posts tagged with 'hiking'

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!


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


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


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!


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?


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, 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


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


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!


bonus camping

Leah and the boys in front of a pond and a mountain

a whole new adventure

This past weekend we took an unprecedented second camping trip in a year. A group of friends from church wanted to take an early-fall getaway to Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, and we were delighted to go along. For most of them it was their first time camping since their kids were born, so we were extra-excited to help reintroduce them to the joys of outdoor living.

Leah in the driver's seat of the van, sticking out her tongue at the camera

vacation craziness

Since we had to be back on Sunday for various things at church we planned and packed for just one night, and we got everything together in between when I got home from work at 1:00 and 4:00, when we hit the road. Zion settled in for a nap and Harvey played on the electronic device. Lijah didn't fuss the whole time: for the middle third of the trip he slept.

the boys cozy in the car

we're getting good at this

It took us quite a while to get through Concord center, but once we got past the Rt 2 rotary we zipped right along. When Lijah was quiet Leah and I enjoyed the sensation of driving into fall.

fall leaves along the highway

beautiful blur

We left the highway and followed smaller and smaller roads into New Hampshire, through and out of the town of Jaffery, and then we rounded a corner and got our first glimpse of a big mountain.

our first view of the mountain out the car window

there it is

A few wrong turns and confusions later—I had our site number and reservation number, but I hadn't actually paid any attention to the name of the campground—we found where we were supposed to be. We were the last ones in, and we were warmly welcomed by screaming girls as we pulled into the site. As happy as we were to see our friends, though, we had to ignore them for a couple minutes as we variously nursed the crying baby and worked to put up the tent before it got all the way dark. Those things accomplished, we joined the rest of the crowd (7 adults and 10 kids, counting Lijah) for dinner and marshmallow roasting.

Away from the fire the night sky was pretty impressive: southern New Hampshire is more rural and remote than most of the places we hang out, and there were a whole lot more stars in the sky than I'm used to. I tried to take some long exposure shots and I bet they would have looked good, but sadly I accidentally deleted them from the camera—flipping through quickly I thought they were all black and assumed a kid had taken pictures with the lens cap on. Oh well.

We slept as well as can be expected for a first night in the tent—the boys actually did great, not waking us up once all night—and when four of us (all but Zion) were awake we were happy to lie around and chat for a while: real vacation relaxation! After a while screaming alerted us to the fact that our friends were up and about, so we headed over to our combined fire-pit for a big communal breakfast.

lots of campers around the picnic table and fire pit

morning crowd

The propane stove was going for oatmeal but I had my big cast-iron skillet so I built up a fire to cook some bacon and scrambled eggs. The bacon was well-received by the kids... and I ate the eggs. After I was done cooking the kids had a great time playing with the remnants of the fire, gathering sticks and piles of leaves to dump on it and fanning it to produce impressive, if brief, conflagrations. And Elijah just sat in his little play seat and took it all in.

Elijah smiling, sitting up in his excersaucer thing

camp baby

Somehow a plan emerged that involved us all climbing Mt Monadnock, so after a period of preparation we got in our cars and drove a couple minutes to the trailhead, where we joined about 900 other people with the same idea. We took lots of pictures as we hung around waiting for everyone to be ready to hit the trail; I'm not sure what Zion was thinking in this one, but I like it.

Zion with a single finger in his mouth

I don't know

Once we got started, though, I know for sure what he was thinking: "I don't want to walk." I know because he told me. We didn't plan on a hike so we didn't have the kid-carrier backpack along—but there was no way I was going to just haul him up the mountain in my arms! Happily I had a sweatshirt that I wasn't wearing (thanks to the startlingly hot weather) and I was able to tie it into a passable sling. Of course, having Zion against my stomach was about as warm as wearing a sweatshirt, but needs must.

Dan carrying Zion in a sling made of a sweatshirt


Up and up we went! The path was flat at first but even that was too much for a couple young members of the party, who headed back to camp with one adult as the rest of us pressed on. Soon it turned dramatically upward; good thing we're good climbers with lots of practice!

Harvey and Leah climbing rocks

ever upward

The more fun-looking pitches even tempted Zion out of my arms for an attempt on his own; he was soon back with me every time.

