Ninja camping at the Loj

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Ninja-campers

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How to roll with the punches and still have an amazing camping trip

March 23rd and 24th

A key component to any adventurers arsenal is his or her ability to adapt plans to fit the changing world around us. Its a fairly well known quote, but the phrase “no plan survives contact with the enemy” holds quite true when it comes to exploration, camping, and general adventure-ish activities; in this case the “enemy” is the world, fate, and the universes seeming desire to make my life “more interesting”.

The quick back story – Mike and I had planned on camping out in Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire the weekend of the 23rd of March. I’d camped out there countless times before, and even had a campsite planned out for us. Now, the campground wasn’t officially open for the season yet, but I’d never run into trouble with that before… the campground entrance was always open and unbarred, and so we’d just drive in and set up camp right next to the lake.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this year. Actually, it was quite far from the case – the rangers (I assume) had actually went as far as to fell a tree so as to block off the main road into the park. Seriously: we found a full three-foot diameter tree sitting in our path. This, obviously, was a wee bit too much for Mike’s Eclipse to drive over, and so we did what any intelligent college-educated men would do in this situation… we went to the supermarket to buy some more food.

At the market we picked ourselves up a good bit of fruit and berries and other “keep your brain working” food, to help us think up a solution to our dilemma. Driving around the log was out, since an Eclipse isn’t exactly an off-road car, and neither of us knew any other campgrounds in the area. Our solution came from a slightly unexpected place – after leaving the grocery we started chatting with a woman walking out to her car (she stopped to talk while we were looking for pamphlets). We shot the breeze for a while, and she told us about a small campground nearby, a place called sunset campground.

Unfortunately, “Sunset campground” was quite miss labeled – instead, it should have been named “sunset trailer town”. We drove around a bit, but found out that there were no open spaces, but instead of campsites and restrooms we found lots and lots of summer homes and trailer hitches. We did a quick drive-through in the vain hope that we’d find a hidden tent site farther back, but there was no such luck to be had, unfortunately.

We parked at the camp office for a few minutes to try and come up with a new plan of attack for the weekend… we debated going south-bound, going to the cape, and a few other possibilities, but in the end we both knew what was going to happen – we were going to drive up to the Loj. We didn’t want to admit it, since the drive would be roughly three and a half hours more and it was already nearing eight at night, but we both knew that it was the best option to be had, thanks to Pawtuckaway being closed.

The plan was that we wouldn’t actually go up to the Loj itself, but instead camp out at one of the small “hidden” campsites that lay around Connor Brook a bit past the swimming hole – that way we wouldn’t be interrupting the weekend that the Undergrad’s had planned, and in turn wouldn’t have to deal with a whole host of people. Not a bad set up, at least in theory.

And so we drove. We drove for hours, but honestly… it was nice. I hadn’t gotten to really hang out with Mike in ages, and so we spent the time chatting and shooting the breeze about pretty much everything in the world, from relationships and politics to job offers and masters degrees. It was nice; very relaxing, and actually quite reminiscent of that drive up to the Loj so long ago that finally gave me the impetus to start this very blog.

Once we got to the Loj we cruised in and parked Mike’s car up at the LC Lot (a special parking lot for 2-3 cars a bit up the main trail. Not really to save walking time, but to add that “we’re special” feel for Lcs. In our case, it was to make sure that the car was safe, since there had been a series of break-ins in recent weeks). On the way in we ran into a car full of people just arriving to the Loj, but I didn’t recognize any of them, and they probably just assumed that they’d see us up at the Loj, so they didn’t stop to say hi… which was perfect for us. After a quick walk up the trail we turned off for the swimming hole, walked a ways down the stream, and found ourselves a nice campsite to use – flat ground, a pre-made fire ring, and far enough away from the normal paths that we wouldn’t be bothered, or be bothering anyone else.

I had my tent set up within a few minutes (upside of using a camping hammock), so while Mike was still fighting with his tent I started setting up a fire for ourselves – we had brought a few steaks along, and I had started getting more than a bit hungry on the walk up… It was seriously time to eat. The fire caught almost immediately (with a bit of impatient help from white-gas that I had brought), and soon enough we had a cheery blaze going, with a nice bed of coals that I started cooking the steaks over.

I had brought one of my fry pans with me, so we had the steaks fried up within ten minutes or so – cooked just right so that they were cooked nearly through, but still had the nice and warm and pink center. We ate Brazilian-style, just slicing both steaks up and chowing down from a pile of meat. To boost the amazingness of the meal, we had picked up a full cheesecake-sampler that we made quick work of after the steaks had been eaten up.

For the rest of the night, we sat up and relaxed, drinking beers and singing songs. Mike had brought his guitar along for the camping trip, so we stoked the fire high and sat back against a few trees, rocking out into the night. Mike played a few old-school songs that I sang along to (notably Crazy Train… seriously. On acoustic guitar), and even pulled out a few songs that him and his friend had written earlier in the year. It was excellent, and exactly what both of us needed – him as an escape from the stress of working insane hours, and me from worrying about when I’d finally be employed again.

The next morning was relaxed and slow… I don’t think that I even woke up until ten or so, and I definitely didn’t emerge from my warm hammock-cocoon until a bit past noon. It was sunny, cold, and clear… pretty much the ultimate early-spring morning in New England. The fire had gone out completely (since we had poured a bit of water on it and spread the ashes out the night before), so we just ate a breakfast of cheesecake and drank down some water fresh-filtered from the stream next to our camp.

Cleaning up the camp took us a bit less than an hour, what with taking it slow, packing up the beers, and cleaning the fry pan, but it was a relaxed hour… we weren’t in any rush to move on. We slowly packed everything up, organized the leftovers, and finally sat down to decide what to do with the rest of our day.

The one strange part about the morning was the soundtrack – instead of just the stream, we were also met with the screams of injured and dying hikers. This would normally have sent us both rushing over to start the process of saving people from themselves (and/or bears), but in this instance we both laughed, and told stories about injuries instead. Why wouldn’t I go help people in need, you may ask? Because these people weren’t actually hurt – it was Wilderness First Aid training weekend for NUHOC, and so small groups were sent out from the main team with the job of “playing injured” so that the other students could practice their first aid skills.

After hoofing our gear back to the car we decided to head out on a short hike not something to tire us out, but just a quick stretch of the legs so that we could enjoy the weather before getting back in the car for the drive home. We didn’t honestly go very far, just a quick 20min walk or so towards the suspension bridge, and we decided to turn back a bit earlier than we had planned when the trail started to turn into mud-city on us. But it was excellent… almost fall-like weather, to be honest. That point in the fall when it hasn’t yet gotten so cold that you always need a jacket, but it’s past when all the leaves have fallen.

The drive home itself was uneventful, but relaxing as well. If you note, there is a theme to this weekend- relaxing and laid back. The drive home hit that theme exactly. We chatted, stopped for food and gas, listened to music, and chilled out. I drove for a bit, Mike drove for a bit, we even stopped in to get the car a full car wash in some small town in backwoods New Hampshire at one point, but throughout the trip we told each other stories about stuff we had missed out on – my time in New Zealand, some parties and drama that had happened back in Boston. In a word, it was excellent.

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