The first warm weekend of each year means a special camping trip. Instead of planning an extravagant hiking or fishing trip – we simply choose a new, but beautifully scenic location and pack accordingly. These first adventures serve as a way to reconnect with the wilderness and familiarize ourselves with new outdoor gear purchased over a long and cold Maine winter. I like to call this a time to become “re-grounded in how life is meant to be”. Chopping wood, cooking three meals a day over an open flame, and listening to the rustling leaves overhead as gentle winds blows among the trees is serene.
Rifling through a New England atlas, we find a promising location along New Hampshire’s Swift River to make camp. Offering both mountainous views and, as the name would suggest, a wild river by which we make our weekend home. Located in the heart of the White Mountain range, on the Kancamagus Highway, our tent is wedged between the forty-eight 4,000 ft. mountains.
New Hampshire rules allow for you to pull over along the Kanc, park your vehicle and hike into the wilderness to camp. There are more spaces alongside the highway than you can count. Tossing packs over our shoulders, we follow a simple compass reading into the woods and listen for the sounds of rushing water. The afternoon is young and within an hour the tent is setup. A stack of dead, dry firewood begins to grow next to a circle of stacked rocks, caked with spring dirt and mud. This fire ring will serve perfectly for weekend’s meals.
Afternoons are well-spent in a hammock re-reading Henry David Thoreau. Warm rays of sunshine gleam through the forest ceiling. The sun, combined with a chorus of songbirds, soon finds the book resting softly on my chest and my eyelids closed tightly. Evenings involve a little bit of whiskey and a few competitive card games. True relaxation has set in and is hopefully placing a precedent for the remainder of this year’s camping trips.
Bacon and egg breakfasts, lunches of dutch oven pizza, and dinner-time stews adequately fill the void left in our stomachs from hours of exploring the lay of the land and chatting fireside. Entertainment is found in a Frisbee we packed. No matter how you choose to spend your time in the woods – enjoy it and relax; these memories will stick with you for a lifetime. As we exit the woods and begin the drive back home I mull over how the Swift River was as refreshing to quench our thirst as it was to wash our faces in the early morning. I can’t wait for next weekend…