For about fifteen years now, Edward and his son Connolly have owned a house in the remote hills of Essex County. They bought it from Edward’s old friends Tim and Leslie Nulty. The house had been owned by Tim’s family since the late 1950s. His father however, had been coming to the “neighborhood” for much longer, since the 1930s when he worked summers as a counselor at the Boys Camp down the road.
Apparently the elder Nultys spent their honeymoon at this house. Since then, their son Tim and his wife and children have visited spanning a period of thirty years. After Edward and Connolly bought the property, we used it as a frequent getaway spot from our busy Boston lives. We’d come up for long weekends and vacations. (On one of those vacations in 2003, we happened across another beautiful house in neighboring Guildhall, and that encounter led to the decision to move to Essex County permanently. Now when we want a truly remote spot as an escape, it’s much closer by.)
The house is over 200 years old and sits far back from the road. This time of year, you can just barely see it as you pass by, but in spring, summer and fall, it’s completely obscured by trees and foliage.
There is an ongoing debate between Edward and I about what kind of house this really is. Edward often refers to it as “the camp.” When he does that, I inevitably laugh and point out that it just doesn’t qualify as a camp in the way most Vermonters seem to define it. First of all, the house isn’t used how most camps in Vermont seem to be. From what I can tell, most camps are places where groups of men go to male bond, drink beer and sometimes hunt. That’s just not what this place is or has ever been used for. (I make no claim to the moral high road here. Each to his own.)
Moreover, most camps seem to have been built expressly for these hunting/drinking/male bonding purposes and were never intended to be full time or permanent residences. Although our house in the hills of Essex County hasn’t been a full-time or permanent residence for anyone in a long, long time, it was originally built and functioned as a working farm, with several outbuildings (which were demolished at some point in the 1960s.)
Second, and more concretely, most “camps” don’t have indoor plumbing, electricity, gas stoves, furnaces, basements, telephones and aren’t multi-storied. Our house in the hills may be a bit on the rustic side and it’s certainly remote, but there’s electricity, a gas stove/oven, an oil-burning furnace in the basement, (in addition to two woodstoves), running water that supports a toilet, bathroom, kitchen sinks and shower/bathtub. For years, we had a landline telephone here, until we abandoned it last year due to the fact that cell phone signals up here are now perfectly adequate. Plus, it’s a two storied house, with four rooms downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs.
(In all fairness, I concede that not all hunting camps are primitive. There are some exceptions—fancy, high-end hunting lodges in remote parts of the Vermont backwoods. For example, there’s one right over in neighboring Granby. But the vast majority of camps tend to be simple, primitive structures.)
Our remote house in the hills is pictured atop this blog post. Today, I also went for a long walk and snapped photos of two other buildings in our vicinity, which to me, epitomize what a camp is. Note that in one of them, you can see the outhouse off to the side. What do you think? Is ours a house or camp?