Sometimes a city feels like too much. Tired with the pace of ego and endless distractions, we long for an island. There are many around Boston to choose from, and Plum may not be the most spectacular, but its landscapes are characterized by austere beauty, which some of its sweet and more sophisticated friends seem to lack. And it’s a real birds’ kingdom.
For many people, this is an escape from civilization. Located just an hour from the corporate clocks of Downtown Boston, on the north-eastern coast of Massachusetts (north of Cape Ann), it welcomed us with a misty, rain-soaked weather. The kind that soothes the souls in the way that rivers polish their stones. We were in the middle of a vast space, the air had a salty ocean smell, and small flowers were popping up with spots of color from the grassy green meadows. Sandy roads (asphalt ended some time ago) drew patterns along the river banks. The birds were circling over us.
Plum Island owes its name to wild plums that grow on the sand dunes. The island is only 11 miles long and is best known for the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, one of the "hottest spots" for American ornithologists. We were told that there are 365 different species of wild birds that you could spot here. Our favorites included piping plovers, tiny birds the color of sand. They move with funny jumps, and produce a characteristic soft squeaking whistle. Due to global warming, water turbines, drilling platforms, human recreation, and the activity of development companies, there are fewer and fewer piping plover nestlings on the East Coast.
After a few hours of wandering among the marshy meadows and bird watching, we eased and relaxed so that our street-smarts dropped almost to zero. Saturated with melancholy, but smiling, we returned home in the rain, which had caught us in the end on the southernmost tip of the island, on a blue beach covered with fog.
The day was perfect for a trip: not too warm, not too cool, sunny, soft light. Only two places on Earth have such a colorful autumn: New England and Japan. Equipped with a map entitled "Leaf Peeper's Guide", announcing autumn in the White Mountains "the brightest show on Earth", we set off early in the morning. The Kancamagus Highway or Kanc, as locals affectionately call it, is approximately two hours north of Boston, and in the peak foliage season this route often slows you down with traffic jams.
The Kancamagus is a New England classic and one of the main attractions of New Hampshire. With its numerous waterfalls and viewpoints it gets really busy on autumn weekends, but the mountain trails deeper into the forest are still wild. "No gas for the next 32 miles" - says the road sign in Lincoln. The highway corridor runs through the White Mountains National Forest - 750,000 cars are passing this way every year, but along the entire length of the magic highway there is nothing but mountains and forests. No houses, no coffee shops, shopping malls, country stores, gas stations, nothing. As the local Yankees say, this area is a real piece of Heaven, and only heavy rocks hold it from breaking away from Earth and floating back to where it came from.
The Kancamagus, waterfalls, covered wooden bridges, caves, elks, bears and Mount Washington (1917 m.n.p.m.) with its railway line running all the way to the top - are the greatest treasures of the White Mountains. The magic highway crosses the White Mountains National Forest from West to East and first climbs, and then falls so that for a few miles you can drive it almost without using gas. Rocky Gorge and Lower Falls are the most popular picnic and photography destinations.
"Kancamagus" was the name of the leader of one of the Native Americans tribes, which translated as "Fearless." His grandfather, Passaconaway, united seventeen Indian tribes in New England. The beauty and the spirit of the family endeavors is honored well by giving this name to the unique highway.
The construction of one of the most beautiful motorways in the USA took 22 years. If you plan lunch on the slopes and other stops along the way, it will take you up to three hours to drive through. In both cases, we are talking about time well spent.