I've been traveling to the White Mountain National Forest for one week out of every August for as long as I can remember. My mother tells me that we didn't go the summer I was five years old. Dolly Copp is tradition for my family- my father has been going since childhood as well. Dolly Copp Campground is nestled in the area of New Hampshire called "Mount Washington Valley," although the campground itself is located outside of the big one's shadow, tucked between Mount Madison and several smaller mountains and hills, including "The Imp," (local lore tells us that this mountain was named by Dolly Copp herself, because the peculiar rock face on its edge reminded her of an elf or demon). The campground is the meat and potatoes part of Dolly Copp National Park, the others being the DC Parking Area and the DC Picnic Grounds (both are more or less day use areas, parking spots with some picnic tables, small grills, and trail heads), the outermost of which hooks up with the Great Gulf Wilderness, which winds around Mount Jefferson, Madison and Clay on their Southern faces, eventually meeting the AT.
You can get to the campground on RT-16, either by taking US-2 through Gorham (6 miles) from the North, or from US-302 in Glen, (12 miles) to the South. It is local to The Presidential Range of New Hampshire's White Mountains and the Appalachian Trail. You can pick up the AT by way of several roadside trailheads, but the most popular and convenient way is to stop at Pinkham Notch Base Camp. It is also convenient (by car) to the Mt. Washington Auto Road, Wildcat Ski Area, Attitash Ski Area and the Outlet Shopping Mecca of the White Mountains, North Conway.
Dolly Copp offers "rustic camping," which means there are no showers, no swimming pools, no electric or water hookups, no organized sports teams. For each camping area, there is a humble restroom, with flush toilets, cold running water, and stocked with toilet paper on locked dispensers, and an intriguing population of wildlife. In each area (I think of them as neighborhoods), there are several spigots providing clear mountain water, which you can lug back to your site in large jugs for convenience. Each area has a bear-proof dumpster. Empty your trash every night.
You can camp in small, wooded sites, these offer plenty of shade from the strong sun, and all sorts of buggy friends. You get a bit more privacy and shelter from the weather in here, sun and rain/wind. Some of the wooded sites, expecially in "High Woods" and "Birch Lane" are tent-only. It is not so fun to have to cross a footbridge to your site if you have a 30 foot rig. You can also opt to camp in "the field," Hayes Field that is, in which case you get direct sun and lots of legroom. This is the best choice if you want to tan, and rained-on things dry out quicker where there is no shade. Make sure you're securely grounded though, on a windy day I've seen a parade of tents rolling along the street. Concrete abrasions in nylon really cut back on your waterfastness.
Bears. Black bears live in these woods, and you need to respect them. They normally don't want anything to do with humans, and when the rangers start working on the park in May, they generally move on to their summer homes. However, bears love free food, even the stuff you throw away as trash. Especially this stuff. The best way to handle this is to store all food products and non-food with a foodish scent in your securely closed and locked automobile. Shut the windows if you want to keep your paint job. A bear can't break into a car, but if she smells food, she's going to try. I've seen bears enter tents for toothpaste, peanut butter, tea, and fruit scented lotions. Once a bear falls to temptation, they will hunt it down and attempt to relocate it, but this always means a risk of death for the bear. When walking at night, bring a flashlight, stay on the road, and wear a bell. Bears will retreat from you if they hear or see you coming(unless you approach their young). Please be diligent, for your own safety, and out of respect for the creatures who live in this place you are visiting.
The more innocuous wildlife includes red squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, fox, songbirds and owls. The peabody river runs through the campground, providing a very icy-refreshing place to swim and bathe. Soap kills fish, so if you're going to wash your hair, do it in your own campsite, or you risk a fine or expulsion. The river is stocked with trout, and fishing is a popular pastime. The river is full of rocks moved by the winter's ice, and the rapid flow provides a lot of white water that fish love. In the spring there are often tadpoles to catch and later, bullfrogs and toads.
The forests are full of paper birch trees, a once-rare species that loves the cold weather. There a plenty of edible plants here too, teaberries, sorrel, black birch, blueberries, and sasparilla. The forest in the camp is almost entirely new-growth, as the Copp family cleared the whole area for farming when they first settled there. Their foundation of their homestead is still visible, a tiny one room outline of granite sunk into the ground. On the hill, in High Woods, the diligent seeker can find a small gravestone, the resting place of one of Copp's children, who died in infancy.
It is so beautiful here. This is the home I always think of, the view from crystal cold-water lullabye to the buzz of the forest to stone-faced Madison, taller than clouds.