Camp: a 4 letter word that represents a place that I’ve never been before. Except that one time in forth grade when our teachers and parents shipped us off to Cape Cod to learn how to be civilized people with our classmates while learning about wildlife. Otherwise, I had never attended a single day of camp in my childhood or adult life… until last week. Wait- there was those summers in college when I was a bible camp counselor but that hardly counts either…
Now, I’ll take a guess at what you might be thinking- there is no way that this girl goes camping and honestly, part of me did it for that exact reason. I’m not a messy kind of girl. I don’t enjoy a good sweat (even when I’m working out), I’m not a huge fan of bugs (though I’m not terrified of them like some people) and my idea of a vacation usually involves a beach in the Caribbean. Camping was the last thing I thought I’d be doing on my summer vacation, but I did and I LOVED IT!
As a kid, my family rarely took vacations. My dad always worked for a company that didn’t give time off during the summer so our “vacations” took place during business trips he’d take us along on. We’d often visit coastal towns in Maine or Massachusetts for a few days before ultimately going home when the project was complete. As my family has grown and children have come along, we’ve made many efforts to make lasting family memories with them. Last summer, my parents booked a cottage in Dennisport, Massachusetts for a week and we each took time off to be there. But this year was different. We weren’t able to collectively commit to a week by the ocean. My calendar now held a gaping hole where my beach vacation once was. I refused to waste the week so instead a new phase of planning began. After some searching we landed on Storrs Pond in Hanover, New Hampshire.
This gem is hidden out near Dartmouth College (Mindy Kaling’s alma mater). The travel time took less than two hours. At first glance, it is exactly what I pictured camp to look like. Neat, secluded campsites with fire pits amongst all the trees and bugs. Certain sites were equipped with running water and electricity. I won’t fabricate this story and say that we “roughed” it entirely. We didn’t. We stayed at a site with those amenities. They came in quite handy when needing to cook, charge electronics or even blow up our air mattresses. Beyond that, we resided in tents, cooked most meals over open flame and had to use the community out house. I’ll detail many things that made our stay here exceptional but it won’t include the showers and bathrooms. They were atrocious. As well kept as many of their facilities were- they paid no mind to to their upkeep and that was a disappointment. There’s nothing like taking a shower with the same bug for a week- gross!
Things we did right
We were prepared. With a chance of rain in the forecast, we packed extra outdoor tarps for each tent. On the second night we had to use them when a severe summer storm headed our way. I can’t say we braved they storm- we ended up staying in a hotel that night. We also did our research- and packed well. Small things like scissors, rope, outdoor chairs, clothes pins and ice were a must. I had spent a lot of time and money trying to find an outdoor movie projector that we never used. I came over prepared, per usual. Next time around I fully intend on having a bigger tent and filling it with inflatable furniture like I had in the third grade. I can’t tell you how much I missed sitting on a couch…. and I hardly do it often as it is. Did I whittle that shiv out of a tree branch? no- but I did find it on the ground and did I keep it close to me each night praying it wouldn’t puncture my air mattress? Absolutely.
Meal planning. I’ll say we did this half right. Yes, it was cheaper than buying everything from their local co-op, but it got pricy trying to keep all the food buried in ice for days. Not to mention that most of our food involved a campfire- on a 90 degree day, the last thing any of us wanted to do was cook over a fire. By the end of the trip I had zero interest in another hot dog or cheeseburger and I love both.
Finding the right place for us. This park had so many things for everyone to do. There was a pond with two clean and well maintained beaches equipped with rental water gear, a heated in ground pool and splash pad. There were many non water activities too- tennis, hiking and disk golf. Since the majority of our time was spend chasing around or entertaining two young kids, we didn’t have anytime to be bored.
Things we did wrong
Tent size. Holy moly was my tent TINY! I picked a great tent but didn’t give enough thought about the dimensions of it. I couldn’t even get my inflated air mattress into it. No joke- I’ll opt for a 6 person tent next time around.
Bugs repellent. This is another thing I got half right. I did come very well prepared for this. I brought bottles of deet bug spray, a thermosil lantern and citronella candles. Days into the trip I purchased a bug fogger and wished I had done it at the start of the trip due to its very specific handling instructions. We managed to remain mostly bug free without it but the idea of being able to use less chemicals on my body or constantly being worried about an open flame with the small kids would have been nice.
The week we picked. When it was hot, it was HOT. Camping is July is no joke. Thankfully there were many ways to cool off but at times, it was just too much. I packed athleisure wear for the entire trip and I often found myself having trouble just getting my clothes on due to the sticky hot temperatures. I think I’d like to try it in a cooler summer month or even the fall.
Besides the few bug bites, hot nights, threatening storms and that feeling you get when you pack your lunch for work but then don’t want to eat what you brought: I’d say it was a very successful trip. The kids had a great time, I thoroughly enjoyed all the water fun and I got to teach my niece how to roast the perfect marshmallow. I’d do it all again plus or minus a few things.