posts tagged with 'adventures'

at the National Zoo

A little while after we got back from Washington I was talking to someone about our visit to the zoo there, and she explained that she's not really a fan of zoos because she's not sure about animals in captivity. I can understand that. But if I were an animal and had to be in one, I think the National Zoo is the place to pick. Even the elephants had plenty of room to roam; given that, we really appreciated that a couple of them chose to hang out right by the fence where we came in.

an elephant

look at the elephant!

The landscaping and design of the zoo is wonderful for visitors and animals alike, and I'm so glad we had time to hang out there on the last day of our visit to Washington. We stayed for over three hours, and we could have been even longer. There were the charismatic mega-fauna like elephants and lions:

a lion snarling

an aloof monarch

There were cute little mammals like the fennec fox and... this other thing:

a fennec fox sleeping

cuddly

an animal of some sort in the small mammal house

photogenic, whatever it is

And there were playground and activities for the kids as they walked between the enclosures. One pathway let the kids experience a cheetah's stalking and pursuit of an antelope; here is Zion at the successful conclusion of the hunt:

Zion pretending to eat the leg of a wooden antelope

chomp

Of course, not everything was perfect. Like everything else in Washington, it was super hot—too hot for us. There was a great bee-themed playground that we were excited to hang out in—we saved for the end of our visit—but when we finally went to play there the heat coming off the rubber matting was just unbearable. So we sat in the shade instead. And we were sad not to see the pandas, who are kind of a main draw; one of them was working on having a baby and, rare as panda babies are in captivity, could not be disturbed.

But those downsides can't spoil what was overall a great experience. My favorite part was the sea lion exhibit, where I took this picture. Before we went friends who have been to the zoo before told us to bring a bottle, which we could use to attract the sea lions' attention, but we didn't even need it; one in particular seemed to be completely fascinated by his adoring public, and happy to pose for photos. And they had quite an audience!

lots of kids looking at the sea lion through the glass

see the sea lion!

One final note, if you're considering a visit. The zoo is built on a pretty significant slope (that's part of what makes the landscaping so interesting) and there are parking lots at the top, where the main gate is, and at the bottom. Not knowing what we were doing we parked at the D lot on the bottom, and that was absolutely the right choice, because it meant we walked up to the top of the zoo first and then back down to the car. If we'd done it the other way we actually might not have made it back, and I'd never be able to write these words. As it was we survived, and left the zoo in time to make it home to Bedford by 11:30 at night. What a trip!

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alternate art hike

On Friday we had big plans to go swimming at Walden Pond with lots of friends. Even when the day dawned gray and chilly with rain threatening we weren't deterred. However, we were absolutely deterred when we reached the pond and found it closed. With five kids in the car and another three planning to meet us in a couple minutes, we had to find something else fun to do! Luckily Concord's Hapgood-Wright town forest, featuring Fairyland Pond, was just down the hill. So we went there instead.

Zion wading in Fairyland Pond

any fairies in sight?

Not, actually, to swim. Besides the cold weather and cold water, it was also pretty muddy and weedy. It would have been enough to walk around and explore, but as it happened there was even more fun to be had: the woods was the site of an "Art Ramble" organized by the Concord Umbrella Community Arts Center.

the kids looking at a birdhouse-like structure with animals peeking out from the doors

art!

I love art, and I love it even more when it's integrated into the natural environment (like at the wonderful Old Frog Pond Orchard sculpture walk). And when you can play with it! Here are the kids climbing on a giant hand, and obeying my instructions for the picture: "give me the finger!".

kids climbing on a big hand sculpture holding up fingers

all the fingers

We spent the most time at the Clootie Tree, a metal tree-like sculpture where the artist invited people to hang strips of cloth on which they had written their hopes and wishes. It was just about filled up already, though the younger kids found some space to add their own cloths. I enjoyed reading some of the wishes already up there. My least favorite was the guy who wished for a job where he could make "boatloads" of money doing something people would respect him for, and my most favorite was, "I wish I had a different snack." I guess I like realistic wishes. Lijah's was not realistic: he wished that he was the bunny from Sing.

