Over 15 years ago I found a mountain hideaway just outside Bennington, VT where I stopped to spend the night after visiting Mass MoCA for the very first time on a summer road trip. I can't tell you how fate led me to that spot, but I inexplicably felt a soul-deep sense of belonging to the area and have returned every summer like a pilgrimage to my own heart. I adore the arts and culture throughout the Berkshires and Vermont, and I feel at peace among those green mountains, small towns, and swimming holes. It pulls me like a personal magnetic north. I recenter myself there, and nature plays a huge role in this.
The Long Trail section of the Appalachian Trail crosses the Molly Stark Byway just a few miles east of Bennington, and one summer I pulled off into the parking area to hike some of the Appalachian Trail up to Harmon Hill because I read it offered a great view onto Bennington. And it does! I took the photo above from a clearing there. Don't ask me why, but I didn't look at the trail head map before I started. A big walking stick was available, so I grabbed it and began climbing a VERY steep stone staircase uphill. And climbed. And climbed until I couldn't hear traffic anymore. Always looking up for sunlight to break through the trees ahead, I kept thinking the top must be coming soon. I climbed until I didn't know how long I'd been climbing, but I was more stubbornly curious than my legs were tired (barely). At long last, the steps ended, and I caught my breath and continued along a mercifully easy, flat trail, where I passed my first through-hiker (someone walking the entire Appalachian Trail). She asked if she was close to "the thousand steps." I said I didn't know because it's my first time on the trail, and she seemed confused. She told me it's the hardest part of the entire trail, and didn't I just climb it?
Later, I learned I'd climbed ONE MILE of steps up to Harmon Hill, elev. 2,325 feet. The lesson of that day has never left me. If I'd known the difficulty, I wouldn't have even begun. I wouldn't have thought I could physically do it. It's astonishing what we can accomplish when we don't tell ourselves we can't.
As you consider where you might travel this summer, the entire Appalachian Trail has something for everyone. I'm not sharing the location of my secret mountain hideaway, but I can tell you there are lovely, luxurious hotels all along the way to recover with pampering after your own personal revelations outside in nature! I can help you plan an epic road trip including: Atlanta – Great Smoky Mountains – Asheville – The Blue Ridge Mountains – Charlottesville – Gettysburg – The Poconos – The Hudson Valley – The Berkshires – The Green Mountains - The White Mountains – Moosehead Lake.
And there's no shortage of amazing sites along the trail! Visit the opulent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC - the largest privately owned house in the country. Brush up on your American history with a private, historian-led guided tour of Charlottesville, VA, home to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the University of Virginia. Learn about Amish life with a local family and even try milking a cow, and pay homage at Gettysburg with a battlefield guide. Check out my website for Hudson Valley ideas, and you already know I can steer you right in the Berkshires of MA and Green Mountains of VT. I can even tell you where to find my favorite drive-in that shows double feature new releases at dusk. Stay in a grand, historic hotel in the White Mountains of NH, and celebrate in Maine at the other end of the trail.
Venture to sections of the Appalachian Trail near you, or take a longer road trip where you too may discover someplace new that pulls at your heart, where you feel found, in the natural world.
Contact me for country roads to take you to a place where you belong!