East Coast Road Trip
Since I've been old enough to remember, the idea of a road trip has always fascinated me. On the Road, Endless Summer, Cycles South, and anything else embellishing a life of exploration kept my imagination working nonstop. Throughout high school and college my friends and I would make trips up and down the Mid-Atlantic coast and throughout New England, but it wasn't until this past spring that I was really able to send it on a multiple-day journey.
Beginning in early-April, my good friend Ahmad and I embarked on a pilgrimage from Brooklyn, New York to the Gulf of Mexico. The following are some photos and memories from the journey:
Day 1: Brooklyn, NY to Assateague Island, MD
Under torrentially soaked skies, and fresh off the six-hour drive from Burlington, VT, I picked up Ahmad in Brooklyn the morning of our departure date. Despite heavy cloud cover and precipitation, the jokes instantly began flowing with as much force as the rain.
After stocking up and waiting out the weather at a Wal-Mart in rural Maryland, we made our way to the coast. The beach at Assateague was flawless- we selected a camp site nested in the dunes, got a fire going, set up tents, and prepared a feast.
Day 2: Assateague Island, MD to North Bend Park, VA
After a soggy first day, we took the following morning to charge gear at the visitors' center, catch up on some emails, and map out the second leg of the journey. Warmth and dryness rose to the top of our wishlist, and with The Great Smoky Mountains in sight for day 3, we decided to make moves in that direction, keeping an eye on the radar as we progressed.
Upon crossing the super-impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, it was decided that North Bend Park in Boydton, Virginia would be the ideal move for night number two. We were right. The quaint park, tucked along the banks of the Roanoke River less than ten miles north of the North Carolina border, welcomed us with clear skies, a calm night and picturesque views.
Day 3: North Bend Park to The Great Smoky Mountains
When this trip was still in conceptualization stages, The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina were identified as an absolute must-hit destination. Day 3 became the day for that. We left Virginia in the morning and headed for Asheville, NC as a quick pitstop before trekking into the mountains to find camp. Asheville's mountainous beauty was outstanding, and after a couple hours exploring the town, we made the short drive to the trailhead.
A couple wrong turns placed us in the parking lot just as the sun was setting. Thankfully, we had a full moon and clear skies to illuminate the many "WARNING: Bear Territory" signs that marked our chosen trail. Upon arriving at the campsite close to 10pm and realizing there was another camper already asleep in their tent, we quietly set up camp, raised our food above the reach of any potential visitors, and settled on beer and granola bars for dinner. Neither one of us were anywhere near ready for the temperatures in the mid-30's that settled in that night.
The next morning's peaceful views far outweighed any discomforts the previous night challenged us with. The stream behind our tents ran clear as glass, and the springtime moss glowed with shades of green deeper than any Crayola scientist's wildest dreams. A group of equestrians passed camp as our coffee brewed, and the entire forest seemed to be pumped full of life as the sun rose over the surrounding mountains. We spent the entire morning soaking in the most unreal HD nature I had experienced in quite some time- a vast juxtaposition to the concrete jungle of Brooklyn we had left only 3 days prior.
Day 4: The Great Smoky Mountains to Twin City, GA
We were in no hurry to leave the Smoky's whatsoever. In fact, we probably spent a solid two hours exploring the area surrounding the campsite on our own before packing up and hiking back towards the car.
From the parking lot, we plugged Tampa into the GPS and agreed on picking a campsite along the route by mid-afternoon. Nearly six hours later, again as the sun was setting, we pulled into a small state park in the middle of Georgia. Our campsite with about fifteen feet to a dark swamp from which cypress trees rose dozens of feet above the dark waters.
After being told there was nothing in the water to worry about - only snakes and small gators - we chefed up the last of our food supplies in one final feast before the final leg of the journey.
Day 5: Twin City, GA to Gulf of Mexico
A burst of reality set in the morning of the anchor leg to the trip. We broke out towards the coast fairly early with the goal of making a pitstop in Savannah. Pulling up before noon gave us time to handle emails and other real-world reminders before a quick lap around town on foot. After that it was back to the truck for another six hours to the Tampa airport, the first time all week we had a defined deadline to hit.
Ahmad made it in time for his flight, and from there I continued south to meet my dad and drop off the truck in Naples. A few days of relaxing, fishing, and catching up on sleep set me back on track, and before I knew it I was back in Brooklyn.
The East Coast Road Trip was an absolute blast! Stoked to see what the next journey holds.