Route 93 North. Matt and I are driving in his brother’s truck to go camping at one of two spots. The first spot is Tripoli Road, a long dirt artery through the heart of the lower White Mountain National Forest. The second is some mountain whose name currently escapes me. Tails. That’s what we call it. Tripoli Road is, conversely, Heads.
Heads wins the coin flip. We take our exit.
Ten years ago, Matt and I got arrested at Tripoli Road. Sam and Pete got arrested there, too. Sam and Pete were with us then, but they aren’t with us now, so, frankly, fuck ’em. No, that’s not fair. May God have mercy on their souls, is more like it. Anyway. We all got arrested when we were sixteen years-old because we were ambushed by a bunch of cops who were checking up on our camping site. We were minors in possession of alcohol, you see. And marijuana, but we weren’t charged with that because the cops probably wanted to smoke our weed, because, really, there’s nothing better to do in New Hampshire, if you think hard about it.
Officer Moorhead and his lackies emerged from all sides of the forest at once, flashlights blaring into our eyes while we were trying to start a fire.
“Hey, guys,” Moorhead said.
“Hey,” we said.
“Just doing the rounds and making sure all of you know that this is bear country,” he continued.
“Okay, thanks,” we said.
Bear country-schmare country, you twat. Officer Moorhead just wanted to mess with us
“You know,” he went on, “bears have a taste for alcohol.”
“You might want to tell me if you’ve been drinking.”
“Nope,” I said, too quickly. Looking around at the others to make sure we had our story straight. No, no, no, of course not, we all agreed. And really, we hadn’t. At that point, we’d each had one drink, a couple of hours earlier, and were much more focused on getting our fire started than getting raging drunk. The getting raging drunk part was supposed to come after the fire was started.
But we had, alas, smoked a pretty massive joint fifteen minutes earlier, and we were sixteen years-old. Which meant we were paranoid as shit, and that we didn’t have a damned clue about our legal rights.
So, right, okay–Officer Moorhead and assorted cohorts searched us, took our booze and controlled substance, arrested us, and brought us to the police station where we were forced to call our legal guardians, inform them of our unfortunate situation, and be escorted back to our campsite at one in the morning–which was kinda nice, in retrospect, that they drove us back to the site after we’d been so thoroughly humiliated, to salvage what little left we could of the trip. You know, even if we would have to cut the whole thing short to go home and get yelled at, it was nice that they didn’t make us stay the night in cells. It was nice that they hadn’t searched one of Sam’s pockets, too, and that the pocket they hadn’t searched was the one where the rest of our weed was.
At the time, though, we were pretty bitter about it.
As, you know, sixteen year-olds are wont to be.
But that was ten years ago, and Matt and I have, uh, gotten over it. Right. Totally over it. And Matt’s brought along the Polaroid that Moorhead took of us in the station, just in case he makes his rounds tonight. Ten years ago, he had said, “One day, you’ll look back on this and laugh, and when you do you should come up here again and we’ll have a beer together.”
And while Matt and I have finished our six-pack, we still have half a fifth of Knob Creek. And we still have our fingers crossed, because you never know when Officer Moorhead might crawl out of the bush with a flashlight and a vendetta.
“Matt!” I shout. I’m looking for kindling for our fire.
“Come here,” I say.
Here I’ve discovered a massive black bear shit, thirty or so feet from our tent. I’m not really worried about bear, but you want to be on guard a bit, cause, you know: you never know. Matt hurries up the hill. “What’s up?”
“Look.” I point at the shit.
“What’s tha–oh,” he says, answering his own question. We think about it for a minute, consider the possibility that it might not be a very fresh black bear shit, that it could be something else. “Too big for raccoons–and really, I’d rather take on a bear than a raccoon that could shit like that, anyway.” “Too mealy for a human being.” So yep. “It’s bear shit.” “And it’s from today.”
East Fork Pond is a mile and a half off the road, an elevation gain of five or six hundred feet. We hike up with modest expectations, hedging our bets. We bump into two girls and their awesome dog on their way down from the pond. “You can swim there?” I ask them. Yes, yes, they say. “Are there, like, leeches and shit?” I say. No, no, they say. “It’s quite nice.”
Okay, cool, we say. “Well, see you later.”
They don’t tell us that at the end of the path the trees clear out and you stumble into big fat pond nirvana situated in coniferous forest with dead patchwork birch trees scattered on the mountaintops in the distance. They don’t mention that the water is crystal clear and brisked to perfection, that the sun is shining and that the grass is greener. They just loll down the path and let us find that for ourselves.
We swim and sit on the beach and talk for a few hours while a man on the other side of the pond tries to catch sunfish. But he doesn’t catch a thing.
In the morning we’re hungover. We make coffee. We eat breakfast. We put the fire out and clean up our camp. It’s time to go.
“We could go find him,” Matt says. He’s talking about Arresting-Officer Moorhead. Woodstock’s a pretty small town. All we’d have to do is locate the police station.
“Nah,” I say. “Fuck it. Fuck Moorhead.”
We climb the hill and drive back to Massachusetts.