Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
I don’t know if this rings true for you, but lately it seems like every topic of conversation, every news article, every new thing I’ve learned is something awful. Ranging in severity from the bad behavior of celebrities I like to the climate cataclysm already breaking over our heads (and of course, let’s not forget COVID), it feels like everything is awful and nothing is good.
So when I am able to find something that is truly good and really meaningful – and also beautiful – there’s hardly a greater gift that I could be given. My kids got to spend three magical weeks at Camp Wilmot again this summer. Despite screen deprivation, they love to go. They spend three weeks in nature being active and creative. They build meaningful relationships with others, and are nurtured and loved by some of the most kind and caring people I have ever met. There is silliness and smores and stars and songs. They come back inspired, and better people. Of all the influences in my children’s life, Camp Wilmot is one of the most profound and positive.
They’re not alone. Camp Wilmot is small, but reaches over a hundred children in its ministry. Over half the children do not attend church anywhere – this Camp is what they experience of God’s love as shown by Christians. A very large percentage of the campers are also only able to attend due to the generosity of donors who set up Camperships. This camp MATTERS to these kids, these counselors, these directors – and the parents who love them. It creates loves, and hope. It is a beacon in a dark time.
Next Saturday, I’m headed to Camp Wilmot to go run in the 5k to raise funds for a campership. I would be incredibly grateful if you would be willing to support me (and this awesome ministry, and my kids who love it with their whole hearts) with a financial donation at https://www.campwilmot.org/donate . Or come join in the fun! Register and run too!
Over the coming year I’ll probably be talking a lot more about Camp Wilmot. As I come out of my rest period in my life of faith, I cannot imagine a more worthwhile work than to help this camp thrive in this generation and the next. Please be patient with me if I talk about it. And if you feel inspired, like I am, please join in community. Join the 5k. Sign up for the newsletter. Adopt a cabin. (Sponsors weekends was fuuuuuuun!) Rent the site in the winter. Sponsor a kid to attend. Pay attention to this beautiful, true thing among us.
In the bleakest days of the bleakest winter of my life, I look to the summer as a beacon of hope. Vaccines would arrive. The weather would warm. Even under pandemic restrictions, I could seek solace in the forest and the trees, with my boys on the banks of the Mad River.
When the Memorial Day camping trip fell to bone-chilling (near record) cold and miserable drizzling rains, I consoled myself. 4th of July is as close as New England gets to guaranteed good weather. We had five full days set aside for hammocks, hiking, tubing and white water river rafting. There would be a balm for my chapped soul.
Two days before the trip began, the sky was a metal welkin as a record number of 90 degree days in June steamed the countryside. I fanned myself and contemplated the cooling breeze that ran as an unseen river just above the noisy banks of the Mad River, where I would be shortly.
We got the tent up. We got the tarps pitched – almost all of them, given the weather. We hung hammocks draped in rain flies. And the temperature dropped 40 degrees and the rain began – the heavy, soaking, life-giving rains that April is supposed to command. The rains that fill aquifers and nourish plants and wash the world clean. And there we were, in tents, trapped and cold and so very, very humid.
This might be enough to cement the trip as a lousy one. When we bugged out after 4 days, we agreed this was the worst SUSTAINED weather we’ve ever had. I mean, we’ve camped through hurricanes, cold, blowing winds, flash floods. Heck during the Memorial Day trip it snowed in the mountains. But this one, took the cake for non-camping weather. But that was only part of our calamities.
As we packed up to go, with the kids headed to Camp Wilmot right behind this, I was on their case to get their laundry done. We have two laundry setups – a small European washer/dryer combo in the second floor and a more “parent of children” separate set of units in the basement. The second floor unit takes about 5 hours a (small) load. Finally, my procrastinating children got the better of me and I put a load in the basement to make sure that SOME clothes would be clean. But when it came time to pull them from the dryer, I discovered that the dryer was no longer working. (A fact which is only ever learned when you have a pile of wet clothing.) I couldn’t even dry them outside as I might have the day before due to temperature drop/rain starting. At best, a working dryer would be available in the middle of the following week. These things happen, but the timing could hardly have been worse.
