posts tagged with 'adventure'

tour of Lexington

This past Thursday we continued our summer camp adventuring. We had one additional taker for our outing, Zion's friend Nathan, who signed on despite not having any advance notice about what he would be doing. Because we didn't know either! But by 8:00 Thursday morning I had a plan: to finally explore ACROSS Lexington trail system. Lexington has some good trails, and over the last ten years they've been stringing them together into walking loops of four to six miles each, connecting stretches of conservation land hiking and bike paths with well-signed routes along mostly back streets. We don't walk much, so we planned to bike the whole way. And there was some good cycling!

Zion riding down a narrow path in a field, Harvey well ahead of him

fine singletrack!

Since it was our first trip on the system, we aimed to follow Trail A (so far they go up to H). But first we had to get there; conveniently, Trail A includes a little section of the bike path that starts right by our house. Of course, we're not so single-minded that the ACROSS trail was the only thing on our minds: I was happy to stop on the way up to explore other interesting bits of Lexington.

the boys wading in a small stream

exploring upriver

The trail itself took us 5.4 miles on walking trails through woods and by streams and ponds; along a paved walking path along a narrow strip of wooded land along Lower Vine Brook; and through leafy suburban streets and one sterile new subdivision of McMansions—a subdivision that preserved one tiny memory of the farm-turned-nursery that preceded it.

Lijah in the cargo bike looking at a wildflower garden and farmy shed

Lexington scenery

There were also two little flights of stairs... and one big hill, on a soft path through the woods, that about finished Zion. We were probably about five miles in—plus the three and a half on the bike path to get to the trail—and he was cooked. Pushing his little bike up the hill with bugs buzzing all around him he yelled up to me, "I hate Trail A!" But when he made it to the top of the hill it was just one long downhill into Lexington Center; as soon as he recognized where he was, all was forgiven and he and Trail A were reconciled once again. Lunch on the Buckman Tavern lawn helped too.

I lived in Lexington for over 20 years, but lots of what we rode was surprising to me—delightfully so. There's lots more of the town to explore; even Zion, by lunch, was wondering when we could take a shot at Trail B...

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we can adventure by ourselves

In past years we've done this summer camp thing. When I asked the boys if they wanted to try it again this year they were all for it, and at least one family who participated in the past told me they were interested, so I emailed a few other folks to invite them. But so far, nobody has wanted to join us. Never mind, last Thursday the boys and I went on an adventure all by ourselves, and gosh-darnit, we had a great time!

the boys looking out at Fawn Lake

on the adventure trail

We didn't go anywhere new; just old Fawn Lake, where we've been lots of times before. It was Zion's first time biking there, at least! There was some grumpiness here and there as we walked around the pond, but nobody can be in a bad mood for long in the presence of such lovely natural beauty, and by the time we made it to the lunch cliff spirits were high. Zion made his higher still by climbing up the hardest way.

Zion bouldering, viewed from above

on his way up

After lunch we played hide-and-seek and tag in the field for about an hour, then we took to the streets for the ride home. I was a little nervous about Zion experiencing 45 mph traffic beside him for the first time, but he did great. The reason for our detour away from the lovely bike path that would have led us straight back to our house was that the bike path doesn't have an ice cream shop. And we needed ice cream.

the boys licking ice cream cones

treat

And even that wasn't the end of the fun; next we stopped at the library for an hour of relaxing reading. Then we finally went home, to have dinner.

After dinner we went on another adventure, to outdoor concert back up by the library, where Harvey and Lijah got stung by several wasps each. But that's another story, and friends did join us for that outing, so we didn't feel as much like brave and solitary explorers.

We're doing some more exploring tomorrow. We'll see if anyone feels like coming along.

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who says we never do anything?!

Yesterday we at a picnic lunch and a picnic dinner, in two separate state parks. That wasn’t the plan for the day; I had thought to have a pretty quiet day at home, working and playing here like we’ve been doing a lot of the time lately. We did have an early-morning trip to to the grocery store planned, and I expected that that would be all the excitement I could handle. Only then friends invited us to join them for a walk at Great Brook Farm state park. On such a beautiful day, how could we resist?!

Harvey and Zion playing by a pond

out and enjoying life

It was indeed lovely; we played around the pond, looked at the livestock, and took a walk through the woods and fields. Then to top it all off we got ice cream—one small dish per family, to share. Hey, we're not made of money! Everyone was worn out and satisfied as we headed home.