Zion climbing a steeply angled pitch of rock

interesting enough to climb

I do work to keep other people out of my photographs, but in that last one you can see the reality of the situation: there were lots of other people climbing along with us. Lots. I likened it at the time to a pilgrimage route. While being in such crowded conditions wasn't my favorite—it wasn't just the most crowded mountain I've seen, it was the most crowded place period that I've been in for months!—lots of other folks had kind words for our party as we struggled ever upwards.

Even we have our limits, though, and when, after two hours of hard climbing, we reached a sign that told us we'd made it half-way... I called a halt. I could go no further—other members of the party could do what they wanted, but I was heading back down. Leah and Harvey decided to come with me, along with one other family, while two more families kept going towards the top. We definitely made the right decision for our circumstances, even if we did have to replace our summit photograph with something a little more arboreal.

the Archibald posing together beside the steep trail

not at the top, but a long way up together

We were all tired—well, all of us but Leah—and besides, with just one day of vacation we had other things we had to do! Although Leah did manage to combine one of her other tasks with walking down the mountain.

Leah nursing Lijah in the sling on the way down the mountain

doing what she needs to

(Nursing while hiking gets more impressed comments, by the way, than even hiking with small children!)

Eventually—eventually—we made it back to the trailhead and then to the parking lot, where we let the kids sit out the last several hundred yards of walk while I fetched the car. But by the time we got back to the campground they were bursting with energy again and ready to take on the playground.

Harvey hanging from a horizontal rope on the playground

some energy left

Well, mostly bursting anyways...

Zion, shirt off, sucks his thumb standing on the playground

tired from being carried

When we were bored of the playground it was on to the nearby pond, where the mountain that had so recently defeated us was peacefully reflected.

Harvey and friend walking by Gilson Pond, the mountain in the background

on to lower adventures

The plan was to catch frogs, but even though I noticed one close enough to touch neither he nor any of the other amphibious denizens of the pond were molested in any way. It was still pretty, though, and fun to explore.

a frog


Back and the campsites the kids enjoyed some quiet pursuits.

Zion and Harvey playing Uno with friends (and friend's mom) at the picnic table


Harvey, Zion, and friends in camping chairs sharing a comic book

and readers

We stayed for dinner, pretending we didn't have to leave for home just a little bit later. Our boxed mac-and-cheese was no match for the fancier dinner options.

shishkabobs and sausages on the campfire grill

elegant cookery

As we packed up our tent the kids brightened up the gathering dark with glow-sticks. Zion brightened up several portions of his skin as well when he broke his open, but he got cleaned up before I managed to take a picture. Here are some of the other kids running around.

long exposure of kids running in the woods with glow-sticks

night ghosts

Then home, with the kids falling asleep within minutes of getting in the car, leaving Leah and me to chat peacefully all the way home. Now that was a vacation.


camping 2014: hiking, family and otherwise

Leah, Elijah in the ergo, holding Harvey's hand as they come up the foggy trail

family hiking

The weather forecast for our second full day of camping (way back a month ago—I'm recapping here) was poor, with predictions of rain and heavy wind, especially later in the day and overnight, so our friends—camping for the first time with kids—made a prudent decision to head home early. The Archibalds decided to go hiking. But first, of course, we had to get some breakfast.

Zion at the breakfast table with food and toys

attractions of the cafe

Zion was much happier than he had been the day before, and both boys were excited for hiking. Skipping our usual in-town stroll in order to get as much time out in the National Park before the rain started falling, we headed out to Sieur de Monts Nature Center, where the boys were quite interested in the range of dead animals on display.

Leah and the boys looking at taxidermy in the nature center

nature under glass

Then it was on to the mountain climbing. We started up the flanks of Dorr Mountain on the Emery Path, and Harvey went at it with considerable energy. I didn't tell him the trail was labeled as "strenuous" in the guide—mostly because I hadn't paid enough attention to know that myself.

