Gregg Ritz: Go RVing for Mountains and Memories
By: Lynn Burkhead
Outdoor industry veteran Gregg Ritz turns an RV and 4,000-foot mountains near his New Hampshire home into short backyard RVing trips, the perfect recipe for lifelong memories and lessons with his three daughters
As a television show host and producer who films outdoor recreation episodes, New England resident Gregg Ritz has seen some of the world’s most remote and exotic locations in his adventure quests. And as a longtime leader in outdoor manufacturing, media, and marketing, Ritz hobnobs with some of the outdoor industry’s leading figures.
But it isn’t the mountains of New Zealand, or a river in Alaska, or the plains of Africa that the 48-year-old Portsmouth, New Hampshire, resident loves the most. Rather, that honor is reserved for family RV vacations in his home state, seeking to bag yet another tall mountain climbed and conquered. It’s the giggly, memory-making moments flush with smiles, laughter, and selfies he cherishes most with his daughters Savanna, Sienna, and Sydney.
“In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there are actually 48 peaks that stretch over 4,000 foot. So, a few summers ago, we set out to start climbing several of them,” said Ritz.
“People document climbing all 48 of these (mountains),” he said. “We’ll probably never come close to climbing all of them, but it has been something that is really fun to do. We’ll pick one out, do the research, lay out our travel route, figure out where we’re going to stay, etc. We also involve several friends and their families.”
The goal of such mountain climbing trips is to have a lot of fun, to make lifelong memories, and to even teach a few lifetime skills and lessons.
“On these trips, we get everybody outside having fun, doing things like whittling sticks for the first time to building a campfire,” said Ritz. “As an outdoorsman, those are things I tend to take for granted, but for some of these girls, it was the first time they’d ever done something like that. It has been so much fun.”
To do all of this, there is a lot of planning, the adventure of traveling, finding new places to shop and eat, and seeing local communities that are otherwise just spots on a map.
“We’ll pick one, go up on a Friday, eat dinner on the way there, get to our chosen spot early enough to set up camp, set the RV up, go grocery shopping, things like that,” said Ritz. “The next day, we’ll go climb the 4,000-footer that we’ve chosen, something that often takes up about two-thirds of the day. Then we’ll come back, let everyone decompress a little by putting up photos and reconnecting with their friends on their mobile devices. Then it’s time for dinner, making s’mores, etc. On Sunday, there’s a lazy camp breakdown and the drive home. The backdrop of all of this are these beautiful 4,000-foot mountains.”
While Ritz enjoys the cross-country adventure as much as anyone else – he’s a professional outdoors adventurer and videographer, after all – it’s the more compact, local trips that often turn out to mean the most.
“These trips give my kids a material goal to work towards, a box that they can check off successfully,” he said. “By making the most of these two-nighter weekend trips, it breaks up the summer for the kids. It’s something that they can help plan and look forward to. It’s not the massive road trip that everyone can get tired on, but rather a chance to get into a simple, every other weekend kind of rhythm. In the end, I usually hear one of my daughters say something like ‘Dad, this is cool!’ before these smaller trips are over. Those memories are priceless for me as a dad.”
So, too, are the campfire conversations and quiet moments spent in and around the RV, an outdoorsy crucible where lifelong lessons and skills are taught, oftentimes virtually right out the backdoor of Ritz’s New England home surrounded by mountains, forests, and seacoasts.
“I love those big cross-country jaunts, things like the big trip to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but there are only so many of those trips that you can do,” he said. “Those are so big, so time consuming, and everyone is so busy that such trips are usually possible only one at a time each year.”
“But by trying to layer in big trips with these little backyard excursions, I’m finding that there are a lot of memories still being made with my girls,” he added. “That’s the beauty of RVing, right? I mean you can go long or you can go short, but the results can be the same. I live in a phenomenal area; there are more mountains, lakes, streams, and places than I can honestly visit in a lifetime. So many people never go looking for fun in their own backyard. We love to go to Florida, to the Rockies, to Arizona like everyone else, but the easiest thing to do is to find adventure in your own backyard.”
Ritz is big on building rich memories and RVer testimonials with his daughters, but he’s also a father with a keen eye on raising each one into a young woman that is able to successfully navigate the challenges of life thanks to some of the skills learned through teachable moments and conversations found on such RVing trips.
“These trips sometimes provide real opportunities for moments to teach valuable life skills,” he said. “Things like dealing with a plumbing issue, fixing a flat tire, buying and preparing food for a meal. By incorporating my daughters into all of this, they’re learning and growing thanks to the repetitive nature of these excursions. My girls are learning on these trips that this is the way the Ritz family rolls, we travel short and long distances, there are some late nights and early mornings, but we have a ton of fun along the way. Such lessons are invaluable.”
If local mountain climbing and the accompanying RV trips are one way Ritz makes backyard memories, taking fall trips into a New Hampshire landscape awash with stunning autumn colors is another.
For Ritz and his family, leaf peeping is the way to accomplish that, bringing the same benefits found on summer mountain climbs to a fall weekend in New England spent sipping hot apple cider, roasting a tasty treat over the campfire at night, burrowing deeper into a down vest or jacket, and simply enjoying the beauty of creation in a region renowned for its autumnal splendor.
“It’s such a beautiful time of the year; the air is crisp and cool, no longer hot but not wintertime cold yet,” said Ritz. “There is this fun factor for leaf peeping, it’s something that draws people to our region each year. We’ll hit the outlet shops in North Conway, have lunch, then hit the Kancamagus (Highway) trails, and make a few gigantic loops through the woods, soaking in all of the sights of this beautiful seasonal activity here in New England.
“People come and spend big money to do this, here, each fall,” he added. “But all we’ve got to do is step out of our RV.”
Right in his New England backyard, a place that brings the year’s most special and memory-making moments each year for Gregg Ritz and his family as they Go RVing, enjoying the times that matter most.