|Lake Memphremagog in Newport, Vermont|
The Northeast Kingdom has been heralded by poets, artists and outdoorsmen alike as one of the most peaceful and most desirable places to visit in America. In the opinion of this traveler, there is no grander place for fall foliage hiking and relaxation!
|Vermont Fall Foliage Hike|
After a very long three day weekend filled with work, I was so ready for this mini-vacation. I'm originally from California so I simply had to see if "leaf-peeping" was as amazing as everyone says it is. As I have been commuting to Portland (Maine) from my tiny town of Gorham, I'd actually been deliberately taking longer commutes just to enjoy the foliage. However nothing compares to the brilliant display of color that happens in Vermont. I could scarcely keep my eyes on the road as I was meandering down country lanes and county highways. To my delight, it seemed like I left all the RV's and car tours behind as soon as I crossed the New Hampshire-Vermont state line.
Jay Peak was my first destination. Its one of New England's 50 Finest and high up on my list of mountains I'd like to climb during my tenure in this part of the country. Although its mainly known as a ski resort, the famous Long Trail crosses its summit and this served as the trailhead. I hit the trail very early to enjoy the morning appenglow. There was just something so surreal about watching the sunrise through the fall forest. It really brought out the color contrast while on the trail. Taking a bad picture would have been impossible!
|Great views from the Jay Peak Trail|
Once I summited, there was a full, 360-degree panorama. From Jay Peak I could see Mt Mansfield in central Vermont, the Adirondacks of New York, Lake Champlain Valley, and even the mountains and plains of Quebec. One of the best views was the view to the northeast where I could see Newport Vermont and Lake Memphremagog which are both bound by some isolated mountains.
|View of Newport, Vermont from Jay Peak|
The prominent mountain on the left is Owl's Head located in Quebec, Canada
Hiking down was not disappointing though! With the sun hitting the leaves at a different time of the day, it felt as if I'd taken a different route down. I suppose me waxing poetic about the leaves further marks me as someone who is clearly not from New England. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that of the few hikers that I saw on the trail, all of them were native Vermonters who were just up enjoying the same scenery I was. I later made the determination that the Northeastern Vermont is where real Vermonters go when they want to "leaf-peep".
I've been to many small towns in America and this was one of my favorites. With the migration of people away from cities and the rise of rural appeal, many desperately cling to their small towns status amidst the economic growth. Some New England towns have since become small cities with an identity crisis (i.e. Bar Harbor, Maine and North Conway, New Hampshire). But even with the Northeast Kingdom becoming a somewhat well-known destination for 4-season tourism, Newport has retained its status as a down-home and genuinely-quaint community of friendly people. I was as captivated with Newport as I was with the foliage on Jay Peak
|Orleans County Courthouse|
The next day's adventure was in Essex County which is the most rural county in New England. Here lies a mountain of no importance to anyone but those who are climbing New England's Fifty Finest- Gore Mountain. It was very difficult for me to find any information on any trails in the area and it seemed as if there were none.
Fortunately the kind folks of the Green Mountain Club have a cut a trail though the dense forests and bogs. While its not a very wide or visible trail, it is enough to get you to the top and hence bag another one of the 50 finest. Other than that very reason, there is little motivation for the average hiker to climb this mountain as there are only fleeting views and no remarkable sights. Nevertheless, it was a nice hike which I had all to myself.
|Gore Mountain Trail, Vermont|
One must pay close attention to the "trail" as it becomes somewhat ambiguous at times. There are a couple of signs which mark the way and a few of those white markers but it would be easy to lose your way. Bring a compass or GPS! After a little over 4 miles I was standing on the summit.
|Just a walk in the woods!|
Those who know me well would probably not guess that I'm much into meditation, but I find that its hard not to do this while in such a serene place. I don't mean meditation in the "new-age-y" way that its often associated with. For me, it was simply just being on top of a lonely mountain and listening to the wind and few birds which provided me company. With all the business of graduate school and work, it was wonderful to take some moments and thank the Lord for all the blessings that come with living in Northern New England.
|An old fire lookout, long abandoned on the summit of Gore Mountain|
It was quite the move for me to go from the left-coast to Maine. I miss my 14,000ft peaks, high deserts, redwood forests and of course, the beaches. Then again, California doesn't have beautiful seasons, empty trails and 300 hundred year old small towns. To me, there's a lot to miss about California and a lot to love about New England.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!