We drove through sunshine, clouds, and rain, and arrived to an overcast, windy, still chilled landscape at the northern tip of New Hampshire in late May. An old man hollered, “Didn’t you hear it’s supposed to snow tonight? 39 tomorrow!” He laughed, noticing my sockless feet and bare legs. I quickly put on socks and hiking pants under my summer dress, added a sweater, wool shirt jacket, light down jacket, and wool hat, and we proceeded to set up camp. We wondered where that guy got his weather, since we had checked NOAA several times before we left and saw that, indeed, there was a low of 32 that night, but the next day was supposed to be sunny and 60. I questioned my decision not to bring my fleece sleeping bag liner or longjohns, nonetheless.

Once the lounge tent (my roomy 2-person tent) and the sleeping tent (Joe’s more efficient 2-person tent) were tightly set up and staked down, we set up our bedrolls, sleeping bags, and pillows (we were glamping) in the sleeping tent, laid out our PJ’s, and threw a cribbage board, decks of cards, and our spare clothes in the lounge tent. The stiff wind and chilly temps at 2:00 that afternoon encouraged us to drive away in search of firewood. We first stopped at the gas station that promised to sell “generally everything” in hopes of warm sweatpants or something comparable as another layer option for me, but instead purchased a bag of chips and red PJ pants covered in black bull moose.

We returned to the campsite with three loads of dry wood ($4.50/bundle) and got in the canoe with our rods. Fish jumped all around us and we each got some nibbles and failed hook sets, but we never did get a fish close enough to see. The canoe swung and settled at every point on a compass rose with a makeshift anchor from a rock and some rope serving as the midpoint. We certainly appreciated the full 360 degree view from our spot at the top of Lake Francis: fir, cherry, hackmatack, and birch-lined shores with a few modest campsites tucked on one side and a small peninsula supporting a pair each of loons and mergansers. We paddled near to see them and I enjoyed the shifting light conditions and gorgeous northern birds as I snapped photos while Joe tried to keep our distance from the notoriously territorial loons. One loon kept a low profile as he swam. Territorial behavior? Courtship ritual? We settled on the former option as he dived and swam under and around our boat. Apparently posing no threat, the pair continued paddling and diving in search of food and potential nest material, evident by one of them pulling up grasses and stacking them neatly.

After we returned to shore, we started a fire, made dinner, did dishes, enjoyed a s’more and got ready for an unusual camping experience: a shower! At three minutes per quarter, the opportunity to get clean and warm before a night of freezing temperatures outside was more than welcome. The water pressure was high and sprayed the entirety of the stall, first with what felt like the coldest mist of water possible, then with the warmest, bone thawing shot of blissful clean water imaginable. I shivered in the warmth, got clean as fast as possible, then stood still in the remaining minutes of warmth. More wool layers on, cheeks rosy, and warm to my core, I was ready to conquer the cold and sleep soundly to the calls of loons and peepers.

See Day 2 here.

Days 3-4 will be posted in the coming weeks!