Besides the art, we also did some fun hiking. The woods is small but very hilly, so even though we didn't go far we got to feel like we were climbing mountains. And some of the kids felt like we had gone far enough that we were lost, which is always exciting. Also there was deep mud to play in. And of course, at the end of the walk, the kids who hadn't changed out of their swimsuits after the disappointment of Walden went in the pond. All in all, I think we were quite satisfied with the alternate activity.

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the trip in review

The question we've been answering the most over the last week has been, "how was Washington?" My answer? Hot. We get some hot weather here but it's got nothing on the unremitting heat and humidity of August in Washington, which was almost too much for us. Plus in turns out that it's hard to get good drinking water when you're staying in a hotel. So we were perpetually thirsty. But that may be universal in Washington, judging by the number of folks selling bottled water and gatorade on the streets around the Mall. It seems like a fine gig, if you don't mind shouting the same thing over and over again for hours.

Our hotel room, home for four long days, was very nice. We had two big beds, a table or bar sort of thing, and a L-shaped couch. Two TVs. The most important feature was the tiny refrigerator, which we needed so we wouldn't have to go out to eat for every single meal. The only downside to the place was the ridiculous bathroom sink—the only sink. It was a shallow box-shaped thing set on the countertop with a faucet that sprayed a flat sheet of water, maybe an inch and a half wide, out at a 45° angle. It made me think of hostile architecture—how cities install uncomfortable benches to keep folks from sleeping on them. Though in this case I think it was just bad design. Hard enough to wash hands in, never mind cleaning dishes.

We spent most of our time in Pokemon world—the main hall at the Convention Center. At least, Harvey, Zion, and I did; Lijah was having none of that (none of anything, actually) so he and Leah swam in the pool, walked the neighborhood around the hotel, and enjoyed the AC in the hotel room. Harvey and I played lots of Pokemon, and Zion played lots of Let's Go Pikachu on the game systems they had set up for him.

After the competition finished up Sunday at lunchtime, the bigger boys and I were free to be tourists. We walked down to the mall and through the Sculpture Garden, which is full of beautiful artwork. Also a giant fountain, by which we stopped for a picnic lunch. There was very definitely no wading allowed, but we could still enjoy dipping our tired feet in the luke-warm water.

Zion in front of an optical illusion house sculpture

we liked this art

Harvey and Zion sitting on the edge of a fountain

chilling

Next we visited the Natural History Museum. We stayed for about three hours, and we would have been happy with twice that, but I had hopes of catching a glimpse of some more Washington-specific attractions (I mean, lots of towns have Natural History Museums). Unfortunately we were defeated by heat, distance, and the construction fence around the Washington Monument—but we did see it, at least. Then we got yelled at near the White House, without seeing that at all. That meant it was time to go home.

On Monday we finally got to do something all together: go to the zoo! After we got all packed up and checked out of the hotel, that is. Liberated our car from its underground storage where we had left it five days previously, I found that I had lost the parking slip—that meant we had to pay the daily maximum of $30. I'll take it! The zoo was wonderful, and we were entranced not only by the elephants and lions and gorillas, but but the otters and tamarinds as well. Plus the tamarinds were inside in air conditioned comfort! Did I mention it was really hot there?

a Golden Lion Tamarind

this is a tamarind

We finally tore ourselves away from the zoo in the early afternoon and headed towards home. There was more traffic on the return trip but that was fine; we had a good book to listen too and lots to talk about—and we were happy to be sitting still. There were some adventures on the way: we went over the Bay Bridge again, we saw some more broken-down trucks, and we stopped in a little town in Eastern Maryland for gas. There we visited what was instantly my favorite convenience store in the world: not only did they have like 12 different varieties of pork rinds, but for once I didn't have to worry about the boys not having their shoes—there were barefoot adults in there too!

a convenience store somewhere in Maryland

I'll probably never go back, but I'll always remember it

Did I mention that Zion didn't actually bring shoes on the trip? Traveling is fun. I'm also glad to be back home.

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the Archibalds go to Washington

Camping is exhausting, and most years our annual Bar Harbor trip is the most exhausting thing we do all year. This year, though, we topped it. Less than two weeks after we got back from Mt Desert Island—and before I had any time to write about camping, or about anything at all—we packed the car again and headed to Washington DC for Harvey to compete in the Pokemon World Championship. He did not win, but it was still a fantastic—and overwhelmingly tiring—trip.