But we didn't stay there for long. Harvey just got new swim goggles the other day, and he's been trying to arrange our first summertime trip to Walden Pond. I mentioned in passing that we might be able to head that way at dinner time—some day, when we hadn’t already spent nearly four hours exploring the great outdoors. But no, he was determined. So not much more than an hour after getting home from Great Brook we’d packed another meal and took to the road again. I was worried, with everyone but Harvey—me very much included—showing signs of dangerous tiredness, but the nearly empty beach was just what we needed and the boys ran, swam, and played for a solid hour and a half. Me, I lay on the beach and tried not to fall all the way asleep when they were in the water.

the three boys playing in the water

peaceful evening swim

Besides all the fresh air and exercise over the two excursions, we also got to see all kinds of amazing wildlife. At Great Brook the pond was full of tiny frogs, bullfrogs, and fish—including a catfish that came up to strike a cheerio one of the kids through in. We also saw lots of chipmunks and observed ants and dragonflies; Zion found a snakeskin to bring home. Walden Pond had less variety, but more excitement when a bald eagle flew across the pond to land in a pine tree down the beach. (“I didn’t see it!” Lijah tells me. He has a hard time seeing his shoes when I point them out to him, never mind a bird moving fast several hundred yards away.)

a frog in the pond

ribbet

It was all super fun. And exhausting. It took til this evening to finish washing all the tupperwares. But as we loaded the things into the car in the beautiful cool of the evening, I reflected that, some days at least, following the moment wherever it leads can be pretty nice too.

Harvey, Zion, and Havana walking in the woods

getting away from it all

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on the water

the boys and I paddling on the smooth water of the river

going places in style

After a few practice runs taking our new canoe out on ponds, we felt ready to take on the Concord River. The trial run on Zion's birthday was a little rough, but Tuesday we mobilized the whole family for another go—with rather more success. You can see from the picture above that we've made some improvements to our fine vessel, the Green Gecko; the tent is essential to keep the sun off the cargo on these bright spring days.

Leah borrowed a kayak from friends so she could join us (and also took the morning off from work). Her boat goes faster than ours, but she was kind enough to wait up when we got too far behind.

Leah paddling a kayak on the wide Concord River

Mama leading the way

In Bedford the river feels hugely wide, but upriver into Concord it narrows significantly, and it felt more like river boating as we navigated the twists and turns. The current was much more noticeable in the confines space too, and navigating around all the fallen trees in the water was exciting!

the canoe in the smaller part of the river

into the heart of darkness

Our goal was the Old North Bridge, but as we made our creeping way upstream it became clear we weren't going to make it—especially since we needed to be back home for the next scheduled event safely before 3:00. Still, we couldn't go all that way without finding somewhere to go to. The Great Meadows bird sanctuary was a great consolation prize, and we had a pleasant picnic lunch on a bench by the riverbank. Then we explored a little. Just like last time we were there, the highlight was playing in the fords.

the boys splashing through the ford

shore leave excitement

After lunch we went a little further upstream before we hit our cut-off time, and turned around. It's a good thing the current was helping us along on the homeward trip, because we wouldn't have made it otherwise: our arms were about ready to fall off! The kids didn't work quite as hard, but after over three hours in the boat they well earned their riverside playtime back at the boat launch.

the boys playing in the river at the boat launch

journey's end

Since we were disappointed of the bridge Tuesday, Thursday the boys and I put in upstream on the Sudbury River and paddled down to it, with a brief excursion a little ways up the Assabet River. We were excited to make it to what felt like a fabled destination, though sadly my camera ran out of batteries so I wasn't able to capture our triumph. Even sadder because the light was beautiful as the morning's sunshine gave way to threatening overcast; overcast that threatened us right back upriver after just a few minutes play at the bridge (since we've been to the bridge by car and bicycle hundreds of times, the exciting part about this visit was tying up to a real dock at the Old Manse boathouse).

Both wind and current were against us as we headed back to the car. The wind was so strong we had to take down the tent, but that was fine since it was about as dark as night anyways. Harvey and I were a little concerned. Lijah, on the other hand, is now totally used to being in the boat, and lurched happily from side to side to lean over and put his hand in the water. It was easier when he was terrified! He even put in a good long stretch of "helping" with a paddle of his own (Harvey was very kind and patient to not throw him overboard).

