posts tagged with 'hiking'

big kid outings

the three boys hiking way ahead of me, walking into a clearing

look at them go

A couple days ago I took the boys out for a hike around the Old Reservoir. We walked over a mile, and Lijah was on foot almost the whole time. I was pretty confident he would be, so I didn't even bring anything to carry him; correctly so, because even when he was getting tired he couldn't stand to see his brothers walking for long without wanting to join them. He just needs to be a little quicker—as well as his legs, his voice gets a workout as he shouts after them to wait up. Sometimes they even do! Of course, every strenuous hike needs to include a snack break!

the boys sitting on a bench eating their hiking snack

just desserts

The only bad part of the outing was that Zion lost the water bottle he was carrying in the side of his backpack; it rattled right out as he ran along the trail, and we didn't notice at the time. We tried to retrace our steps to find it—and the boys were all very patient with the change in plans—but without any luck. Too bad... it was one of our best ones!

the Old Reservoir in Bedford

somewhere around there is a red water bottle...

Today it was too hot to do any hiking, or really anything at all, except go to a pond that we'd want to jump into. Other people had the same idea, so we were able to meet up not only with friends but with Grandma too! It was a great time, and all three boys—and their friends too—put in some quality swimming practice. Lijah was particularly impressive in how comfortable he is with the water: he just lay there chillin, with his hands on the bottom and the rest of him floating comfortably... He'll figure out how to swim before his big brothers if they don't hurry up!

Mama watching Lijah as he comes pretty close to really swimming

like a fish to water

Leah got to do some swimming too, all the way across that big pond. Based on past performance she was a little nervous about leaving Lijah for long, with nap time approaching, but he continues to surprise: he played happily with the big kids the whole time, and didn't mind a bit about her being gone. And I was delighted to sit in the tent out of the blazing sun and watch him.

the boys and friends playing by the water, seen from some distance through the opening of the tent

everybody's happy

This time the well-earned dessert at the end of the outing was ice cream from Bedford Farms, but I was too sticky to try and take a picture. It turns out ice cream is pretty melty in this hot weather! Harvey and Zion each almost finished a kiddie cone, which is really something—Zion actually ate more of his. Lijah isn't quite there yet, and he was still happy to share with me... but the way he's going I guess pretty soon he'll be ready for his own cone too!

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a walk on the farm

a view of Great Brook Farm beyond the fields

down on the farm

When the morning rain trailed off after lunch we decided to treat ourselves to an extra special walk with the dog—especially since it's been impossible to take regular walks around here with the whole family all together. There's always a fuss of one kind or another. We thought that a trip to somewhere kind of new would be just the thing to put a new spin on walking together; and so it proved.

Mama and Lijah walking hand-in-hand in the woods

hiking partners

At Great Brook Farm state park there's a farm and cows and fields and woods, and we wanted to see it all. Lijah started the hike off determined to be carried, but when his brothers took off running down a big hill he changed his mind. It's kind of a toss-up which is preferable from a family hike perspective: it's less work when he moves under his own power, but also considerably slower. Oh well, he needs the exercise.

Zion licking a vanilla ice cream cone

big lick

Oh yeah, there's also ice cream—made on the premises from milk milked on the premises. The boys enjoyed a cone each, and I enjoyed the last two thirds of Lijah's and couple bites of Zion's. Good thing I didn't get one for myself! After the ice cream we explored the pond below the farm; when the boys yelled for me to come and see thousands of tadpoles I thought they were exaggerating, but actually they probably weren't.

hundreds of tadpoles swimming in shallow pond water

there's going to be a lot of frogs this fall...

Rascal didn't care about the tadpoles, but he was a big fan of the water. He went in a clean pond to get started, and then a spectacularly muddy one ("he looks like a different dog!" said Zion), then a clean one again.

Rascal shaking dry

he feels refreshed

Then he lay on the grass to dry off when he wasn't begging for licks of ice cream.

All in all it was delightful, and nobody cried until Lijah did in the car the whole way home. Then he went to bed before dinner and woke up as the other boys were going down at 7:30 and took several more hours to get back to bed. So that colors our view of the outing, ultimately; but I still think it was worth it. The boys want to go back soon; I think we can make that happen.

