Growing up, camping was always a go-to summer vacation for our family. Not only was it a pastime of my dad, but it was fun, cheap and a relatively close vacation for the family.
You could call it, “just far enough away to consider it a vacation”.
Looking back on it now, I can’t understand how my parents managed packing up four kids, themselves and camping supplies into the family car for a several day camping getaway. A feat surely unnoticed by children, but an effort I applaud now as a parent myself.
A favorite destination for our family was the White Mountains in New Hampshire. About a two hour drive and we’d be driving through the long, winding roads until finally reaching the Kancamagus Highway. A few miles along the Swift River and you’ll find campgrounds scattered throughout The Kanc.
As we got older we went on fewer camping trips. We grew out of it more than anything. The older we got, the more responsibilities we had and, apparently, interests other than family camping trips. I can’t remember exactly the last time the entire family went camping, but it would have been sometime before moving onto middle school – at least 15 years as of writing this.
However, my dad and I took a father-son camping trip together the summer after I finished my freshman year of college. We returned to a familiar place. The same place my parents brought us all those years, the White Mountains. I can’t exactly recall going to a specific campground growing up, but we decided to stay at Covered Bridge Campground for the weekend. A weekend I still remember vividly.
Just the two of us bonding and enjoying each others company. Not only as father and son, but also as friends relishing in the whole camping experience. A favorite memory I will never forget.
Two years later, in 2013, about mid August, my girlfriend, Haley, and I felt we needed to end the summer with a nice camping trip. We planned for Labor Day weekend away in the White Mountains – a childhood favorite of mine.
Not only would it be a fun, cheap getaway, but it would be a chance to disconnect from our screen-heavy lifestyle to soak in the essence of nature and truly appreciate the outdoors. An appreciation I owe to my father.
September was just a few weeks away and camping equipment, naturally, was on sale. Well, what was left of the camping gear. We grabbed a tent, a couple tarps, folding chairs, and several cans of bug spray among other miscellaneous camping accessories.
What we didn’t buy in-store, we borrowed from my dad. A collection of camping equipment from years of escaping to the great outdoors – a true seasoned camper. We snagged a cooler, a lantern, some rope, and a few pans for cooking over the fire.
Labor Day weekend came, and we ventured into a somewhat familiar territory. The car rising and falling with the blacktop of the long, hilly roads. Further and further north we climbed. A sea of green trees to the left, right, over yonder, and as far as the eye can see. A nice breathe of fresh air (literally) from the typical city smog we were used to.
Two and a half hours later we arrived at Covered Bridge Campground. I worked to get a fire roaring, while Haley began pitching our tent. As the sun set for the night we finished assembling what would be our home for the next few days. A cozy tent, a tarp above and below the tent (protection against rain and moisture from the ground), and two chairs propped facing the glowing fire.
During the day we drove up and down The Kanc; stopping along the way to overlooks, swimming and hiking spots, among other areas of interest. Places jogged from my childhood memory, that were so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. I imagine due in part to the changing effects of Mother Nature, and partly because I no longer viewed these places through the eyes of a child.
For the two nights we camped out, we were so unlucky to be hit with torrential downpours in the middle of the night. I recall the both of us frantically jumping outside the tent to relieve the water pooling in the tarp overhead. In hindsight, I think it added to the experience of camping – a feeling of vulnerability against the elements.
Since we’ve gone on our first trip four years ago, we have made it an annual tradition to camp here every Labor Day weekend.
Every year has been different as we discover uncharted places (at least to us), and create new memories that will last a lifetime. Not only has it become a tradition for my own, little family, but I’ll now think of it as a way to honor my Dad and how much he means to me.
A simple experience he shared with us growing up, that I now get to share with my own son.
A tradition I hope continues for generations to come.
To learn more about camping in The White Mountain National Forest or the Covered Bridge Campground, click here.