I thought the whole trip was pretty quick, but when we got back to the car I found that it had been well over two hours. Oops! Time flies when you're on the water. It was great fun, but after all that work I think we all deserve a quiet, boating-free weekend.

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experiencing winter's ice

With the snow mostly melted and some stings of warm days, sometimes it's hard to remember that it's still winter around here. But so deep was December's chill that all the ponds are still well-covered with thick ice, so when Friday dawned cold and clear we thought it would be the perfect day for an icy expedition.

Harvey and Zion on the ice of Fawn Lake, Lijah looking on

icecapades

Since we wanted to expunge the memory of the last time any of us were out on the ice, we made sure to prepare properly. That meant that the bicycle was well full of anything we might need. Including a blanket, of course!

Zion the full cargo bike bucket

Lijah is there too, under the blanket

The crushed stone bike path was in good shape as we started out, but closer to the pond conditions really deteriorated, and for the last mile we spent half the time pushing the bikes over long stretches where the slush had frozen into a solid—and lumpy!—covering. Not the kind of ice we were looking for!

Harvey walking his bike over the icy icy path

ice road biker

But we persevered, and eventually made it to Fawn Lake, which was covered in just the right sort of beautifully smooth ice. (The thaws do an amazing job of melting all the snow without really touching the depth of ice coverage—this year is the first time I've ever seen that happen, and it's happened twice already.) We set off to cross right away, but some disturbing cracking noises sent us scurrying back before we made it a third of the way. Never mind, there was lots of fun to be had climbing on rocks and running around the field.

Lijah in hat and mittens

keeping cozy

After lunch we recovered our bravery enough to venture a little way onto the ice to investigate a trio of ice blocks some previous explorers had cut out and set on end. The holes they had come from were long frozen over, so we didn't worry about falling in; and they made fine, if chilly seats. Not that we sat for long, since the warm sun shining on the ice made it wonderfully slick. I found I could run and slide on my front for, oh, ten feet or so. Of course, then everyone else had to try it.

the boys sliding on the ice on their stomachs

playing penguins

Even Lijah overcame most of his nervousness about the curious noises that the ice produced from time to time to be able to take some good slides. Yes, we love ice! Not the kind on the path, though—we went home on the road to avoid that nonsense.

Zion sitting on an ice block

cool on the ice

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a story which must be told

A bit over a week ago, at the tail end of the previous thaw (we're in another one now) the boys and I were on a walk with Rascal. When we found ourselves close to Bedford's newest pond* the bigger boys naturally wanted to check out the ice.

Harvey and Zion inching across the ice on the pond

carefully now...

Even after 5 days of mild weather it still took their weight without a problem—that's what comes of the thaw following two solid weeks of well below freezing. Unfortunately, we find that frozen mud thaws faster than frozen water, and when they reached the far bank and foolishly stepped off the ice they sank ankle deep in oozing quicksand. Harvey managed to escape, but in trying to turn around Zion tripped and fell onto his hand and knees. It took lots of help from Harvey to get him up, and then more help to get his boot out of the mire—his foot had come up without it and it was pretty much submerged. Then, because his love for his brother leads him to provide support emotional as well as practical, Harvey took off one of his own boots to make Zion feel better as they crossed back to me and Elijah. Better, but not completely happy.

Zion crying, covered with mud

oops.

After we dumped maybe a pint of water out of the boot I told Zion to put it back on: the thaw was coming to a dramatic end even as we walked, and with temperatures dipping below freezing I figured a wet boot would be lots better than no boot for our nearly mile-long walk home. Zion's hands were also giving trouble: there was no way we could wipe that mud off them, and we didn't want to ruin his coat sticking all that muck through the sleeves. But he was in danger of freezing to death. So I had him wrap his hands up in the front of his shirt, and then I zipped his coat up around him.

Which I suppose would have been fine if he could walk, but he couldn't; and with the state his boots (and feet) were in I couldn't blame him. I was pushing Lijah in the stroller, so I had Zion stand on his scooter and pushed that along too (Harvey took the dog). That was fine until the little scooter wheels hit a stick and Zion fell on his face. At that point Lijah was evicted so Zion could be brought home alive (though he did take a brief ride on Zion's lap; a mile is a long way for his little legs, especially when someone else is riding).

