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Wilderness Camping in Maine, Fun along the Kangamangus Highway

Updated on December 16, 2017

Dry River Trail

Gil, Dave, and me. (Wayne was the photographer)
Gil, Dave, and me. (Wayne was the photographer)

We were four young seasoned outdoorsmen. Okay, so by seasoned I mean that we sometimes camped out in our backyard. Nevertheless, we were headed to the wilderness of Maine for an outdoor adventure. On the way, we would make an ascent to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire where the world's highest wind speed has ever been recorded. Temperature swings of more than one hundred degrees in a single day are also in the books. It would probably have been prudent to pack high-quality climbing/hiking boots, sub-zero sleeping bags, wind-proof tents and other rugged-terrain equipment. I had a pair of old sneakers, a sleeping bag that I got free seven years earlier for signing up two new customers on my paper route, and a tent that was actually a clear plastic drop cloth from a paint store. I was the best equipped. Gil's gear included a hair dryer and a pillow.

Wayne, his brother Dave, Gil, and I packed our gear into Gil's '65 Pontiac Le Mans and headed north. We camped overnight in a field on Cape Cod. Gil's mother, a Latvian native, had generously made sandwiches for us and packed them in a picnic basket. I guess this is a European thing, but each sandwich had one slice of lunch meat and about three pounds of butter. In a picnic basket. In August. So we ate rancid butter-meat sandwiches in a field on Cape Cod at the end of day one.

Dry River Trail - Crawford Notch, New Hampshire

A markerdry river trail, new hampshire -
Dry River, New Hampshire, USA
get directions

The White Mountains of New Hampshire

On day two we made it to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Cruising the Kangamangus Highway (real name) we found the "Dry River Trail" as the sun was setting. The trail is actually the remnants of a long-gone railway. The rails were no longer there but the wooden railroad ties remained. By the time we unloaded the car and packed everything on our backs, it was pitch dark. This seems to be a common occurrence in my adventures. I blame the sun.

As we were about to head up the trail, a hippie with a flash light told us to follow him. The first campground was three miles into the woods. Hippie-with-flashlight was headed back to his campsite after making a beer run. We followed him single-file into the woods. I am not exaggerating when I say that you could not see your hand in front of your face. Luminous moss cast an eerie green glow from the deep woods. We couldn't see anything straight ahead, so we made the whole trip with one hand resting on the shoulder of the person in front of us.

As we approached a clearing, I could see the welcoming glow of several campfires. We set up camp and I looked for wood to start a fire of our own. I took my trusty hatchet and with a mighty swing, came within an inch of severing all ties with future generations. Time for Plan-B; ask neighbors for firewood.

After a delicious meal of Dinty Moore beef stew it was time for bed. I crawled into my drop cloth and slept like a baby - a baby who's been left in the woods and is scared to death.

The forceful whitewater rapids of the river had gouged troughs into the granite over millions of years. (Or hundreds of years if you're a born again Christian). This made a natural water-slide about a hundred yards long that ended with a twenty foot drop into a pool of churning, effervescent water. It was exhilarating. The only downside was that the water was excruciatingly cold and if you hit your head on the granite, you could be dead for a long time.

A Trip into Town

We decided to head into town to pick up more food. One can of beef stew apparently wasn't going to sustain four people for a week. Just a short three mile hike and we were back at Gil's car. We had breakfast at a diner in Concord whose menu proudly proclaimed "At the traffic light, Concord, New Hampshire". In town, we stocked up on provisions: scotch, beer, cigars, and another can of Dinty Moore beef stew.

Gil was a rock hound and had heard that there was an abandoned mine of some kind in the area. He tried to drive up a 45 degree incline on a muddy, dirt road with no railings. We made it about halfway. Seventy-five percent of the car's occupants made it clear that the driver needed to die. We slid all the way down, backwards. During a mostly bloodless coup, Wayne grabbed the keys from Gil and took over the driving. Shortly thereafter, the radiator boiled over. We limped into a nearby gas station to get water for the car and to clean up a bit.

A car with three young women pulled into the gas station for I don't know what, but it was fate. Like wild beasts, we each selected our prey from the herd. I chose the gazelle, Wayne took one for the team (as he always did). Dave and Gil would have to work out who got the remaining member. Now we just had to talk them into this whole natural selection thing. It was surprisingly easy and I don't actually remember who said what or who was the predator and who was the prey. They were from Boston and had rented a 40 foot trailer just outside of Concord. We went to the trailer and paired off. Gil was the odd man out so he left. I don't know how Wayne or Dave were doing but I can say that I was quite pleased.

A New Friend

She was pretty, fit, and tan. Her long blond hair reached down to the waist of her beltless, low-slung, hip-hugger jeans. She had classic lines both fore and aft, and a nicer caboose than the train they called the "City of New Orleans". Despite the mixed metaphors she was gorgeous. We had a few drinks, some innocuous conversation, and settled in for the night.

Some time later, Gil burst into the trailer (at a most inconvenient moment) and started rambling on about outrunning the cops or something. In unison, and from three separate rooms, six people shouted "Shut the f*&% up!" In today's parlance we would call him a "Buzzkill". Nevertheless, I would have to say that this Boston girl was the most inventive, flexible, accommodating, and enthusiastic camping buddy I've ever had.

The next day we invited the girls back to our drop cloth. We hiked up the trail and spent the day riding the river. This was followed by a delicious lunch of beef stew. On the way back down the trail, Boston girl was always about five feet ahead of me, which was just about perfect. The scenery was quite lovely. We had dinner at the restaurant by the traffic light, then parted ways. We exchanged addresses but she told me to send the letters to her mother's house so her biker boyfriend named "Bull" wouldn't see them. I didn't see much future in a long distance romance so I only wrote her a couple of times. At one point we were going to meet in New York, but I think Bull had other ideas.

A Destiny Fulfilled

Gil, Wayne, Dave, and I drove to the Maine border, got out of the car, peed on the sign that said "Welcome to Maine", and left for home.


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    • liswilliams profile image

      liswilliams 7 years ago from South Africa

      awesome hub, loved my camping days

    • gbd profile image

      gbd 7 years ago

      Looks like you had a great time!

    • triciajean profile image

      Patricia Lapidus 7 years ago from Bantam, CT

      A fun read!