As we got our campsite set up and I was just preparing dinner, I pulled out the new knife I’d gotten for the glamorous task of 1) cutting the bacon I was making for the hamburgers 2) opening a package of hot dogs. On that second unsheathing, the knife got stuck. As I pulled it free, it slid across my left index finger right at the bottom knuckle. I am very lucky – there was no tendon or nerve damage. But it was deep. And bleedy. So we had to go (starving) to the local ER and spend some quality time getting some lovely blue stitches put in.
Thursday also our camping companions texted to say they were going to be a little late – one of them had woken with a swollen eye and they were trying to figure out why. So no hanging around the campfire or gaming tonight. And the planned tubing for the next day was already cancelled due to rain, so didn’t need to be cancelled due to finger-can’t-be-submerged or eye-swollen-shut.
A friend texted to ask whether I was camping, due to her looking at the forecast and it’s dismal aspect.
Friday we went to a local old-timey arcade (which was actually open and fun). We planned lunch in Plymouth, which had a cute downtown with some nice restaurants, a gaming store, a book store and an art store. Not a bad place to pass a rainy afternoon. But just as we arrived and went in to the diner we were hoping to eat at, word came down there had been a water main break on Main Street. Every single one of those places could not prepare food (no water for handwashing) so Every. Single. One. was unavailable for lunch. Also no bathrooms.
I found a diner far enough away to have water and near enough to feed the hungry. It was just closing when we got there. There was a brew pub not far away. It wasn’t open for another hour. We ended up at this “saloon” which specialized in mediocrity and western decor. It was bad, but it was food, I guess.
That morning, we heard our camping companion, on his birthday, had shingles in his eye. Stabby pain. No camping for him. Happy birthday Kevin.
The next day, the boys went swimming in the Mad River anyway, in the rain and cold. Because they are nuts. And the rain came down without ceasing. Everything was damp. The tent started seeping. The air itself was so moist that nothing was truly dry. The sheets on our bed are flannel, and I am here to tell you that few things in life are as unpleasant as clammy flannel. It’s just the worst. We resolved that we had enough of this crap, and we were going to head home Sunday assuming a long enough break in the rain to pack up. We just climbed into our clammy bed with the periodic drips promising a damp night when Grey called out in increasingly alarmed tones. He was in his own tent, and discovered that what he thought was some tracked in dirt was actually a hatch of tiny mites – millions of them. Over everything in his entire tent. An entire mat of mites. He slept in the car that night, and we threw away everything in that tent the next morning.
We were able to pack up in a dry spell, although the clouds opened again that day. And we brought home all the damp, dirty clothing and bedding to a house with no dryer. I spent the rest of the 4th of July in the laundromat, spending a shocking number of quarters to wash and dry every stitch of fabric we took on that trip.
Given our luck I feel fortunate that the injuries were minor and we all survived. But it does raise the question of why I like camping. I might even review the forecast before doing the Labor Day trip!
Probably most of you know by now that Camp Wilmot is one of the most important places in my kids’ life – and by extension mine! In September, the Camp hosted a “Walk to Scotland” to raise money and guarantee they can be back to hosting kids in nature, celebrating the glory of creation (and the Creator!) I’m proud to let you know that I was the top walker, logging 156.2 miles. I’d love to also be a top fund-raiser for this program I’m so very impressed by, and which means so much to the kids I love!
So if you’d like to sponsor my walk, here’s the link. You can give anywhere from a dime a mile, to ten bucks a mile (well, I won’t stop you from giving more!)
Donations can be made either by sending a check marked with donation to Camp Wilmot for Walk for Scotland. Please also indicate if it’s for a team or individual. Camp Wilmot, 5 Whites Pond Road, Wilmot, NH, 03287.
Some reasons I give to Camp Wilmot:
Half of their kids attend using “Camperships” – Camp Wilmot works hard to make sure it’s available to kids from all backgrounds
Half of the kids attending don’t have a church community. This is one of the only times they’ll hear that they are loved by God, as well as by the great staff who spend their summers loving and teaching these kids
Camp Wilmot continues to grow in the number of kids it serves and the ways it serves them. In the years since we’ve been associated, they’ve more than doubled the number of weeks they’re open, added winter weekends and fall check-ins, and were increasing to monthly gatherings for kids in the off season.