Harvey climbing up the granite steps of the Emery Path

big steps for a little hiker

It was pretty much stairs like that all the way up, which was actually not too bad: Harvey certainly had a better chance on the steps than he would have on boulders or sloping granite. And even though our hopes for ocean views were stymied by the dense fog, there were a few nice visual distractions to liven the climbing.

a sculpturesque tangle of uprooted tree roots in the mist


Of course, the boys naturally got tired before too long; Harvey of all the climbing—carrying his own lunch and raincoat too!—and Zion of bumping around in the backpack. We paused for a snack and tried to get the camera to take a picture of us all by itself.

all of us posing for a picture, sitting along the trail

the timer didn't know Zion's face was behind that bush

Unfortunately, the combination of a slightly dented lens body and the hard-to-focus-on foggy conditions put my camera out of commission for the second half of the hike, so there's no photographic evidence of our trip down a separate set of granite steps, this time spiced up with roots and muddy puddles. There was some complaining, but on the whole everyone did great and we were proud of ourselves when we made it back to the bottom of the mountain (after, of course, getting nowhere near the actual top).

While I enjoyed the family time, I wanted just a bit more hiking, and Leah wanted some relaxing time with the boys, so we split up to do two things that were only possible on a Rascal-free camping trip: she to visit the shops in town, and me to take the bus to the Precipice trailhead and attempt that famous climb. (By the way, it had been years since I'd taken the free Island Explorer bus, and I rediscovered that it is totally the way to get around the park. How much time and effort we would have saved if we'd taken it to the beach instead of trying to drive!)

I don't know how Precipice is usually, but with the fog and threat of rain I had the trail pretty much to myself. I actually enjoyed the lack of distant views, since it made me pay more attention to the amazing immediate ones.

a wooden bridge and cliff face on the Precipice trail

looks positively tropical from this angle

For those of you who aren't familiar with the trail, it's pretty fun: it takes you up almost 1,000 feet in a little under a mile, which is pretty good for a "non-technical" hike. There are lots of ladders (mostly metal bars anchored into the rock), but what impressed me the most was the one spot where the trail takes you through an actual cave. But mostly ladders.

a series of ladders (metal staples in the cliff) rising into the mist

the trail goes that way

I made it to the top, and the self-timer was pressed into service again for documentary evidence. It was chilly up there, thus the raincoat; there wasn't any rain yet, thank goodness.

Dan sitting at the foggy top of Champlain mountain

I made it

The only disappointment of the climb was that, at the top, I still wasn't hungry enough to eat the lunch I'd prepared. After eating some snacks for form's sake I headed down the other side of the mountain, into even thicker fog.

a foggy trail along the side of the mountain

just the place for mountain goats

Or maybe it was cloud, because as I got lower things farther than a couple dozen feet away started to become visible.

a view of The Tarn through the fog from the lower slopes of Champlain

below the clouds

Back once again at Sieur de Monts station, I took a look at the bus schedule, and decided that I'd be better off walking all the way back into town. The beginning of this second, flatter, part of my hike was very pleasant.

a long straight boardwalk through the woods

much easier going

The hiking maps for the island have trails indicated all the way into town; it turns out those don't really exist. For a good stretch I was walking along a road, without so much as a sidewalk. But after a nice long wet stroll I made it into town to find my family... but what I found instead was pirates!

Harvey in full pirate gear and Zion with a sword, with the harbor behind them


In the course of shopping for a present for our neighbor's 5th birthday, Leah and the boys had happened upon some great pirate gear, and naturally they bought it and put it on right away. It was awesome. There are always lots of people walking around Bar Harbor, but if you're a five-year-old dressed as a pirate you'll be noticed by all of them, and most of them will smile. This is as true at restaurants as it is on the street.

pirate Harvey sitting at an outdoor restaurant table, with a cup of lemonade clutched in his hook

is it grog?

That was at a burrito place, where I finally got hungry again; thank goodness, since I got a big burrito.

my half-eaten food

food picture

The boys got hot-dog burritos, but they mostly ate the hot dog part, so in addition to my tremendous meal I finished off their tortillas; also their lemonade, since one of the after-effect of the sickness which had brought Zion low the day before (and Harvey before we left) was painful mouth sores. So eating wasn't always easy. But of course ice cream always goes down well, especially fancy flavors like callebaut chocolate and butter mint.

