Travel Resolutions

First, we look back at the year that was. At the beginning of 2013, we asked a few friends for their travel resolutions. Here’s how they did.

Brooke

I’ve in large part kept my resolutions. I wanted to travel alone, and in June I drove 7.5 hours for a solo trip to the Apostle Islands National Seashore at the northern tip of Wisconsin, where I camped out alone in a thunderstorm, and then kayaked for three days to one of the outer islands with the great guides at Living Adventure outfitters. Despite the fog, chill, and rain, it was a really fantastic experience. But note to fellow travelers, if you think it’s weird that your spouse hasn’t returned your “I’m safe” voice mail, it could be that they never got it, and that as a result, they may think you’ve been kidnapped and spend the whole night wondering if they need to call the local police and send out a search party. Just saying.

My other goal, to poop in the woods, technically wasn’t met, but the intention behind it was. John and I did a short backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Eastern Sierras. We hiked 10 miles up the side of a mountain to camp out at one of the Sierra’s many beautiful backcountry lakes, Thousand Island Lakes. Unfortunately, with 50-mile-an-hour winds making it nearly impossible to light our stove, and a snow storm moving in, we stayed only one night, and let’s just say I’ve got some hardy bowels that seem to know when there’s no modern plumbing around. I made it out without digging a cat hole. And I’m okay with that. It would have been pretty cold, dropping trow on that there mountain.

Chris

I did make it to Hawaii, and I did see a live volcano. I did not renew my scuba certification, which I just completely forgot about. I didn’t make it to Paris, but I did buy the ticket it 2013, so I would call that half credit.

Claire

I resolved to visit four new places, and I did: Cozumel, Spain/Morocco, various locations in Wisconsin, including New Glarus and the House on the Rock, and the ruins of Gary, Indiana.

I resolved to get OK with riding a bike, and I… didn’t. I bought a bike, and I love riding it on paths, but I’m still too afraid to ride on the streets.

I resolved to make Go Go Go better, and we wound up cutting back our publication schedule. That’s OK. Life happens.

And now for 2014.

Brooke

My foreign travel experiences have been pretty easy–London, Mexico, Belize, and various Caribbean locales. Costa Rica was the least similar to the US, but I speak decent Spanish, so it was still familiar in many ways. This year I want to plan a trip to a country with a language I don’t know, with a culture I haven’t experienced. Right now, northern Italy’s Dolomites (part of the Alps) is looking like the target, with its extensive hiking and unique blend of Italian, German, and Ladin language and culture.

Claire

The sure thing: A new continent! I’ve already got a ticket and hotels and etc. for Argentina in a few short weeks. Have I mentioned how warm it is there? It’s going to be so warm.

blossoms

A medium sure thing: I want to see the cherry blossoms in Brooklyn again. I missed them last year, because I had just gone to Spain and Morocco, which I guess is a good reason. But when I say I missed them, I don’t just mean I skipped the trip; I really felt the lack of them. I had no idea, fifteen years ago, the first time I saw them, that I needed that particular slice of peace and beauty so badly. But as soon as I stepped into the park, I knew I was in the right place, and I knew I wanted to be there as often as possible.

And, for the least-sure thing: I’m feeling the itch for a road trip. I have no idea where I’ll find the time to fit it into the year, but the idea of a drive down to Nashville or even up to Canada, come summer, is very appealing.

Laura

I’m really looking forward to a trip to Maine in September, and I’m going to make an effort to plan small trips and stick to them. Maybe even take a trip by myself (gasp!).

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Breaking Into Acadia National Park

[Leslie Griffin is an editor living in New York City, where nature is hard to come by. She travels to national parks and other hiking destinations whenever the opportunity arises.]

When my boyfriend and I set off for Acadia National Park in Maine during the government shutdown, we had no way of knowing that such a disruptive event could make for such an amazing vacation, but that’s exactly what happened.

We had read some articles that made it sound like people were hiking in the park despite the shutdown, but we were still skeptical and were fully prepared to come up with a plan B if push came to shove. Much to our delight, upon checking in at Aysgarth Station, our lovely B&B in Bar Harbor, the host informed us that not only were people hiking in the park, the rangers were truly looking the other way—as long as you weren’t committing any flagrant violations. With this assurance and some excellent trail recommendations from the host, we set off to break into Acadia.

”Breaking in” might be a bit of an exaggeration. We parked on the side of the road outside one of the many entrances along with about 20 other cars and then proceeded to simply walk around the sawhorse barriers. Voila! We were in. There were no cars inside the park since the normally clogged Park Loop Road was off limits. This meant that hikers and bicyclists had the run of the place—truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Photo 1

Deserted Park Loop Road

We hiked the breathtaking Ocean Path first, which hugs the coastline along the Loop Road and opens up to numerous stunning views. There were a fair number of people here, which made us think the park would have been packed under normal circumstances. At one point, however, we were by ourselves on a side road, and a ranger suddenly appeared out of nowhere in an SUV. I thought, “This is it. We’re going to jail.” My boyfriend thought, “Maybe this ranger can help me open this dumb wrapper on my Clif bar.” Nothing. He drove by without so much as a glance in our direction.

Eventually we split off onto the Gorham Mountain trail and left most of the people behind. The trail wended its way up the mountain across flat boulders dotted with dwarf conifers and bushes. We opted to take a detour through the Cadillac Cliffs, which our guidebook described as a moderate hike. We quickly discovered that “hike” was a misnomer and “scramble” was more accurate. There was no trail to speak of, just giant rocks we had to climb over in a generally upward direction. We saw no one here or on the rest of the Gorham trail as we ascended the mountain and only encountered a few people at the top. The view of neighboring mountains, fall foliage, and the ocean was stunning enough to make anyone want to linger.

Photo 2

The view from the top of Gorham Mountain

Late in the afternoon, we drove to a different section of the park to get to Jordan Pond, one of the most picturesque trails there. The trailhead would normally have been accessible by car, but because of the shutdown, we had to park about a mile away in a quaint neighborhood and then walk in to access the trail. A small price to pay given that we basically had the place to ourselves. There were a few people near the start, but most of them didn’t continue onto the trail itself. By the time we started hiking around the 3.3 mile loop, we were alone. The sun was going down, so the trees on the opposite shore were ablaze with color. The water was absolutely still, providing a perfect reflection of the trees, and later, the rising moon. We stopped at one point so my boyfriend could set up a shot with his tripod, and it occurred to me that I had never experienced that kind of silence in my life. There wasn’t a single sound: no water lapping, no birds chirping, no leaves rustling, nothing. Just absolute and unforgettable stillness.

Photo 3

Jordan Pond

The following day we decided to hike up Cadillac Mountain via the south face—one of the most popular trails in the park. We passed some slow-moving German hikers at the beginning but saw no one else for the first couple of hours. Eventually, an older couple from Boston caught up to us. The wife commented that this trail is usually like “Grand Central Station,” so it was a great one to be doing during the shutdown. The reason for the trail’s popularity is clear: amazing unencumbered views once the trail leaves the woods and continues onto flat boulders that make the area seem a bit otherworldly.

Photo 4

Hiking up Cadillac Mountain

At the summit, there’s a large parking lot that’s normally filled to capacity with cars and tour buses that access the top via the Loop Road. That day it was completely empty. Rather than the usual hundreds, there were maybe 20 people at the top. We saw more people on the descent and ran into the couple from Boston again near the end of the trail. The wife seemed to be lingering as her husband continued on ahead. As we passed, she said, “I’m trying to make this last as long as possible, because once we get in the car we have to drive home.” We knew exactly how she felt.