The Camp at Three Mile Island is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t been there. First, there’s the name, which prompts everyone to make stupid nuclear meltdown jokes ("no, I don’t glow in the dark."). This island is in New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee, three miles from Center Harbor. Secondly, describing Three Mile as a place where one spends the week swimming, reading, walking, and playing pingpong doesn’t really capture the feel of the place. What really attracts people to Three Mile is that it’s always the same.
I’ve only just reached the age where I am beginning to sense change: a favorite restaurant closes, or an ugly house gets built around the corner. Three Mile, by contrast, remains almost entirely constant, and has for the last hundred years. When I was there a few weeks ago, I sat in the Main House comparing the way it looks now to photos from the 1910s. The furniture is newer and the fashions have changed, but every stone in the fireplace is just as it was when the grainy photographs were taken so long ago.
That’s not to say the island is a total constant. Every time I return I take note of the little
changes: a redone floor for the dining area, updated tshirts in the shop, a new highdive on the raft. But these changes are tiny, incremental improvements. The well-worn paths, the food, and the friendliness of the people never change. It always feels the same no matter how many years pass.
Three Mile is one of those things that divides the world in two: either you love it or you hate it. If a week of swimming in cold water and sitting around playing Scrabble while your opponent knits a sweater doesn’t sound like fun, there’s nothing wrong with that. As for me, I wish they still allowed people to stay all summer long.