A backpacking journal from Gentian Pond, NH

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Submitted by renee on

Day One - Rest

A book would of been a good idea or maybe my knitting. What to do when all is still and quiet except for the constant background song of Austin Brook?

So I sit and wait for the brown bird to return to the bush with the red berries. Watching her eat is my afternoon's entertainment while the kids build fairy houses and Damien sleeps.

And as I fidget and wonder "what to do" I realize I never just sit. Even now I hold this pen and paper in my hand. But my mind is blank. No chores, no to-dos, no e-mails or meals to prepare. Nothing but a pond and a brook, birds, a few bugs, a snake, frogs (lots of frogs), a squirrel or two and the reported, but not seen moose and black bears.

AT thru hikers have reached the shelter for the night and eat their supper early. Thru hikers eat a lot of food. As for us, we'll eat when Damien wakes up and cooks it. At least eating will give me something to do.

And what then? Dishes and bed. My tired body agrees to this otherwise unproductive passing of time. My mind has trouble comprehending a state of simply - being. Not planning, stressing, photographing, writing, cooking. None of that because right now I simply sit.

Day Two - Together

I drag myself out of bed at 9:30 when Damien comes to announce "breakfast is ready". I was up once earlier today to relieve myself and crawled back into bed. Desiring nothing more than to sleep away this rainy, windy day. But the thought of coffee is a strong pull and I decide to join my family after all for breakfast at the shelter.

We spend the morning playing solitaire and eating dry cheerios given to us by the college kids who camped last night. A tropical storm bears down on the north east today and it is a cold and blustery day to be out indeed.

But I feel cozy, safe and dry as soaking wet hikers come visit, eat and decide to stay. Changing clothes and crawling into their bags at 12:30pm, to spend the afternoon warming up and resting.

Holed up in this 12 x 12 foot mountain shelter shared with perfect strangers I feel perfectly content. The day is shrouded in fog and cloud, rain pours on and off. We are not hiking today. We have no books, no computer, no toys, no crafts. So we eat, snuggle, read the shelter's log, play cards, eat more, meet very interesting people, pee in the woods, fetch water, wash our dishes, have a family afternoon nap, drink tea and just be, together.

I am warm, dry and snuggled with my kids. My husband cooks and life feels as good as it gets.

Day Three - Returning

Sore but well rested
Dirty but very happy
Together we hike

Today we pack up and hike down. This morning the sun broke through the rain and clouds of yesterday. The shards of light through the trees was breathtaking. Lugging this pack back down is equally breathtaking, though in a different way!

The bugs have found our trail as we wind our way through forest, stream, mountain rocks, valley and meadows. Back to our car, to our home and a shower. To our life and days of planning for our next adventure.

Background notes:

Gentian Pond Campsite is on the Mahoosuc Trail section of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, located 5 miles or so from the Maine border.

This is a great destination for first time and newbie backpackers. The trail is 3.5 miles (one-way) with moderate elevation gain near the end. If you take the logging road up a ways, instead of starting at the trail head, the hike is only 1 mile. The pond is not near any mountain summits of any note and is a mere 1,963 ft. But the view from the shelter is apparently one of the best shelter views along this section of the AT.

The shelter itself is a 3 sided structure that sleeps 14 or so. We did not choose this option but brought our tent. For day time use though it was very handy (& dry). If you decide to sleep in it with your children be aware that AT thru hikers use it and if it's raining you might want a large tarp to cover the opening to keep everyone dry.

thru hikers pack up early morning
Thru-hikers pack up early morning

The campsite itself consists of one large platform and four or so smaller ones. On a weekend you may want to arrive early, as we did, to secure a site. The great thing is that the camping is free. A composting toilet is on site for number #2 - seriously, the rest you are supposed to take care of in the woods.

The pond itself is very lovely and feeds Austin/Mill Brook. Lots of time can be spent playing in the water, climbing the rocks and otherwise relaxing there.

For more information including a trail description and how to get there see the AMC's White Mountain Guide.




I have to say, I sit probably

I have to say, I sit probably more than most moms and do absolutely nothing. Just stare into space, watch the birds, the bugs, listen to the wind, watch the clouds roll on by...I just thought of this when you mentioned you never do.


[...] trip in Brief: We went backpacking last weekend to Gentian Pond, here's a trip report from last year. On Friday we hiked 3.5 miles up to the shelter and set up camp there. Saturday we took a short [...]