By the time we got home Zion had recovered a bit, but of course when we saw Mama just getting home as we turned onto the street he had to cry a little for her too. Luckily she knows how to take care of cold boys, and also where the boot dryer is, because we sure needed it. It turns out that pond mud dries as hard as the finest clay!

Harvey and Zion's snow boots completely encased in mud

thaw: the aftermath

*I call it "Bedford's newest pond" because it is: DPW folks dug it in the summer when to replace another area of wetland lost to ball fields. So far, apparently, no one but me has used that phrase in the history of Google, which is something.

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summery outing

Zion feeling the water

down to the water

Yesterday the weather turned warm and summery, so we headed out on the bikes for a summery outing to Fawn Lake. I made sure the boys packed changes of clothes.

Surprisingly, no one needed them; we had some wet feet, but nobody was inspired to take any great risks (or to straight up jump in the water). Maybe we were having too much fun hiking together and seeing what was around the next bend. Lijah can't always keep up with his brothers, but when he does manage it he's delighted.

three boys walking together around the pond

hiking together

We saw some wildlife: there were geese and swans on the pond, and I spotted four turtles basking on a log.

a pair of turtles basking on a log

the braver two

We didn't see any beavers, but there were plenty of signs of their presence. Here's one of maybe 50 downed or partially chewed-through trees we saw.

Lijah considering a large tree cut almost all the way through by beavers

impressive work, beavers

We were particularly delighted at the new outflow at the north end of the pond: it now runs through a two-foot diameter plastic pipe under a wood bridge, and the boys loved putting their hands in the icy water as it burbled out the lower side. (If you ask me the whole thing looked a little tenuous; if the pond bursts its banks next spring and washes away a segment of Springs Road just there I'm going to say I called it.)

Zion atop a rocky ledge

victory!

Besides the water, there were also other amusements. Zion was very proud of himself for climbing this rock—twice—and then we made it our pirate ship and spent 20 minutes attacking the swans. But the water was the main draw. That's what happens when it feels like summer!

the boys lying on a walkway looking down into the water

close examination

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our first protest

Zion holding a protest sign

he agreed to hold the sign I made

As promised, we went protesting yesterday. There won't be any kids at the midweek events unless the homeschoolers pick up the slack!

We drove to Arlington and walked in to the train station. We left home early enough that there was plenty of time to stop and check out the new ice on Alewife Brook (among many other diversions).

Zion checking the very thing ice on Alewife Brook

it's what we do

The train ride itself was delightful, and we were happy to spend most of it chatting with someone we know from church. Looking around at the thin Red Line crowd I wondered if anyone else was going protesting... it turns out that, no, they weren't. This was a smaller event than what we saw over the weekend.

a small crowd protesting on City Hall Plaza

small crowd, big plaza

But that's good: we wouldn't want to be overwhelmed on our first time out. The bigger boys got right to work making signs (the organizer had white posterboard available to supplement our cut-up boxes!), while Lijah watched and shivered. Not that he wasn't willing—but he only managed to draw a couple lines before his hands got too cold and had to go back in his pockets.

Harvey and Zion working on protest signs, Lijah looking cold

putting their drawing skills to work

I missed getting a photo of Zion's beautiful abstract sign, completely colored on both sides, but here's Harvey's carefully staged protest display:

Harvey sitting behind his sign, posed to look like his stuffed dog is drawing it

his eye-catching pose

The sign was kind of a collaborative effort. The boys were having too much fun this morning to pay attention as I tried to tell them what we were going to do, so I wasn't surprised when Harvey said, in response some remark I made about the horrors of certain Executive Orders, "I don't really care about that." I told him he was a generally caring person, and would probably object to some of the specific implementations—he agreed. I also helped him spell "immigrants", so the I-turned-into-an-A towards the end is entirely my fault. It's hard to spell long words out loud while also intermittently chanting! Climbing up on the subway vent above everyone's head and making it look like his dog was just finishing up the sign was all Harvey, and he got an appropriate amount of attention for his efforts.

While it took the boys a fair amount of time to warm up to the act of protesting—no pun intended, but it was pretty cold!—they were totally unfazed by the city. There was lots to notice and remark on, and we would have been glad to explore more if we hadn't felt like we might freeze to death.

