Rockywold Deephaven Family Camp

IMG_2658Kish’s and my road trip last week was one of the most enjoyable vacations we’ve ever had, and part of the reason was our two-day visit to the Rockywold Deephaven Family Camp near Holderness, New Hampshire.  I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get away from the hurly burly of the modern world for a while, reconnect with their family, and relax.

I’m not going to try to describe the camp, its history, or its activities, you can find that information at the RDC website.  Instead, I just want to list a few reasons why I think this place is special.

First, Squam Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen, anywhere.  Remarkably clear water, physically beautiful, perfect for sailing, canoeing, kayaking, or using the motorboat for a tube run.  We used it mostly for swimming and floating and basking in the warm sunshine.  Even better, it is absolutely, perfectly, breathtakingly quiet in the morning.

The view from Bungalow bench

The view from the bench in front of our cabin, Bungalow

Second, you have lots of lodging choices.  We were going to stay in a communal lodge, where guests share common areas, but there had been a cancellation and we got a small cottage instead.  Ours was a one-bedroom enclave called Bungalow, and the cabin options — all of which have their own names — run the gamut from one bedroom to cabins large enough to accommodate multiple generations of a family.  Our cabin had a porch that faced the water, a bench that was right on the shoreline with a great view, and its own little dock where we did our swimming.  It was ideal for us.

Third, there’s not a lot of clutter with modern amenities.  Don’t worry, there are plugs so you can recharge every one of your 50 electrical devices, and we had good cell phone and wireless coverage in our cabin, so you can still get your technology fix.  But there was no TV, no refrigerator, no stereo or radio in our cabin — which encouraged you to get off your duff, walk the grounds, breathe deep the fresh air, hike, swim, fish, read, or join in one of the communal activities, and otherwise avoid the insipid cat videos and internet mindlessness that otherwise fill so much of our lives.

The Deephaven bell tower

The Deephaven bell tower

Fourth, there was an interesting tradition and dynamic at the camp.  Many of the guests when we were visiting had been coming there for years, if not generations, and the RDC encourages that by using a kind of seniority system to assign cabins and tables at the dining hall.  And because there is some separation between the Rockywold and Deephaven parts, which have different dining halls for example, the old pros have formed strong allegiances to their respective sides.  Our cabin was in the Deephaven section, and when we got to talking to other Deepers at a picnic lunch it was clear that they would never consider the prospect of ever staying on the Rockywold side.  Horrors!

Finally, the dining was all done in a communal dining hall.  Meals were served at set times and announced by a bell ringing at the bell tower.  The food was good, and plentiful, and served buffet style, and every family sits at its own assigned table.  It was a pleasure to see parents, kids, and grandparents as they ate their meals together.  There were other communal activities, too — a chance to make tie-dyed shirts, a picnic, a family movie (Frozen, of course), a talent show where little kids were the stars for a night, boat cruises, an ultimate Frisbee match — and all of them seemed to involve kids, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  I’d wager that the families that spend a week at the RDC grow stronger and closer in the process, which is probably why they come back.

The Rockywold Deephaven Camp has been around since 1897.  It probably hasn’t changed much, while the world around it has changed a lot.  It’s part of the reason why it’s such a great place.  I wish we had known about it when Richard and Russell were kids.

The Deephaven dining hall

The Deephaven dining hall

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Back To The Ice Age

20140807-071831-26311110.jpgOur cottage at Rockywold-Deephaven Family Camp — like every other cottage here — lacks a refrigerator.

Instead of the large, humming, ice-making and food-chilling machine found in all of our kitchens, we have an old-fashioned, noiseless icebox. It’s a green wooden piece of furniture with a snug, metal-lined compartment where blocks of ice are placed. The ice is used strictly for cooling, not consumption. The cold radiating from the ice and metal keeps the other contents of the icebox, like Kish’s bottle of diet root beer, chilled.

The ice is made with lake water and comes from the Deephaven Ice House. Every morning male staffers use huge metal tongs to haul blocks of ice out of the ice house and put it in green wheelbarrows, then they hustle from cottage to cottage to replenish the ice in each icebox. It looks like quite a workout. Our iceman who cometh is named Peter, a pleasant young man from the Czech Republic who has worked at the camp for three summers and is looking forward to a fourth next year.

The dining room at Rockywold-Deephaven provides three meals a day, so you really don’t need a big, bulky refrigerator clogging up your cottage space or making noise that interferes with enjoyment of the morning solitude — and it’s kind of nice to live in an appliance-free zone for a while. It’s one of the distinctive touches of this remarkable and very enjoyable place.

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Sunrise Over Squam Lake

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Another day dawns over Squam Lake, and there is absolute silence as the sun rises. It is so quiet that the sound of stones crunching underfoot seems to echo to the ends of the earth.

Every city dweller should make a trip to a place like this to learn and appreciate the meaning of quiet.

Swimming To The Floating Dock

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Yesterday we went swimming in Lake Squam. The water was cold when we first plopped in, but soon became comfortable as we got acclimated.

About 40 yards away from the end of our dock was a floating dock. I felt my inner 10-year-old decide that I was going to swim over and check out that dock, and before I knew it I was following that mental command and swimming freestyle toward the dock.

Yikes! My swimming skills are ridiculously rusty, and the lifeguard who taught UJ and me to swim decades ago would have had lots of strong comments about my form as I floundered toward the dock, breathing to the side every few strokes. Still, I made it, and it felt good to feel the steps of the floating dock ladder, cool and slick with algae, under my palms.

I ended up making several round trips to that dock, sometimes diving down toward the bottom of the lake, which was clearly visible through the cool water. A few fish swam lazily by, and I experimented with the back stroke and breast stroke as I went. Lake swimming is the best swimming if all, with no chlorine or salt to bother you or keep you from opening your eyes underwater.

The sun shone down and glinted off the surface of the water, and in the distance I heard the thrum of a motorboat. For a while I felt like a kid again.

Lake Squam

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We’ve moved a few miles south, to the Rockywold-Deephaven Family Camp in Holderness, New Hampshire. We’ve got our own little cabin, with its own dock stretching out into the beautiful, crystal clear water of Lake Squam.

The picture above really doesn’t do justice to this lovely, peaceful place.