The camp is led by “alumni” who grew up loving it and have spent their young-adulthoods making sure it thrived. They’re already looking to the future, and inviting the teens to take an active role in making sure Camp Wilmot continues to be by and for these young people in nature.
This is one of the most thrifty not-for-profits I’ve ever seen. They know how to do amazing things with small resources. I love that they are also teaching kids to appreciate their gifts and make full use of what they have!
*I just have to say that the day BEFORE the Scotland walking started, I logged a 20 mile day walking (and running) the trail to Owl’s Head
So it’s going to come as a vast surprise to you that one of my great joys in life is camping. Ten years ago, we bought a “family car”. It was the SUV on the market that had the best fuel efficiency at the time since I’d also like for there to be a wilderness to visit. Over time I liked the car less and less. The vaunted fuel efficiency was a flat out lie. I didn’t know it was *possible* for a car to handle so badly in snow. Or rain. Or overcast weather. But I do try to drive cars to the ground.
Then last time I went to Camp Wilmot I almost didn’t make it up the world’s tamest road. AND I didn’t have enough room for four boys and three sleds. And I was just … done with it. So I hit my husband’s website CarGurus to find a new one. I had two primary criteria: fuel efficiency & cargo capacity. I want to bring more crap when camping. I want to be the person who volunteers to bring them *all* up to camp. My sons are headed towards the six foot mark in the next few years, and the back seat doesn’t assume such giants. So I wanted a bigger car. But I balanced that desire with my responsibility towards the environment. This world is literally burning under the magnifying lens of carbon, and I need to do whatever is in my power to mitigate my impact on that. So the best option for fuel efficiency was critical to me. Then there were the other considerations: heated seats (yes please!), fun to drive, comfortable second row, not boring car colored.
Adam and I test drove a couple cars. We hated the Highlander Hybrid, which balanced awful handling with really mediocre fuel efficiency. We tried a used Ford Explorer, but the hybrid isn’t out for another few months and it was not a big improvement. Then I finally talked Adam into test driving the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid – a brand new model. Also a minivan. But I learned to drive on a minivan (a red one!) and still have a soft place in my heart for them.
I loved the car, and brought it home with me that night!
The car is soooooo cool. I’m still uncovering features. Not just heated seats, but heated steering wheel! Hands free door opening! Self park! (I’m still too nervous to try that one.) Separate heating and cooling for all the passengers! Plenty of electrical/USB outlets! I can’t wait to go camping in it!
Best of all, it’s a plug in hybrid that gets between 30 – 80 mpg. That’s on target with our Ford C-Max commuter car. Super impressive, even if we end up in the low range. (At some point we might need to install a second charger, but not yet.) It’s everything I wanted!
Naming is always hard, but we finally all settled on our choice, from a favorite TV show. Everyone say hi to “Ruby Rider”
My brother was in need of a car, so he flew up and took home the old Kia (Herodotus), where he’ll drive it into the ground for us!
Just a quick note from the purchasing process with CarGurus. I am usually the car buyer in our family, due to being the person who cares. But when we bought the Kia, my husband was the one who got all the questions/comments addressed to him, due to him being male. But since I expressed interest via CarGurus with my name, they knew that I’m the buyer and did a great job of addressing themselves to me. It’s just a nice, subtle change I appreciated!
Disclaimer: We do get a nice rebate from CarGurus for highlighting our buying experience and rather nice rebate as employees. The opinions are mine, and do not reflect official CarGurus points of view nor my employer. That’s pretty much always true.
Last night, I drove to Camp Wilmot for what seemed like the umpteenth time this year. I was picking Grey up from his fourth week of camp, and he’d just returned from a remote Maine island where he’d spent time in a tent right near the beach with a small group of campers and counselors. The pictures looked amazing.
I’m incredibly impressed with what Camp Wilmot does. When I first dropped Grey off as a shy 8 year old (only five years ago? surely more!) I knew nothing of the camp, other than that it was the Presbyterian camp serving our Presbytery – and that summer camp was super important to me. In every year since, I have seen and understood more of what the camp does and offers than I did the year before. That first year, there were only about 10 kids in the second youth week of summer camp. The first week was bigger, with over 40 kids. We sent him to the smaller camp, to break him in.
