Moments from the past week [added slightly retroactively, upon our return].
It got really hot the middle of last week, so we were glad we had a cool place to go: Leah's parents' house on Cape Cod. It has a private beach.
We left home Thursday afternoon, and it wasn't hot then; it was raining. The rain made for a dreadfully long traffic-plagued trip there, but we didn't mind too much. Mostly, we enjoyed the chance to chat, play with the iPads, or sleep, as appropriate by age and maturity level. Then when we got there we were treated to a terrific thunderstorm that passed just overhead. Luckily we were all unpacked before it hit.
Friday day dawned coolish and hazy, but by mid morning the mist had cleared and the temperature was rocketing upwards. So we headed to the beach—the one just a couple minutes walk away, with no waves so even the littlest of us could feel comfortable swimming in the beautiful cool water.
The only problem was we got a little carried away enjoying the sun, sand, and water, and by evening all five of us were suffering from some combination of sunburn, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Good thing we'd had so much fun, so it felt worth it.
The next day, after making solemn vows to drink water and apply sunscreen on a regular schedule, we split up: Leah and Lijah to spend more time at the quiet beach, the bigger boys and I on a cycling adventure to find some big waves. We drove a ways to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, with the thought of riding a segment to the National Seashore visitor center and thence on the bike path over the dunes to the Coast Guard Beach. I have fond memories of taking that trail as a young person myself, and wanted to introduce it to my own cycling boys.
Missing the turn off the rail trail meant we had a couple extra miles at the beginning of the trip that we didn't need, but never mind; it would have been too short otherwise. Then we enjoyed a picnic lunch outside the visitor center before taking to the roller coaster of a trail to the beach. It was every bit as lovely as I remembered.
Shorter, too. Those kids are better cyclists than I was at that age (Zion especially got lots of compliments as he powered his little bike up the hills). Before we knew it we were at the beach, where we joyously confronted the awesome waves.
Actually, they were a little too awesome for the kids to engage with them fully. But they still had a lot of fun running and jumping in the wash of the breakers, and then making sand castles in a futile effort to hold back the fast-rising tide. Then to show that getting knocked over by waves wasn't so bad I put on something of a comedy performance, letting them have their way with me. I lost some skin but it was worth it!
The water was a lovely temperature and the oceanside breeze was charming (as long as we avoided the deadly burning rays of the relentless sun). But of course we got all hot again on the ride home, so it was convenient that right where we had parked the car there was ice cream available.
Back at the house we collapsed for a few hours: all that fun was hard work. But after dinner I had a little more energy and invited Leah out for a walk. That sounded good to everyone else too. The flies were too terrible to be anywhere but the beach, but the beach is always a fine place to be.
Sunday we met up with some friends who were also staying in the area (we know them from church, so it was appropriate plan to meet them just in time to skip church together). We thought we were going to do a hike, but it was so blazing hot we couldn't manage it. Just like last time! But this time we had friends to share our complaints with, so they didn't seem so bad; and it seemed like a reasonable thing to do to just sit down by the water and throw some stones. The kids didn't have swimsuits; of course that didn't stop them from getting wet.
All that didn't take long, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a relaxed lunch of fried food together. (Relaxed for us; other patrons watching our crew of wild children seemed to be a little worked up. Come on, we were on the beach—deal, people.)
The best part was we had already packed up the car, so with lunch over we could head straight home to Bedford. The traffic-free trip was smooth and easy, leaving the boys plenty of time to play with their friends in the neighborhood before bed.
Now that's a vacation. It was wonderful. And exhausting. So now we're resting. Or trying to; it's close to 90° in the house right now. When can we go back?
We celebrated the Fourth of July in our traditional fashion today, with a full day at the fair in Concord. More about that later. But the fun didn't end when we got home—after an hour or so indoors in front of the fan to recover, we cooked hot dogs on the fire, and then smores. It was our second smores evening just in the past week, never mind all the other times we've made them this year, which got me to wondering... how did we become a household where such things are possible?! Clearly, building the fireplace helped.. but even before that we were toasting marshmallows over a wood fire in the kettle grill. Maybe it's just that we like being outside, and there's no finer outdoor dessert than smores?
