly inaccurate, and left me walking 4-ish boring miles down a hot road in direct sunlight. I’ll gladly hike mileage that’s double, triple, even quadruple that distance… but that was the longest, dullest, hottest road I’ve ever walked and I didn’t care to continue doing so. I thought of how I had just picked up a hitchhiker the day before… and hoping for good luck, decided to go for it, and hitchhike myself. First time for everything, right? (Don’t worry friends, I don’t plan on making a habit of this, but gosh it was nice to get off that road!) Made it to the caves, explored a bit, then hitched a ride back down the road as well.
Dropping back down to the US border was a bit of a relief- mainly just so I could find service without relying on Tim Horton’s and their free wifi, and the reassurance of being closer to familiar roads and locations. Unfortunately I forgot about the toll to go back across, and had spent almost all the rest of my money buying strawberries and maple syrup from a roadside stand (priorities, what can I say)… so after a few embarrassing minutes of digging for change under my seats and at the bottom of my purse, I made it back across, entering the state of Michigan for my first time.
I know much more time could have been spent exploring this stretch of the drive, and I may have missed some grand adventures and cool sights- but really, I just wanted to make it west, and why fight what my heart desires if it’s not necessary? In the back of my mind I knew I’d rather spend that extra time in the mountains of the Northwest before the warmth of summer escaped. Writing this from Banff, Canada… I can confidently say this was a very good decision! A big focus with this trip is doing precisely what I want with my time, a trend that I think I’ll continue for life actually. Apparently we only get one life to live- so the more intentional I can be with how I live mine, the better.