Lijah cozied up in the car at 4:00 am

early riders

We left home at 4:15 in the morning on a Thursday. Our friends who go to Washington more than once in a lifetime told us an early-morning departure is the way to go, traffic-wise; they also said their kids fall back to sleep as soon as they get going and sleep for the first third of the trip. That didn't happen for us. Everyone was too excited! Never mind, they're great travelers. And we did appreciate the traffic-free roads we encountered almost the whole way down (I guess it's impossible to involve yourself with New York City without running into some traffic).

in traffic heading towards the George Washington Bridge

we were trying to remember some words from In the Heights

Once we got through Hartford every moment brought the boys farther south than they had ever been; and soon, farther west as well. We eagerly took in the sights, especially the bridges. The boys are bridge fans, and the Bay Bridge in Maryland was easily the most impressive one we've ever crossed!

Once we were over it, it was only a little ways farther to Washington. Our route to the hotel took us by the convention hall where the Pokemon event was being held; in fact, it went right under a pedestrian walkway where hung a gigantic inflatable Pikachu! We had arrived.

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vacation accomplished!

We went camping. Besides the usual hiking, we also did some bouldering, swam in several bodies of water, saw a magic show, ate lots of snack food, and stayed up late. Vacation is tiring!

Lijah sitting in front of our tent looking tired

home away from home

camping back in 2018, day 2

our tents in the fog

back in the mists of time

We're diving into planning for our annual camping vacation, which, as in years past, has led me to remember that I never finished writing about last year's trip. In fact, I thought I hadn't even started, but in looking back I found that I did describe the first day. Since we've got to get it out of the way before we have more stories to tell, here's the next chapter in the account.

We woke up to a cool misty morning, so I was very happy to get a fire going to warm things up and start piling up the food. Eggs, bacon, and bagels were fine; leftover roasted red peppers from the previous night's pizza made things extra special.

the gang having breakfast at the campsite

our own cafe

There was lots of excitement for hiking among members of the party both young and old, and it translated directly into productive energy for the 4-year-olds, who hit the steep and bouldery bottom section of the trail up Pemetic like there was candy waiting for them at the top. 4-year-olds can hike considerably better than 3-year-olds—like, way more than 25% better!

Lijah climbing up a steep part of the trail up Pemetic

upwards!

The Pemetic SW trail is super interesting, and delightful when you're going up. There's lots of fun scrambling, and the kids' favorite part is one section where the path divides and you can choose to come up through a gorge, or on a more open, dryer path above. The big kids picked the former, naturally!

Maybe there wasn't candy at the top, but besides the beautiful views the boys—and all of us—were rewarded at the top with a delicious lunch. I suppose it wasn't quite rewarding enough for Lijah though, because he couldn't manage any enthusiasm for the summit photo.

the Archibalds posing at the top of Pemetic Mountain

Lijah's not feeling it

The way down the south ridge of the mountain is totally different that the trail up the northwest side. Going down the granite rocks we could walk with almost a normal gate, as we took in the views of the islands off of Northwest Harbor. I would not recommend doing this hike the other direction.

hikers spread out moving down the South Ridge of Pemetic

the side with a view

We didn't have the quickest start in the morning, so by the time we finished up the hike we were ready to head back to the campsite. It was my turn to cook, and I cooked tortillas over the fire, which if I do say so myself was pretty amazing. I had the dry ingredients all mixed up ahead of time, which was great... but once I set everything up I realized I hadn't brought a rolling pin! Never mind; a few minutes work with a saw and my pocket knife gave me a perfectly good home-made roller. It worked so well I even brought it home when we packed up! Only I was too busy whittling and cooking to take a picture, sorry.

Naturally, the kids spent the late afternoon in the pool. Like you do! More uniquely, we also found time to play some Pokemon.

Tim and the boys playing Pokemon on the grass

of course

Then it was early to bed for the Archibalds, without even a peek at the stars. Camping vacations are hard work!

