On the Road: Snapshots from a New England Summer

By NORA PEACHIN

This summer, one of our writers took a road trip around parts of New England before returning to campus. She took a journal and a camera with her.

Our adventure began with a text message sent in early April, suggesting an end-of-summer, sophomore year send-off trip. We had one week to travel, a limited budget and no ideas for a location. So we picked the obvious choice: road trip. Four months later, we found ourselves sitting on top of a mountain in Maine, snuggled up in our sleeping bags, watching the sunrise and sipping hot, bitter tea out of a thermos.

After spending the summer on campus, getting to know Vermont, I was ready to discover more of the Northeast. So, my friend Nancy and I made up a half-baked plan to drive from Middlebury across to Maine and back through New Hampshire. We bought a road map, chose a couple destinations along our route, and began counting down the days until our “junior,” as we branded it, road trip.

On the morning of August 24, we set off for Maine. Our first stop was Killington, Vermont, to pick up our friend Gabe. Forty minutes later, we passed over a deep gorge (Vermont’s deepest, in fact), and pulled over to explore. Standing on the bridge, we dangled our arms over the guard rail and stared down into the 13,000-year-old canyon. 

We hit the road again. We arrived in downtown Portland in the late afternoon. After hours spent on interstate highways, we found ourselves yearning for the ocean. We wandered past red brick storefronts and seafood restaurants advertising a seemingly endless array of lobster dishes. We headed down a pathway bordering the water, and slipped under a wooden fence onto a rocky stretch of beach, the perfect place for basking in the warm evening sun. 

We breathed a collective sigh of relief. For all of us, having grown up in New Jersey, the crashing waves and salty sea breeze smelled and sounded like home. Portland was a welcome respite before the anticipated grunginess of the coming days.

August 25: We stuffed ourselves and our already disorganized gear back into the car, and set the GPS to Acadia National Park. We took the scenic coastal route, stopping to purchase blueberries from a bearded old man on the side of the road and to fuel up on coffee at a combination diner and shoe store. 

It took us twice as long as the GPS had predicted to get to Acadia. The park was overrun with families fighting for parking spots and arguing loudly over who should stand where for vacation photos in front of picturesque mountains and lakes.

We drove the winding road around the island to the infamous Thunder Hole, where we were told the waves smashing against the rocky cavern would make a sound just like thunder. They did not, but we found a nearby cliff with a lovely view of the moon and the sea, where we cooked dinner over our camp stove. I was only slightly disappointed by the thunderless evening.

August 26: At 4 a.m., we were up and en route to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The car was running on empty. So were we. But we made it to the top.

We hiked through the dark woods, wrapped in our sleeping bags, until we found a secluded spot to watch the sunrise. We passed around a mug of thick mate, watching the sky turn pale pink and purple over the water.

Post-sunrise viewing, we drove one and a half hours to Orono, to meet up with another friend. After a (very) brief discussion, Nancy and I decided to break our vegetarianism for some Maine lobster. We decided it was an essential part of the quintessential Northeast road trip. We ordered at a roadside restaurant that serves an all-you-can-eat fish fry three times a week. When in Maine, we agree.

Stomachs full, we determined it was time for a hike. Our friend directed us to her favorite trail in Orono, where we trekked to the summit in the 90-degree heat. We reminisced about previous, similarly poorly planned camping trips as we took in the incredible views.

Next stop, New Hampshire. We left Maine in the late afternoon, driving back inland towards the White Mountain National Forest.

August 27: The White Mountains offered a change of pace with campgrounds and hiking trails much emptier than those in Acadia.

We started the day off with another hike, another spectacular view. We stopped at a stream, where we attempted to scrub off some of the grime that accumulated over the past few days without showers, sleeping in the back seat of my car.

We packed up the car a final time, and all piled in. Despite griminess and sleep deprivation, I left the White Mountains that afternoon feeling recharged and balanced — two feelings I was sorely in need of by the end of freshman year. 

As we headed back to Vermont, I had a strong sense of returning home. I loved the rocky coasts of Maine and impressive mountains and forests of New Hampshire, but something about the familiar rolling green hills and sprawling pastures of Vermont resonated with me upon my return, in a way that I had not experienced before.

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On the Road: Snapshots from a New England Summer