All round, outdoor cooking is the best. Obviously when it's as hot as this it's great not to have to heat up the house; in weather like this even the vacuum cleaner feels like it's pumping out an unbearable amount of hot air, to say nothing of the stove or the oven. But the food is tastier too over the fire. The other day I made beans and as leftovers their noticeably more delicious than stovetop beans—delightfully smoky. I also made steak and peppers for fajitas, which was fine, and tortillas, which I felt was pretty impressive (they didn't taste particularly smoky, but I still think rolling them and cooking them outside was pretty cool). Today Leah—who doesn't eat hot dogs—grilled tofu and zucchini, stir-fried ground turkey, and made rice all over the fire. I didn't taste any of that, but I guarantee it was all wonderful. And of course fire-cooked marshmallows are infinitely superior to those prepared any other way. I hear some people even eat them raw! Not us, not when there's a fire going!
Last Wednesday was Fourth of July, and we went to Concord for the Picnic in the Park. Like we do. It was super hot, which kept lots of people away; the crowd was noticeably smaller than usual. But we weren't bothered at all, because we have tents!
The little one there is ours.. the big one belongs to our friends. They also brought along a hammock. Luxury! There was a bit of a breeze so sitting in the shade we were totally comfortable as we ate lunch and listened to music.
Of course, with so much going on around us we couldn't sit still forever. When we heard the announcement that the field games were starting we headed right over to compete in the sack race, three-legged race, and sponge toss. None of us won anything, but we had fun trying!
All that competition was hard work, so we were glad that the fire department was their with their hoses to cool us down. After we all got wet enough Lijah and Zion took their turn at the spraying.
There was lots more fun after that: listening to music, riding the train around the field, jumping in the bounce house, playing on the playground, and just relaxing in the shade. There were also balloons to collect and play with.
It took us five hours to start to feel done—just as well, because that's when things started to wrap up. So we rolled up our tents and hopped on bikes for the ride home. When you do things every year you notice how the kids are growing up: Zion able to ride the whole way himself and, unlike last year, Lijah even wore shorts for the occasion!
One of my favorite things about cooking on the fire is the leftovers. A couple years ago when we brought some leftover chili back from a camping trip I was delighted to find that, when reheated, it had a wonderfully smoky flavor that totally complemented the other tastes in the recipe. (I hadn't noticed the day we cooked it; then, everything was smoky.) Now that we have our own backyard fire that we use all the time we get to enjoy that smoky goodness much more often, and on purpose. Like the zucchini I grilled yesterday.
Last night we cooked some chicken and a little steak, and I also through some slices of summer squash on the grill. They were delicious, but since I was the only one who ate any there was lots left over. For breakfast this morning I chopped some up and put them in an omelet that Harvey and I shared; he was suspicious ("what are these green things?!") but when he tried one he agreed that they had practically no vegetable taste at all. Just smoke. Then this evening I made my half of the pizza with mushrooms and more of the zucchini, and feta cheese. So powerful was that quarter cup of chopped squash that Lijah almost keeled over from the smell when he came into the house just after the pizza came out of the oven. He didn't like it; to me it was just perfect. Tasted good too.
Who knows what all those smoke particles are doing to our system—probably cancerous or something. But right now, I'm going to say it's worth it!
In past years we've done this summer camp thing. When I asked the boys if they wanted to try it again this year they were all for it, and at least one family who participated in the past told me they were interested, so I emailed a few other folks to invite them. But so far, nobody has wanted to join us. Never mind, last Thursday the boys and I went on an adventure all by ourselves, and gosh-darnit, we had a great time!
We didn't go anywhere new; just old Fawn Lake, where we've been lots of times before. It was Zion's first time biking there, at least! There was some grumpiness here and there as we walked around the pond, but nobody can be in a bad mood for long in the presence of such lovely natural beauty, and by the time we made it to the lunch cliff spirits were high. Zion made his higher still by climbing up the hardest way.
After lunch we played hide-and-seek and tag in the field for about an hour, then we took to the streets for the ride home. I was a little nervous about Zion experiencing 45 mph traffic beside him for the first time, but he did great. The reason for our detour away from the lovely bike path that would have led us straight back to our house was that the bike path doesn't have an ice cream shop. And we needed ice cream.
