Back in the fall, My grandmother contacted me to ask if I would consider flying home for Thanksgiving, and offered to pay for my tickets. It was a sweet gesture, but I declined. I knew that I wasn’t ready to come home yet, even just for a brief visit. I knew I still had a long road of self reflection and learning ahead of me. I didn’t know how the story ended yet — so I wasn’t ready to try to tell it at the dinner table.
I read a book on a beach in California with the coastal redwoods to my back and the Pacific Ocean roaring before me. I took a solitary walk at the rim of Crater Lake in Oregon, finding my favorite shade of blue in its clear waters. I climbed for two days by myself near Sisters, Oregon after the presidential election, seeking peace and solitude among the rocks as my divided country slipped into chaos. I drove through a bison herd in South Dakota, laughing with delight as they licked the salt off my van with their rough tongues. I wandered through an ancient forest in North Dakota and saw the shortness of my human life foretold in the lines on the petrified tree bark. And then I arrived in Standing Rock, where I would meet and marry my husband Alex — a development in the story I could not even have imagined.
As February rolled around and the police presence around the protest encampment grew and our personal funds shrank, Alex and I knew it was time to go. And this time, I felt ready to come home. I felt I had walked a complete circle.
New York is not the wide open, dry, dramatic, romantic West. But it is pine groves and maple trees and snowy hills and silver woodland streams and tranquil freshwater lakes. It is the forlorn call of the morning dove and the squawk of the blue jay and the singsong of bluebirds. Alex, who had only experienced the North Dakota plains and America’s clogged Interstates at that point, immediately commented on how beautiful the unfolding landscape was. New York is home.
I’ve spent most of my life in New York, and there’s still so much I haven’t seen. I have had many followers comment on how they wish they could travel the country in a van like me, but they have jobs and kids and a house and feel like they can’t. To this, I say, adventure is what you make it. It’s closer than one may think — you don’t even have to travel to a different state to find it.
I want Alex to see as much as I can show him before we leave for Australia. Showing someone new around my favorite hidden gems allows me to see it for the first time all over again — through their eyes sparkling with wonder.
His reaction to standing at the edge of Ontario Lake at Sodus Bay was similar to the one I had the first time I stood there, watching the waves crash to shore from an endless horizon of water. Disbelief. Alex referred to the lake as “an inland freshwater ocean.” (Click on the photo collages to see a slideshow)
On the same day, we visited Chimney Bluffs State Park. In the chill winter weather, Alex and I had the trails to ourselves. We read the stories of squirrel, fox, and dog tracks in the snow on the path as we walked. Drumlin Trail ends at a spectacular vista point of Ontario Lake and the natural formations for which the park is named.
The weekend before I began a temporary, full-time job, we made a trip out to Ithaca, New York to visit Taughannock Falls State Park, and then continued beyond to Tully, New York. Hidden in the sparsely-populated hills to the east of the tiny town of Tully is a favorite hidden gem of mine — Labrador Hollow and Tinker Falls.
In the summertime, one can hike up a steep staircase and follow a trail behind the cascading water, and then continue up another set of stairs to stand atop the waterfall. Due to the ice and snow, Alex and I could not safely go behind the falls. But the view was still worth the trip.
I am ecstatic for our next chapter of adventures in Australia, but a little piece of me will always be here in the tranquil woodlands of Upstate New York, wrinkled with well-worn deer trails. What are your favorite local adventures?