To be honest, this all sounds more hardcore than it actually was.
My climber girlfriends are super into backpacking and camping. Thanks to the NJ Transit, I missed my first trip with them. Two weeks later, me and bae ended up going.
Something I didn’t know until recently – there are lean-to’s/shelters in Harriman State Park where anyone can go and show up and spend the night or weekend. You don’t need a reservation or anything. Here’s a good run down of what they are.
Since I got good reviews of the Dutch Doctor Shelter from my friends, we went there. It was a beautiful fall weekend in late September so we got out early to get a good spot. Since we both have never done this and didn’t know how to pack (read: carried way too much), we parked on the other side of Lake Sebago on Seven Lakes Drive and hiked in. This was probably the shortest way to go. There are a few ways to get there but this was absolutely the fastest although steepest.
Once we got there, there were a few little campsites and firepits to choose from. We set up camp, we started looking for wood to start a fire with, which was surprisingly easy with lighter fluid.
Towards the late afternoon, more and more campers showed up but there are so many little campsites around with enough privacy so no one is in your way.
Even though we didn’t know how to pack at all, being able to make our own fire and basically do whatever we want far away from civilization made it both fun and at the same time scary (ie tying our food up in a tree so a bear won’t come to camp). The biggest issue is water – either bring enough water (3 liters per person for 24 hours seemed like enough for us) or bring your own water filter (you can get these at REI). That being said the water source wasn’t that close hiking wise.
If you’re looking to get into backpacking, this is a great starter trip!