This year, there were over 60 kids in both two youth camp weeks, as well as Adventure Camp teen weeks on either side. “How” you ask me “Did a middle Protestant Christian camp go from a faithful few to a packed, month-long hive of kids buzzing with energy?” It really feels like an old-school, Hollywood-type miracle. We Presbyterians are not growing. The summer camp I attended as a kid has been shut down, as have many others. But here’s Camp Wilmot, thriving!
I haven’t fully gotten to the bottom of the secret. I think it might have something to do with the energy and dedication of the new generation of directors. They’re former campers who were passionate about the camp, enough to put their time and their youth behind the work of running the thing. I heard a story of them asking Presbytery not to give up on the camp – but to give them enough time to graduate and give back to the camp they loved. That love, I swear, runs through every board and blade of the buildings and grounds. I can feel it now, when I walk there.
But that wasn’t all. They also realized that there was a tremendous need for high quality summer activities for kids who may not have as many options for how to spend their summers. So along with a very generous donor, they set up a campership fund and started working with the guidance counselors in local school districts to identify kids who would especially benefit, and make sure those kids were able to come. It turns out that almost half the kids who come to Camp Wilmot do not regularly go to another church. This is not a camp designed only to appeal to the Sunday School crowd, but to kids from city Boston and rural New Hampshire who have never sat in a pew before.
And I’m watching it play out with my kids. That first year, Grey was alone. By the next year, he’d talked no fewer than four of his buddies into joining him. This year, our town sent 10 kids. I’m pretty sure that Grey would also fight, work, and commit to keep the camp where his heart lives open.
Are you excited by this camp? I am. In a world that seems full of bad news, watching scrappy young people fight for something they love and make it a haven of welcome for a whole new generation of children is exactly what my soul needs. I really want to support it, and I invite you to as well. So how can you support the camp?
They’re hosting their second 5k Funderaiser in September, and I’m going to be running it! (It’s a hilly course – this 5k is no joke!) I invite you to:
White Lake State Park has history, for my family. This is the 11th year in a row we have visited the loon-infested, bucolic waters of this glacier-dug lake in the shadow of Mt. Chocorua. But we’re hardly the only ones who have history with it. When I post pictures on Facebook, old timers from Stoneham comment how they’ve been going there for decades, and how it was their haunting ground when their kids were young too.
My sons’ favorite poetry book is a local publication called “A Boy’s First Diary“. The author grew up on this street. He talks about dancing with the former owner of our house. Names the wall I’m looking at right now (Dike’s Wall). Talks about sledding down our street. And to my great surprise, included a picture of himself holding a trout and labeled “White Lake State Park”.
But my favorite White Lake history is the living history. Especially on the 4th of July weekend, the old-timers come out. They have ample setups and big families and decorative bunting for their sites. And they have name tags. Sometimes they’re carved in wood. Sometimes they’re painted on cast iron skillets. Sometimes they’re burned into boards. One or two of my favorites are incredibly specific, saying things like “The Campbells: Camping at White Lake since 1972”. I’ve even seen “anniversary” versions hanging from trees, site markers and RV sides, commemorating the 30th year of camping right there.
And of course, I coveted one. I want a sign to hang out on the site marker that declares “I’m so into this, I have a sign made to show you how into it I am”. I may have mentioned this to my husband once or twice. Casually, you know. But even so, when he started getting excited about his secret a few weeks ago, I couldn’t guess what it might be, other than that he was showing it to practically everyone BUT me. Still, he carefully checked my arrival time on Thursday to make sure I’d be here and ready at 6:30 when the delivery driver of my surprise would show up.
Right on time, a man arrived holding an absolutely gorgeous carving of our family crest, done in mahogany and sealed in a marine grade sealant, designed to mark our campground. Adam had googled to find someone who could create such custom work, and it turned out his very first hit was a guy with a CNC machine who lives maybe a mile away. Sign Me Up turned this sign around in 2 weeks (and for a crazy reasonable rate!) – just in time for his daughter’s graduation. And it’s really, really lovely.
This whole weekend of camping was a delight. The weather was gorgeous. The company excellent. The children well behaved (and read actual real books!!!) My only complaint is that the time I had there was far too short. I have so much more nothing to do.
