Posted by Katie
We’re just over halfway through our time in the US – 37 days till we leave for Thailand – so things are getting a little more hectic as we try to make the most of our last weekends. It’s really starting to cool down now, though the locals ominously insist that this is ‘nothing’ and I should ‘wait till it really gets cold’. All the dead leaves are falling off the trees and blanketing the lawns of Connecticut, much to the dismay of all the homeowners, who are out there fighting a losing battle with their leaf-blowers every other day. Brendon and his bro have been doing their bit too, not that you can tell after the next gust of wind hits.
We’ve been going for some little hikes around Columbia. Brendon’s dad told us about the Connecticut Airline State Park Trail, which was originally part of a high-speed railway line from NY to Boston built in the late-1800s. The rail line ended up going under in the ’50s and now the rail corridor has been turned into a hiking trail through the woods. There are some viaducts there (now buried under sand used to strengthen the structures) that I still want to investigate, but we made a start on part of the trail a few weeks ago.
After a while we found the entrance to the airline trail and spent about an hour checking out the tall trees and surrounding farms.
When Brendon’s mum Linda was a kid she spent most of her summers staying with family in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The foliage up that way is also supposed to be some of the prettiest in the country so, at the start of October, she, Brendon, Brendon’s bro Dillon and I drove up there. We stopped off at the Kittery Outlet stores in Maine and stocked up on cheap clothing and sneakers, then grabbed lunch at Bob’s Clam Hut (est. 1956).
Next we drove to Portsmouth and visited Linda’s cousin Nancy and her husband, John, who live in a beautiful old house that used to belong to Linda’s and Nancy’s grandma. Afterwards we went out for the best dinner at The Rosa, where I got hooked on vodka sauce, and hit up a few local bars – The Rusty Hammer (where I tried my first and last ‘black velvet’ – Guinness mixed with cider – why?) and The Portsmouth Brewery (where the craft beer nerds among us nerded out) before finishing the night with a few more pints at The British Beer Company, where there is a full-sized stuffed African lion over the bar. Portsmouth was a really cool town – by the time we left we were all ready to move there, and we’ll be going back for another visit before we leave.
The next morning I fought a crippling hangover as we bundled into the car at 8am (Kearnses are morning people) and went to check out some places Linda used to hang out as a kid. It was a cool, overcast day and the holiday season had finished a few weeks ago so the beaches and streets were surreal and deserted.
We met up with some more of Linda’s cousins for lunch in Newburyport and then drove out to their awesome farmhouse where we got to see their horse, kittens and a crazy pheasant that they’d had stuffed after it flew through the window pane on some kind of death trip. Afterwards we climbed back into the car and I slept through all the scenic foliage we passed on the way home. Damn British Beer Company!
The following morning we went to visit Brendon’s friend Ben in Troy, New York State. We got a ride there with Ben’s sister Emily and her boyfriend Mike, and spent the car trip talking mushroom-picking and dark n stormys, topics close to all our hearts. Ben was turning 30 so the plan was to hike up a mountain and camp out for the night. Brendon and I (mostly Brendon) lugged two massive 80s-style sleeping bags, about 30 beers, some vege sausages and snacks up the mountain in the rain for about 3 hours.
Finally we reached the summit and settled down to camp. This was the view from the top.
I was a little alarmed when someone commented that there was bear shit next to the spot they’d chosen to set their tent up, but I tried to stay cool. A few Rolling Rocks helped. The most seasoned camper among us managed to get a fire going and we built a makeshift shelter out of a tarp and a stick, threw some snags on the barbie, cracked the beers, put on Snow’s Pandora station and had a great night.
The next morning we rolled out of our tents and packed up for the long walk back. Ben suggested we take the shorter route, which turned out to be a ski slope, back down the mountain so everyone packed up and headed off.
About halfway down the skies cleared and we got an amazing view of the autumn leaves.
An hour-and-a-half later, arses and shoes covered in mud, we made it to the road and headed to the Country View Diner for Bloody Marys and greasy diner food. Before heading home we stopped off at Ben’s place, which overlooks the Hudson River, and watched bald eagles landing in the trees across the river as we warmed up. This and Ben’s Chambord-soaked birthday cake made it all worthwhile.
We went back to the beach house to chill out for the next week, and found everything at Misquamicut wound down for the winter as well. It was so different from my first visit in summer 2011, when the beach and bars were packed with tanned tourists. Now the strip was windy and desolate and all the amusements were closed.
The oversized local seagulls had commandeered the GoKart track, using it to crack open any shellfish they caught on the pond.
We roamed around enjoying the ghost town feeling and stopped in for a few last beers at the Windjammer to see the season out.