Franconia Notch State Park
Photography/Videography by Klementovich Photo
If the family were a boat, it would be a canoe that makes no progress unless everyone paddles.
– Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Their story goes like this:
About six years earlier, the Afasanos—Karly works as a nurse, Ben in health insurance—moved from Florida to Massachusetts to be closer to Karly’s mother. When a friend heard they were moving to New England in early October—prime leaf season—she told them about the shop in the White Mountains and the bike trip they just had to make.
Lincoln is about two hours away from Haverhill, Massachusetts, a town near Boston, that Karly and Ben chose to be closer to the mountains. Even though they were, as Karly laughing says, “flatlander Floridians,” the mountains were already calling.
Amidst the excitement of moving to a new place, getting to be near beautiful mountains, and being closer to Karly’s mother, there was also the fact that they had left all their friends and family behind in Florida. “We were kind of depressed and mopey”, laments Karly.
So, only half moved in, they decided to take a break and go experience the famed leaf season of New Hampshire. They hopped in their car and headed north to what would become a life changing weekend in the White Mountains.
Based on the recommendation of their friend from Florida, the Afasanos drove to Lincoln, NH and walked into Sports Thoma to see about renting some bikes and immersing themselves in the red and gold colors that covered the mountains. A shuttle to the top of Franconia Notch lets riders meander their way along the bike path back to the shop. On the ride up to “The Notch”, they were joined by Jon and Ben, two brothers who turned out to be regulars at the shop and longtime area campers. Along the way, they pointed out all the big landmarks and various sights to Karly and Ben. It was like their own private tour of the area. Needless to say, the introduction to their new home area was off to a good start.
After Matt dropped the four of them off, Ben turned to John and asked, “do you mind if we ride down with you?”
“Yeah, you can tag along”.
This could be the beginning of something wonderful.
– Orange & Lemons
Starting a camping tradition again, and bringing the Afasanos along, had breathed new life into a new generation of campers. The brothers even have nephews who have started camping with the crew, and Karly and Ben—who are in their mid-30s—like to think they bridge the gap between the 20-ish aged nephews and the 50-ish brothers.
“I think for (brother) Ben it was kind of cool,” Karly says, “because he gets to show off the mountains, which are kind of like his second home. The way he talks about the mountains, it’s a pride thing. He sees the enthusiasm in us, and he lives through us, and kind of recreates his hikes.”
For six years, this same crew had done a big camping trip in spring to open the season, and one in the fall to close it—with smaller camping trips throughout the year for anyone who wanted to join. On their last camping trip, there were 15 people.
The Afasanos, who plan to someday move back to Florida, know they would have never stayed so long in New England if not for camping and meeting people—especially the people Karly calls their “camping family.” And it has become a family, as Karly has used her nursing skills to help the brothers with ailing parents, and the other brother, Jon, a woodworker, has helped the couple remodel their house.
A camping family which will become even more special as the couple soon welcomes their first child. “Yeah, they’ve already claimed babysitter time,” Karly laughs.
Before they move, however, there will still be many holidays—to which the Afasanos are always welcome—and plenty of “family” time. But there is still more to the story. Because, as most camping enthusiasts know, once you get started, you just can’t stop.
They found a dealer in Bangor, ME and it turned out they only had 2 GOs left in stock. So, they hopped in the car and headed North. When they arrived at the dealership, there were huge 50ft RVs filling what seemed like a 2 acre lot. When they found the GO, there was already another couple looking at it. They were literally the only other people on the lot…and they were both looking at the GO. At this point, not even sure if they still had two left, Karly immediately thought, “Oh no! They’re going to buy our GO!”
The other couple did end up buying the GO, but the second one was still available. They placed a deposit and returned home to get a hitch installed on their vehicle. A week later, they returned, although because of work schedules, they were not able to make it until after hours. The salesperson waited on them and helped them get their new GO hooked up and safely on the road. They drove home in the dead of night, and never looked back.
In fact, Karly and Ben recently took a friend camping, one who had moved from Australia to the U.S. Though the friend lacked experience, she fell in love with camping, with the GO, and with being outside.
“She calls us her ‘outdoor friends,’” Karly says. “We kind of opened up the outdoor world for her. It’s been a full circle thing for sure.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?