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first "spring" outing

With the winter as warm as it's been we've been able to expand out outings a little bit beyond the usual suspects of museums, libraries, and indoor play spaces. But so far this year we've been making wintery choices: playgrounds, sure, but by car and with indoor destinations as well. Today wasn't super warm but it was bright and sunny, with a distinct springlike feel, so I thought we'd try out our warm-weather outing model: pack some bags, hop on the bikes, and see where we end up!

Harvey geared up for a cold-weather cycling expedition

ready to go

After a brief stop at the auto-parts store (trying to get the van ready to be inspected next month) we ended up by the old reservoir, where we dropped the bikes and took to the woods.

the three boys in a tree

another tree pose

It was great to be hiking again. And naturally, every hike needs a snack break! I'm working on distributing responsibility, so Harvey got to pack the snacks. That meant store-bought chewy granola bars for everyone! (plus a muffin for himself).

Lijah eating a store-bought granola bar

less chewy when it's cold

Just as the water is a big draw in warmer weather, the ice was today. Given the insane warmth over the weekend I was surprised to see it looking pretty solid—and of course we had to try walking on it.

Harvey and Zion standing on the ice at the middle of the pond

still bearing

As much as we enjoy snow, it's absence meant we could roam wherever we wanted, including up some startlingly steep slopes.

Harvey and Zion scrambing up a steep, leaf-covered hill

hard-working climbers

That one was steep enough that sliding down in on the leaves made a satisfactory sledding replacement!

After that I was ready to head home for lunch—I didn't get a muffin!—but the big boys wouldn't leave until they at least tried to cross the ice on the lower pond to the pump house, or whatever it is. Ice that was somewhat softer than on the reservoir proper—but don't worry, Harvey had a plan: send Zion first. They were very proud when they made it, and of course Lijah insisted on joining them. Then we went home. By that point we were all ready for a rest.

Lijah and Zion apparently asleep in the blue bike, heads hanging over the edge

outside wears you out

Of course, Zion was just pretending to be sleeping. But he was ready to sit on the couch and listen to three stories before lunch and another four afterwards. Spring is tiring!

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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. But we saw that boat!

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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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!). Harvey and Zion were delighted to show Nathan the toys.

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan at the restaurant table by the open wall

sunny morning diners

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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this moment

Zion and Harvey atop North Bubble, with Jordan Pond and the Atlantic Ocean behind them

mountain climbers

A moment from the week.

ice exploration

Harvey and Zion far away on a frozen pond among the reeds

slipping and sliding

The one upside of this cold snowless winter is that ice everywhere is in good shape. Harvey and Zion love ice when they can find it, and I've been telling them that there are some nice big ponds hiding in the marsh back through our woods. An expedition a little over a week ago failed to find them, but as the picture above—and the one I posted yesterday—show, we had better luck this week!

the boys walking down an aisle of ice towards a pine tree

ice explorers

The woods just around the corner from our house back onto a considerable area of wetland: wetland that is pretty much impassible most of the year. I can't believe it took me this long to think of exploring it when most of the water was safely solidified!

The areas of open water are actually the remains of old cranberry bogs, and though they're gradually silting up—they seemed much smaller than the last time I visited, oh, seven years ago (yikes!)—you can still see how there was once a series of long parallel ponds with dikes in between them. We found a passageway through one of the dikes.

explorers creeping through narrow path of ice cutting though a dike

sneaking through

Another sign of the artificial nature of the environment is the dead-straight course of Hartwell Brook, which for this portion of its run is really more in the nature of a drainage ditch. It flows straight from the airport, and when we found it almost completely free of ice I really hoped that was due to the speed of the current rather than any questionable chemicals washing downstream.

looking at the (very straight) Hartwell Brook, open water through the reeds

open water

Whatever the reason, the flowing stream kept us from crossing over, so we turned north along the bank. I was hoping to hit a path back into the woods from the other side to complete a loop, but the boys didn't know that; as we left the brook to push through the tall, maze-like reeds Harvey eventually paused to say, "I'm a little scared." What, doesn't he trust me to keep my head and sense of direction? Plus, if anything goes wrong there's always the GPS on the phone. Which I mentioned to him and asked if he wanted to cheat; he declined.

Zion pushing through tall reeds

can we even get through?

