As an adult, I once spent an entire summer in my backyard each night building a treehouse with my friend Barry.
The appeal of having a clubhouse never left me from childhood, and as a first-time homeowner there were two things I wasted little time doing – first was buying a go-kart like the ones I used to drool over in the Sears catalog, and second was building that treehouse.
So when I learned recently about the “Spruce Swamp Beagle Club” – a group of guys who many years ago built a small cabin in the woods of New Hampshire – I immediately made plans to track it down.
The cabin is called Camp Nasty, and armed with some general directions I found online a friend and I grabbed our backpacks one Saturday afternoon and headed out.
Our trek to Camp Nasty was a tale of two hikes. Part one was a leisurely, mile-long stroll down a snowmobile bed wide enough that my Toyota could have driven it. Part two was a bushwhack that featured impenetrable bushes, bug infested swamps, and at least a month’s worth of bad language all packed into a half mile.
Whatever trail once led to Camp Nasty is long gone (hence the cabin’s name), and although we felt like giving up at different points we trudged on and eventually stumbled onto this welcome sight.
The first obvious thing was that, even if people still visited the cabin, it’s probably been a long time since it’s seen any meaningful use. Beginning with the broken front door that was propped up sideways, Camp Nasty is in a terrible state of deterioration.
What remains, however, are all the signs of a once place once treasured. Although no longer in usable condition, everything a person would need for an overnight stay remained. There were 2 bed frames, pots & pans, a table, lantern, and even a wood stove.
We signed the “new” logbook which dated to back to 1991, so people have been visiting this cabin for quite a long time. In fact, we later learned that this is the second cabin built on this spot. The first one was constructed from logs left behind by a tree cutting service but ended up burning down. Perhaps that explains this seemingly out of place smoke detector.
The builders of Camp Nasty loved their cabin and wanted to share it. They even wrote a mission statement welcoming people to use their “meager facilities” and asking only that it be left in the same condition it was found. One of the builders, Ralph Crocker of Exeter NH, loved this cabin so much he chose to be buried in it. Here is his cremation box which we found resting peacefully on a shelf. Holding his remains and thinking about the enjoyment this place brought him, I felt a momentary connection with someone I’d never even met.
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Later that night as I was flipping through the pictures, Tina commented how the cabin is on the verge of collapsing. What will happen if it falls down, she asked. I said I guess the pile of rubble will remain there until nature claims her back. But what about Ralph’s remains, would someone come and get them? Maybe he has family that will come for them, I speculated, but more than likely I think they’ll stay buried in the rubble until nature claims them back as well.
And although I cannot know for sure, I suspect that’s just the way Mr. Crocker would have wanted it.