Great things out of New Hampshire.
I stayed two nights in Manchester at Elizabeth’s former roommates place. Sam and her boyfriend, James, lived in the first floor of a two-story house with their cat, Monster, and their border collie, Moxie.
Elizabeth, who I originally met in Savannah Georgia, knew she was going to be in NH in mid-May, so with minor modification to my route we were able to meet up again. She and Moxie were ecstatic to be reunited, and we went on many walks around the neighborhood. Sam was a fantastic cook, and before I left Thursday morning (5/14/15), James gifted me a half pint of pure maple syrup produced in Loudon, New Hampshire. The honor was not lost on me.
Elizabeth and I split with hopes but no plans to meet up again. I don’t think it will be difficult for us to stay in touch.
I entered White Mountain National Forrest through its southwestern edge via I-93.
At James’ persuasion I headed east on Highway 112 to follow the Kancamangus River Valley (Kancamangus rhymes with Orangutan-gus if that helps at all. It’s affectionately referred to as The Kangy by locals). Eager to burn the wood I picked up before Manchester, I settled in at Blackberry Campground around 6:30pm. After allowing for the proper amount of settling-in time, my neighbor from campsite #12 invited me to add to his fire.
JT (John Thompson, 48?) was originally from Massachusetts. He said he drove up from his home in Portsmouth NH to camp out for two reasons. The first reason was to attend the Appalachian Mountain Club’s season kick-off cabin party on Friday, and the second was to pick a small supply of edible fern buds for his mother. His vehicle was his white work van, and the four color splattered aluminum ladders on the roof agreed well when he told me he was a house painter by trade.
JT was a storyteller.
He moved around a lot when he spoke, lifting his rolled bill ball cap only to put it back on crooked again. He would lean forward during the juicy plot points, and recline just before the punch line. He would thumb his nose and aim one eye at me, bringing it nearly closed with out breaking eye contact. He would pull his thumb and middle finger down his face from the corners of his eyes to the tip of his chin. His eyebrows were thick and robust, with enough personality that I began to feel rude for not introducing myself to them separately. He said the word “Hard” the way its inventors must have intended, with a low croaking hAAd “a” sound.
There the three of us sat – the Fire, me, and JT.
We took turns being suspicious of each other’s tall tales. We talked about sand dunes in California and ice fishing in Massachusetts. Anytime the dialogue slowed our mutual friend crackled with laughter or hissed in grinning disbelief before compelling us to clarify the hazy bits of our stories.
The next morning I gave JT the “Well if you ever find yourself in Southern California…” line, and he smiled in appreciation of the gesture. He gave me a handful of fern sprouts, and showed me how to identify an edible, Indian Cucumber.
And that was that.