Our alarm sounded. We awoke in a bed, in complete dark, headachey, at 2:15 in the morning. and Simon vowed never to let me book flights again. It was a fair comment. I had been much more concerned with the time that we would arrive in Boston than the time we’d depart the west coast, and in the dark of night, thrown awake after a few hours of sleep, I had to admit Simon was right. I was missing sunrise in the tent already.
We made it to the east coast before dark, and in a whirlwind 8 day trip we traversed from Woods Hole to Boston to Salem and back again. We were immersed into east coast history, with the idyllic grand old family homes of Cape Cod, the infamous witch trials of Salem, dinner parties in Boston, tours of prestigious universities, and the Freedom Trail.
(Salem of the witch hysteria, we learned, is actually Salem Village, now called Danvers. The current Salem, Massachusetts, was historically Salem Town and the site of the port. Salem Town banks on its association with the witch trials of Salem Village, which was only some miles away, and building up to Halloween as it was when we were there, the town was alive with decoration and costume. Fun, and there are a few historical sites in Salem Town, but the museums are misleading (they are not museums, and we were deeply disappointed by the lack of information, misappropriation of information, and falsities provided at the Witch Museum we paid to go to). If you want researched information on the witch trials and the original Salem Village, go to the Visitor Centre and watch their movie.)
As much of a let down Salem as Salem was, Boston was amazing. Boston is old, as old as British-European history can be found in the United States of America. We walked through time on the Freedom Trail, through the centre of the city, past old graveyards and renovated churches, past sites of important events of decades, even centuries past. We were steeped in history that hadn’t resonated with us in the wilderness of the pacific northwest and Alaska, but that now started to make sense of a country that we felt exposed to, the consequences of whose history seemed apparent, but of which we had very little understanding of how it all came to be.
We were starting to understand how the pieces aligned. There was comfort in this, in finding something so much older than the west coast. We could sense then the coming of the settlers, the pilgrimage of these people across the mid-West and through to the true west. We could place the goldrush, the civil war, independence. We learned something of state governance and federal government. What the “United States of America” truly meant in the context of the history from which it was created. It wasn’t until much later on in in our journey that we could start to piece in native cultures, their contact with the Spanish, and then the eventual moving in of the British Americans. Somewhere, in all of this, we started to feel we could truly see just a little of the United States of America.