posts tagged with 'hiking'

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.

more

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!

more

two new forests

Harvey and Zion fording a spring creek

adventuring

Even though we live in the suburbs, there are lots of wild places around to explore (wild enough for us, at least, despite the ubiquitousness of road noise and old stone walls), and the last two days we visited two new-to-us woods. Yesterday we went out to Concord to visit the south end of the Estabrook Forest, which I learned about at the coop meeting on Monday. We climbed Punkatasset Hill, which may be only 290 feet high but is steep enough to be exciting—especially when Zion and I took, oh, a 20-foot sliding fall down a portion of trail called the "ski hill". On the other side of the hill we found brooks, marshes, a deep pond, and a lovely meadow where we had lunch and played in the grass. The woods are much bigger, and paths reach all the way up across into Carlisle to reach Rt 225; I want to go back later and explore much further!

This morning we met up with some of our coop partners for a presentation at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. I enjoyed hearing the ranger talk to the group about signs of spring in the woods, and specifically vernal pools; Harvey and Zion report that they didn't, but both of them raised their hands to offer answers or comments several times so it couldn't have been too horrible (Lijah just called out without raising his hand, especially after he got a big laugh from the crowd for his first comment). Following the lesson we were directed outside to look at a real vernal pool. Amusingly, the ranger had us drive the half mile—if that!—to the pool, which he told us was too far to walk. It's not entirely spring yet so the pool life wasn't in full swing, but we were able to net a few macro-invertebrates (a new term I learned!) and watch them swim around in tubs. The adults were interested at least.

the boys watching a ranger talk at a vernal pool

listening from the back

All that took just an hour and a half, so when everyone else left we took to the trails to get some walking in. Unfortunately I hadn't prepared by reading that Wikipedia page I linked above, so I didn't know what the reserve had to offer and the trail we picked at random was pretty dull. By the time we realized where the pond was we were about done—tired out from all the direct instruction—so we didn't even get to check it out up close. If only we had headed straight there—and if only I had realized there were WWII bunkers hidden in the woods!—we may have had a longer and more adventurous visit. Oh well, next time.

more

camping 2017, part 2

When we woke up from our second night in the tent it was downright chilly at the campsite. That's why we come north in August; we need a chance to use those sweatshirts! Luckily we came prepared.

Mama, Harvey, and Lijah in warm pjs and sweatshirts in front of the tent

good thing it was the summer!

Besides warm PJs and blankets, the best way to warm up on a chilly morning in camp is to cook something over the fire. I was all ready with my homemade pancake mix to serve up to a crowd—as soon as everyone else woke up.

pancakes cooking in the skillet over the fire

blueberry pancakes, natch

This was our last full day on the island, so we had another hike planned—this one a little shorter but just a picturesque. After a bit of confusion with the bus driver, who dropped us off on the side of a busy road quite a ways from the trailhead, we found where we were meant to be and started up the north ridge of Champlain. There aren't many trees there, even at the beginning of the hike, so we all wished the cold had hung on a little longer. Instead it was quickly blazing hot, and all the boys shed their shirts—well, all except for Lijah, who was wearing long sleeves and fleece pants as he always did in those days. The boys who walked the whole way were glad to find some shade at the top of the mountain.

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan over their heads in a shadowy crevasse

how do they get out?

I didn't realize it at the time, but that trip up Champlain was the first time since 2011 that all the extant Archibalds had climbed mountains on back-to-back days (and back then two of the four who went up weren't doing much climbing!!).

the Archibalds posing at the signpost atop Champlain Mtn

we're getting good at this!

Of course we had lunch on the summit. The kids all found their own spot to eat, which was fine, except we didn't oversee them as they packed up... which meant that nobody reminded Zion to grab his shoes and shirt, which he had tossed away looking for his lunch. And he didn't miss them on the way down, despite the steep terrain. All the boys just skipped right along.

the boys walking along a sloping ridge on the west side of Champlain

mountain goat boys

Surefooted goats or not, they were glad enough when we made it down to the nature center in the valley to soak their feet in the icy spring pool.

Harvey's feet, dipped in the spring

how beautiful are the feet...

Not for long, though, because we had to catch the bus; which was the first time we realized how unprepared Zion was to reenter civilization. Still, on boarding we were able to assure the bus driver that we would be able to find the necessary items in our packs—it was the assumption we were under at the time!—and when we realized the truth we were already on our way. What was he going to do, kick us off?!

The spring not having been enough water, when we got back to town we wandered down to the harbor beach, where we tossed stones and Zion—in a shirt borrowed from Harvey—played run away from the waves.

Zion skipping away from the small waves on a rocky beach

there isn't a wave born that can touch him!

