Day 8: Stopped by Border Patrol

I’m sat writing this on a sofa, eating cheese puffs which taste more like paper than cheese. I’m a few days behind on the posts but that’s not a problem. I’ve got an overnight train to D.C. tonight (28th) so hopefully, I’ll catch up on them then.
Greg and I got up at 5 this morning, in order to catch a lift at 6:15 and, all being well, make it to the White Mountains in New Hampshire before 9. I was offered the chance to go hiking in the Appalachians with some of his friends before I arrived and I agreed because why not! I sat squeezed into the middle seat of the car for two and a half hours, feeling my legs get number and number but the conversation, for the most part, kept my mind off it. The driver, Ethan, was probably the nicest guy I’ve met so far. A molecular biologist and keen cyclist, he’s a great laugh. He once fell on a stick whilst out hiking and impaled his torso almost from side to side yet miraculously survived and still, to this day, manages to joke about it.
A friend of his, an Israeli-American Google employee, who was born and raised in California, had some interesting stories to tell, particularly when I asked about my chances of finding work in the ‘Golden State’. It turns out that unskilled jobs are hard to come by, such is the number of undocumented migrants there. That said, a friend of his almost got work on a medicinal weed farm, so I guess it’s possible if you look hard enough. He told me that his brother had previously worked with ‘All Hands’, an organisation which helps those living in disaster zones to rebuild their lives. They’re about to move into Texas, to do what they can after Hurricane Harvey and offer free accommodation and three meals a day to their volunteers. I’d love to be able to say I helped, even in the smallest of ways, so it’s something I’m seriously considering doing. I was also told that you can get room-and-board in exchange for volunteering on campaign trails: his brother did so for Hilary last year. When the 2020 election comes around, it’s definitely something I’ll look into.
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We arrived at Mount Lafayette Campground, just outside of Franconia, just before 9. Finding a place to park was hard – the White Mountains are so beloved by Americans and Canadians alike that people drive hundreds of miles to walk in them. That’s nice though – a common love for the great outdoors created a palpable feeling of community. Almost everyone you meet stops and asks how your hike’s going.
It’s a three-mile walk uphill to the ridgeline, a slow process as every step you take is to climb up and over the large slabs of rock that are strewn across the ground. There were no noticeable paths, just rocks.
We stopped to fill our bottles at the Greenleaf Hut, which is run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Soup, bread and cakes were laid out on a table next to an honesty box. All of them were carried up the mountain by whichever unlucky volunteer’s turn it was to do so. As well as a shop, the hut doubles as a bunkhouse which could, if you were that way inclined, make for a scenic, if slightly chilly, nights sleep.

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Soon after, we pushed on to the peak of Mount Lafayette, an extremely popular mountain named after a French military aide to George Washington. From here, the rest of the trail we were walking got a lot easier. After following the ridge down to the slightly lower Mount Lincoln, we eventually passed some fairly impressive waterfalls and, more surprisingly, a green-haired girl with hula-hoops in her backpack and a joint in her mouth. It sounds too good to be true but I promise you it wasn’t!
As the hours went by, I was grateful that we’d chosen to take the shorter 8-mile loop, as opposed to a 13-mile one. Walking continuously down rocks and having to wait every few minutes for walkers to squeeze by in the opposite direction meant that, for the most part, we were averaging about 1mph. Climbing the equivalent of 313 floors, according to my phone, was more than enough.
Driving back to Boston, we ran into a roadblock set up by the Border Patrol. Nobody in the car had seen anything like it before and the ‘interrogation trailer’ was highly suggestive that they were searching for immigrants, not fugitives. The focal point of media coverage on Trump’s immigration policy is on the wall and the Mexican border but it would seem that illegal immigration from Canada hasn’t been overlooked by the administration. After all, New Hampshire is relatively close to the Canadian border, or at least in American terms.
After a bit of General Gau’s chicken from Wok ’n Roll (what a name!) back at the apartment and a quick tick check in the mirror, I was dead to the world. But I’d just ticked off my second state and climbed a mountain on continent #3 so I was more than happy.

