Camping During COVID-19: My One Summer 2020 Vacation Experience

When I think of camping, I think of some of the fondest memories of my life. I picture my whole family sitting in a circle under the stars on a night just cold enough you need to wrap yourself up in a blanket in addition to feeling the warmth of the fire. I think of swimming in a lake surrounded by a perimeter of mountains and trees, and jumping off the dock with my best friends. I think of kayaking down the river and bringing my fishing rod just in case we get lucky and spot “the big one.” I think of my little sister’s face covered in sticky marshmallow and chocolate after she eats what she claims to be the perfect s’more.

When I think of camping I usually don’t think of having to make an appointment to go to the lake, because only half of the normal capacity of people are allowed in. I don’t think of bringing three weeks' worth of food in our trailer because we can’t go out to eat at our favorite seafood restaurants. And most of all, I usually don’t think of walking around the campground in a mask and not being able to have conversations with my site neighbors or petting any and all dogs that may be taking a walk by.

My family and I have been avid campers for almost my entire life. It’s not summer to me without sitting in the back of a pickup truck and making the drive to the middle of the woods somewhere. Campgrounds are usually the perfect place to make new and exciting memories with friends and family, get the chance to have a conversation with the couple who are road tripping across the country who just happened to stop at the site across from you for the night, or make new friends with the group on the hiking trail at the same time as you. They are usually a place of positive social interaction, however not during a pandemic.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I, like many others, thought it would be over in a few weeks. However, when June rolled around and I was still sitting in my house, I knew this summer was going to look slightly different.

We hadn’t made any plans for summer 2020, except for our annual trip to our favorite spot in New Hampshire that we had booked a year in advance. Our family friends were also supposed to be coming, and it was going to be a great time. I was becoming increasingly upset it wasn’t going to happen, but for months I held out hope that maybe we’d still be able to go.

New Hampshire has had one of the lowest case rates in the country throughout the pandemic, so they were being very careful about who they were letting into their state. However somewhere along the line my home state of Massachusetts started seeing fewer and fewer coronavirus cases, so at the beginning of June, New Hampshire decided to let us in.

I was ecstatic on that drive up New Hampshire’s Route 16 in the middle of August. I was ecstatic to be getting a change of scenery from the four walls of my bedroom, to see my friends (even if only from a distance), and to be doing at least one thing that felt like summer.

It was really different getting to the campground and seeing everybody in face masks. Even after months it still wasn’t something I was fully used to. It was weird having to take photos with my best friend while socially distanced. It was weird not being able to invite her inside my camper to hang out. It was weird having to sign up for a specific time to use the pool instead of just jumping right in.

Although we didn’t participate in the usual activities and adventures we have done in the past, like shopping in the general stores in North Conway, eating at Hart’s Turkey Farm, or mini-golfing, we still made this trip as fun as it could possibly be. We took scenic drives through the mountains, lounged in a secluded spot in the Kancamagus River, and hiked on the campground’s trails. I always feel connected to nature when I’m camping, but on this trip, I did even more so. Almost everything we did was outside. There were fewer people everywhere, which meant fewer distractions. I often found myself just sitting in the lounge chair on my site with my eyes closed listening to the birds, the water splashing, the chipmunks running around, and the wind through the trees.

I think it’s safe to that that this pandemic has been hard on everyone in a multitude of different ways, so being able to get outside and in nature for a week really helped to clear my head. It was one of the safer vacations we could’ve taken, seeing as having your own camper is similar to just being in your own house, which helped relax me as well.

The experience of camping during a pandemic was definitely different, however, it helped me relax and slow down for the week. I think taking time to get out in nature or be with family is something we could all use more of, so in the end, I’m grateful to have experienced a summer like this one.