A couple hiking the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia northbound to Mount Katahdin in Maine reach their first full 360 degree open vista above treeline at the summit of Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire. Their guidebook describes the view from Moose as perhaps the finest in the state. Those of us who are White Mountain aficionados could easily cite many additional breathtaking panoramas we more prefer and which are not even on the Appalachian circuit through our scenic state.
The trekkers atop Moosilauke, however, do enjoy a handsome field of vision and doubtlessly would be thrilled to discover more about the land beneath their feet.
New Hampshire is the birthplace of American camping. The first stand-alone summer camp was Camp Chocorua, founded in 1881 on Burnt Island (now Church Island) on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. It was organized for the expressed purpose of developing character and, to use a vogue word of today, grit. The youngsters thrived in a world far from home, developed strong bonds of friendship and trust, and came back far stronger physical and emotional beings. Many other camps, such as The Groton School Camp (1882,) Asquam (1885) and Pasquaney (1895) – all in New Hampshire — soon followed, and the camping industry, as we know it today was born.
Well over a century later, New Hampshire summer camps continue to give young people from all places and all walks of life experiences which help them to develop grit. Camp is a place to gain experience with new peer groups, to develop flexibility and stamina, to be exposed to new potential interests, and to learn basic skills not likely to be offered elsewhere. Campers learn to persevere, and ultimately thrive, when put in the situation of being away from the nest. This gives them the confidence to expand their comfort zones in the future. Another example is the forging of friendships in a community where at first a camper knows no one. Sleeping in a strange bed, eating new foods, trying a new activity where a person has to put himself out there as a novice – all help to strengthen emotional fortitude.
Our hiking friends can see plenty of lakes and ponds dotting the landscape below. Every summer at camp, people report seeing loons, moose, beaver, bear, and eagles along the shores of our lake. One day recently, I was gently witnessing a loon as it quietly drifted its way towards our shoreline. I saw the mergansers, too, minding their own business on and near a giant flat rock. Something the loon did suddenly spooked the ducks and they took off under water like torpedoes going a hundred miles per hour. Amazing in most places, but relatively commonplace in New Hampshire to those who are paying attention. New Hampshire is one of the best, and most authentic, places to connect children to the outdoors.
Our Appalachian Trail summit team most assuredly are observing cool breezes, not too many bugs, and certainly no poisonous snakes as they take a long, leisurely break to soak up one of the most handsome panoramas anywhere. While they cannot see it, campers are growing their grit on just about every lake, mountainside, and field in their view. Here is hoping they appreciate why New Hampshire is such a resplendent place to so many of us.