But as we hung the sign on W6 (one of the best sites in all of White Lake, if you ask me), I was happy for my place in history, and this marker of tradition.
I’ve had SO MUCH FUN with the family crest designed for us by Fealty Designs. We had a stained glass window designed for our home. (It likely originally had one, but the original one probably burned in a major fire 50 years ago. Putting in such a meaningful replacement felt amazing.) If someone has a crest (and the original design files which Julie will provide you), suddenly so many creative things are possible. My favorite part is, much to my surprise, these custom creations (which also support these passionate artisans) are often WAY more affordable than I might have guessed.
With the wedding season coming up – if you’re wondering what to get that couple that already has all the things they need (and especially if you ever have to buy other presents for them in the future) – let me strongly recommend a family crest!
In a historically rainy and cold spring, we’ve had a few glorious days break through. This Saturday was one of them. I’d been hoping for good weather for the work weekend, and it came as requested.
We weren’t quite sure ahead of time what tasks we’d need to do. Every one of us has a tool kit of our own – we bought them for the boys last Christmas, and Thane’s been ardent about filling his out. So the back of the car was filled with tools and overnight bags. Adam and Thane ended up in one of the 60 year old cabins replacing floor boards. I helped sweep and mop the dining hall, and then got the enviable task of washing every single dish in the entire camp while the folks around me deep cleaned the kitchen and washed the windows.
I spent about 5 hours on the task. First you had to get the dishes out and wash down the cupboard. Then you would stack two minute loads. While prior loads were drying, you’d put away the dryest, oldest rack. I also scoured the dish pit. In this process, I developed very strong feelings and opinions about the dishes. If you want to know, they sum to:
1) No one needs that many saucers. In fact, your average Christian summer camp needs 0 saucers.
2) It was a fascinating collection of coffee mugs. There were two large collections of two mugs from companies – one celebrating a 50th anniversary, and the other with the name in a boring pattern. The rest were “island of misfit” mugs. I carefully rearranged them to put my favorites towards the front and hide the boring (and/or Christmas) mugs in the back.
3) I wish I’d been outside
I think it was great for the kids to participate in this work. It’s easy as a child not to realize how hard people work to make your life possible. A day of scrubbing the camp to prepare helps open your eyes to the quiet service that makes so much possible.
I also enjoy on these trips the opportunity to talk with the Wilmot directors and staff. It’s astonishing what this camp is doing. They are adding programming every year (this year a fourth week of adventure camp which will be going up to an island in Maine!). They are adding campers every year two. Almost 50% of the kids who will be eating off those clean dishes get financial support from the camp to be there. The camp is incredibly thrifty and resourceful to make so much possible on such a tight budget. I’m always amazed, too, at how much positive impact they make in the life of my kids. Every time my sons go there, they come back more resourceful, kinder, more ethical people. That’s a great prize.
If you are also impressed by what I’m describing, they will use your donations incredibly wisely. You can donate here. If you prefer to imagine exactly what they’ll do, they have a fun Amazon wishlist (select shipping to Robin when checking out).
Running is not the optimal form of exercise for me. My left knee with its largely excised menisci probably shouldn’t have to endure the pounding of my not-inconsiderable frame. Running isn’t really optimal for weight loss. I should have a more varied workout regime to be fitter and healthier.
But about three years ago I figured out that this was a classic case of “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and laced up some shoes and went for a jog. I haven’t really stopped since, although I also haven’t improved. I’m slow – my “record times” are like 10:30/mile and my longest run is just over 4 miles. Still, I’m out there once or twice a week!
So when I heard that Camp Wilmot, scene of my children’s happiest memories and moral development, was doing a fundraising 5k to raise scholarship funds to be able to welcome more kids, I was mightily tempted. But then I looked at the date. September 22nd. On September 23rd, it will somehow be 40 years since my mother did all the hard work of introducing me into the world. My 40th birthday. The big Four Oh. And my husband had put a block on my calendar for the weekend, so it was right out. Couldn’t be done. Even though there was going to be a campfire and ceilidh and overnight and breakfast in the morning. In possible the most beautiful New England fall week of the year. Not possible.
Then the begging started. PLEEEEEEZE MOM! LET US GO BACK TO CAMP WILMOT.
