Arthur, King of the Britons

It's a bad sign when waterfowl make themselves at home in your campsite
It’s a bad sign when waterfowl make themselves at home in your campsite

Some people go camping to have fun. Others to spend quality time with their family, relax, enjoy the outdoors, and build really big fires. I – apparently – go camping to see how much suffering I can inflict on my family before they start refusing to go camping with me.

After a five day Memorial Day camping trip last year where it rained every day – except for the last when it snowed – I moved our longest camping trip of the year to the Fourth of July this year. The fourth usually has the best camping weather of the year, with the heat mitigated by the cool breezes over the eponymous lake. After a long cold winter and the buggiest weekend ever for Memorial Day this year, I looked forward to long afternoons on the still waters of the lake baking beneath a New Hampshire sun.

We arrived later than desired to White Lake on Wednesday, but with plenty of daylight and fire-time ahead. The site seemed unusually dark for the time of day and year. Adam started slinging ropes in his inimitable manner. The first knot was not tied when the rumble of thunder drifted across the darkening waters. By the time the guidelines were set, the rain started. Halfway through getting the first of the tarps up, the rain was so fiercely intense that even Adam and I had to give up. We went to Hart’s Turkey Farm, hoping the storm would abate with enough daylight left for tent-pitching, or we might have to (for the first time ever) give in and get a hotel.

My rope-ninja husband managed to get everything strung. We slept contented that night to the staccato fugue of raindrops on a tarp. Thursday started strong. We went swimming in the morning. However the forecast said a major thunder cell would come through at four, and that the rest of the weekend would improve. So we went to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2” at 5 pm. We emerged to a sultry hot evening that would’v been perfect for swimming. D’oh! We got a chance to roast our hot dogs, but the rain started about bedtime. Once again, the sound of the loons was drowned by the tap tap tapping on tarp tarp tarps.

Friday was a complete loss. When it wasn’t raining, it was because it was pouring. Buckets of water. Multiple emergency alerts on the phone saying things like, “For the love of Pete, you idiots! If you’re camping, stop camping! What part of extreme thunderstorm makes camping sound like a good idea!” We spent the entire day in our tent. With our tarps up I didn’t really consider bugging out, until I started getting texts from a friend back home asking who my next of kin was and whether I preferred cremation or interment. Apparently Stoneham got hit hard. (I’m writing this on the iPad on the way back, so I don’t know what the damage looks like yet.) Happily we missed the hardest punch that Arthur landed, but as I lay there next to a vernal creek flooding its banks, listening to branches creak above me and – yes – the veritable 1812 overture the rain was playing on the tarps I wondered. Just what would it actually take to talk me into getting a hotel room? Pondering this unponderable, I rolled over and zonked out.

Upon waking on Saturday, I felt the expansive five day trip compress before me. We had exactly one full day of non-crap weather in which to do all the summer camping things that needed doing. I stepped out. It was cool and windy. Now, I’ve been training my eldest son in the finer ways of the world. Specifically, I’ve managed to convince him that Mt. Chocorua is taunting him and calling him a weenie and claiming that Grey can’t climb Mt. Chocorua. All this was in preparation for getting some company in my attempt to get Mt. Chocorua to stop calling me a weenie and taunting me all the time. However, I had an unexpected attack of common sense, and realized that my 8 year old actually couldn’t hike Chocorua, especially since I was a little nervous if I could make it.

Instead, the whole family headed North to Pinkerman Notch to make an attempt on Lowe’s Bald Spot. It looked easy on a map – 2.5 miles in and 2.5 back. I strapped on my brand new hiking boots and loaded up a 25 pound pack entirely filled by water bottles and sweaters. Adam and I are planning to backpack the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier this summer. That’s my first backpacking trip since I got my ACL replaced, and so I reckoned I needed to do some training and figure out what my knee will require to be comfortable. The four of us (plus Puppy) set off up the trail.

In my head, I knew that the whining would start about 10 minutes in. I planned on at least 3 times when one or both boys would just sit down and refuse to proceed. We forded rain-flooded streams. We climbed up roots and boulders. We walked across log bridges. The boys? WERE SPECTACULAR. Grey was a gazelle, running like Legolas across boulder-strewn pathways with unconscious ease. Thane was more a Gimli character, if Gimli liked to skip and preferred to find the muddiest, soggiest, wettest path. He had my heart in my throat as he crossed flooded streams. Still it took him nearly 2 miles of hiking before he ended up completely in the drink. Then he complained about the fact he had wet shoes and socks… exactly zero times.

We made the summit we were headed for and tasted the sweet flavor of victory. Also, Hershey’s chocolate with those great peanut-butter filled pretzels. (At least SOME of us did. Others of us had our chocolate cruelly given away.) The path back home, my knee starting to ache with unaccustomed use, melted away in front of us as Thane talked Pokemon and Grey laid out some awesome ideas for a role-playing games he was going to run. It was an awesome hike. Grey, Adam and I all think it was the best part of the trip. (Thane votes for the swimming on Thursday.) Plus, I got the data I needed. I do need two hiking sticks, plus a regular support brace on both knees to feel comfortable backpacking. Also, my new hiking boots are da bomb.

Today, the plan was to go swimming after we broke camp. We were faster than usual about the camp breaking, since Adam got a head start last night. We sunscreened, bathing suited, etc etc. We got to the beach. The wind was blowing hard off the water. The sun was MIA. We spent like 20 minutes attempting to have fun.

But Hurricane Arthur did not defeat us! My streak of sticking out the weather remains unbroken! I admit I’m getting a little nervous, though, about how our bad weather keeps raising the stakes. For Labor Day I’m anticipating either a Category 3 Hurricane, a blizzard. or maybe both!

You can see pictures, mostly of our hike, by clicking here.

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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