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to the ocean in May

A couple weeks ago the sun was shining and we didn't have anything on the schedule, so we decided to head for the ocean. Our exact plans were uncertain, but I figured I'd point us towards Gloucester and see where we ended up. So with picnic lunches and swimsuits packed, we headed north! The ride itself was fun as soon as we got north of the Rt 93 split; the boys felt like they were entering unexplored territory. The deadly on-ramps on Rt 128 through Peabody and Danvers were of particular interest. Of course, when the ocean came into view that was even better! Driving somewhat at random through Gloucester we came to a beach, off Eastern Point Road. So naturally we stopped for a while.

the boys running to the water at a beach

the first one we found

Unfortunately the parking lot was marked "residents only", so while it was pretty much empty we were nervous about getting too far from the car. And it was too cold to swim anyway. So after a little exploration and jumping we moved on. Our next stop was Good Harbor beach, which we know well from the old days. Well, I know it well; Harvey didn't remember it. At first glance I thought parking there would be safe, but then I realized that all the other cars stopped along the street had people waiting in them. The signs threatened towing, so while the boys got to roam I sat with the car.

the boys walking on Good Harbor Beach

independant exploration

It was still coldish, and when the boys came back they said the water was too far away. Low tide will do that. So we moved on once more. Tired of Gloucester's restrictive parking regulations, we headed for Rockport where I knew I could find a place to put the car on a side street within striking distance of all sorts of attractions. That means it was Rockport that got our tourist dollars.

Lijah (in sheep costume) browsing in a toy store

sheep shopping

Actually, we didn't buy anything at that toy store, because we don't have that many dollars. But you can bet that, after a picnic lunch on the breakwater, there was one place where we were happy to part with a couple bucks.

Zion holding up an ice cream cone in front of the store

the sign says all it needs to say

Or actually two, because Lijah wasn't feeling the ice cream love; only fudge would satisfy his seaside cravings.

Lijah holding out a piece of fudge

concentrated chocolate power

Well fed, we wandered through town looking at the ocean down each alleyway we passed. Before long we came to one wide enough to walk through, and at the end of it we found a beach!

the kids walking down the rocks to front beach

can we get down this way?

By now it had finally warmed up a bit, so the boys changed into swimsuits and we spent half an hour splashing, jumping from rock to rock, and making a sand castle in a vain attempt to hold back the rising tide (as pictured here). We couldn't stop it though, and eventually it rose so high our piece of beach was in danger of disappearing, so we moved on. At the other end of the beach we found a stream emerging from a tunnel under the road (which Harvey and Zion had to explore, of course). Then we climbed some rocks and found a big square tide-pool filled with warm water, right next to a tiny sandy beach about five feet long. It felt like a private oasis! By the time we were done playing there it was past time to go home. It was a good trip!

Harvey and Zion in a big tide pool

our private pool

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icecapades

What is our fascination with ice? It seems like every time we head out on a winter adventure we make it a point to find some ice to explore or play on. Especially this winter, where the snow cover is definitely sub-par. We're thankful for the cold weather the last couple weeks that's let us have some fantastic icy excursions.

Zion and Harvey running on the dark ice of Spy Pond

out on the pond

The children are not fans of ice skating. I can't understand it; to me, there's nothing finer! Maybe they'll work up to it later. For now, there's plenty of fun to be had in just running and sliding. On feet, on knees, on stomachs—the boys have tried it all. They've had plenty of falls too, this and other years, but so far no head injuries. Last week the ice on Spy Pond (pictured above) was as slick as can be, and it was super satisfying to get a good run up and slide for 20 or 30 feet.

We've also been enjoying the ice for exploring. Bedford is a swampy town, so there are lots of spots that are downright inaccessible through the summer. Winter is our time to explore the marshes by our house or the swampland on the edge of the Concord River.

Lijah crossing a patch of clear ice by a stream

carefully now...

And then there's the thrill of exploring on the ice itself. We enjoy being on the water in the summer, so it makes sense that we're excited to visit those same spots on foot in the winter. On Spy Pond Zion was very happy to get to check out, and stand on, a ball buoy he'd barely been able to touch when we canoed by it back in July. And of course, nothing can compare to standing the middle of the Concord River!

Harvey and Lijah on the frozen Concord River

wide open spaces

(OK, so we weren't totally in the middle. But we could have been! Probably. As much as I love the ice, I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.)