So I asked my husband *exactly* when I needed to be back in Stoneham and the answer was: as soon as you’ve finished running the 5K. SCORE!!!! We’re headed to Wilmot, boys!
I don’t want for many things in this world (although any implication that I’ve bought every single one of the shiny iridescent school supplies I’ve encountered this year is true). But I really really DO want more children to have opportunities like Camp Wilmot. I have first hand experience seeing that it changes the life of the children who attend it. My kids come back thoughtful, kinder, centered, with a sense of belong and purpose. I know other kids hang on to it as a loving lifeline in a hard world. And I know that for a lot of kids, scholarships are the only way that lifeline is available.
So, if you are feeling like you are desperate to give me a gift for my 40th (or just interested in making a difference in kids’ lives), please consider a contribution in any size to Camp Wilmot. And if you’re starting to think that a sleepover, cookout, ceilidh & brisk autumn run or walk sound pretty tempting, it’s certainly not too late to sign up!
Camp Wilmot was awesome for the kids. I picked them up too early on Saturday morning, and got great big hugs. They missed me (after two and three weeks, one would hope so), but they loved where they were and who they were there with. As we headed towards home, Grey said he didn’t know what he wanted more: to stay or to return home. Alas for him, there was no choice. It was time to go home.
Our communication with our kids while they were gone was… sparse. We got one dictated email and two letters. The letters arrived on the same day and spoke to the inability to find stamps. (Headdesk) Thane’s were loving, but low on news not related to the inability to find his stamps. Grey’s said he missed us, gave us a laundry list of stuff he wanted, and then told us he was experimenting with vegetarianism during camp. Given that the camp chef (Anthony) has a version of BBQ chicken that causes both children to wax rhapsodic, this seemed like a short-lived but great idea in the first week of camp. But when I picked him up at the end of week 3, he very politely and cooperatively let me know that he’d like to continue eating vegetarian (pescatarian, actually).
He said it was pretty easy, at camp. There was always a vegetarian option, and he ate that one. He said that sometimes he didn’t like it very well but he ate it anyway because he was hungry and it was food. That amazing concept is one greatly needed in our world!
Adam made bacon today, and Grey didn’t eat any. This is serious.
I’m fully supportive. At a few months shy of 13, this is a great age to experiment with different way of being. It’s an excellent time to explore intersections of identity, sacrifice, values & choices. I’ve let him know that he’s not allowed to become a pastatarian (a version of vegetarianism I saw often in college where the vegetarian in question ate few vegetables and many carbs). But he’s been eating salads lately. When you cut out one whole food group, you need to be open minded towards the others. I’d love for him to discover the many great foods available in our modern world which do not hinge upon meat. This is an experiment for all of us – no shame if he lets it run it’s course or decides it’s not the right road or the forever road for him.
That’s the most of the visible of the changes, but there are others as well. Both kids seem more thoughtful about what matters, and careful with the thoughts and feelings of others. They’ve slowed down, detoxed from screens, gotten great base tans and made new friends. They’ve exercised their moral muscles. They are changed, grown, matured. They are a step closer to being the people they will become, and I’m really impressed and pleased with who they are. And even though the house stayed really clean while they were gone, I’m glad to have them back.
Now that Grey’s on this health food kick, he’s gotten serious in the kitchen too. He and a friend fantasized about this cake for days, and then they got together and made it happen. This is a quad layer cake with vanilla frosting AND icing. It’s got crushed pop-tarts and chocolate bars. But it has strawberries, which makes it healthy, right? Right? And heck – it’s vegetarian.
Here are the infallible Flynn Family Camping Traditions:
1) Stop on the way up at the Toys’r’Us (sadly likely last time) & Starbucks in Portsmouth
2) Late lunch at Miss Wakefield. One time, we forgot Grey’s old Kindle there on Labor Day weekend. They had it waiting for us Memorial Day Weekend the next year.
3) Camping at either White Lake, Covered Bridge or Waterville Valley campgrounds
4) Soccer at Almost There tavern. 100% of the time, Gerd will be there. If it’s slow, he’ll do magic tricks.
5) Dinner at Hart’s Turkey Farm. Order the poutine. Poutine is always a great choice.