And even that wasn't the end of the fun; next we stopped at the library for an hour of relaxing reading. Then we finally went home, to have dinner.
After dinner we went on another adventure, to outdoor concert back up by the library, where Harvey and Lijah got stung by several wasps each. But that's another story, and friends did join us for that outing, so we didn't feel as much like brave and solitary explorers.
We're doing some more exploring tomorrow. We'll see if anyone feels like coming along.
This past Thursday we continued our summer camp adventuring. We had one additional taker for our outing, Zion's friend Nathan, who signed on despite not having any advance notice about what he would be doing. Because we didn't know either! But by 8:00 Thursday morning I had a plan: to finally explore ACROSS Lexington trail system. Lexington has some good trails, and over the last ten years they've been stringing them together into walking loops of four to six miles each, connecting stretches of conservation land hiking and bike paths with well-signed routes along mostly back streets. We don't walk much, so we planned to bike the whole way. And there was some good cycling!
Since it was our first trip on the system, we aimed to follow Trail A (so far they go up to H). But first we had to get there; conveniently, Trail A includes a little section of the bike path that starts right by our house. Of course, we're not so single-minded that the ACROSS trail was the only thing on our minds: I was happy to stop on the way up to explore other interesting bits of Lexington.
The trail itself took us 5.4 miles on walking trails through woods and by streams and ponds; along a paved walking path along a narrow strip of wooded land along Lower Vine Brook; and through leafy suburban streets and one sterile new subdivision of McMansions—a subdivision that preserved one tiny memory of the farm-turned-nursery that preceded it.
There were also two little flights of stairs... and one big hill, on a soft path through the woods, that about finished Zion. We were probably about five miles in—plus the three and a half on the bike path to get to the trail—and he was cooked. Pushing his little bike up the hill with bugs buzzing all around him he yelled up to me, "I hate Trail A!" But when he made it to the top of the hill it was just one long downhill into Lexington Center; as soon as he recognized where he was, all was forgiven and he and Trail A were reconciled once again. Lunch on the Buckman Tavern lawn helped too.
I lived in Lexington for over 20 years, but lots of what we rode was surprising to me—delightfully so. There's lots more of the town to explore; even Zion, by lunch, was wondering when we could take a shot at Trail B...
Eleven months ago we went on a camping trip. Somehow I never managed to write about it; now, as we get ready for this year's version of the expedition, I realize I really need to do it or I'll never remember what happened! Luckily I have pictures to jog my memory. Not that there aren't any gaps in the record; for example I have no recollection of how well packing went. But we managed to hit the road not too long after 9:00, so it couldn't have been too bad. And everyone was delighted to be in the car and on the way!
After lunch in the car and a stop at the grocery store in Waldoboro we made it to Lincolnville in plenty of time to stop and enjoy a good long time playing on the foggy beach.
I don't remember anything else from the day, except that we made it to the campsite in time for a dinner of chicken fajitas cooked by Katie and Tim. The lap of luxury!
But the next morning I sprang right to work, lighting a fire and putting together a breakfast of eggs and toasted bagels (and cereal for the boys, who like that sort of thing). Then, thinking about the real reason we had come all that way, we made lunches, packed up, and hit the trail!
For that first hike we started from the Jordan Pond House and walked along the shore of the pond, before heading up the lower slopes of Penobscot Mountain. It was a reasonably easy walk, but still too much for Lijah's friend Henry, with his newly broken arm—or, really, for his parents; he was all for trying, but they wanted to keep him in the stroller for safety. But they walked up the carriage road and met us where the hiking path crossed it at a bridge over a gorge. It was a delightful surprise!
After crossing the carriage road the path headed up more steeply, and the bigger kids showed how well they can hike.
They got pretty far ahead of us, but kindly waited up at crossings in the trail, so we would know where to go. Not that everything was smooth and easy; it was a long way up so some complaints and doubts were inevitable, plus I dropped my camera and dented the ring on the end of the lens body, so it couldn't extend. That made me sad. Lunch at the top of the mountain made everything better, especially when I was able to use Leah's elegant lunch knife to pry the camera back to usability, in time to take pictures like this one:
Going down the mountain we started along the ridge, with fine views all around.