Zion in his hood, with tall buildings behind him

country boy in the city

On the ride home I took a video of the bigger boys chanting "No Hate! No Fear! Refugees are welcome here!" It is kind of catchy. They say they enjoyed the outing and are excited to go to another protest. That's good: I think someone should be protesting every day. Maybe the next one we do will be bigger. A little rest first, though: protesting is hard work!

Harvey and Zion on the subway; Zion lying down

protesting is hard work

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ice and ice cream

Harvey and Zion walking to a hockey goal far away across frozen Fawn Lake

ice outing

The forecast yesterday morning called for rain starting in the afternoon and continuing through the next day, but the sky outside was shining blue and the air mild. Just the weather you want for a winter cycling adventure! So after a nominal amount of schoolwork the boys and I headed out into the wide world. Our ultimate goals were to visit friends' almost-new-house (pending inspection) and buy some Bedford Farms ice cream for a celebratory almost-new-house dinner. Of course there were lots of adventurous stops on the way—and, as is our habit, a picnic lunch.

the boys eating a picnic in the woods

picnic bench

That was at Fawn Lake, our first destination, which we reached after two and a half miles of riding on the sticky-mud-over-frozen-gravel surface of the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail. After lunch we explored along the shore, with Harvey and Zion mostly interested in finding a place to get out onto the ice. We don't need the news to tell us about the dangers of possible thin ice: it was plenty apparent most spots along the shore, with water spurting up from cracks if you so much as touched it. Of course, the danger there was only wet feet—still, something we wanted to avoid with miles to go before our journey was through.

With Harvey leading the charge we headed along a narrow path fringed by beaver-downed trees (all the remaining trees have collars of hardware cloth to keep them unchewed and upright). Towards the south end of the pond, in the shadow of the trees, we found an area where the ice was solid right up to the shore. There was even a hockey goal out there as a testament to the solidity of the surface. Harvey and Zion were delighted and headed right out to it; I stayed closer to shore with Lijah who, since our skating trip in December, wants nothing at all to do with ice.

Harvey and Zion walking on the ice

an essential part of any winter adventure

The bigger boys could have stayed all day, but after promising them a return trip another day I got everyone packed up to head back out on the road. Well, not the road, exactly, since the next part of our expedition was to pioneer a route through the woods in the direction of our friends' house (almost-new). There were plenty of paths, all visible on the map; the only questions were a) which one would actually get us where we wanted to go and b) which one were we currently on. Neither was ever really clear. But the exploring was delightful all by itself, with twisty singletrack up and down hills that challenged Harvey and I on both ascents and descents.

Harvey pushing his bike up some steep singletrack in the woods, brothers following

pathfinding

Our cargo bike is wonderful, but it's not the most sure-footed off-road ride; and worst of all it has terrible ground clearance. Luckily Zion and Lijah were happy to run in the woods for those segments where I had to lift it over logs every twenty feet. We had maybe a half mile of that, and then just a little more on the road til we reached the house. The boys were disappointed we couldn't go in—not even in the yard—so we had a little discussion about what it takes to close a home sale. And we sure hope the closing goes well! It's always nice to have more friends in town, and nice for friends to go from 10 miles away to 3 1/2, especially when we can do three of those miles off-road (though to be honest, where they live now we can do 9 3/4 of the ten miles off-road, thanks to fortunate siting of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway... but that's just a coincidence!).

After gazing at the house from the side of the street, we turned towards home—now riding along the not-entirely-comfortable shoulder of Rt 4. But the car noises and exhaust was bearable knowing that where the road gets into town a prize awaited!

three boys enjoying cones in front of Bedford Farms

winter's snow and ice cream

All in all it was a wonderful outing, and we were more than ready to get home, right on schedule for nap time.

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beach retreat

Just like last year, we had an October church retreat to the seaside. This time it wasn't on an island, but the ocean was bigger.

Zion walking towards the gray stormy ocean

almost-november sea

The event was in Falmouth on Cape Cod, and since we're shiftless layabouts we were able to leave early on Friday to beat the traffic. That meant we had plenty of time to sight-see, so we met friends in Woods Hole to see some sights.