(Then he and Harvey together did the same thing on the long paved boat launch ramp, where the surf was rather more impressive!)

The evening at the campsite was so low-key and relaxing that I didn't take any pictures, which means I don't recall it at all. I do remember packing up the next morning, which we did before breakfast—because we all wanted to enjoy a big meal at Cafe This Way before we hit the road. There's always a wait, but that's alright; outside there are trees and rocks to climb on, and once we were seated the kids had their pick of the toys stocked in bins by the bathrooms.

the boys playing with toys at the cafe

breakfast time fun

After lunch we headed down to the ocean one more time. We were almost all adventured out, but not so much that we were ready to be driven away by the spitting rain that started falling. Especially not since we were curious about what folks were doing standing around with a bottle of champagne and an American flag; it turns out they were waiting for someone to finish a cross-country cycling trip. Now that's adventure! We got to see him dip his wheel in the water of the Atlantic. Then we turned away from the water to head for home.

a smooth boulder spotted with raindrops

gray

At the time, our next Maine trip seemed an eternity away. But now it's just three days away! Expect a more timely report for 2018.

more

camping 2017, part 1

the boys looking out to sea from atop a mountain

mountaintop moment

Eleven months ago we went on a camping trip. Somehow I never managed to write about it; now, as we get ready for this year's version of the expedition, I realize I really need to do it or I'll never remember what happened! Luckily I have pictures to jog my memory. Not that there aren't any gaps in the record; for example I have no recollection of how well packing went. But we managed to hit the road not too long after 9:00, so it couldn't have been too bad. And everyone was delighted to be in the car and on the way!

the boys in their car seats amidst the camping gear

ready to go!

After lunch in the car and a stop at the grocery store in Waldoboro we made it to Lincolnville in plenty of time to stop and enjoy a good long time playing on the foggy beach.

four of us in the water at foggy Lincolnville beach

photo by Zion

I don't remember anything else from the day, except that we made it to the campsite in time for a dinner of chicken fajitas cooked by Katie and Tim. The lap of luxury!

But the next morning I sprang right to work, lighting a fire and putting together a breakfast of eggs and toasted bagels (and cereal for the boys, who like that sort of thing). Then, thinking about the real reason we had come all that way, we made lunches, packed up, and hit the trail!

a selfie of me, with Lijah in the backpack, by Jordan Pond

happy hikers

For that first hike we started from the Jordan Pond House and walked along the shore of the pond, before heading up the lower slopes of Penobscot Mountain. It was a reasonably easy walk, but still too much for Lijah's friend Henry, with his newly broken arm—or, really, for his parents; he was all for trying, but they wanted to keep him in the stroller for safety. But they walked up the carriage road and met us where the hiking path crossed it at a bridge over a gorge. It was a delightful surprise!

After crossing the carriage road the path headed up more steeply, and the bigger kids showed how well they can hike.

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan walking up stairs in the woods

ever upwards

They got pretty far ahead of us, but kindly waited up at crossings in the trail, so we would know where to go. Not that everything was smooth and easy; it was a long way up so some complaints and doubts were inevitable, plus I dropped my camera and dented the ring on the end of the lens body, so it couldn't extend. That made me sad. Lunch at the top of the mountain made everything better, especially when I was able to use Leah's elegant lunch knife to pry the camera back to usability, in time to take pictures like this one:

the gang lunching atop Penobscot

lunch with a view

Going down the mountain we started along the ridge, with fine views all around.

Katie and Tim descending Penobscot with lots of ocean beyond them

walking in the open sky

When we reached the trees things stayed interesting, with the path dropping sharply along a steep rocky slope. There were stairs, a bridge, and a few places where it was actually pretty tricky getting down for the two of us carrying three-year-olds on our backs.

Zion walking down stairs along a small cliff

and now down the stairs

The group got very spread out over the last couple miles, with some kids fading while others had enough energy to run the last bit (as they zipped out of sight we hoped they knew where they were going). But everybody recovered once we were back at the Jordan Pond House with access to bathrooms, shade, and good cold water—everybody, that is, except the one who actually didn't have to do that much walking...

Lijah sleeping in the backpack carier

hiking is hard work for everyone

Even that one revived when we got back to the campground. Most of us zipped right off to the pool as soon as we returned—just the thing after a hot and dirty day of hard work!