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perfect winter's day

Lijah bundled up on a cold sunny day

on the slopes

Martin Luther King Day is very important in our household, and it did not go unobserved. But when it comes to recounting the most exciting part of our days it's hard to argue with the outside adventure. Today was the most beautiful of winter days possible, and we took full advantage of it. Our friends recently bought a house with a golf course conveniently located across the street, so this morning we invited ourselves over there to do some sledding with them. It was lovely.

the bigger kids sledding down a hill in a bunch

they all survived

We've never experienced golf course sledding before, but I can't deny the appeal: there's not just one hill to go down, you have your choice of dozens! It helped that with the icy snow you didn't really need to break a trail to have a good run. The best part was sliding across the water hazard at the bottom of one hill, as pictured above. The second best part was when we all got tired we were able to walk right across the street to a warm house and be treated to hot chocolate and a lovely lunch!

I know Harvey and Zion are wonderful sledders and fully enjoy being outdoors, but I was delightfully surprised by how well Lijah did. It was cold—probably not a whole lot above 10°F when we started—but he didn't mind it at all. He was excited for the first run down the hill, and then he managed to recover after a pretty good wipeout on the second run (he yelled alot, then when he calmed down he declared he wasn't going to use the blue sled again). He was having such a grand time that on the way home I had no qualms at all about stopping, at the boys' request, to play on the frozen Concord River.

on the Concord River, frozen from bank to bank

ice road

The town very kindly plowed the dirt road to the boat launch, so we were able to spend a pleasant half-hour sliding on the ice on the river and in the woods (the river having been very high when it froze). Once again, I'm sure we'll all sleep well tonight!

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adventures in Pokemon and beyond

It's hard to believe that it was only a year ago now that I made my first forays into buying Pokemon singles online, in an effort to surprise Harvey and Zion with some good cards for Christmas. Looking back, I realize that the cards I picked out weren't really that good: I had no idea at all what I was doing. From that humble beginning we've seen the game of Pokemon insinuate its way ever-deeper into our lives, to the extent that the whole family spent this past Saturday on an outing to a comic store an hour and a half away in order to play cards for four hours. At least we also took a side trip to the ocean.

Harvey and Zion walking along a lawn towards the rocks at the water's edge

winter water

The purpose of our jaunt up north to Rochester, NH, was to let Harvey—and me and Zion too—play in a League Cup. League Cups are the second rank of tournaments in the world of competitive Pokemon, and Harvey was looking for some points to continue along his road towards the World Championship in August. He got em: his second-place finish was good for 40, giving him 122 so far for the season, out of the 350 he needs to qualify for Worlds. I dropped out of the Masters division competition after the Juniors finished up so we could do something else, so I didn't get any more points (and Zion finished fourth to catch up with me in the points table!) but never mind, I've also secured my first gig as a judge, at an event coming up at the end of the month. And also doing other things is sometimes good.

Since Rochester is kind of near the ocean—it's in the "Inland Coast" region of New Hampshire, though I'm not totally sure how that's a thing—we figured we could probably go find some water. Without any real plan in mind my memory for long-ago adventures and my unerring instinct for interesting places led us to the tip of New Castle Island in Portsmouth, where there's a beach, some rocks, and an old fort to explore. What could be finer?

the  boys checking out an observation tower in the fort

why didn't they leave any guns?

The part of the fort we were allowed to explore was mostly an early-19th century structure, with thick walls, mysterious passageways, and cannon-ports looking out to sea. We could easily have imagined ourselves defending the approaches to Portsmouth Harbor from the British, except that it was exceedingly, all-consumingly cold. So mostly we ran around from one fascinating corner of the fort to another or climbed around on the walls. As long as we were moving we weren't freezing to death. Unfortunately some of the most interesting-looking passageways were blocked off, which was disappointing; at least the stairway to the more modern tower pictured above was only half blocked off, the caution tape having blown away a little bit. It was cold up there too. The only place where we were comfortable enough to pretend was the dungeon.

Lijah behind a rusty iron jail door

prisoner!

Had I been there in the fort in 1812 or whatever I wouldn't have minded a stay in that lock-up; much better than freezing up on the walls! In 2018 our car was pretty warm too, and we were happy after a little while to retreat there for our long drive home (almost long enough to finish our latest audiobook). Adventure successful.

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