Harvey, still a pirate, and Zion eating ice cream on a park bench

sweet finish

If the day could have ended there all would have been perfection, but we still had to get ourselves back to the car—parked too far away for our tired pirate captain—and then to the distant campsite for bed. But we made it—and just in time too, since as we settled into bed the wind started picking up ominously.


long-ago adventures in camping, day 2

Over a year ago—July 22, 2013, in fact—we were still camping in Bar Harbor. After a fun family day I left Leah and the boys and headed out with Rascal and our then-childless friends for a hike up Dorr Mountain.

Becca climbing up an exposed path, passing under a block of granite

an interesting trail

We started at Sieur de Monts spring and ranger station and headed up the steeper east side of the mountain (alas, our trail map is lost—temporarily misplaced?—so I can't give proper trail names). One of the fun things about hiking Dorr is that it rises right above the shore and the town of Bar Harbor, so there's a great view the whole way up.

a view of the islands around Bar Harbor from halfway up Dorr Mtn

the view from halfway

It was a hot day, and we were in full sun the whole way up. Whenever we paused Rascal worked hard to find the coolest spot he could.

Rascal lying down in a patch of wet sand, panting

there's some water in that sand

We were delighted to make it to the summit, but for one thing: it was still too early for lunch!

the cairn and sign at the top of Dorr Mtn


As we paused and enjoyed the view and some water and snacks, we couldn't help but notice the crowds on the top of Cadillac Mountain, just across the saddle from Dorr. For those of you not familiar with Acadia, Cadillac is the highest peak in the park (at 1,528 feet, truly the Cadillac of mountains!), and there's an auto road up to the top. I'd never climbed it before, doubting the satisfaction of walking up all that way just to find a parking lot and a crowd of people in flip-flops, but since we had a little bit of extra time we thought we could give it a shot. The way was steep but short, and before long we were standing on the highest point within 25 miles of the Atlantic coast of the United States (really, look it up). And it was crowded.

lots of people wandering around on a paved area atop Cadillac Mtn

a couple people

Actually, I'm not even sure we made it to the summit proper; it was hard to tell where it was exactly and we weren't about to walk across the parking lot to check if it was over on the other side. Probably not, right? I figured it was close enough and posed for a picture.

Dan standing on top of Cadillac Mtn, with Frenchmans Bay and the Schoodic Peninsula in the background

me at the top

I'm currently using a cropped version of this shot for the photo on my work Google+ account, but this full version, complete with delightful lounger, reveals the true reality of the scene.

Still and all, it was fun to be so high up, and since the mountaintop is large and gently rounded we were able to find a pretty secluded spot for lunch. And we enjoyed all the more being able to head back the way we came and leave the crowds mostly behind for scenes like the following, taken on the trail down the gorge between Cadillac and Dorr.

a pool next to the trail in a rocky gorge, with lots of hikers above it in the background

almost big enough to swim in

Further down the trail we saw a deer and fawn in a clearing, but I failed to get a good photograph. Deer are common enough here in Bedford, but it felt like something special to see one out in the real woods! Then before we knew it we were back among the crowds around the ranger station and on our way back to camp.

While we were gone so long—well into the middle of the afternoon—the boys had been having fun with Leah, and they were capping their adventurous day with a swim it the lovely heated campground pool (which it seems I haven't ever managed to take a picture of). I was just too late to swim with them, but I did get to hang out on the playground to watch Harvey being brave.

Harvey at the top of a tall metal slide

look how high that is

Also Zion being cute.

a close-up of Zion's cutey face with blurry playground equipment behind him

having fun his own way

We played some bocce ball while Becca and Andrew worked on dinner—and it was truly a masterpiece of campground cuisine, a chicken pot pie cooked in the campfire. Just look at that Pillsbury crescent on top!

a pot pie in a dutch oven on the grass

campground luxury

For the adults nothing could top the pie, but Harvey and Zion were even more excited by the after dinner surprise of glow-sticks supplied by our friends.