Mama and the boys swimming in the pool

civilization

Not me, though; it was my turn to cook, and I was working hard turning out chicken, cornbread, and rice for everybody. Then we went to bed, and though I can't really remember I bet we all slept pretty well!

more

often barefoot, sometimes balanaced

One of the many books I took on our camping trip was Balanced and Barefoot, by Angela J. Hanscom. Super appropriate, since camping is all about the ways which, per the subtitle, "unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children." Among many other worthwhile points, the author notes that "going barefoot in nature helps develop normal gait patterns, balance, and tolerance of touch in the feet, all of which provide a strong foundation for confident and fluid movement." Check.

three boys barefoot atop a mountain

they're doing it

That is to say, they had plenty of time barefoot in nature—like they do. I actually made the two who were doing their own walking put on shoes to start both hikes, but both times they quickly decided they were too hot, and the footwear became cargo. The book suggests that outdoor play builds core strength and endurance; I don't know about the former, but over the two days of hiking we covered about six and a half miles, with something like 1800 feet of elevation gain. (Now that's a vacation!) Zion actually did more like six and a quarter miles—Leah carried him a couple times, for encouragement—but either way it was an impressive effort.

Since we've been back, they've dived right back into playing with their friends in the neighborhood. Lots of that play is outside—none of us parents wants a gang of eight kids filling up the house for long (of course, video games, pokemon cards, and play sets all exert a powerful indoor pull...). I do wonder, though, if the outdoor play that's happening on Beacon Street fulfills all the requirements Hanscom would look for in proper therapeutic play. For one thing, I think it might involve a few too many plastic weapons.

One of the things she talks about in the book is how using natural materials in play spurs kids' imagination and social-emotional development. Store-bought toys, the argument goes, have specific and limited modes of play—a toy car is a car and it's only supposed to drive one direction. To say nothing of a Batman Batcave play set. The problem is all those toys exist, and they exist in the houses of our lovely neighbors (and, yes, in our house too). How can sticks and pinecones ever hope to compete? There's a question of space, too; our woodsy play area is pretty small, here on our suburban lot. Most of the kids are old enough now they should be playing in the town forest less than a quarter mile away, but they aren't allowed to on their own.

I don't know what to do about it. Certainly, I have no worries our boys aren't spending enough time outside, and in nature. But I think they need more time to play in the woods. On my adult schedule, we do hikes—which they love!—but the limited play times available in hiking pauses isn't enough to start to develop complex interpersonal games. Although, now that I think about it... the last time we went to Fawn Lake on a summer camp outing the rocks above the pond turned into a spaceship and a pirate ship and I don't know what else during the half-hour post-lunch play time. We're going there again today, and play time will definitely be on the schedule. Maybe we're doing alright after all.

Harvey's feet, dipped in the spring

how beautiful are the feet...

more

marching in the marsh

Lijah and Clara looking over the marsh in Concord

non-salt marsh

Last Monday we went on another day camp excursion. With a clear hot day forecast, I wanted a trip that would be cool and comfortable. So we started out with a lovely 3-mile bike ride through the shady woods.

kids cycling on a shady dirt path

cool kids

Our destination was Concord's Great Meadows bird sanctuary, which is mostly water. I'd never been before, and assumed all the wetness would make it feel cool and refreshing. Not so much, as it turns out, since the main thing we noticed was the lack of shade.

kids hiking on a sunny path through the marsh

bright

Still, there were lots of cool things to see, and not just birds: we also spotted a young snapping turtle, a frog, and lots of interesting plants. And there was water here and there to play in, like the pair of concrete fords someone built back when cars were traveling those paths.

kids wading in a shallow ford

part of the infrastructure

My co-counselor this time was Elizabeth, and she'd visited the sanctuary lots of times before. She guided us to a lovely spot by the Concord River where we could have lunch—and we never would have made it that far without her promise of good things ahead! Then the post lunch walk back to the bikes was entirely manageable.

As was the ride home, once again in the shade. After all our sweating and exertion Harvey and I thought it would be fair if we detoured slightly for a stop at Chip-In Farm to look at the animals and pick up some emergency sugar rations, in the shape of 25¢ of penny candy per camper. That's why we have that big camp budget.

Lijah by the Chip-In barn

farm camp

Zion ran all day, Harvey walked and talked, and Lijah survived in long pants and long-sleeve shirt (I carried him a fair amount, to keep him from dying). They all felt very summery.

more

hiking to keep cool

On Monday, our homeschool gathering day, it was super hot. What to do? Go on a hike! The kids, I confess, weren't enthusiastic at first; they didn't believe me that the woods is the place to be when it tops 90° on the mean streets of the suburban concrete jungle. As soon as we got out there they saw the appeal.

Zion trying to shimmy up a very thick tree

tree hugger baby

There are lots of woodsy spots in town, but our favorite one is around the old reservoir. (If you look over the posts with the hiking tag, it's pretty much all there.) While most of Bedford is pretty flat, it has fun hills to keep things interesting. Lijah was interested—he walked the whole way, except when it was too steep and he slid.

