camping 2015: full vacation day

a schooner sailing away from us, among lobster bouys

Maine view

No, we didn't take a boat trip. One day we will, but this year it was all we could do to find time for the hiking!

On our third full day in Maine we woke up knowing that half of our group (going by number of adults, anyways) was going to be leaving us in time to get back to Massachusetts before bedtime, so we hurried off to the cafe to get the day started. By this point we had things figured out vis-a-vis parking, and I tucked the car in an all-day spot just around the corner from the restaurant and bus stop.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Becca and Andrew—or in my case, failed to say goodbye, since I was somewhere else trying to keep the kids busy—and hopped on the bus for a short trip to Sieur de Monts Nature Center and the many trails that originate there. After visiting the dead animals—and hearing from the Park Ranger about the ozone warning—we headed out for a reprise of our family hike from last year... just with one more family. Harvey remembered the stairs fondly. There were stairs up:

Harvey walking up a long series of stone steps on the trail

working hard

And stairs down:

Harvey walking down stairs under a rock bridge

under the bridge

Harvey took em all like a champ, without a word of complaint; Zion did better than last year in that he walked some—most of the way up—but digestive issues slowed him down before even the halfway point, and as on Monadnock last fall, he needed an unplanned carry. This time it was Mama's turn, since I had a sleeping Lijah in the backpack. She is a strong Mama.

Leah carrying Zion, scowling at the camera

how did it come to this?

But we made it—and even better, we made it right as the bus back to town was pulling in. The timing was important because Leah and Tim were planning a trail run with Kyle, who wanted one more adventure before he hit the road. Since we finished our entire hike in the time it took he and Margaret to pack up their things, we didn't feel bad about holding him up. As the athletic three synchronized their watches and took off to run to the top of a mountain (ask Leah for more information), Katie, Margaret, and I led the boys on a more sedate expedition.

Harvey in the bookstore looking at Robert McCloskey books

topical reading

Wandering through town, we soon made it down to Agamont Park, which was a great spot to have lunch and run around a bit.

the three boys looking into the fountain, with the ocean beyond

they love fountains

From there we made our way slowly down the shore path, stopping eventually to experience the ocean up close.

Zion, pants rolled up, on the rocks at the shore

water and rocks

The runners found us there, but they didn't feel as relaxed as we were; Tim and Leah wanted to change and Kyle needed to hit the road. As happy as we felt to be by the shore, we let them draw us away with a promise of ice cream. Zion was delighted to find seesaw camel at Mt Desert Island Ice Cream, and Harvey insisted he loved the London fog he chose (it was a delightful, but unsweetened, Earl Gray with vanilla).

Back at the campground by early afternoon, there was finally time for me to visit the pool too! While there we chatted with another homeschooling family, and all three boys had fun immersing themselves more fully than they could in the ocean (or fountains).

Mama and the boys playing in the pool

finally some warm water

As we started to get dinner together we realized that we'd said goodbye to four adults but only one kid, tipping the balance in favor of the young people, who now outnumbered us five to four. That didn't seem right, but with the kids doing a great job entertaining each other we though we might survive. I made a wonderful fire for Tim to cook hamburgers and hotdogs on.

After dinner we went for a walk—up at the pool we'd heard that there was a tent suspended from trees somewhere by the shore, but once we got down there we forgot to look for it, so distracted were we by the shore itself.

Leah, holding Lijah, watching the sunset at low tide

peaceful light

Harvey walking through the salt grass at sunset

day is done

the sun setting over the low tide mud

gone the sun

When we made it back to our site there was enough energy in the banked fire for Harvey to make a very impressive torch, but none of us had enough even for smores, and after a hasty cleanup we were all in bed well before 9:00. Vacationing is exhausting!

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this moment

Leah and Lijah wading in the water quietly chasing ducks, at dusk

Spy Pond evening

A moment from the week.

another kind of camp

I need to pause from my series on our recent camping vacation to acknowledge another kind of camp: our day camp just finished up for the summer, with a bike ride up to the ice cream store to celebrate.

lots of kids on bikes ready to go

ready to go

We did a lot of cycling over the course of the summer—more than most of the kids had ever done before. Sometimes they didn't like it and wished that it was over, but I made sure that in the end it always felt fun and worthwhile (that's what careful route planning will do: I put all the hard parts first!). And as the kids were stretched, so were the parents: some of them were nervous about sending their kids out on the roads (or at least the sidewalks) but everyone did great—I'm happy to report that we didn't lose a single one all summer. And at the end, I think both kids and parents ended camp today with an expanded view of what they and their kids could do on bikes—and maybe in general!

The kids also ended it covered in ice cream...

Nathan eating a giant ice cream cone, which is melting badly

a lot of ice cream

... and happy to be cycling together!

Zion hugging Lijah in the back of the blue bike

aw

It was fun; maybe we'll do it again next year!

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camping 2015: beach and more

Zion contemplating the water

beach boy

On Monday of our vacation we went to the beach. After breakfast, of course. Leah got an ocean preview: while we were eating breakfast she ran to Compass Harbor and back, with a stop for a dip. Nothing like Maine ocean water to get you going in the morning! In her absence I was in charge of Lijah, and I happened upon the bright idea of ordering blueberries for him just as we sat down at the cafe. It worked! (just that once, but I was still proud of myself).

Lijah reaching for blueberries at the cafe

food he approves of

We got going quicker than the day before, but there we still packed enough into the morning that, when we finally made it onto the bus, Lijah didn't get to take in too much of the trip.

