Getaway? I was about to say vacation. Who am I trying to kid? I’m retired!
Actually, when I was dutifully employed, “vacation” usually meant hunkering down at home to concentrate on my literary enterprises and revision, or maybe even a reading orgy, or taking off to a family or Quaker gathering. T’ain’t quite the same as going fancy free. Still, I managed to get away on some memorable trips.
In this list, I’m ruling out daytrips. Gotta be an overnight, at the least.
Here are ten I remember fondly, sometimes even from repeated visits.
- Appalachian Trail. Backpacking when I was barely 12 was an ordeal. One that’s everlasting deeply imprinted in my soul, especially the mountaintop of blooming rhododendron at the end of our week. What I recall most is the discovery that if you go far enough away from the trailhead, the litter disappears … and then you’re in a whole new, pristine, world.
- Fort Warden. The location itself didn’t overwhelm me, even though it overlooked the point where Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca come together. I think that was because of all the remaining fortifications. But such incredible waters! The former World War II naval post had become a Washington state park for the arts and hosted a weeklong workshop with some of my favorite poets. Nearby Port Townsend gave us some fun bars for our evenings. The former base is featured in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
- North Cascades National Park. My three times of camping there and a single mountain climb with views of Mount Shuksan included finding gold dust in my dishes as I washed them in a mountain stream that swelled with melting ice during the day. I had no idea how many tall peaks rise in British Columbia till I crested the summit that day and looked north.
- San Francisco. It was the southernmost point of a two-week vacation that included North Pacific Yearly Meeting sessions in Olympia, Washington, and camping in the North Cascades. My then-wife and I spent two nights in our sleeping bags in the San Francisco Friends meetinghouse (I think we paid two dollars a day). My introduction to fine Japanese and Thai cuisine came just around the corner. Why haven’t I returned?
- Chicago. Repeatedly, each one leaving vivid memories. The art museum alone is worth the trip, but I’ve also spent time high in the Chicago Tribune tower with Pulitzer-winning journalists. The last few visits were helped by having a lover residing in Hyde Park.
- Greensboro, North Carolina. It was a genealogy-research trip that then swung northeast to Philadelphia and Brooklyn. I need to go back and see more, now that I know what to expect.
- Lake Sebago region. The year before I remarried, I spent a week in October in a rustic cabin on the shore of Crescent Lake in Maine. Cold nights required a wood fire, that sort of thing. Learned to canoe there, too. Guess it was my Walden Pond experience.
- Cape Cod. Since the kids’ grandfather lived in Wellfleet, we had a great excuse to visit. It was an easy walk to the ocean and a short drive to Provincetown.
- Providence. We found a great deal on a luxury downtown hotel, one where we looked down on the dome of the Rhode Island state capitol. The mattresses alone were enough to make us not want to go anywhere else, but we did enjoy innovative cuisine and easy public transportation. Our strolls along the river and Colonial neighborhoods were enchanting. And then there was our tour of the Slater Mill and the industrial revolution.
- Eastport, Maine. To put this in context, we had earlier visited Camden in dead winter and were delighted. But that’s a tony, crowded tourist hive each summer and way out of our league. Ditto for another B&B up the shore in Belfast, when we attended the Common Ground Fair. Our trip to Eastport on a Memorial Day weekend, however, was more inviting. The unpretentious, working-class easternmost city in the U.S. simply felt like the real thing. And yes, the ocean views and fresh seafood were spectacular.
Where would you suggest? Any great memories?