Having spent the last while in relative isolation among the forested hills of the Appalachians, New Hampshire stood in pretty stark contrast. Nearing Concord, the seemingly endless forests began to recede, replaced by parking lots, bustling brightly-lit malls and lots and lots of traffic. Wooded, winding running trails were replaced by the shoulders of busy roads; quaint pull-off areas along the river were replaced by Sam’s Club or Walmart parking lots. Although New Hampshire boasts some beautiful natural areas and ski resorts, they all lie far to the north, which would add many hundreds of miles to the trip, so I settled for exploring the southern end of the state.
After locating a suitable area and planting a few trees, I continued on from Concord to Manchester. I spent a few days working in coffee shops or the cafe area of Whole Foods, and everyone I encountered was extremely pleasant and welcoming. Whenever I happened to in the parking lot I got more questions and comments than ever about Turtle and the green footprint-ed wheel cover; these interactions provided me with invaluable information for finding the best areas to plant the tree seedlings and to find running trails. Turns out that although busy with traffic and commercial areas, Manchester has innumerable small little parks, ponds and trails around the perimeter of the city, perfect for a little exploration, planting and running.
As I made my way south, I was driving down the road when I noticed one of those old, brassy historical monument signs headed ‘Robert Frost’. Intrigued, I pulled over to check out the tiny old white farmhouse. The rustic interior was adorned all over with objects behind glass showcases, manned by a bespectacled, owl-eyed older women, her face well-lined in such a way that hinted a life full of a lot of smiling. I introduced myself, and the ensuing short conversation made it very clear that the Robert Frost connoisseur was tired from showing around a group of school-aged kids on a field trip earlier that day, and not exactly in the mood for another tour (100% fine with me; I’ve really never been much of a history buff. Or a poetry buff. But who doesn’t like Robert Frost?). The conversation eventually ran across why I was there, and I politely asked if I would be disturbing the historical monument if I planted a few trees around the property. ‘I don’t really know, I’d have to ask the owner’, she replied. Then she leaned in and said softly, with a little twinkle in her eye and a sly grin, ‘But no one would notice if ya did’.
So, I’m not a liberty to say for certain, but if any Blue Spruce pop up along the tree line in the next few years at Robert Frost’s old place… I had nothing to do with it.
One night, as I snoozed in the safety of the RV lot behind a Cracker Barrel restaurant, I was jolted awake by flashing blue and red lights and a sharp THUD THUD on the window. I woozily rolled out of bed and opened the drivers side door, blinded by the glare of a flashlight in my face. ‘What are you doing here?’, a voice behind the piercing beam of light demanded.
‘Sleeping’, I replied. I pointed to the signs clearing denoting ‘RV and Bus parking’ just across the lot.
‘Oh. Well, they don’t allow people to park here overnight anymore. Had problems in the past’.
Great, I thought. How was I supposed to know that? Disgruntled, I handed over my license, and sat waiting for the officer to return and demand to search through the bus.
A few minutes later he handed back the license, and in a much friendlier tone said ‘Well, guess you’re not a serial killer or on the run-away. What brings you to New Hampshire?’
‘I’m traveling around the country, running 50 miles and planting 50 trees in every state. It’s an environmental outreach project.’
Even through the dim, yellow glisten of the old-fashioned streetlamps lining the lot, I saw the officer’s eyes light up. He began babbling excitedly about how he thought it was great I was taking time while I was young to see the world and make a difference, and launched into a whole slew of his own travels with his sons and trying to instill in them a love of the outdoors. After well over a half hour of these stories, as he seemed to be in a good mood and unlikely to reprimand me for my camping spot, I offered him a couple of the Blue Spruce seedlings to plant with his kids, under the condition that he email a picture of where they were planted and how they were doing. I wrote down my information and slipped it into the sleeve with two trees, and his face lit up even more. I asked him if I was going to need to leave, and he responded ‘Nah, you’re not hurting anyone. You go get some sleep now, and have a good night’.
The next morning I woke up refreshed despite the previous night’s antics, and headed north towards Portsmouth, NH. Seeing the total reversal of attitude triggered in the officer by Green Footprints had bolstered my resolve even more; just spreading the word and talking about ways to preserve our amazing planet not only gets people thinking about living more sustainably, it gets them excited about it. And that’s the key; no one is going to follow through on a resolution if they aren’t excited about it. If we don’t take steps in our own lives to ensure the longevity of our environment, then future generations won’t be able to have the adventures like the ones relayed to me by the officer, or like the one that Turtle and I are on now. For everyone reading this, I challenge you to take one step this week to make your habits more sustainable. You can check out the ‘Go Green!’ tab above for tips and ideas for how to do this; there are hundreds of things to do, so for now, just focus on one. Make sure to comment below and on Facebook what your resolution for this week will be! Bye for now, and we’re headed north to Maine!