It was the last day of the semester. Finals were done and most students were already home for the holidays. However, I was not in any rush to get home. First off, my room looked like this.
Packing that would be a project and a half, and it was too beautiful of a day to waste. It was sunny, windy, and in the high 40s… A perfect day to explore a state park!
I roused my friends from their cozy dorm rooms at the crack of dawn (9 am… which I guess is early in the UNH time warp) and was met with a variety of protests. Sadly, I am in the minority of college students who enjoy getting up early.
It ended up taking us almost two hours to get off campus, since Kendall brought his kite that we just HAD to try out. We also wanted to eat as many waffles as possible, since we would be without unlimited waffles for an entire month over break. Once the wind had died down and we were full of sugary goodness, we made our way over to Pawtuckaway State Park. Pawtuckaway is somewhat of a mecca for boulderers and rock climbers, with beautiful natural faces and huge boulders to conquer. We were planning on doing some top rope rock climbing, but several days of rain spoiled our plans. The skies were clear, but the rocks were wet and unsafe to climb. We decided to go ahead and explore Pawtuckaway anyways, and we were not disappointed.
After a 10 minute downhill hike from the Round Pond trailhead, we came across a labyrinth of boulders. Huge rocks, upwards of 20 feet tall, were littered all around us, creating a playground of caves and tunnels. We all split off in different directions, climbing, crawling, and leaping from boulder to boulder.
After stopping for a snack, we headed down to Round Pond as the sun began to poke out from behind the clouds.
Not only is Round Pond beautiful, but it’s right next to a great rock climbing area called the Lower Slabs. A year ago, I had my first outdoor rock climbing experience here, on a route called The Flake.
When I was a kid growing up outside of Boston, I took an indoor rock climbing class at our local YMCA. I loved it, but on the last day, I swore off rock climbing forever. We had learned how to be belayers, who are the people who manage the ropes on the ground while a climber goes up the wall. A girl who weighed less than me was belaying me unsafely on my last climb up, and when I began to go down the wall, she lost her balance and I fell onto my climbing instructor. I wasn’t hurt, but I had a new fear of falling, and no desire to ever climb again.
When I came to college, I realized that some of the most rewarding experiences happen when you put yourself outside of your comfort zone. I signed up for an outdoor rock climbing clinic at Pawtuckaway, and was really discouraged when I could barely get halfway up the face without panicking. However, on my final attempt, I got up the Flake. Standing on top, looking out over Round Pond, I had a feeling of accomplishment that I’ll never forget. I’ve gone climbing on the indoor walls at UNH many times since that day, but I haven’t been able to get back outside yet.
After playing on the rocks for a while, we decided it was time to set up our hammocks. Last summer, I worked as a Shorebird Interpretive Intern on Cape Cod National Seashore, protecting endangered shorebirds on some of the Cape’s most popular beaches. While living in Wellfleet, Molly came to visit me for a weekend, and we took a memorable trip to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. We feasted on gelato and fudge samples, basked in the sunshine, and strolled through the enigmatic streets of the harbor side town. However, the best part of the day was spent in a small shack next to the bay. It was a hammock store, and we spent hours laying around and talking to the store owner, Marty. We left with two new hammocks, and a new obsession.
At school, we thought it would be funny to start a Hammock Club. Little did we know how it would explode. Over 50 people came to our first meeting, and by the end of the semester we made the school newspaper and a hammock company donated hammocks to us (Thanks Trek Light Gear!). Now we have 6 club hammocks that we loan out for our “hamventures”. Hammocking (Hammin’) in Pawtuckaway was beautiful, with the sun sparkling on Round Pond and the hard rock of the Lower Slabs behind us. It would be a perfect spot to watch some rock climbing in warmer weather.
Hammin’ is a great way to get out and really experience state parks. It’s relaxing, comfortable, and a good way to stop and just look at the world around you. After a nap, my friends and I packed up and went back to school. It was a perfect way to end a great semester. I’ll miss school and my friends there, but I’m excited to continue on my adventures over winter break!