I can’t quite remember the last time Mark and I went camping for pleasure, as in when we really wanted to go camping. My recollections go back ten years ago or so, when our dogs, the Grand Canyon and loads of insect bites were part of the experience. I mention the “for pleasure” part, because the previous time we seriously camped was for two months in 2007, when a tent and a car were all we owned, so camping was our lifestyle. It wasn’t necessarily our preferred way to live, but the cheapest option in between other adventures. We had just moved out of our truck camper and were in the process of searching and eventually buying our sailboat.
The tent we had for ages was finally traded for some local handicrafts in the San Blas Islands, Panama, a few years ago and a new tent recently became ours through a promotion online. It was time to test it out in earnest. Our sleeping bags had made it back into the four pieces of luggage bulging with personal belongings when leaving our catamaran Irie forever, and the house we are currently watching has some mats, a cooler and plenty of wood. We would cook on the grill provided at our primitive campsite in Coolidge State Park, Vermont.
Who could have guessed preparing a weekend of camping would take so much time and prep work? Mark and I have been spoiled all these years, traveling with our own homes on land and on the water, containing everything we could possibly need… Friday afternoon had us filling our little Prius to the brim, with a quarter of the car reserved for our temporary pet Jenny. Once I had put a few things in the car earlier on, she was not to be persuaded away from it, making sure we would not forget her. How could we? She happily found a spot surrounded by all things camping. A few errands, a stop at the grocery store and liquor department and a 2 hour drive later found us choosing a campsite in Coolidge State Park.
Once set up and organized, I convinced my companions to walk around the extensive park. We checked out the separate loop of lean-tos, wooden structures enclosed on three sides. The front of the hut faces a picnic bench and walled fire pit, and in many cases, a gorgeous view over the mountains. This park is famous for its great views from dedicated lean-to campsites.
On Saturday, we had planned a long hike to Shrewsbury Peak in the Coolidge mountain range. It took us a while to find the CCC road where the trails started and a parking spot in the shade. With food and a cooler that turned ice into water rapidly (you can’t leave food at the campsites because of bears and other wildlife), we avoided parking in the beating sun. We decided to start with the most strenuous part of the loop walk, which brought us up, up, up – in a steep fashion – through hardwood and fir forests for two miles. Jenny and I needed quite a few rest stops and sips of water to catch our breath and stay hydrated until we reached the top after an hour and a half of huffing and puffing (me more than Jenny).
We were pretty high up, at 3500 feet, but the view was mostly blocked by pine trees. What the photos don’t tell is the amount of insects (there was not a wisp of wind) – flies, mosquitoes and no-see-ums – that kept penetrating our sweat, nostrils, ears and eyes in a pretty annoying manner. So, we did not stay long at the viewpoint, before descending a different way. To keep moving was the best bug repellent. We followed a more gradual 2 mile path back to the CCC road. Our pace was much faster and we enjoyed the shady and peaceful surroundings of the forest.
The last 1.5 mile up and down stretch along the gravel road to reach the car again and conclude the loop was a draw on our bodies, so a restful afternoon in the tent and the hammock was in order. Followed by another yummy dinner cooked on the wood fire grill.
On Sunday, I wanted to do another loop walk in Coolidge State Park itself, but since we had planned a full day of activities, we restricted ourselves to a hike up to the vista on Slack Hill Trail and back down the same way, after breaking up camp and taking an icy shower (Don’t ask…). It was an easy 2 mile round trip, enjoyed by all three of us. After this energetic start of the day, however, we did start to feel our muscles. The day turned hot and humid, so we maintained a more leisurely pace.
After making and eating lunch at a picnic table near the overflow parking lot of Marsh – Billings – Rockefeller National Historic Park, we strolled the grounds and the garden of the mansion and ignored all the hikes in the vicinity. Maybe we will come back one day?
Instead of being tempted by the pond, carriage roads, and viewpoints over the hills, town and valleys in Vermont’s only National Park, we opted to explore the historic and cute town of Woodstock. No, this is not the famous Woodstock, which lays in New York, but a pleasant alternative!
Mark kept talking to me about Quechee Gorge on the way out of Woodstock. He couldn’t quite remember where it was or what the natural site was about, but knew it was close by. Before we realized it, we drove over the bridge spanning and impressive ravine… Quechee Gorge. I requested a short stop.
When Mark was a teenager, he went to a private high school “just” over the border, in New Hampshire. Since we were so close to it during this trip, we decided to return south via the little village of Meriden, where his old school Kimball Union Academy is located. Deserted this time of the year, it was very quiet (and hot) to walk the paths and listen to the childhood memories of my husband…
That was it for our weekend of roaming in Vermont and beyond! Pretty packed, but very enjoyable. And, I am happy to report that we walked – and climbed – over 17,500 steps each day! 🙂 That must be enough reason to submit this post to Jo’s Monday Walk, right? She has been writing about some interesting places in Poland, by the way.
What did you do over the weekend? When was the last time you went camping and where? Or, do you hate camping (in the woods)?