Nickerson does rock – well, mostly...
As real outdoor and camping enthusiasts we made the most of our first experience at Nickerson State Park even though there were significant things left to be desired. Although there were plenty of empty campsites (according to reserveramerica) we were only able to choose from a small handful of sites to reserve. We were told that parts of the park are closed during certain months while the Park Ranger and volunteers clean. After looking over the area maps on ReserverAmerica and cross-referencing them with actual maps of Nickerson from mass parks website, we called directly to the reservation hotline to confirm which sites were ‘reservable’. We eventually gave up trying to book campsites we thought appeared more desirable (based on location, privacy and beachfront access) and we (unknowingly) choose a site in Area 6x, right beside the bathroom. You cannot get accurate distances from looking at the area maps of Nickerson so it is difficult to tell that the campsites areas are so densely populated. We didn’t know until our arrival that the bathroom and consequently the ventilation pipe for the bathroom’ waste pit was virtually on top of our campsite. That was a bit gross but we are fundamentally happy people and we were very happy to be outdoors so we were able to overlook the bathroom. The noxious gasses coming from the ventilation pipe were a bit harder to ignore. Our campfire, some African rainforest sap wood and Nag Champa incense helped us forget out our misfortune. This helped greatly on second day when it seemed like the bathroom’s pit really needed to be emptied.
We did not like our campfire pit because it was basically a cast iron barbeque pit. Put directly into the ground. After evaluating the area we realized we had little choice but to use it, for there was no place to get rocks to create our own fire ring. Furthermore, we realized there was too much tree cover to make a substantial fire, not to mention that the site could not accommodate a real fire ring, there just wasn’t enough space. We are big on the campfire experience so we kept our fire going night and day to the dismay of the Park Ranger who came to us on our very first night and told us that we had to extinguish our fire by 12 am. We were flabbergasted. We thought we were camping for god’s sake! The nerve of him! We saw nothing on the website telling us we could not sit by our campfire all night long. When he made his request, he explained to us that Nickerson had some problems in the past with careless people and campfires. I think he thought we were some youngsters just looking to build a great big fire and then go into our tents and sleep while the forest burned. We were quite insulted and needless to say we thought his request was laughable. So, we keep our fire going just the same. Around 1 am we think we saw the Park Ranger’s car go by our site, slow a bit to take a look and go on its way. Perhaps he was satisfied seeing us sitting by the fire or maybe he was too sleep to stop. Either way he saved himself some time. Surely he knew we were going make a stand about our fire.
On the first night we had a wonderful time by the campfire making S’Mores, drinking hot chocolate and just enjoying the smell of the fire. The next day on one of our nature walks we discovered that little Cliff Pond has beautiful little beach. We felt like we had discovered a little piece of paradise. The beach was virtually empty except for a two other visitors who quietly left shortly after our arrival. We discreetly skinny dipped in broad daylight in the 75-degree sun, lied seminude on the small beach and enjoyed the seclusion. On our second night we realized that (due in part to the fact that the campsites were so closely laid out) there was virtually no good firewood in forest area between the campsites. We were able to find good kindling wood but no real burning wood. We decided before dark to take a ride down to the general store and purchase some firewood for the night. The next day we took a drive to Flax Pond and realized that there was plenty of great firewood all along the roadsides leading in and out of the camp areas. This made us exceedingly glad. We spend most of the day nosing around Nickerson sight seeing and eventually surveying the other campsites and jotting down on a notepad which sites we think are the best sites for future camping. Later on the second night we had another bigger, brighter campfire and played acoustic guitar around the fire. Unfortunately the folks from a neighboring site came over to ask that we play guitar a bit more quietly. We agreed although we thought it strange since acoustic guitar is so soft and lovely sounding in and of itself and these particular campers had a loud ATV they brought along for their trip and kept their headlights on for what seemed like forever while they settled into their campsite and we said nothing of it. We told specifically upon our arrival at 4 pm on the first evening that we should try to arrive earlier next time in order to set up in daylight so that we do not disturb our neighboring campers. I suppose they didn’t get that speech on their arrival. Truthfully, the crux of the problem was that their campsite was so close to ours that our acoustic guitar playing disturbed them and their headlights and ATV disturbed us.
Overall we had a great time. I am planning a second trip this year. I do however; have some points of criticism of Nickerson State Park. The are:
1)The campsites are so closely laid out as to be nearly on top of one another and campers have very little privacy.
2)There is virtually no forest in between the sites so you have to either buy your firewood or go for drives in your car to looking for wood at non-campsite areas. Once you do this, you will find a great deal of suitable, dry wood for burning.
3)If you are thinking of looking at the Nickerson Area map and calling the reservation hotline to request a specific site, think again. When you telephone you will find out that only certain areas of the park are ‘open’ and thus only certain sites are ‘reservable’.
4)You cannot make your own campfire ring. If you are thinking of camping out in a large group and having a substantial fire, think again. You must use the campfire pit provided by the park. This is problematic because:
a.The fire pit is so small you can barely get a fire on it
b. The fire pit is often located in really inconvenient location for camping. I assume they are put where they are as to be close enough to the road so the Park Rangers can see it without leaving their trucks.
c.The firepot is also a barbeque pit with a huge grill, which flips up off the fire so you can get at it and down onto the fire for cooking. This can be good if you don’t want a fire to keep you warm… then you can keep it down to a dull roar in order to cook on it. However, for warmth you will have to do something else. It is impossible to both cook on the fire pit and build a fire good enough for staying warm. The pit is simply not big enough nor is it build to do both at the same time. If you are going to be doing any cooking, be smart and bring hibachi and some charcoal a small barbeque stove found at local stores) or a small camping stove. This way you can keep your fire going at good level to keep you warm while you cook.
The area is very beautiful. There are loads of great hiking trails, some horseback riding trials, several small ponds w. nice little beaches and a general store that stays open until 11 pm. The general store sells food, beer, cooking stoves, firewood, axes, shovels and everything in between. There are showers and bathrooms with running water in every area. Unfortunately, there is virtually no campsite privacy, as campsite areas are densely populated but this makes the other areas more beautiful and decreases the human impact on the forest. It is not survivalist camping, so be prepared for all the intrusion of people driving in and out of camp areas with bright headlights in the evenings, ringing cell phones, folks who insist on having radios and pumping music at their campsites during the day and lots of screaming children at play. Although most people appear to stick to themselves we did get a nosy neighbor who was seemed to simply be ‘curious’ about us. He came over under the pretense of saying ‘hello’ but seemed to scan our campsite and take note of every thing on our picnic table! I am not certain what he was looking for or if he found it but he seemed to be nice and eventually the small talk died out, he wished us well and went on his way. I think there are folks who go to Nickerson regularly and feel somewhat territorial about the place. It is definitely not the ultimate campsite for us; couple with no children looking for some solace from the annoyances of Boston’s urban lifestyle but we blocked out the little things and enjoyed the important things. Once you know what times of year to go and what sites are acceptable to you, I think you can have a wonderful time at Nickerson State Park.
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