After a tense school year, abounding in tests that determine our eldest’s future, the entire family is wound up so tight that our fight or flight response is on full alert. Before taking flight, we had just one more chore, but it was a doosie. We had one day to pack for a hut to hut backpacking expedition in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Packing for any vacation is stressful, but this one called for unusual fortitude. We had to pack for three different scenarios: a wilderness lodge, a resort hotel, and most challenging of all, the backpacking trip. Our packs had to include gear and clothing for any kind of weather, from summer heat to alpine snow, and anything in between. On the plus side, we didn’t have to pack tents or much food since breakfast and dinner would be provided at the huts.
Despite this, tempers flared as we pulled together to pack our individual bags. Following all the best family travel advise, I provided each member of the family with a packing list, so that they could check off items as they assembled their bags. Supposedly, this helps the kids learn personal responsibility, but it didn’t do much for my stress level.
The worst part of the whole packing experience was the heated arguments over appropriate attire that will forever be remembered as the Rain Pant Incident of 2010. Teen Daughter got it into her head that she did not want, and would not wear, a pair of rain pants. Nothing I said, and no amount of advice from the Appalachian Mountain Club, could convince her otherwise. My husband didn’t help the situation when he refused to bring rain pants either. “I’ve been backpacking for over twenty years, and I know what I need and don’t need.”
Well, I couldn’t do anything about the adult idiot,but I bought a pair of rain pants for my daughter, and forced her to pack them.
It took the entire day to get the family packed, the dog off to the kennel, and the car loaded for the vacation. In between, I made three shopping trips, nearly came to blows at least once, downed a very tall Mojito, and ended up completely repacking the younger child’s bags after he fell asleep.
Bright and early the next morning, I think it might have been 10:30 AM, we finally departed on the four and a half hour drive. It’s a lovely drive along country roads and past the quirky architecture of Massachusetts and Vermont. The peaceful setting might even have been sufficient to quiet a riotous disposition if not for the story being played out on audiobook.
Lured by the humor of Bill Bryson’s travel books, I decided that we would listen to A Short History of Nearly Everything. In nearly four hours, we’ve heard more than half the story, and I have to tell you, that it’s enough to prompt thoughts of suicide. He draws you in with tales of avarice, deception, and sheer brilliance. Then, he hits you with the inevitability of Earth’s destruction, and you’re left wondering which will annihilate us first: meteor or super volcano?
Just as we were vacillating between anger and depression, we reached the first stop on our road trip. The Brick Store, in Bath, New Hampshire, claims to be America’s oldest general store. It’s remarkably well-preserved and filled to the rafters with all kinds of curious items. For lunch, we picked up sandwiches labeled “Bulkies” and “Grinders”, as well as a few items just because they looked interesting: “Rat Trap” Cheese, Brick Store brand Sasparilla, and a salami produced in the on-site smokehouse.
Outside, there is a covered porch with rocking chairs where we might have eaten our lunch, but several bikers were already ensconced while waiting out a sudden downpour. I took a quick look around at the picturesque covered bridge, duly noting the presence of an ice cream parlor that might warrant closer inspection on another visit, and we were soon on our way.
I’ll save the story of our lodge for another the day because I’m not quite done with our packing adventures. When we arrived at our destination, my husband noticed that: it was raining, it was chilly, and the forecast calls for more of the same throughout the week. Not being entirely dense, he went straight to the gift shop where he purchased a pair of rain pants. (I wonder how many of these are sold to husbands who failed to listen to wise counsel?)
I’m not done yet, there is more to this story. You should know that this lodge happens to boast an LL Bean Gear Room with donated outdoor equipment that can be borrowed for the duration of one’s visit. That is why I didn’t let out a piercing scream later that day at the dinner table.
After our dinner companion had finished describing the treacherous nature of the local trails, mentioning that this is one place where you have to wear hiking boots with good ankle support, Teen Daughter asked us if we had packed her hiking boots.
Now, if you think that having to wear used hiking boots will have a lasting impact, then you don’t know my daughter. Did I tell you about the time we arrived at the gem mines , after a 1.5 hour drive, only to discover that she was barefoot?