By: Kelly Graner, Interpretive Ranger at Crawford Notch State Park
My time living at Bear Brook State Park has taught me many things, some expected and some not so much.
I will be honest and share that I was hesitant when accepting this job last September, I thought to myself ‘New Hampshire? There is nothing cool about that state.’ You see, I wanted to be somewhere beautiful, somewhere Insta-worthy if you will. I really did not think that place was New Hampshire. But here I am, several months later, saying that this state, though small, has made a large impact on my life. I now say that New Hampshire is home. Home? Well now I sound like a wishy-washy park ranger, don’t I? Let me clarify just how and why this place has become my home in such a short amount of time.
Let’s first talk about the physical aspects of the word home.
Webster dictionary defines home as, “One’s place of residence.” (Merriam-Webster)
The first home I had here in NH was the lodge at Bear Brook (Spruce Pond Camp). If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting this wonderful place, below is a snapshot of the main room. Although it is rarely this clean, the lodge is the spot to be. There is always someone reading, watching TV, singing loudly, cooking, etc. I think of this spot as home because this is where I met my Bear Brook Crew and where we actually became a family. We’ve laughed, cried and created wonderful memories in this place. Any Bear Brooker, past or present, can say that there is a special feeling that overcomes you when driving up the winter or summer road, and it’s not just from the potholes.
The lodge is where us Bear Brookers spend January through May, then we split, half of the group doing conservation/trail work while the other half move to various parks and do interpretive rangering. I myself am the ranger at Crawford Notch State Park, so I got another home in June. This home, the Dry River Campground has been an awesome summer getaway. I must say it’s a dream to wake up in a tent every morning, cook food via a camp stove and propane tank and make a fire in the fire pit for warmth when a cold front comes through. If you haven’t spent time at Crawford Notch, or camping even, I suggest you do both. Crawford Notch is also special in the fact that no one can get cell service. Not only are there beautiful sights to see, there is time to think and share good company; it’s for this reason that I am grateful to have spent the time I have at Crawford Notch.
In addition to the lodge at Bear Brook and my tent at Dry River Campground, I also have my car Harvey. Harvey has been through it all, from my early college days in Pennsylvania, to breaking down in Iowa, various road trips along with my move to NH, he’s been there when others have not. Harvey is a 2009 Honda Fit covered in bumper stickers. He is a fighter and despite everything, he comes through when needed. Several of my fellow Bear Brookers can attest to this as he has provided shelter for various car camping trips in the White Mountains. I love my car and am grateful to have him, I am sure at some point I will fully live out of this car and it’ll be a treat.
Reading up to this point, I’m sure you can tell I’m the outdoorsy type, so when the lodge, my tent and my car don’t cut it; I have my trusty Osprey 65 liter that serves as my home sometimes too. This pack serves as my home when I hike and backpack throughout the White Mountains and other regions in the northeast. To those that have backpacked, I bet you can agree that there is something special about carrying everything you need on your back. These packs prove just how capable we are of achieving incredible things. My pack is special because it is one of the few things that will come with me on my adventures, it is my travel companion, carrying what I need to live the life I love.
Home is much more than just four walls and some fabric. I like to think that our ‘home’ is made up of experiences that shape us as well as the people we meet along the way.
I moved to New Hampshire and my life changed for the better. I got to teach some pretty cool kiddos in Manchester, I learned how to live and love life with less than the basics. I climbed more mountains than I ever expected, became a Wilderness First Responder and worked in a park that people visit from all over the world. This job has filled my heart with love, a sense of belonging and caused NH to become my home. But this place would be nothing without my Bear Brook family.
These 30 some people have been my world since January and I would have it no other way. We’re an odd bunch, but each of us contributes something to the family. We share this unique experience, coming together from all different parts of the country because we love the outdoors and we want to make the world better. These people have showed me love, kindness, vision and honesty; I don’t think I would be the person I’ve become in this program without all of them by my side. It is with this group that I feel myself and know that I am understood, accepted and loved in return.
So you see, home is where you feel at peace, where you feel comfortable with whom you are. Your home may be a person, it may be a mountaintop, and it may be an old creaky log cabin. It’s not the physical place that makes up your home but everything in between, and no matter where or what that is, I assure you, it is beautiful.