noun (US) informal
a person who visits particular areas, especially in New England, to view the autumn foliage.
There was high anticipation for the 9th October. As I left the ground at Gatwick I was heading to the USA for the first time, further west than I had stepped foot before, the other side of the Atlantic, and visiting my two dear friends from Milford Sound, Jaemi and Allison.
Also, Fall is kind of a big deal here!
The journey north from Boston Logan Airport saw us cross the border into New Hampshire and make for Allison’s home on the coast, Hampton beaches. I clarified, what is New England? (Apart from a lot of borrowed names.. See Plymouth, Portsmouth, Lincoln, Boston, Ipswich) Its the collection of 6 states, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont. New Hampshire’s tag line demanded that we ‘Live Free or Die!’
The girls and Allison’s brother, Mike had been busy planning a busy week of activities which began at 5.30am the next morning. We were heading to La Fayette national park to hike Fracona Ridge. We drove along empty highways lined with dense foliage, pines and trees changing colour, every colour (sorry color) on the spectrum from yellow through vibrant red. Got an early morning donut at my first Gas station, American living ✅
We parked up at the campsite and layered up for the day hike, then almost immediately layered down again as we began the ascent through the forest. A mile in we were dripping wet with sweat. As we began to climb we left the sun behind and began into fog with occasional windows of panoramic vistas.
With 3 miles done we reached the first hut, but decided to dry off and wait for the fog to clear, so sat inside playing cards and enjoyed the first PB&J of the day. An hour later it was tough to prise ourselves on and convince our legs to continue the steep ascent to Mount Lincoln. At the top the wind whipped at our sweat, and occasionally a big gust would open up the view from a few metres, to miles of rolling hills in one incredible sweep. The fast moving fog would then move in to cover it all over again, teasing us on.
A ridge line took us on to the second peak, La Fayette. As we took rest next to a craggy edge, big winds stole away the cloud and infront of our eyes, it was as if we could see all of New Hampshire, although no signs except a winding road disturbed the rolling, multicolour tree cover of miles around. The continuing ridge line was now visable, winding along infront of us to the final peak, Little Haystack, yet our pace dropped off dramatically as photo taking increased tenfold.
The final part of the hike was a steep descent over rocky bed, strewn with fallen leaves. We dropped through the forest and emerged to follow the waterline, crossing the water several times and emerging at the foot of tricking waterfalls. Our tired legs carried us on at the promise of a relaxing evening.
We set up our tent with 3 air beds and a mountain of bedding, made some Mac and Cheese and then headed out for a hotel in the nearby town of Lincoln. In the cooling evening we sat outside in the hot tub, surrounded by mountains which would soon be covered in snow, resting our aching muscles and enjoying a glass of wine.
With drooping eyelids, we made for the pub, a comfy place in a rustic building to indulge in chocolatey, desserty goodness, then head back where we all slept for over 12 hours. I imagine this is what they mean by the American Dream.
In the morning we packed down and explored the lower regions of the park. The water has carved beautiful routes through the rocks, particularly at the Basin where water shoots down in to a carved out bowl, nicknamed ‘The old mans foot.’
We started the day properly with coffee and bagels, before heading back to Hampton. In the evening there was to be a cook out at the house. This, it turns out, is a BBQ and not some sort of competitive cook up situation. The house already smelt incredible as Allison’s mum, Pam was already preparing goodies of shrimp and steak, salad all to be finished off with s’mores.
Their house is a here storey town house across from the beach, outback it looks out over marsh land where cranes play happily, and on this mid October evening we could sit outside with a fire burning, meeting lots of the family friends.
Oh, I almost forgot a crucial bit. October is the month of pumpkin. Pumpkin spiced latte is just the beginning. Pumpkin beer is served in a glass with a cinnamon and sugar rim. So must festive goodness.
Another day, another state. We packed up the car once again to head to Portland, Maine, a cute port city with lots of breweries. On the way we called into Portsmouth. This smaller port city had a colonial style, its wide streets decorated with Halloween decorations differentiating it. Another borrowed idea is Yorkshire puddings, known as pop overs. With a whole restaurant dedicated to them, the Americans have added their twist to this British classic and were serving pop overs with all sorts of flavours, namely Maple butter. I’m on board. I was also introduced to Apple cider, a non alcoholic spiced apple drink, served almost frothy with pulp. This kind of cultural immersion suits me just fine.
Up the road in Portland we were going brewery hopping, starting with Allagash where we sampled four different brews. The changing leaves coupled with the warm sun made for the perfect fall day to sit in the sun playing cards.
Our little apartment was a perfect place to sample a few more local brews before heading into the town. First up we stopped at Maine Mead works to sample several mead brews. The honey based drink had been made into several blends of wine, and also lighter cider like flavours. Next, the more rustic Oxbow brewery had a factory feel and a wide range of local craft. After many character full bars, and pizza by the slice, Allison led us to a speakeasy. This fashionable bar was disguised behind a fake wall in the downstairs of an eatery. Once you pulled the wall, a security guard greeted you to the cash only bar. A modernised prohibition tradition, the bar had a lively feel to it, even more exciting because of its inconspicuous nature.
Our final stop in Portland, and it’s most recommended, was Holey Donuts. With a queue out of the door, this potato based donut comes with more toppings than you can imagine, and of course a festive pumpkin twist. Maple bacon came highly recommended, but I opted for a dark chocolate sea salt (and a lemon one, I’m fully embracing the American Dream.)
America sure was leaving a sweet taste in the mouth ahead of our last stop, Boston.