Back to Nature

After several weeks of side travel and time with family and friends, we spent about four days in New Hampshire focused on the outdoors and fall foliage. This trip has confirmed for me how introverted I am, after growing up always thinking I was an extrovert. While I value quality time with others, I really need time alone to recharge. David and I spend so much time together and have so few boundaries I count time with him as “alone time.” We both were eager to get back to the van and our usual schedule. It’s funny how we have created a typical van routine, even though each day looks very different. We have our breakfast routine, driving routine, grocery store routine, dump station routine, etc. I think these things make the van really feel like home and keep me from craving a day at our Portland home just relaxing.

We were super tempted to venture farther north, wanting more time in Maine or Vermont. However, we accepted that there wasn’t enough time before Thanksgiving for all we want to do and the weather is also suggesting we head south. Therefore, we crafted a short trip through New Hampshire that would include time for biking, hiking, and a one-night backpacking trip.

We spent a day at Bear Brook State Park mountain biking and enduring a classic Nor’Easter. We quickly realized our tree-heavy camp spot was probably not the best place to be during the storm, but were fortunate that the only thing that went down around us were small twigs and leaves. The fall colors here were absolutely beautiful. We hit the sweet spot where the leaves on both the trees and the ground are full of color.

We next continued north to Conway and the L.L. Bean outlet, which we have been talking about visiting for years based on David’s stories of crazy deals and our shared love of flannel. Despite spending at least an hour in the store (David would say two) we left empty handed. I’m trying to stay committed to my new policy of only buying things I love. While living at home it was easy to buy something I didn’t really need and add it to all the other stuff in our house. However, in the van a new shirt or jacket takes up our limited available space and I feel the impact of each new thing we acquire. We were able to use up an ancient coupon to Friendly’s that David had been holding on to since college. The poor cashier had to call in her manager to figure out how to use the coupon, but was determined to make it work for us.

The next day we did a short hike just north of Conway and continued to soak in the fall foliage. I was confused as to whether the trees were pre or post peak, given the juxtaposition of fully green trees and bare trees. Unfortunately the clouds were extremely thick at the top of our hike (Mt. Crawford), limiting views to about 40 feet. Luckily I like hiking for the sake of hiking and don’t need a view to be satisfied! We agreed the views from the road were probably the best of the day.

The highlight of our time in New Hampshire was repeating a backpacking trip we had done nearly exactly seven years ago on my first trip to visit David in Boston. My weekend visit to David, tacked on to a work trip to Baltimore, became nearly a week trip due to Hurricane Sandy. David planned an epic visit including lots of Boston area activities and a one night backpacking trip in the White Mountains. The weather was significantly more cold this time around, but we were determined to still do the trip given its significance to us. Fortunately we secured the same tent platform we had back in 2012, which proved to be the only site in the sun and again the best choice (I believe we previously picked it for the best star viewing). I love thinking about how different our lives were back in 2012 while the tent platform and surrounding mountains don’t seem to have changed at all. It provides me a calm feeling to think about that tent platform weathering each day and is a nice place to let my mind retreat to.

We left our gear at our tent platform and hiked up to Mt. Liberty. We intended to stay on the peak for sunset, as we had done on our 2012 visit, but given how icy the trail was we thought it safest to hike down before dark. The temperature started to drop quickly as the sun set and I didn’t mind retiring to the tent early! We were both shocked to see a family including two young kids (we were guessing ages four and six) at another tent platform. As the father told me when I remarked on how tough the kids are, they were “tough as nails!” I was not as tough and was so cold I had to break in to some emergency hand warmers.

Here are a couple pictures from the 2012 Liberty Springs backpacking trip. At this point in time, David and I had spent a total of about five days together (between his two visits to Portland and the start of my Boston visit). I have to say if you told me back then we’d be in the same spot in seven years with our van waiting for us in the parking lot I would have believed it. I like to think I have good instincts about people and I knew right from the start David and I would be together. Maybe the van would have been a bit more of a surprise, but even back then David and I were starting to talk about a future trip and finding a way to spend as much time as possible in nature.

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