When we reached the trees things stayed interesting, with the path dropping sharply along a steep rocky slope. There were stairs, a bridge, and a few places where it was actually pretty tricky getting down for the two of us carrying three-year-olds on our backs.
The group got very spread out over the last couple miles, with some kids fading while others had enough energy to run the last bit (as they zipped out of sight we hoped they knew where they were going). But everybody recovered once we were back at the Jordan Pond House with access to bathrooms, shade, and good cold water—everybody, that is, except the one who actually didn't have to do that much walking...
Even that one revived when we got back to the campground. Most of us zipped right off to the pool as soon as we returned—just the thing after a hot and dirty day of hard work!
Not me, though; it was my turn to cook, and I was working hard turning out chicken, cornbread, and rice for everybody. Then we went to bed, and though I can't really remember I bet we all slept pretty well!
When we woke up from our second night in the tent it was downright chilly at the campsite. That's why we come north in August; we need a chance to use those sweatshirts! Luckily we came prepared.
Besides warm PJs and blankets, the best way to warm up on a chilly morning in camp is to cook something over the fire. I was all ready with my homemade pancake mix to serve up to a crowd—as soon as everyone else woke up.
This was our last full day on the island, so we had another hike planned—this one a little shorter but just a picturesque. After a bit of confusion with the bus driver, who dropped us off on the side of a busy road quite a ways from the trailhead, we found where we were meant to be and started up the north ridge of Champlain. There aren't many trees there, even at the beginning of the hike, so we all wished the cold had hung on a little longer. Instead it was quickly blazing hot, and all the boys shed their shirts—well, all except for Lijah, who was wearing long sleeves and fleece pants as he always did in those days. The boys who walked the whole way were glad to find some shade at the top of the mountain.
I didn't realize it at the time, but that trip up Champlain was the first time since 2011 that all the extant Archibalds had climbed mountains on back-to-back days (and back then two of the four who went up weren't doing much climbing!!).
Of course we had lunch on the summit. The kids all found their own spot to eat, which was fine, except we didn't oversee them as they packed up... which meant that nobody reminded Zion to grab his shoes and shirt, which he had tossed away looking for his lunch. And he didn't miss them on the way down, despite the steep terrain. All the boys just skipped right along.
Surefooted goats or not, they were glad enough when we made it down to the nature center in the valley to soak their feet in the icy spring pool.
Not for long, though, because we had to catch the bus; which was the first time we realized how unprepared Zion was to reenter civilization. Still, on boarding we were able to assure the bus driver that we would be able to find the necessary items in our packs—it was the assumption we were under at the time!—and when we realized the truth we were already on our way. What was he going to do, kick us off?!
The spring not having been enough water, when we got back to town we wandered down to the harbor beach, where we tossed stones and Zion—in a shirt borrowed from Harvey—played run away from the waves.
(Then he and Harvey together did the same thing on the long paved boat launch ramp, where the surf was rather more impressive!)
The evening at the campsite was so low-key and relaxing that I didn't take any pictures, which means I don't recall it at all. I do remember packing up the next morning, which we did before breakfast—because we all wanted to enjoy a big meal at Cafe This Way before we hit the road. There's always a wait, but that's alright; outside there are trees and rocks to climb on, and once we were seated the kids had their pick of the toys stocked in bins by the bathrooms.
After lunch we headed down to the ocean one more time. We were almost all adventured out, but not so much that we were ready to be driven away by the spitting rain that started falling. Especially not since we were curious about what folks were doing standing around with a bottle of champagne and an American flag; it turns out they were waiting for someone to finish a cross-country cycling trip. Now that's adventure! We got to see him dip his wheel in the water of the Atlantic. Then we turned away from the water to head for home.
At the time, our next Maine trip seemed an eternity away. But now it's just three days away! Expect a more timely report for 2018.
With last year's camping photos finally up, I could at long last go back and do our best-of-2017 post. I published it retroactively back amongst the January stuff; go take a look if you still care!
We're off to our annual camping adventure in Maine this morning, so here are a few moments and images from the week to this point... there will be lots more to share when we get back!