Primitive Camping: Bumpkin Island
By guest bloggers the Rice family
Finally we’re standing on the dock and our ferry is in sight! Today we’re headed to Bumpkin Island located in Boston harbor. We’ve been looking forward to this camping trip for a few months since Cristy won ferry passes online from Boston Best Cruises. Our first time island camping and more primitive than any of our past experiences. We reserved our stay online but campsites are selected on a first come first serve basis, so we made sure to catch the first ferry out Friday morning from Hingham hoping to get 1 of 3 beach front campsites, the only sites that allow a fire.
As the ferry approached I looked around to be sure we had everything when I suddenly realized a potential danger. Recently I’d been reading ‘The Adventures of Buffalo & Tough Cookie‘ and recalled a chapter that involved a water crossing “Thats why he instructed her to un-buckle her pack! We’re on a dock with 30lb packs strapped to us, one slip could prove deadly!” images of WWII soldiers drowning from the weight of their packs raced through my mind, I quickly suggest we all un-buckle, whoo potential crisis averted.
Our ride out to Bumpkin wasn’t long, only a single pit stop at Grape Island to allow Elizabeth, a Massachusetts DCR Ranger to drop off some program supplies, soon after we reached Bumpkin.
Welcome to Bumpkin! A 35 acre drumlin with NO fresh water available, electricity, or camp store; not even the option of driving or hiking for supplies. Nope, on this trip we are completely dependant on bringing everything we’ll need for our entire stay. If we planned wrong our only option would be to grab the ferry home, or island hop for supplies which could take several hours to get back (not worth it). Fortunately Cristy got the logistics almost perfect!
We were greeted by the islands residing ranger, she checked us in and escorted us to our chosen site #13 right on the beach, complete with a view of the Blue Hills.
Once we finished setting up camp we checked out the islands WWI historic sites, wildlife & vegetation. First stop was a large crumbling building completely overgrown inside and out. The building served as a main gathering area for some 1800 Navy personnel, and the island is also rumored to have held German POW’s during the war.
Further down we reached another stone house with a large tree growing inside, it once belonged to settlers who farmed the area, no fences needed, your livestock aren’t going anywhere.
We had heard that there were wild turkey, fox, coyote & deer seen on the island, but that didn’t prepare us for what came next! We took a grassy path back towards the pier and came within feet of a Tom turkey walking through the woods. Of course a digital camera is no match for the speed of a fleeing turkey, but we spotted these turkey a few different times while hiking around the island including a female with two babies. This also gave me a chance to finally use the inaturalist app to record the sighting. We also kept an eye out for deer but our only sighting was finding a print on our return hike from watching the sunset over the Boston skyline.
Sunset over Boston from Bumpkin Island
Besides turkey we spotted a few other birds like Catbird, Goldfinch & a bird we have yet to identify while just relaxing at our campsite. Not sure what kind of bird this may be but we thought it was pretty cool looking.
The view from our beach front campsite
With our site being on the beach we were able to have a campfire, but it must be placed below the high tide line. The tide was only low during the daylight hours making a campfire a bit less ‘epic’, besides there is really no firewood available on the island. The volunteers who prepared the island for the camping season did leave a pile of logs they collected but they were still very green and unburnable. We had better luck finding wood along the shoreline, adding the cardboard from our trash helped make us lighter for the carry out, and we enjoyed a small fire for a time before it was reclaimed by the tide, mission accomplished!
We had a lot of fun bumming around on Bumpkin but it was really warm and the sun started to take it’s toll on us. Regardless of how many times we reapplied sunscreen we still were a bit sunburned and all began to develop mild headaches forcing us to spend some of the final hours resting in the shade.
We arrived on Bumpkin Island with 36 bottles of water, 8 Gatorades & 4 Cokes. This was 3/4 of a gallon short on the recommended 2 gallons of water per person per day. Now thirty-two hours later we only have 2 Gatorades & 10 water bottles left and we needed 2 for cooking. It’s another 15 hours until the next ferry would come to take us home. We’ll be sure to better head the recommended water more closely in the future with the Gatorade & Cokes taking second after that. We weren’t in desperate need, but an extra gallon of water would have removed any thought of concern we had for our supply. Needless to say we were happy when our ferry arrived the next morning to take us home.
My favorite thing about visiting Bumpkin was hiking the scenic trail around twilight when the fireflies were out. The kids had a great time exploring the beach or just honing their craft of skipping rocks, a few they painted for souvenirs! There are so many awesome things to see and do on and around the islands; pictures never seem to capture the moments. you really should check it out!