Mr. and Mrs. Leaf Peeper

Sean and I are big fans of traveling in lieu of gift-giving for our anniversary: two years ago we visited D.C., and last year we hopped across the pond for a couple of weeks in Paris and London. But this year, between moving and enrolling in grad school and starting new jobs, we didn’t really have the time or the funds for a big getaway.

But hey! We live in New England now — there are a million and half things to do up here, and each one of them is a quick car ride away. And, as luck would have it, New England’s (arguably) most popular attraction coincides pretty perfectly with our anniversary. So this year we opted to celebrate 1095 days of wedded bliss with a weekend-long fall foliage tour.

Preparations for this trip (as for seemingly all our New England getaways) were extraordinarily light. We picked a couple of routes to explore (Route 100 in Vermont and the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire), booked an affordable hotel, Googled a few notable stops along the way, and set off.
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The weather on Saturday was…not ideal for leaf peeping in Vermont. Thick fog obscured our views of harvest-colored mountains, and the spitting rain (mixed with the occasional torrential downpour) made it darn near impossible to get out and admire the scenery. But in a way, the wet, chilly weather added to the ambiance.
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Plus, tromping through puddles on a chilly day wearing wellies and flannel is juuuuust about as autumnal as it gets. And we found plenty of ways to escape the rain and still have an authentic Vermont experience.

We realized as soon as we crossed the state line that, in addition to rolling pastures and adorable alpine ski resorts, “authentic Vermont experience” also includes no cellphone reception. We had to rely on some very old-school road trip resources — like street signs and other people — to find things to do:

  • We spotted a sign for a winery and veered off-route at the last minute to sample robust reds and local cheeses.
  • We got an awesome restaurant recommendation from a couple at the winery and spent two hours at the bar drinking Vermont-brewed pumpkin beer (with the New-England-style rim!) and watching the Texas A&M game.
  • We found the exit for the popular Vermont Country Store and perused flannel pajamas and rows and rows of maple products.

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By the time we got to our hotel — a ski lodge with a Saint Bernard motif — the sun was setting and the rain had picked up. So we snagged Scrabble from the hotel’s game closet, popped open a bottle of Cab and sliced up the cheese we’d procured from the winery, turned on ESPN, and settled in for a cozy night of triple word scores and college football upsets.

The weather was decidedly nicer on Sunday, so we set off early for New Hampshire’s White Mountains. But not before stopping at a working maple sugar shack/diner for breakfast.
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Just 20 minutes after we’d stuff ourselves full of pancakes, we spotted the Longtrail Brewery and went in for a flight. (Someday we should all get together and argue about IPAs. Me against the rest of the world — unless someone else out there with a delicate palate wants to join the resistance.)
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Our last stop before we made it to the mountains was Woodstock, Vermont. Not one, not two, but THREE people recommended that we stop there, and I’m so glad we did! Sean suspects that every single movie that’s ever been set in New England in autumn has been filmed there. Seriously: quaint shops, leaf-speckled streets, a town square — it was idyllic. Not to mention, it had these:IMG_3611_e
We made it to the Kancamagus Highway in the early afternoon, and the conditions were absolutely perfect for some spectacular views:IMG_3649_eIMG_3645_e
Once upon a time, I wanted to be the kind of person who owned a summer home on the Maine coast. After this trip, I’d like to amend that slightly: summer beach house in Maine, winter ranch in Texas, and fall cabin in Vermont.

Howdy, southern New Hampshire!

Sean and I went on our first New England excursion last weekend! The trip wasn’t really planned — not much is these days, other than our weekly moves between a hotel and our family friends’ house to stave off homelessness — but it was a very exciting departure from the “unpack, repack, watch Netflix” holding pattern we’ve gotten so used to.

We moved back in with our family friends on Saturday after a week of hotel living, and they invited us to go with them to New Hampshire the next day. (By the way, how great are our friends? They’ve not only taken us two vagabonds in for way longer than we’d intended to stay, but they’re also showing us around our new stomping ground. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching — friendship jackpot!)

We took the scenic route from their house in east-central Mass to southern New Hampshire. The winding back roads were lined with tapped maple trees and old clapboard houses. Every so often we’d pass wide open, snow-covered pastures or see ice fishermen trudging across solid lakes. It was the New England of history books and wall calendars. The New England worth moving across the country for.

The first stop on our New Hampshire tour was the Cathedral of the Pines, a privately-owned memorial site/open-air cathedral with breathtaking views of Mount Monadnock.
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Our next stop was Perkins Pond on the other side of Monadnock. The stop gave us a more up-close look at the mountain, and is supposed to be even more stunning in the fall.
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We passed a sugar shack on the way to Perkins Pond, and on our way back we stopped to poke around and sample some honest-to-goodness, straight from the earth New Hampshire maple syrup.
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It was a little mom-and-pop operation — very remote, nothing fancy — but the owners were excited that we stopped by and eager to explain the process.
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As soon as we arrived we were offered bottomless(!) shots of maple syrup and ushered inside the shack to watch the freshly-drawn sap boil its way to breakfast-y perfection. The syrup we sampled was buttery and smooth, almost caramel-like. It was a far cry from the 100% maple syrup I’ve bought in the store, and not even in the same family as Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s.
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The entire trip took about four hours. We left just after lunch and were home in time for dinner. (Can you imagine? How many northeastern states does it take to fill one Texas? I’d be interested to know.) Later that night, as we were getting ready for bed and discussing the day’s adventure, Sean sighed, “I love New England…” The spell has been cast, y’all. And the thing is, this isn’t even New England at its best. These states are still clawing their way way out of a brutal, unglamorous winter. The next seven months are their shining moment. Gentlemen, start your engines.