Harvey sitting in a camp chair holding a red glowstick

the coolest thing ever

Yes, he may not look super-excited there, but that's because he was also collapsing from fatigue. He loved the glow-stick, and even though he's seen one or two other ones since then he still talks about that one at camp. Of course, these day's it's pretty much all camp talk all the time around here, as we get ready to take off on 2014's journey in a couple days. I'm excited too: thus this post here. And I need to finish all of last year's story before we can get started on this year's!


early spring expedition

the expedition mostly looking at the camera

pausing for a photo

Spring is here, signaled by hard rain yesterday afternoon and much of today. So rain boots are the thing. Thursday the Stevenses were over and Eliot had his rain boots—I mean, "puddle jumpers"—and so was very disappointed to find out that the day was too cool and dry for puddles. So we suited up and all headed out for an expedition into the boggy marsh.

Harvey's and Ollie's booted feet in the marshy grass

squishy underfoot

There, naturally, we found puddles galore. It was wonderful for those of us with proper footwear, though less so for the ones in snow boots or sneakers. Luckily Bruce is big enough to be able to find alternate routes, and alternate entertainments!

Bruce crossing a log above a boggy spot


(And also big enough not to complain too much after he fell in and soaked one foot).

As well as our time in the marsh we also had lots of good walking on forest trails. Even though they were pretty icy, everyone did very well—and Zion did very well being carried in the backpack for that part of the trip, after some initial reluctance (read: "screaming"). We brought Rascal along too, and he had a wonderful time, roaming widely and checking in just enough to reassure the kids that he hadn't run away. Not that he was easy to spot at any time.

Rascal in the woods, and hard to see

he's in there somewhere

I was very proud of Harvey, who's turning into a fine hiker. Thanks to the backpack Grandma got him he can carry all his own supplies now, and it also helps him really look the part! We're looking forward to many more hikes to come this spring.

Harvey with backpack, rain boots, and stick

happy hiker

Edit: Leah took better pictures with her camera than Bridget or I did with mine. Here's one that should have been in this post to begin with:

five kids and one dada (with another kid in the backpack) marching through the marsh

the expedition's progress


camping 2012, day 2: all kinds of independence

the party on top of Sargent Mtn, looking to the north

on top of the world

Since we could only handle the arduous effort of hauling the boys up trails once, on Tuesday we split up. Leah, Harvey, and Zion went in to town to have some fun, and I got to hike without a child on my back for the first time since 2009! Unencumbered, I advocated for a big hike, and so we headed up Sargent Mountain, the second tallest in the park.

the party coming down a rocky slope

careful now...

Well, I say unencumbered, but I did have Rascal to contend with. At least I didn't have to carry him very much, but he was a bit of a trial at the beginning of the hike. Before we could go up we had to go down a long way, and since it was early in the walk he was raring to go and pulled constantly at the leash. It's pretty good exercise hopping down boulders down a 45° slope! When we got down to the foot of Jordan pond, we had about 1100 feet of climbing in front of us, some of it quite steep; that's when I had to lift Rascal over one particularly high step. He's good at jumps up to about three feet or so, but anything higher than that—or a consistent rock slope of more than about 60°—and he starts looking for another way around. But sometimes there isn't one! Eventually we made it to the top, and he was ready.

Rascal resting in front of the Sargent Mtn summit

and now lie down.

It was terrible hot and humid climbing up but then cold, gray, and windy on the top, so when we passed by Sargent Pond on the way down we were less inclined to want to swim than we'd been in anticipation. Still, all the boys—in fact, the males of all species in the party—went in, because how often do you have a chance to swim in a mountain pond?

Rascal and Becca in front of Sargent Pond

swimming hole

Sargent Mountain is probably the most remote peak on the east side of Acadia (keeping in mind that remoteness in this case is entirely relative!), so there aren't any reasonable loops that take in the summit. On the way back, though, we did decide to take a different route to bypass the boulder slope pictured above—coming down it was bad enough!—and on the way around Jordan Pond towards the cars we came upon someone's half-finished project.

Washington racoon poses with a beaver-gnawed tree

trying to take credit for someone else's work

Then I got dropped off back downtown where I met up with the rest of my family, and marveled at Harvey's happy independence as he ran all over the Bar Harbor village green.