This long weekend contained all of those ingredients. It was Waterville Valley, this time. In a rare moment of discretion and wisdom, I checked Google Maps to get a route from Miss Wakefield’s to Waterville Valley. Sure, it’s tempting to run the Kancamagus just for fun, but it’s also nice to get to your campsite before dark. Google directed me on a route I hadn’t taken before, likely some rural way cutting up Rt 25 (home to one of the scariest drives I’ve ever done in dense fog) up through byways to 49. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
At first the route was captivating and charming in that old New England way with stately old houses, scenic fallen stone walls, beautiful vistas and ancient orchards. Then it started getting really rustic. Then it stopped being paved. At one point, bouncing along a rutted dirt road which had been one lane for at least the last two miles, tires tipping over the top of a hill whose other side I could not see, I began laughing hysterically with joy. THIS WAS A REAL ROAD (and it wasn’t my fault we were on it). I have gone years and years without getting to drive a real road in a completely inappropriate vehicle! I skirted massive holes, went over granite boulders, edged along with bare inches between my wheel and a dropoff and generally had a blast. There was that one minor issue, when whining in the back seat about hitting their heads on the top of the car made me slow down a bit and then I didn’t have enough momentum to make it up the hill. For a while, I didn’t quite have leverage to make it back down, either. Eventually I got myself straightened out. Of course, that’s when we saw the first other vehicle in half an hour. It was too narrow for him to pass me, and I needed a moment to figure out how I could move my vehicle aside before making another attempt at the hill – gazing at the ruts my previous attempt had made.
I pulled out my finest “Mountain Mom”. “Sorry, I’ll move aside. I need to plan my attack for the hill better. Google Maps didn’t mention this.” The gentleman in his ginormous 4×4 pickup turned white, “What, you’re on The Sandwich Notch Road by surprise! (He shuddered.) You don’t have four wheel drive, only all wheel drive?” We discussed routes for a moment in a swirling vortex of mosquitos. We agreed that my best bet was to take the outside corner. He said he’d drive it for me (“I drive this road all the time”) but… “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for damaging your vehicle.” I pulled my car, laden with bicycles, tents, NERF guns and terrified children out of the way. I didn’t mention that I don’t have all wheel drive either – I only have front wheel drive. Crappy front wheel drive. He passed me. My chicken family told me they’d meet me when I got to the top. I pulled back, gunned it, and made it to the top no problem. Eventually they walked back up to me.
Adam says I’m not allowed to ever drive that road again, unless I have a four wheel drive. Meanie! We totally didn’t die. Man was that fun.
It ended up raining less than expected this weekend, which is not to say it didn’t rain. It just didn’t rain *much*. Adam got to do a lot of rope and tarp-tying, which surprisingly makes him very happy. The boys went swimming in the river. Grey and I did some geocaching. We played a Cthulu game. There was laser tag and Nerf gun wars. The campfire was going pretty much non-stop.
Our middle night in, with freshening winds rising up the valley along the Mad River, Adam and I were just getting ready for bed when we heard this iconic creaking, breaking and crashing sounds. Very clearly a tree had just fallen, very nearby. We listened for screaming – none. We went to where we heard it and were assured everyone was fine. One person said, “It wasn’t as bad as it sounded.” When I went back in the light of day, I had to beg to differ. I didn’t take pictures of their camp site, but this was only a few feet from tents, tarps and cars where a whole family was staying.
This was especially alarming to me since there was an already splintered pine tree very nearly overhanging our tent. This widowmaker was very stably caught in the Y of a very lithe and healthy looking birch tree – I couldn’t see how it could come free. But it creaked alarmingly in the winds. I would claim I couldn’t sleep soundly with it up there, but that would be an out and out lie. I think I might have been the most comfortable I’ve ever been in my life lying on that air mattress on Sunday morning.
The boys were remarkably helpful this time. I kept having flashbacks to camping when they were like 18 months old and 4 and I had conniptions every single night trying to get them to sleep. But now they could start fires, they did the chores we asked (from carrying firewood to water to fetching – anything!) They were cheerful and helpful and kind and… they went to bed when they decided they were tired. It was amazing. I never dreamed this day would really come, but it did. All those years of effort have really paid off! Now to get them to like hiking…