Lijah sleeping on the bus

all that enjoyment is tiring

The bus to Sand Beach passes by the Precipice trail up Champlain Mountain, and some of us couldn't resist: Kyle, Andrew, and I hopped out, and—with admonitions from loved ones to be careful—headed up the ladders.

Kyle and Andrew on the ladders of Precipice

going up

Unlike last time, the view was fine.

the view from one of the ledges on the way up Precipice

carefully

On the down side, it was astonishingly hot, and when we reached the top the murky waters of the summit pond/puddle were a little tempting...

a pond puddle at the top of Champlain

anyone for a dip?

After a relaxing lunch, we headed down. Our original plan was to continue over the top of Champlain back to the Nature Center, where we could get back on the bus; looking at the map Andrew suggested that it would be better to just follow the South Ridge trail right to the beach. He was right! On our way down we had occasional views of our goal.

a view of Sand Beach from above

that's where we're going

On the way we passed a real inviting mountain pond, and it was hard to limit myself to dunking my head and splashing my face. But as hot as we were, we were actually disappointed when we got to within a couple hundred yards of the shore and felt the temperature drop maybe 15 degrees: we wanted to be able to really enjoy that cold water! Never mind, the delight of my children playing in the waves pulled me right in.

Zion and Harvey running from the waves

ocean fun

It wasn't all joy for the beach party—the sun was beating down there too, and three-plus hours is a long time to sit exposed—but Leah has all the pictures of that part of the day. My beach time was short but intense—the bigger waves were breaking about at my shoulder height—then we packed up for the bus ride home. (That was also a little intense, but the boys were awesome about helping and waiting patiently.)

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan waiting for the bus as Sand Beach

beach bus stop

Off the bus the kids ran around a bit more, but not too much: we had to get back to the site where it was my turn to make dinner!

Lijah bringing something to throw in the fountain

getting to work

While the boys washed the salt water off in the chlorine of the pool I turned out a passable chili and cornbread, which was ready just as soon as they straggled back, tired from cumulative hours of swimming. But while Zion and Nathan dropped right off to sleep after dinner, Harvey took a moment to enjoy his camping evening to the fullest with a flashlight and a book.

Harvey in a camp chair in the twilight, reading with a flashlight

calm-down time

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camping 2015: what a family hike!

the three boys on a distant outcropping, Eagle Lake behind them

intrepid hikers

For our first full day on the island we scheduled a family hike. Of course, with four families to mobilize—eight adults and six kids—it took us a little while to get going. Not that anyone slept late the first night in the tents; though I did get up early enough ahead of other members of my family to get a lovely picture.

Lijah, Mama, and Zion sleeping on the air mattress in the tent

comfy and cozy, for the moment

With sandwiches, snacks, and sunscreen packed up we headed to the cafe for breakfast (lovely as always, though we did have to wait a bit for a table for all of us!). Then followed a period of deep discussion, which led ultimately to a decision to keep our cars in town and take the bus to the trailhead. It was a good choice for many reasons, not least because it turns out Lijah absolutely loves riding the bus.

Lijah sitting in his own seat on the bus, looking out the window

the Lijahs on the bus are entranced

Off the bus we took a minute to get organized, then slipped the kids' leashes (metaphorically speaking) and they were off!

the three boys climbing big stone steps

tirelessly upwards

We did our best to keep up over the half-mile from the parking lot to the top of North Bubble (with 400 feet of elevation gain!), but we could never get ahead of our fearless leaders. We'd gotten such a late start it was easily lunch time by the time we hit the summit, so we stopped a bit to eat. And, you know, get a family photo.

the five us us at the summit of North Bubble (some eating lunch)

picnic picture

With lunch over there was time to admire the views (see also this picture). The mountain isn't very tall, but it's well situated for views!

Kyle on North Bubble looking towards Jordan Pond

as high as the birds

The boys had done so well we figured we'd press on, and once again they were off and running—this time calling out every blaze and cairn along the way.

the three boys walking down the exposed north side of North Bubble

ever to the fore

With energy to spare at the bottom of the first mountain we thought we'd try another, smaller yet but much steeper. It was fun!

the boys climbing a steep pitch up Connor's Nubble

real climbing

I awarded lollipops to all hands when we reached the top.

Harvey, Mama, Lijah, and Zion posing with the Connor's Nubble sign--and lollipops

made it!

Going back down the way we came was even harder than going up, so it was a relief to take to the carriage road for a bit. Only problem was, without the challenge of climbing the four-year-olds finally started to falter, and needed a little bit of carrying. When we turned back onto the real trail they revived, and finished out the third mile of the hike in fine spirits.

the boys walking through the woods over log boardwalks

the homeward trail

The bus back to town was so crowded we Becca, Andrew, and Henry didn't make it on, but while we were worried about them—we were all short of cell service and phone batteries—we were happy enough to laze around the park while we waiting the half-hour for the next bus to roll in. Then it was back to the campground, where, with the sun setting, the bigger boys went for a swim in the pool with Leah while Kyle and Margaret worked on dinner. I was watching Lijah—except when I wasn't.

Becca reading with Lijah on a blanket on the grass

growing up: likes books and even other people!

The campfire pizzas were more spectacular than ever, but I'm only allowed one food picture per camping post, and I absolutely have to use it for the smore—if that humble name can even do it justice—that Tim created using a brownie in addition to the traditional ingredients.

a smore Tim made with a giant marshmallow, graham crackers, and a brownie

epic smore

The giant marshmallows Kyle supplied helped too. Truly a fitting climax to a spectacular day of hiking!

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