Harvey running back from the fountain in the park

feeling comfortable with his surroundings

Then we did some other things, but I can't recall them because I was too tired and hungry. Luckily we eat well on these trips.

hot dog, cheeseburger, and corn and bean salad on a plate

we make sure we're well fed


camping 2012, day 1: end of an era

the four of us posing atop North Bubble

Rascal was there too

There are lots of reasons that we like visiting Mt Desert Island, but chief among them are climbing mountains and eating big breakfasts at Cafe This Way. This year there weren't many problems with the latter, at least.

Harvey eating oatmeal at the Cafe

breakfast luxury

Sure, Zion was a little fussy at having to wait for his food, but that was generally survivable. Mountain climbing, on the other hand, gets harder every year. Harvey weighs around 40 pounds now, so with all the other things I had to carry—plus the weight of the backpack itself—I figure my load was close to 55 pounds. Leah carried Zion in a backpack we found at a consignment sale, which wasn't entirely comfortable for either of them. Still and all, we made up a couple of hills—North Bubble and Connors Nubble—and then back along the shore of Eagle Lake.

Washington racoon (a puppet) on top of the sign for the North Bubble summit

he was also carried to the top

It wasn't a really long hike, but parts of it were pretty tough. Up to Connors Nubble was a steep climb, and the Eagle Lake path had moments of tricky scrambling over boulders. It was well worth it though, because even though neither peak was very high both of them had some great views.

some of the crowd eating lunch above Eagle Lake

not a bad lunch view

Harvey would have nothing to do with walking at the start of the expedition, but on the way down from North Bubble we convinced him to try a little bit and he did quite well, even bouncing up from a big fall. After some jostling on the descent he was even more enthusiastic about moving under his own power, and I had to work pretty hard to convince him to get back in the backpack from time to time, in the interest of finishing the hike before it got dark (and I really appreciate our friends' willingness to adapt to our radically changing pace).

Harvey hiking among boulders with Dada following

he doesn't need fancy shoes for barefoot hiking

Most impressive was the fact that Harvey did it all barefoot. It was a lot like having a hobbit in the party, what with the short stature and the curly hair and all (not to mention the constant desire for another meal). He definitely earned his stops to dip his feet in the water.

Harvey dipping his feet in Eagle Lake

a well-earned break

He walked close to a mile in total, and was doing great until he tripped over a root and bashed his big toenail pretty good; the third time he'd been bloodied on that hike alone. He was done with the backpack by that point too, so the last three-quarter miles or so I was just carrying him. The hike marked the end of Harvey's time riding up mountains in the big backpack: it was so painful we didn't try in again. Next year the pack'll hold Zion, and where Harvey can't walk he won't go.

We ended the day back at the campsite with peanut noodles and lawn bowling, both of which Harvey approved of wholly (Zion was a fan of the balls more than the noodles).


camping 2011: part two

the view from the top of Penobscot

looking down

More specifics. The first hike we did was Penobscot, which I thought was going to kill me. "We do this for fun," I repeated to myself as I lugged 40+ pounds of Harvey and snacks up the mountain, pausing every five steps to wipe the sweat from my eyes. It was hot and steep. Fun too, really, and not just for the reward of making it to the top; maybe I convinced myself with all the repetition. More pictures in the other post.

rocks and trees above Lower Hadlock Pond

at the foot of Norumbega

The second day we did Normumbega, which I had no particular recollection of ever having climbed before. We were a little disappointed to be denied a treeless summit, but the hike itself was beautiful and varied, if a little too bumpy for Harvey. "My butt hurts!" he exclaimed periodically for the entire second half of the hike—every five seconds or so except when I was singing him marching songs. I understand that Leah was dealing with similar complaints from Zion further back in the line. That all slowed us down considerably, but we enjoyed the frequent breaks and the opportunity they afforded us to eat cookies and consort with the local wildlife.

Harvey pointing to Washington (the puppet) Racoon's nose

"it has a nose"

The backpack is now stored away in the basement with the camping gear. Harvey may be done with it forever.

Rascal standing in shallow water

he was chasing rocks

Beyond taking them on wonderfully challenging (to us) hikes, we also introduced our friends to the eponymous bar. After breakfast we got there midway trough the ebb tide and followed the receding waters across to Bar Island. Well, some of us did: Harvey had a sleepy breakdown and couldn't go on. Before that point, though, he had a great time finding shells and rocks with Andrew and throwing them for Rascal.

