By Megan M. Seckman
|Michele Korfhage stands on Camel’s Hump Summit in Vermont. Photos by Michele Korfhage.|
When Michele Korfhage was 21, she found herself newly laid off, with a slice of time on her hands and just enough cash to do something about it. Armed with a pager, some camping supplies, an unemployment check, and a halfway reliable car, she took off on her first solo road trip. High atop the Smoky Mountain peaks, through the lens of her trusty camera, she realized this type of travel, independent and adventurous, spoke to her free spirit and calmed her wanderlust.
Decades later, Michele continues to travel alone, deep into the woods, under waterfalls, and through small towns along backroads and byways. It has been her goal for years now to experience all 50 states in this fashion. This story is about #42: Vermont, a place where Michele spent six days traversing the entire tiny, yet majestic state in her diesel VW adventure wagon (where she spent most nights sleeping in the back). A professional photographer with an artist’s heart and eagle’s eye, Michele was able to document 825 miles of backroads through the state, hike 20 miles, climb four mountain summits, and experience the awe of nine breathtaking waterfalls. Throughout the state, she captured a total of 2,130 magical moments through her lens.
|Michele takes in the scenery at the summit on Owlshead Mountain.|
“So far, besides Kentucky, this has been my favorite state,” Michele says. “The air is clean, there are no billboards along the highways, the water has a crystal clear 20-foot visibility. You can tell people take care of their bodies and their land — I didn’t see a single piece of trash in the whole state. Much of it looks untouched. It is free, gorgeous fun at your fingertips if you are the outdoorsy type.”
|Bingham Falls in Smugglers Notch State Park.|
Vermont, the first state admitted to the union (the first 13) after the ratification of the Constitution, is home to more than Bernie Sanders. Calvin Coolidge was born there, and Rudyard Kipling called the state home in the 1800s. Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, is the only state capital with a golden roof and no McDonald’s, and produces more maple syrup than any other city in the nation. The state boasts a whopping 180 waterfalls and is also the only state that has more dairy cattle than people. It is, as Michele concurs, the ideal place to get away and experience a solo road trip (despite the spotty cell service and steep mountain passes).
|Michele treated herself to some good food and beer at Five Corners Pub & Brewhouse.|
Michele researched Vermont extensively as it was one of the remaining northeastern states to mark off her list. She plotted her path along the backroads ensuring that she hit every corner of the state. Campgrounds, state parks, and hostels became her resting place each night as she trekked her way over mountain passes to reach the next great view. Along the way she purchased local delicacies such as aged cheeses and maple whip (an ice cream made with real maple syrup). All together, Michele’s six days of outdoor heaven cost her around $400: $165 in diesel, a few campground fees, one night in an incredible hostel at the base of Warren Falls for $30, an $80 dinner with a friend in Burlington, a few beers at a microbrewery, and some groceries. Almost a week for less than $500.
Solo travel is the perfect environment, Michele explains, to face your fears and really get to know yourself. When Michele travels with others, she feels she compromises too many of her desires in order to please her traveling partners. “It’s really ‘me’ time. I can wait for two hours to get one eagle to spread its wings as the sun sets — I can’t do that when others are around; I’m always worried if they are happy. It’s important for me to have a passion, and photography is my creative outlet; it’s when I’m most raw. Traveling alone allows me to face my fears, to recharge and reground myself, and helps me keep sane in an insane world. I get to be an artist — to truly be independent. I know that the only co-dependency that I have, when I come back from an adventure, is with my camera.”
Tips from the Solo Traveler if Visiting Vermont
Not to Miss
- Warren Falls (great swimming hole, crystal clear water)
- Camel’s Hump Mountain (Vermont’s third highest mountain and highest undeveloped peak)
- Lake Champlain
- Killington Peak: Michele wishes she would have had more time here. She hiked to the top but could not see the view due to the dense fog.
|Staying at The Warren Falls Inn is affordable and has visual appeal.|
Where to Stay
- Michele suggests the state parks, and loved Smuggler’s Notch State Park due to its amazing stargazing. Michele bought a map and charted her course noting the tents along the backroads that indicated campgrounds.
- If you aren’t a camper, then try one of the state’s hostels. Michele loved The Warren Falls Inn. Nestled at the base of Warren Falls, this shared room lodge was just what she needed — for $30 a night.
|Michele picks wild berries on the back roads of Vermont.|
- Bring trash bags and carry out your trash. The state is impeccable, so Michele was sure to keep it that way.
- Have 4-wheel drive or a car that can handle the mountain passes. Pack good water and hiking shoes.
- Pack extra water and food as there were many stretches that did not have access to any stores or restaurants. Don’t be afraid to road trip alone, but always have a map, a plan, and Michele packs a knife. “Safety is my #1 priority.”