Zion, Harvey, Matthew and Sam looking at the research ships in the harbor at Woods Hole

young men and ships

I had no idea, but Woods Hole is full of free attractions, including an aquarium and a museum of oceanography. The latter featured a very realistic mockup of the cockpit of Alvin, a famous submersible that sails out of the port.

Harvey, Zion and Matthew in the mock-up Alvin cockpit

there's a 5 1/2 in floppy drive in there

There was also a movie to watch and lots of delicate displays that our energetic children needed to be warned away from occasionally. So when we got to the hotel where the retreat was being held the boys and I headed right down to the beach—with the gray sky, spitting rain, and whipping wind we knew we'd have the place to ourselves with plenty of room to run. Never mind the weather, the ocean is wonderful.

Zion running away from waves

don't let the waves catch you!

my feet, wading

feels nice

the boys playing in the waves

inevitably wet

As we settled into out luxurious hotel room a few minutes later—distracted only slightly from our unpacking by the littler boys dancing naked on the bed—the setting sun peeked from below the clouds, giving a promise of better weather tomorrow.

the setting sun peaking below storm clouds

promise for tomorrow

Of course, who needs good weather when you have a king-sized bed, a tv, and chicken fingers and fries served on fine china?

the boys and friends enjoying chicken fingers in 3-star surroundings

they better not get used to this

There were also cookies; a plate for each kid, adorned with a decorative flower. The adults had a Mexican buffet.

True to the promise of the previous evening, the morning dawned bright and fine. It turns out that tv is a wasteland—even the kids didn't find anything they thought was worth watching—but never mind, we had a balcony.

Harvey and Lijah on the hotel balcony watching the morning

watching the morning

At this point—maybe a little past 7:00—Leah was already out and about, on her way to running a half-marathon. Maybe she'll write something about it here... but probably not. So I was in sole charge of the kids for the morning. My own three were perfect angels at the delightfully complete breakfast buffet, although Lijah, with a waffle and chocolate chips on his plate (basically his favorite foods, and the latter not usually a breakfast choice), ate only a single packet of sugar. After breakfast I took charge of a group of 15 other kids (well, 12 others and my three), and about that the less said the better. It did not go so easily. But, as directed, I took them to the beach (not sunny any more—in fact, pretty chilly!) and, for variety, to a marsh behind the parking lot.

kids walking in a marsh

nature walk

They also acted crazy in a small ballroom for a while. In retrospect it wasn't so bad—they were all making the best of a tough situation, and we mostly had fun—but at the time it was pretty stressful. So I was glad to get outside for a picnic lunch with just a few close friends (including Mama with her fresh new medal!).

After lunch I couldn't dissuade the boys from swimming in the heated indoor pool, which was fun and all... but it didn't have waves. So after a bit I declared unilaterally that I was going out to swim in the ocean, and I got Harvey and Mama—and few other kids—to come along for the fun!

Leah and Harvey in the cold ocean

we're a hardy bunch

The water was only regular cold, but it was super windy, so we didn't last long. It was still lovely, though. Harvey and I made plans to try it another time with snow on the ground. Zion and Lijah are more sensible.

Lijah and Zion on beach chairs wrapped in towels

probably a wiser choice

Mid-afternoon it was back with the Kids Program, but less-programed: another volunteer and I just took everyone interested out to the beach. That was super fun. The wind was stronger than ever, so it was just the thing to play in a deep hole.

Harvey and Abby working in a deep hole

hole buddies

A little later I took a small group for a run down the beach. We found a breakwater and walked out along it, then turned around and walked the other way along an inlet and then under the beach-front road (we had to crawl!). On the other side we were all delighted to find a secret beach!

Harvey and friends walking on a secret beach

first footprints

It was out of the way and out of the wind, and we would have loved to stay to enjoy it fully... but sadly, our retreat time was drawing to an end and parents would soon be looking for their children. So we ran back—much easier with the wind!—so they could be delivered. It was hard to leave the beach.

pinkish afternoon light over the beach

some sun somewhere

At no point in the weekend did I or Leah get to participate in any of the many retreat activities planned for adults—well, except the spectacular meals! But that's ok, because I had a great time with some lovely people, which as far as I'm concerned is much more valuable.

Harvey, Zion, Elle, and Reed looking at a book together

comfortable together

Let's do it again next year! (with some minor changes, already being discussed among the church staff...).

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