It has been almost 2 months that I’ve been living in the Big Island campground in Pawtuckaway State Park. As I run through my day to day, leading programs and meeting campers, I get many questions about my living situation, and even more shocked faces when I tell them that this summer I sleep in a tent and live out of my car!
About 2 months ago I was also wondering how I would make it through, with my sanity intact. Today, I am happy to say that I have not only endured, but I love my extended camping trip. That being said there are certain small things that I see and experience out at the park that make those times that all I want is a solid building to shelter myself from the rain, or I long to lay down on a couch, or even want a kitchen to cook my dinner in, all worth it. Today I would like to share with you some of the simple pleasures I find in being an Interpretive Ranger and a resident of Pawtuckaway.
I often see many of the same faces throughout the weekend and there is one person I remember fondly that visited me at some point almost every during their stay. About a month ago I met Joshua, a little boy who I first encountered at Marsh Marvels. We caught insects and small amphibians that afternoon. From there I saw him the next 3 days. We crafted and we learned about beavers. At the end of the last program we spent together Joshua ran away to retrieve something for me that he had made (he was very artistic, as I learned while we colored wood cookies together). He came galloping back towards me with my gift in hand. A little man made out of rocks and twigs that I still hold on to (and don’t intend to let go of). It’s moments like those that make my position in the park one of the best, it’s what I think about when I walk away from an unattended program or am feeling low on energy for the work day.
Some of my simple pleasures are more on the comical side. Just last week I was walking along the beach trail when I saw a little chipmunk sitting right in the middle of the path with a rather large snack in paw. As I got closer it scurried off the trail, but only by a foot or so, still munching away. I wondered what it was eating and approached quietly and slowly to get a closer look. Of course, I’m not known for stealth or animal stalking skills, so very quickly I scared the chipmunk away to the point that it dropped its meal. I looked down to see what it left behind only to find a pair of frog legs with yes, some guts spilling out. At first I was disgusted, but then I began to laugh. I couldn’t believe this little chipmunk’s meal. I think this sight is better left to the imagination…
There’s a beaver dam underneath the Burnham’s Marsh footbridge that I like to monitor on a weekly basis. I look for new additions and admire the architectural feat. For nearly the whole first month I lived in the park I believed that this beaver dam and pond had been abandoned, as there were many holes that allowed a decent amount of water flow through the structure. I came back from a weekend away only to discover that the maintenance crew had come in to destroy part of the dam to allow more water flow through to the other half of the marsh. Of course, I understood, but I was secretly crushed. 3 days I was walking by the area and noticed the water on the downstream side of the marsh to be strangely low, especially considering we had gotten a significant amount of rain during the week. I went over to the beaver dam out of curiosity, and sure enough everything had been patched up. I heard no flowing water, and saw some fresh beaver chews on new branches. The beaver of Burnham’s Marsh topped the whole operation with a few branches of fresh hemlock. It was quite the sight to behold and I was giddy with happiness for a good hour or so after I discovered the fresh additions!
In the first few weeks of living on the campgrounds I was in a constant state of exploration. One day I decided to walk back behind my campsite towards the lake, although my site is a good few hundred yards away from the water. I started to see the reflection of the sun on the lake, and as I continued to approach the water I laid eyes on what has become my favorite spot in the park. An old abandoned dock presented itself to me that day. Although it is small and dilapidated I have spent many weekends reading and relaxing on that dock. It makes me feel more connected to the community as I relax in the sun across from some of the beautiful Pawtuckaway Lake homes.
Naturally, there are many outdoor ways that I enjoy my time in my 5,500 acre summer home—for example hiking the extensive trails, and riding my bike around the quiet weekday campgrounds. My favorite activity in the park is kayaking around the lake, though. I weave my way around the islands, stop for blueberry snacks along the shores, and simply enjoy the watery wonderland. Nothing makes me feel as lucky or as refreshed than those days out of the lake.
All in all it’s the people I meet, the discoveries I make, and the landscape that I get to enjoy every day that make this summer the best I may I ever experience, despite my unorthodox living situation.