Harvey and Andrew looking for shells

I think there's something alive in this one

The cooking was pretty awesome too: we divided up the dinner duty and had three very successful meals. Sadly the pictures of Harvey with a full cup of spaghetti hanging from his mouth didn't come out, nor did the ones of him lying on the ground helping Rascal lick the dishes clean. Out-of-focus attempts exist on my computer, if you want to see documentary evidence. One picture that I was delighted to find came out beautifully was the one I took of my s'more, the first ever perfect s'more that I ever created—perhaps the first in all human history. It was a moment of pure triumph.

a smore

perfection, marshmallow-style

The weather started out really hot: we were fleeing 100+ degree temps at home but didn't find things too much better as we headed north. On the drive up we went through maybe three gallons of water, and Harvey didn't spill more than a quart of that. But by the last day there when we went out to dinner with my parents (totally awesome they were there, by the way; next year we're going to try and time the whole trip to match up with their stay on the island so we can get some childcare!) everybody was bundled up against sub-60° weather. Luckily that makes some of us extra cute and cuddly.

Leah kissing a sweatshirted Zion

cozy kissy

Oh yeah, and Harvey played his first game of golf. He hasn't stopped talking about it since.

Harvey at Pirates Cove golf

not quite sure which end of the stick to hold


camping 2010: day 3 and 4

the archibalds up on Penobscot


The third day of the vacation began with grand plans for a big hike, before our group started to shrink due to work demands (oh, where are our European-length vacations?!). We even skipped our traditional early-morning trip to the cafe to save time, breakfasting instead on bagels, leftover pizza, and cupcakes. Unfortunately, car troubles intervened and it wasn't until after 11:00 that we finally got going, sadly without Andrew who had to make a trip to the closest Honda dealership—50 miles away in Augusta.

But it was a beautiful day, and we were well-supplied with lunches and treats, so spirits were high as we headed up the steep cliffs at the base of Penobscot Mountain. Unlike the previous day's varied hike, the way up Penobscot has basically two parts: first straight up the cliffs (though not so straight as to require any ladders) and then gradually up the ridge for a full mile. The wind got stronger and stronger as we approached the summit, and Harvey wasn't too sure if he liked it. When we finally ran out of climbing we posed for the requisite photo, and ducked into the lee of a rock to have lunch.

Rascal resting atop Penobscot

he waits for the humans to get going again

On the way down we detoured a little bit to take a dip in Sargent Pond, where the Archibalds were the only ones foolhardy enough to put their heads under. Harvey loved it, as he loves all natural bodies of water, and I wore myself out tossing him up and down. Rascal only swam a little bit, distracted as he was by another dog who dared to invade his presence.

the expedition cooling off in Sargent Pond

look who's the center of attention

The way back to the car was long but unremarkable, as Leah failed to fall in the mud like she did last time we were on this hike. Back at camp we went for a swim—civilized camping here, none off your backwoods stuff!—and headed into town for burritos. Apparently Monday is the day for band concerts in Bar Harbor, and we were lucky enough to catch part of one; but baby bedtime kept us from seeing if Mary, local saxophonist extraordinaire, was with the band that night.

Rascal fishing for stones

trying to fetch stones

The following day everyone but us was heading home, so after another delicious Cafe This Way breakfast we did some shopping in town and took another walk along the shore path. This time the warm sun encouraged us to hang around, and certain members of the group tried to show off their jumping skills and earned a good sized scrape of the knee for their troubles. Harvey was happy sitting still and playing with rocks, smart boy.

Harvey playing in the cobbles

no pictures please!