Day 7: The Best Tex-Mex Food in Boston

Another lazy day today – I left the apartment at 3:30… I got up late so walked to the Trader Joe’s just round the corner to buy some food. I love that place! The really friendly bearded cashier gave me free food because it wouldn’t scan. I don’t know whether that’s company policy or whether he was just a nice guy?
Walking there, I was the coldest I’ve been in months – it was 19*C outside but that now feels like sweater weather, such is the hot weather I’ve grown accustomed to. I had goosebumps I was that cold… It got me thinking about which clothes I actually need and which I could afford to send home/sell. I can pretty much make do with 3 T-Shirts and one pair of shorts. I could keep a few more clothes but I think my main bag might be small enough to be counted as hand-luggage, at least on some airlines, which would save me a lot of time and checked baggage fees.
When I finally got into Boston, I found myself in the city centre at the same time the terrorist attacks were happening in Brussels and outside of Buckingham Palace. A few years ago I’d have freaked out but I thought about how slight the odds of anything happening here were and so carried on with my day.
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I returned to Faneuil Hall about 15 minutes before it closed, just in time to catch the last few minutes of a talk that a National Historical Park ranger was giving. Having never studied American Revolutionary history, the Freedom Trail was starting to bore me – a lot of the signs on the trail are repeating very similar information and I had no other perspective to look at things from. If you ever come to Boston, I’d recommend reading up on the Revolution first, if only on Wikipedia, as it would make the trail a lot more interesting. One thing that struck me though was how steeped in irony Faneuil Hall actually is. Built by a merchant who made his money from the slave trade, it was used in later years by dozens of abolitionists speaking out against federal laws on slavery. The centrepiece of the room is a painting of two Senators debating the Union, with the words “Liberty and union now and forever” inscribed underneath. Whilst the state abolished slavery in 1783, it was still compliant with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the courthouse around the corner housed many runaway slaves before they were returned to slavery. So much for liberty…
Around this time (5 pm) the majority of attractions in Boston close. I aimed to go Old North Church which closes at 6 but realised that, as it was quite a far walk from where I was, I wouldn’t have much time there. Instead, I walked past Dick’s Last Resort, a restaurant made famous by its obnoxious waiters,  and on to see the Boston Massacre Site. Most people walk over the large memorial plaque but with the 300-year old Old State House, the site of the massacre, still standing and nestled amongst skyscrapers, it’s easy to imagine the mob surrounding the building and the ‘Incident on King Street’ unfurling.
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The Old State House
I ended up at the marina, sat on one of the piers, watching super-yachts and occasionally steamboats come and go. Street performers seem to be actively encouraged in Boston, so the sounds of a busker playing the guitar and the chatter of restaurants nearby made for a really pleasant evening.
A few hours later, I’d arranged to meet Hee Yeon and Greg at one of their favourite restaurants and so got the T back from South Station to Harvard. By this time it was, naturally, fairly busy but I was still got the feeling that I was about to be targeted by a bag snatcher. A guy in a do-rag was giving me weird looks on the platform. He got on after me and then walked back and forth, up and down the carriage. I was sitting in a seat closest to the door and, eventually, he decides to sit on the opposite side of that door, on the same side of the carriage. It wasn’t a problem; I just walked back down the train to another door when getting off so as to keep some distance from him. It did make me realise just how much of an easy target I likely am though – being a baby-faced white guy with a distinctly British accent really does mark you out.
After nipping into one of the Harvard buildings to find somewhere to fill up my water bottle, I met with Hee Yeon and Greg at the Border Cafè, which is popular with students for its Cajun/Tex-Mex food.  On a Friday night, the queues are literally out of the door but for good reason. The chicken bandera I ordered was well worth the wait, as was the chimichurri steak, although it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. That accolade goes to Abi & Eliav, some family friends of ours. One thing you don’t get in the UK are drinks served in 32oz (1 litre) cups which are constantly being replaced, even if you only about a quarter of the way through one. It doesn’t really make sense – why allow people to fill up on water and therefore order less food? – but I guess that’s American hospitality. Another thing I don’t really understand is how a large proportion of restaurant workers end up living below the poverty line. I know their take home pay is largely composed of tips, as opposed to wages paid by the restaurant, but even with people tipping 10-20%, they still don’t earn enough. I’m sure there’s a reason for this, I just don’t know what it is.
We stopped by CVS on the way back, to get food for a hike in the Appalachians tomorrow, at which point I was freezing cold again. I think it was probably tiredness reducing my ability to control my body temperature. Hopefully, I’ll be well rested before spending a night on an overnight train and then 3 nights in a hostel in D.C. next week but we’ll see…