Before Airbnb became a go-to for planning a quick trip, many people visited a bookstore. Of course, there were travel agencies, but if you wanted to travel on the cheap, you purchased a book to learn more about your destination. I know it sounds like ancient history, but the year was 1991, and people didn’t use the internet for everything yet.
My roommate and friend from college worked in a major publishing firm in New York City. She brought home a stack of free books from the extras cart (a perk of the job) and plopped them on our coffee table. As we looked them over, one particular volume piqued my interest. It was a book about romantic bed and breakfasts in New England. I had been dating my boyfriend (now husband) Tony for around nine months, and we were in the early stage of falling in love. It was almost Valentine’s Day, and I was dreaming about a romantic escape.
I was curious about the book, so I started leafing through the pages. As I read, I became really interested in a charming place in Jefferson, New Hampshire. It was pretty far north and near theWhite Mountains, but the description made it sound ideal. It was a restored farmhouse that boasted homemade quilts covering the beds, gourmet breakfasts, and a roaring fireplace in the living room. The nearby White mountains offered both downhill and cross-country skiing. I was a skier, and the slopes had tons of snow that winter. I had visions of a white wonderland and snuggling by the fire après ski. I pitched the trip to Tony, and he liked the idea. He was not a downhill skier, though, so we decided to try cross-country skiing instead. Neither of us had tried that before.
On the Friday of Valentine’s Day weekend, we drove our rental car six hours up to Jefferson. It started off well, we had fun talking about our work week and just catching up. But, as we got off the main highways and made our way onto the less-traveled roads, it became totally dark. Then we hit a blizzard. The snow started falling pretty heavily, and our conversation became tense. I could tell Tony was getting nervous about the weather, and we were still about an hour away from our destination. It was late, the roads were scary, and it was a stressful start to the weekend.
The next morning, the sun was up, and the rays glinted off the fresh blanket of snow. It was just as I had hoped. Our hosts were lovely, and the farmhouse was warm and inviting. At breakfast, they poured us piping hot coffee and served a delicious breakfast. I still remember that gigantic puffy pancake called a Dutch Baby.
Our host gave us directions to the ski rental shop. We rented equipment and grabbed a map for the cross-country trails nearby. I had my ski jacket and gloves, but Tony had never skied before. He jumped in the car right from work and didn’t pack anything waterproof. He used his tweed overcoat and Brooks Brothers leather gloves. We were cracking up. I asked him how he was going to manage without the right gear. He laughed and said he would be fine.
As we started on the trail (around 9:00 am) we never thought to buy water or snacks, we just parked our car and started our day. We were full after breakfast and only planned to ski until lunchtime. Several hours later, probably around 3:00 pm, we were lost, tired, and hungry. At least I wasn’t cold. By a stroke of good fortune, we met up with some skiers from the Amherst College cross country team. They were shocked when we told them that we were lost and didn’t pack provisions. I don’t know what they thought of Tony’s outfit or my fur headband that I thought was super cute at the time. We looked ridiculous. Tony thought it would be fun to call me Svetlana because of my headband, and I guess he must have called me that in front of the ski team. Next thing I knew, they were talking to me and calling me Svetlana too.
They helped us find our way and pointed us in the direction of the trail that would lead back to the trailhead. After trekking for hours up and down hills in the forest on those narrow skis, I began to lose hope. My will gave out, and I couldn’t take another step. In a dramatic moment, I collapsed on the ground and whimpered, “Leave me here. I can’t go on.” Tony just laughed and said, “Jeanine, get up the car is right there!” I sat up and saw the car we left that morning. We finally got back and got our equipment off. Then we laughed so hard we stopped breathing. The hunger from not eating since breakfast and basically burning a million calories that day led us to a local diner just down the road.
The waitress asked us what we wanted. We ordered five or six appetizers and two dinner platters. She looked amazed, but we ate it ALL. That weekend was our first attempt as spending time as a new couple. It had its highs and low, but that trip bonded us. Luckily we didn’t break up. Instead, we laughed and were grateful that we made it out of the forest in one piece. It has become a legend in our book of stories about our life together and it reminds us of why we love each other so much. We were just two crazy kids trying to figure out if we had what it took to make our relationship last.
We tell that story to our friends and our kids and still laugh so hard we can hardly breathe. “What were we thinking? What were we wearing? Why didn’t we pack snacks? The shrieks of laughter bring us to tears. We still have a sense of adventure, and we love to explore, but from now on, we bring drinks and snacks.