Lijah scooting down a steep slope

whee?

The trees' shade and the damp forest floor alone were wonderfully cooling, but the beat-the-heat highlight of the adventure was of course the pond. Rascal spent maybe an hour in the water, where he was comfortable for the first time in days. Nobody else went in in—the mud bottom and pollen-covered surface discouraged them—but it was lovely to sit by the cool water.

Zion and Lijah sitting together pondside

chilling

It was so pleasantly cool that the big kids had the energy to run and frolic and generally go twice as far as the adults and pre-schoolers. And even climb a tree for real, when we found one someone had kindly provided with spikes.

Zion climbing spikes on a birch above the pond

adventure course

Havana is a climber; she went all the way up... and wished there were more spikes so she could get even higher!

Havana up even higher in the tree, everyone watching

even higher advnture

It was a full morning of adventure for us all. We came home for lunch and spent the first part of the afternoon in quiet recovery activities. Then, so as to avoid cooking, we walked to Whole Foods for an early dinner. Lijah was in the stroller—I couldn't make him walk another mile—and he didn't last long before he fell asleep. When we were all set with the food I tried to wake him up to eat, but it proved impossible: neither shaking him nor pulling his eyes open had any effect.

Lijah 98% asleep at whole foods

unwakeable

Must have been a good hike.

more

seizing the warmth

The boys spent most of the warm spell outside, naturally, but to really take advantage of the weather we needed to go for a hike. We did that on Friday, and we got to bring Zion's good friend Nathan along with us. The Archibald boys were in full warm-weather gear. I did make them bring sweatshirts along, just in case; that was totally unnecessary. But as I mentioned in the other post there was enough snow that they weren't entirely thrilled to be wearing sandals. Not that anyone complained!

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan hiking in the snow--Harvey and Zion in shorts and sandals

sandals in the snow

And there were also long stretches with no snow at all. Even though he was wearing his snow boots (incidentally the only footwear he owns at this point) Lijah was happiest to be able to walk on dry dirt: his footing wasn't so good on the icy snow. Even there, though, he was happy to hold my hand, and I didn't need to carry him at all.

Lijah looking cute in a snowless forest-scape

the littlest hiker

When we reached the old reservoir we noticed two things: the ice cover was still just about complete, and there was a giant white pine that had fallen onto—into—the ice.

Zion and Nathan testing the slushy ice

do you think it'll bear?

Actually, the first thing the boys noticed was the bench where I had told them we could eat lunch—we've been there before—but it was still too early so I told them to run and play for a while first. Naturally they had to try the ice, and when Zion didn't hear cracking he announced it was safe. What he didn't notice was that he was slowly sinking in what was, really, just a layer of dense slush. Nathan actually stood still long enough that water started welling up around his feet. It was pretty cool.

After lunch I couldn't resist venturing out onto the fallen tree trunk; after he saw me neither could Zion. He went farther than me, too. I suppose he was determined to get out into the middle of the pond somehow.

Zion walking out on a giant fallen tree over the ice

no hesitation

Nathan and Harvey were more cautious, but they did get out a little ways too. I wonder what will happen to the tree in the summer? How long will it be laying there before it decays? The wood is totally sound—it was just the roots that gave up, as the dirt around them at the edge of the pond washed away. Clearly more expedition will be necessary in months to come. We stand ready to undertake them.

more

a recent outing

The last couple days it seems inappropriate to post anything not related to the ongoing disaster that is our new presidential administration. I've been staying up late reading news and analysis and getting myself too worked up to sleep; we're going to have to start protesting so I can work of some of the rage. And also get out in the woods.

Zion and Harvey running down a trail

runnning to the woods

On Saturday the whole family snuck a way for a short hike up by the old reservoir. We were a little late for the morning's sunshine, but even under clouds it was lovely to be out all together. Lijah especially appreciated having Mama along.

Leah carrying Lijah across a little bridge

this is how he hikes with Mama

I was surprised to see that, despite the crazy warm weather, the pond was still completely iced over. Unfortunately the ice was thin and totally rotten around the edges, leaving no way for us to get out on it. The boys still tried out every possible spot just to be sure.

the boys testing the ice on the pond

testing the ice

Rascal is less cautious; he found a couple spots to "swim", and as we reached the end of our circumnavigation finally discovered a solid-enough spot to get onto the ice. Any thoughts we might of had about following him were dashed when he broke through on his way back to shore. We laughed; I don't think he minded.

Rascal out on the ice

he has better weight distribution that we do

It was lovely to be out getting fresh air and exercise. We'll have to do it again soon; when we're not downtown holding signs.

Zion jumping over a stream, Harvey waiting his turn

practical broad-jumping

more