Back to New Hampshire for the annual Manliness Retreat.
I’m no manly man. I never work on my upper body strength, I’ve never been in a fight, and I think Kelley is plenty tougher than I am. So, on an annual basis, I try to get up to New Hampshire to cultivate some much-needed machismo.
Luckily, Jim Wetzel and Tim Eve-Cowles are good teachers. And so, in the throes of the busiest semester of my life, we escaped into the woods for 48 hours for some R&R – and some testosterone cultivation.
Our destination was the Hancock Campground, like last year’s trip, but we picked the wrong weekend- Columbus Day is practically a leaf-peeper festival in the White Mountains, and everything was packed. We rolled through four campgrounds after dark and found nothing but RV’s, but on the last spot, Jigger Johnson campground, our host pointed us to an overflow spot- completely removed from the other campers, and otherwise identical in amenities and locale. What a score!
With the best camping spot in New Hampshire, we were ready for… nothing!
That’s right, nothing at all. Tim was nursing a back injury, and Jimmy and I have been working ourselves ragged. This trip was about cooking, reading, napping, and getting in touch with our inner Dude. Car camping is a simpler arrangement than our usual adventures, and we take advantage of our vehicle for things like coolers, hammocks and cast-iron pans.
Lincoln, New Hampshire is a great little town with everything our trip needed. There’s a grocery store that sells craft beer, a movie theater, and a handful of eclectic little shops, including the Chat Room Coffeehouse. Part computer repair center, part bookstore, part time machine.
Jimmy is a quick study. He taught us everything we needed to know about discipline this weekend. We kept to a strict schedule and always got dinner started as early as possible. Our campfire was going almost all day long, with only brief retreats to the tourist mecca of the Kancamagus Highway.
We cooked everything over the fire. Portobello mushrooms in balsamic vinagrette, eggs and maple sausages, steak tips, pepper and onions… our menu was mostly meat and mostly delicious, with only a brief lesson in cast iron heat retention.
Since the Northeast has seen a lot less rain than usual this season, starting and maintaining our fire was laughably easy. We also kept a close eye on things… this birch log kept burning for hours after things looked like they had died down.
I spent the weekend in my 1-person tent, sleeping blissfully on a thick bed of pine duff. Tim and Jimmy shared the larger Exped Orion. Between these and our rain gear, a little mid-weekend squall only enhanced the most important goal of the weekend; reconnecting with nature.
Feeling properly restored and marginally more masculine, we headed home at 5:00AM to get back in time to rejoin the daily grind. It’s tough balancing work and life, but when your weekend includes a foggy sunrise in the White Mountains, sitting at a desk for five days becomes a lot easier.