It is not exactly the setting for Games of Thrones, but quite honestly I don’t see the difference between the Iceland sets they use for the Wall scenes on the show and the scenery in the North Country. One could easily stand in for the other, that’s how much snow we have had this winter.  I am also officially extending Winter the permission to leave our shores (go bother the Southern Hemisphere for once, why don’t you!). Luckily Game of Thrones is purely fictional and winter does not last several years like in the books–it already goes on for too many months as it is.

I am no fan of winter, but I will grudgingly concede it isn’t all bad (just mostly bad). The snow matched the festive holiday season in December and was the perfect backdrop for my friend’s winter wedding after Christmas when I took a week off to attend in the very northern part of New York State’s North Country. I then went skiing in Vermont for a few days with my family on what felt like two of the coldest days of the year.

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Church in Potsdam, NY where my friend got married. Not exactly the typical destination wedding. The groom and groomsmen actually wore kilts so it was sort of Games of Thrones-esque! But rest assured it was nothing like the Red Wedding.

The North Country is loosely defined as the expanse of New York State bordering Canada–upstate New York does not really apply when you are about a half hour away from the Canadian border. Unsurprisingly, there can be snow on the ground here for up to six months out of the year. My mother and my sister both attended the same college in this area of the state and somehow survived four long winters up there. My mother recalls there being flurries as late as June 1st (which I find just unacceptable) and temperatures plunging to as low as -20 F!

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There was actually a travel advisory in effect the weekend prior to the wedding because of a severe ice storm. Luckily the weather held up the weekend of the wedding (and when I say it held up, I mean it didn’t snow).

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There are no faces in these trees.

To get to Potsdam, we drove through the Adirondack Mountains and crossed Adirondack Park. Not sure whether the Adirondacks are part of the North Country but the drive through the mountains and woods under the snow was like being immersed in a different world. Kind of reminded me of the book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe minus the part with the Evil Queen and talking animals. The land in this area of the state is very wild and undeveloped and there was not another soul to be seen (human or animal)  as we wound our way through the twisty two-lane mountain road. It made us feel very isolated and you start to wonder if you have reached the brink of civilization because much of the region remains uninhabited.

People up here must develop some kind of Ned Stark mentality, constantly repeating “Winter is coming, winter is coming.” It is just so brutal in this corner of the world. I did not take any pictures during our drive through the mountains because we had a time deadline to meet so you will have to make do with pictures I took around the church where the wedding took place.

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Where some wildlings  North Country folk reside–how do they put up with this 6 months out of the year?

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Snowy back country roads of Canton, NY. Or some white walkers, you decide.

After my friend’s wedding, my family and I headed towards Burlington, Vermont by taking the scenic route through Lake Champlain. There was no sign of Champ, the alleged lake monster (yes, the USA has its own version of the Loch Ness monster in case you were unaware but that is another story), but there was definitely plenty of snow and fog which contributed to the “edge of the world” quality of the setting. I would have stopped to take more pictures of the frozen lake, the scenery was quite striking in an eerie sort of way. However, it was piercingly cold and being outside just for 5 seconds hurt my face. I was starting to get a good idea of what Kit Harrington must feel like, the actor who plays Jon Snow on Game of Thrones.

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 You can just make out some people on the lake. I think some of them are ice fishing and maybe ice skating.

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Not so booming in the dead of winter.

I did not take any pictures of Burlington either (so far I am doing a terrible job of documenting this trip), but here are some Google Image pictures to the rescue.

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Panorama of Burlington from Lake Champlain. Looks drastically different in the summer! (Source)

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Iconic main street in Burlington called Church Street. (Source)

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And here is the most famous photo of Champ the “lake monster” just for the fun of it. Or as George RR Martin would call it, an “aquatic dragon.” (Source)

It is the largest city in the state of Vermont even though I think of it more as a large town. It just doesn’t feel like a city at all! Everything about this place is just so delightful and quaint from the architecture to the ambiance to its picturesque location nestled between Lake Champlain and the mountains. Random fact: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was founded in Burlington! It is also a very young “city” since it is home to several colleges, most notably University of Vermont and St. Michael’s College.

Stay tuned for part 2 of “Beyond the Wall.” And more cheesy references to Game of Thrones.

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