For us, Labor Day weekend is reserved for camping. Even though Kendra and I start teaching the week before, we get Friday and Monday off, which makes for the perfect amount of time to head up to the White Mountain National Forest. Usually we go to Dolly Copp Campground, but ever since last year when Hurricane Irene washed away our plans and we found ourselves at Blackberry Crossing instead, we are more open to exploring new campgrounds.
This year we again decided to be adventurous and headed up 93 North to Russell Pond Campground (Exit 31). Though it was late-morning on Friday, the place was already packed. As we cruised through the loops, we were quickly losing hope of finding a site. Just when we were ready to give up, Kendra noticed a couple packing up in the H loop. We snagged their site, which turned out to be an incredible find. Right on the pond, it was both secluded and beautiful.
Friday afternoon was low-key; aside from swimming in the pond and riding our bikes through the campground, we spent most of our time lounging around the campsite. Kendra cooked up a great dinner of corn on the cob, chicken and garlic bread, and Addie went to bed early. Unfortunately, the rain that had been threatening to fall all day finally broke just as I started a fire, so we moved into the tent, cracked open the iPads, and hunkered down with our digital books. Luckily, a few hours later the rain had stopped, just in time for our friend Robby’s arrival. We started the fire back up, feasted on s’mores, and did some catching up.
Addie used her singing to wake all of us up at 6:30am. Though groggy, we dragged ourselves out of the tents, started up the fire, and cooked breakfast. Actually, Kendra cooked us breakfast – sausage and eggs.
After filling up, we made a quick stop into town to get propane for our camp stove, and coffee from Dunkin’s, before heading down Tripoli road to the East Pond Trail parking lot. We were amazed with the campsite strewn along the side of Tripoli road – they were HUGE! We definitely plan on trying them out soon – you need a permit, which you can pick up in a small office at the start of the road, and there are no facilities or potable water – but the sites are gorgeous.
Addie was excited to hop out of the car and strap on her new Camelbak. When we came home from our last camping trip, she looked up at me with pleading eyes and asked, “Mama, I have backpack?” With my heart still melting, I went onto amazon.com and found the smallest backpack I could. It’s a little big on her, but the chest strap holds it into place, and she has her own Camelbak, which makes her a super-happy toddler.
Though the hike to East Pond is only 1.5 miles with 780ft. of elevation, between the slowness of Addie’s little legs, and multiple stops to inspect creatures, touch plants, and explore water, it took us 90 minutes. We met quite a few people on the way up, all of whom were incredibly encouraging to Addison. One group even cheered for her! I was amazed that she was able to hike almost the entire trail by herself, especially since we had started during her usual nap time.
When we finally reached East Pond, we plopped down on the grass and ate lunch. Addie found the M&M’s and promptly began snacking. I was surprised at how few people were at the pond. The clear water was surrounded by a stunning landscape.
We all braved the chilly water – Kendra and Robby even swam into the middle of the pond. After we tired of swimming, we headed back to shore to warm up and eat some snacks. Luckily, we all came out leech-free.
The hike back to the trailhead was remarkably faster, as Addie slept in the ergo carrier on my back. In just 30 minutes we were back at the car.
Back at the campsite, we started up the fire, and waited for our friends Kate and Sara to arrive. Kendra busied herself by making her amazing avocado-strawberry salsa while I fed Addie applesauce. It was then that I was attacked by a rogue chipmunk. We’d been fending him off all weekend, and he’d only gotten more bold. While most chipmunks will keep their distance when human beings are around, this one had no fear, and kept climbing onto the picnic table and rustling through our bags. At one point, he made a beeline across the table, vaulted off of the edge, and used my back as a landing pad. I may have screamed. it may have been high-pitched. I may have made my daughter cry. It was not pretty. This is why you are not supposed to feed wild animals – they not only become dependent on our food, but they also become a nuisance to innocent campers like myself!
Kate and Sara arrived not long after the chipmunk attack, and they teamed up with Kendra to make us an incredibly tasty dinner of steak tips, vegetables, and quiona. After we feasted, everyone headed down to the pond to wade in the water. We watched as the sun set, casting a golden light on our campsite.
Someone had left inner-tubes behind, so Addie used one to propel herself around the pond. She eventually wore herself out, so we put her to bed, then spent the rest of the evening making s’mores and swapping stories around the campfire. It was an awesome ending to a great camping trip!