Eventually we pushed our way through to higher ground and found a faint trace of a path, but we still didn't have any idea where we were until we found footprints, and a hole in the ice where our friend Bruce broke through on the previous expedition. We were saved! The rest of the trip was easy and uneventful, except that I had to carry Zion and his hands got quite cold once he didn't have the exertion of keeping up with us to warm him. When we got home we had hot chocolate.

There's still more to explore back there; we'd like to make another expedition soon. Want to come with us?

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local hiking

Great Brook is a state park, and known locally for good hiking. But it's not the only place around here where we can get out in the woods away from people. A few days ago we went north (for about five minutes by car) to an area I know pretty well; today it was west to a piece of woods that I've explored just a couple times since we've lived in Bedford.

Since I've never gotten them lost for too long the boys trust me to lead them into unknown territory, and there's something fun about walking on trails when you're not sure where they're going to lead. (Fun for me, anyways; I don't know that the boys yet pay enough attention to know one bit of woods from another.) When you're navigating blind even small bits of protected land take on the aspect of expansive wildernesses.

Not that we were quite blind entirely: the last link above goes to openstreetmap.org, a great resource for local trail-finding. When I first discovered it I was amazed, for a couple reasons. First, it was really something to see all the little trails by my parents' house, where I wandered as a kid, marked down on a map for all the world to see: so fancy and official! And then, seeing the shear number of off-road paths available in the area was exciting—and inspiring of future expeditions.

But while the internet of maps let me know that there were trails in there somewhere, it didn't really help us with navigation on the ground (not least because the page wouldn't load on my phone in the middle of the woods; but let's pretend the expedition was eschewing technology deliberately). So there was a delightful frisson of risky exploration to each fork we came to. And even if we had had access to trail maps, there would still have been surprises, like the section of trail we came to that was completely covered by a daunting depth of water.

a pond where the trail should be

can't go over it... can't go around it...

It might look from that picture like we could just go around, but the whole area was pretty swampy and mostly under water—the trail just happened to go through a particularly low-lying section. And there was no way we were going back, since Zion had reached the complaining-about-cold-hands-and-mittens stage of the expedition. So, as Rascal ran back and forth through the icy water wondering what was taking us so long, we painstakingly inched a path around the deepest water—a path that included a 10-foot-long traverse along a fallen log. I carried Zion, but Harvey did a great job on his own!

It was all totally fun and exciting, and easily as rewarding as any destination we could have looked for farther afield. And we didn't see a single other person out there the whole time! You should totally check out the trails around you, if you haven't already; even if there are some local places that you walk frequently, I bet there are lots more you don't know about yet! And the best part is, you can bring a lunch.

Harvey eating a sandwich in the woods

just reward

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a morning hike

Harvey and Zion coming up a hill on brightly-lit fall leaves

fall hiking

The boys, Rascal, and I took a hike yesterday a little farther afield: a town forest area that isn't just across the street. Last time we biked there, but with the dog today we had to drive. Which meant a different entrance place, so it was totally new for the boys! Experienced hikers as they are, they were well-prepared.

Harvey and Zion hiking down a sloping path in the pines

sure-footed

Many of paths through this particular woods are up and down steep sandy slopes, and they were fun both up and down and kept anyone from getting bored. It was wonderful to be able to have both the boys and Rascal with me on a walk and not have to worry about the pace either way: even Zion's developing into a fine hiker and moved along at a reasonable speed, and as Rascal approaches his second decade he's willing, if not to walk along with us, to wait up and check in with us from time to time. As happy as we all were with the walking, though, we were even more delighted to come upon a body of water.

the boys on the shore of the pond, watching Rascal in the water

we're drawn to water

Rascal jumped right in and the boys wasted no time in taking off their boots to paddle, but all three of them decided that the water was actually pretty chilly; Harvey stood in the water for no more than a second and Zion barely dipped a toe, while Rascal refused to go in very far after sticks and hauled himself out between each one to shake dry (including once all over Zion's coat; good thing it was warming up nicely!).

After the pond it was a just a little ways back to the car, since we were starting to tire a little bit. The only complaining of the trip came from Zion towards the end of this segment, but as we reached the road and he could see an end to the walking he rallied and finished in good spirits.

Zion looking like a hiker heading back to the car

littlest hiker

Then we were home in time for lunch and an afternoon of further adventures: the advantage of hiking close to home!

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