Roughing it on Bumpkin Island

(Geoff Edgers/Globe Staff)
By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / August 29, 2009

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Every year, for just one day and one night, Lila and I head to Bumpkin Island. It might be Boston’s greatest outdoor secret, a prime camping spot on the water’s edge for less than we’d pay to go to a movie together. You take any of a series of ferries from Boston or Quincy, but we prefer to head out from Hull. There’s free overnight parking and a breakfast nook at the dock.

The only problem, for me at least, is what to pack. Lila generally doesn’t carry a lot. I remember two years ago being loaded down with gear while she, walking with just a stuffed animal, sat on the gravel road and declared herself too tired to continue.

In the past I’ve brought too much food. This year I downsized and left my camp stove at home. I took a loaf of whole wheat bread, peanut butter, muffins, and a few treats. Of course, I made up for the stove weight by overpacking tarps to anticipate forecasted thunderstorms. Naturally it never rained a drop.

We walked the beach collecting sea glass. We fished. We headed to the ranger shack to see what arts projects were in play. (Last year painting rocks was a highlight. This year Lila didn’t quite latch onto the macramé.) We ate our peanut butter and swam in the refreshing water. And we walked around the tiny island taking in the ruins - a onetime US Navy mess hall, a stone building, and so forth.

Last year my wife, Carlene, surprised us by taking a ferry over late in the afternoon and walking onto the island. (Only mistake: She neglected to bring any food, which meant we went into ration mode.) This time she met us on the boat at the end of the trip, and we all headed to Hull. This helped us avoid the post-camp letdown. Back on the mainland, we jumped in the Buick, stopped for a few hours of surf at Nantasket Beach, and wrapped up our Saturday at the Hingham Lobster Pond, ordering plates of greasy, fried seafood as the summer sun descended.

Camping is available on Bumpkin through Sept. 3. Go to and search “Bumpkin.’’

Who: Globe arts reporter Geoff Edgers and his daughter, Lila, 7 What: camping Where: Bumpkin Island, off Hull