After everyone else had left we declared a rest day and headed back to camp to play on the playground, swim, and read. It was relaxing enough that we decided not to bail on our last day and head home early. That warm pool—and contemplating another long trip in the car with Harvey—even made us think about setting up permanent residence at the Narrows campground. If only we'd brought more clothes...

sunset at the campground

an idyllic location


camping 2010: days 1 and 2

Harvey atop Parkman Mtn

intrepid climber

So we camped, and it was even kind of fun at times! Harvey was certainly better able to enjoy things this year than he was the last time he was in Maine, and of course his proud parents thrilled to see him playing on various mountaintops. But before that could happen, we had to get to Bar Harbor.

the boys in the car right before we leave for MDI

pretty cushy seats

Despite how awesome was the setup I created for Harvey and Rascal, the drive up didn't go incredibly smoothly. Well, Rascal didn't have any problems, actually. How amusing it is to think how much we worried about stopping enough for him before we had the child! Harvey doesn't mind the car in small doses, but he wasn't happy to be unable to leave it for such an extended period. We weren't desperately pleased either, come to think of it, especially when we got stuck in traffic between Portland and Freeport and a stretch that should have taken 15 minutes took an hour more than that. Harvey wasn't the only one shouting then, but luckily an emergency stop in Yarmouth for a stretch (for dada and Rascal) and iced chai (for mama and Harvey) put everyone in a happier mood. For a little while, anyways: Harvey still needed a number of stops in various picturesque locations.

Harvey and mama on the beach in Lincolnville

being out of the car is fun!

Eventually we made it, and Harvey very kindly allowed us to set up the tent and everything without interruption, because he was asleep. Somewhat later our friends arrived, already unhappy with us and this vacation we'd dragged them out on because they too suffered through terrible traffic (I refrained for asking for a show of hands from those who traveled with a screaming baby). We mollified them with dinner and planned the next day's adventures.

When we woke up to steady rain, though, everyone was unmollified again. Being a holiday guide is stressful work! Refusing to mope in the tents, we pressed ahead with the plan and headed downtown to breakfast (at the Cafe, natch). By the time we finished up a delicious and leisurely meal (did you know they have toy animals for the kiddies?) the rain had stopped, and we ventured a walk along the shore path. The heavens showing no further signs of opening, we piled into our three cars and headed out for the day's hike.

the archibalds on the summit of Parkman

cool, calm, and ready for another one

Hoping to present our friends, first time visitors to Acadia all, with a varied and not-overwhelming introduction to the park, I took them up Parkman Mtn and Bald Peak. Besides the oppressive humidity it was a wonderful hike, and no one sustained injuries of any great severity (my wrist already feels better, and Leah probably won't have a scar unless she keeps picking at that scab). To top it all off, the top of Parkman was enlivened not only by a delicious lunch of sandwiches prepared in the parking lot below but by a number of sizable puddles—ponds, almost—left by the recent rains. Harvey enjoyed them tremendously, and luckily we had dry clothes for him after.

Harvey playing in a puddle atop Parkman Mtn

guess what happened next?

Bald Peak was nice too, but you know, the second summit of the day just can't be as much fun.

Back home, we kicked back to enjoy some beers and a delicious meal of pizza cooked over the campfire. Plus, there were cupcakes to celebrate Katie's birthday! Now that's what camping is all about. Right Harvey?

Harvey grabbing for a can of beer

the pleasures of camp


winter dreams of summer

the Acadia Park map on the coffee table

planning and dreaming

For some reason we started thinking about this summer's camping trip much much earlier than usual. Maybe it's the extra-cold weather, maybe it's the postcard the campground sent us, but it's definitely on our minds. Mine especially.

I've been going through the old photos lately, and I got out the map of Acadia to try and puzzle out where we were in the various hiking shots. Our documentation is not the best, despite big plans and promises every year. Wouldn't it be nice to record when we've taken a particular trail, and what it's like, so that we can repeat the ones we like and avoid the ones we don't? It sounds so easy, doesn't it.

Some images from years past:

Leah and Harvey hiking down in the mist

down the stairs from South Bubble

Leah Dan and Rascal on top of Pemetic in 2008

a family photo from when our family was 3

heading down in the woods

really diggin my brand-new pack


Vacation photos

I have been rather lax about posting baby pictures on the blog, for no reason other than it requires resizing which sounds like work. Now that I'm back to work, however, resizing baby photos is a lot more fun than resizing photos of ugly webinar speakers, so without further ado, here are some photos of our recent vacation to Bar Harbor.

The Archibald family on top of a (rather small) mountain!

Photo evidence that I made it up the mountain carrying the baby in his orange bjorn.

Rascal guarding Harvey at the campsite.

The baby enjoying his trip to the Maine coast.