posts tagged with 'hiking'

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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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camping 2016: the best day

Harvey and Zion checking out a big big rock on the shore

vacation activity

Over a month ago we were camping, and the third full day of our trip was just the most delightful time. We started it off with breakfast in the campsite.

colored plates around the campfire after breakfast

who needs tables?

I had put together some pancake mix at home, so it was easy to just add eggs and milk and turn out a dozen perfectly presentable pancakes. We also had eggs, toasted bagels, and cereal—and Leah figured out that a paper towel could stand in for a filter in the aeropress, so she could enjoy her morning cup of coffee. Then we said goodbye to Becca, Andrew, and Henry—who were scheduled to head home even before medical issues made an early departure doubly necessary—and to Tim, Katie, Nathan, and Liam, who were going to spend the day with other friends. Our reduced group enjoyed a few relaxing moments before splitting up: Leah and the younger boys were looking forward to spending some quiet time at the campground, and Harvey and I wanted to climb another mountain!

Harvey and me posing by the sign on Champlain Mtn, with lots of other people around

busy peak

With Kyle and Margaret accompanying us it didn't take long to get up the north ridge of Champlain. We were so quick we weren't really hungry for lunch at the top; but of course we ate it anyway. The way down was even more interesting, with plenty of steep pitches, narrow paths alongside precipitous drop-offs, and picturesque overlooks (such as seen in the last photo of this post).

Harvey, Kyle, and Margaret hiking a steep-sided trail on Hugonaut Head

real hiking

Watching Harvey soldier along it occurred to me that he actually hiked the most miles of anyone on the trip: he was the only one to go on every hike on offer. But even all that hiking wasn't enough for him, and he was delighted to be able to turn his hand to some spelunking too.

Harvey squeezing out of a cave opening

I couldn't fit there...

There was a pretty nice cave among the tumbled-down boulders beside the trail; he went in the bigger entrance lower on the trail, then back-tracked 20 feet or so to emerge higher up through the little hole there. I found rocks to climb on, but you don't need more pictures of me.

The long descent left us a little footsore, so we were very happy to reach the Sieur de Monts nature center and, following Harvey's example, dip our feet in the eponymous spring. It was cold. We had a contest to see who could keep their feet in longest, and Harvey won easily.

Harvey and Kyle dipping their feet in the pool at Sieur de Monts Spring

refreshing

The only disappointing thing as Sieur de Monts was finding that the dead animals are no more. Well, I suppose they still exist, but they've been moved off the island to the part of the park no one visits to make room for an updated space and exhibits about climate change. Which I suppose is worthwhile. It was also a little disappointing to miss the bus by mere seconds when we first reached the center... but on the other hand, if we had caught it we wouldn't have been able to chill our feet! And another bus came along soon enough.

Back in town we reconnected with Leah, Zion, and Lijah, and went looking for ice cream. Zion was especially excited about getting something at the Big Lobster store: ice cream, fudge, or preferably both.

Harvey and Zion with the ice cream lobster statue

ice cream lobster 2016

As it happened, while we had no theoretical objection to that plan, the store turned out to be a madhouse of crowds, confusion, and overpriced cones. So we retreated to the much calmer Bar Harbor creamery, where I was very happy with my kid-sized cone of blackstrap banana. The kids were fine with their flavors too—maybe they'll remember em if you ask.

Lijah eating his ice cream in the park wearing a blissful expression

I think he likes it

With energy waning, we thought about heading back to camp but decided we needed just a little more time by the shore. It was a good call. For the next hour or so we hung out by the water; Harvey changed into his swimsuit and threw giant rocks into the ocean, and Zion and Lijah played imaginative games with stones. Separately, of course.

Harvey throwing a big rock into the ocean, making a big splash

by a big rock throwing big rocks

As for me, I tried and failed to get to the top of the boulder. I've done it before, as recently as six years ago, so I attributed my inability this time to old age. But after seeing some younger people manage it Leah suggested it might rather be a question of technique, and sure enough with a little less climbing a more jumping I made it—and even less bloodied than last time!

me atop the big boulder on the Shore Path

I've still got it

Eventually we made our slow way back to the van, pausing briefly to discipline the children when their fighting led Harvey to push Zion in front of a (slowly) moving car. Having fun all the time is hard work! But spirits quickly revived when we reached the campsite and a delicious feast of burgers prepared by Kyle and Margaret.

Leah holding a double hamburger with lettuce and tomato

big burger

As the final cooks of the trip they bought all the ingredients at the supermarket just before dinner time. When they started cooking they wondered if three and a half pounds of ground beef was excessive for four adults and three small kids. It was not. When there's ketchup and mustard and pickles and lettuce and tomato and two kinds of cheese and delicious campfire-roasted red onion, it's impossible to stop at one burger. It was about the best food I've ever had.

As we say at Passover, that would have been enough. But driving past the mini golf course at least twice a day all vacation had awakened in at least Harvey and me a fierce desire to play the game again (we did, once before). So we made that happen.

Harvey putting, Zion watching

I think it's going in!

It was great. Harvey and Zion loved the golf, and Lijah loved the pirates—the only tears came when we had to drag them away, back to the tent to sleep. But until then we enjoyed a beautiful cool evening, a perfect end to a perfect day.

the moon over the rigging of the golf course pirate ship

pirate moon

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camping 2016: family hiking

the Archibalds posing atop Parkman Mtn

the family that hikes together poses together

Here are some more words about our camping trip. It may be a bit much but we appreciate the record ourselves, even if it doesn't have so much appeal to the wider world. We do a lot on vacation, and it's nice to be able to revisit it!

Our first full day in Maine this year we broke from tradition to eat breakfast at the campsite, rather than going into town to the Cafe. It was partly to save money, and partly because thee two-year-olds aren't the easiest crowd to wrangle in a crowded restaurant as they wait half an hour for their first food of the day. It was cool enough when we woke up that I enjoyed lighting the fire, and the bacon, eggs, and toast went down well. The only unhappy moment came when Leah realized she had forgotten the filters for her Aeropress. The little boys had no such concerns.

Lijah and Henry working on coloring pages by the remains of the fire

after-breakfast entertainment

As for the bigger ones, they're such old hands at camping that we could leave them entirely to their own devices.

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan sitting under the trees far away from us

doing their own thing

While the kids played we packed lunches and snacks, then we hopped in three cars and headed to the day's trail. We meant to hike up Bald Peak and then Parkman Mountain, but in our enthusiasm we reversed the order; all we cared about was that we were going up.

Nathan, Zion, and Harvey climbing up the steep trail

upward and onward!

And up and up; as per Harvey's request, there was lots of steep scrambling on the trail (but no ladders). The boys were full of energy and handled it all without a problem. They totally earned their top-of-the-mountain snacks.

Harvey and Zion at the top of the mountain getting snacks out of bags

snack at the top

Lijah, too, did a great job; he didn't have to walk, but he had to allow himself to be carried in the backpack, which was probably even harder! He had a moment of rebellion when it was time to get back in after our first mountaintop start, but I was able to enthuse him enough that he remounted without any real screaming. Zion was ready to go too.

Zion, holding his tiger, leaning on the backpack with Lijah in it

carried and carrier

I didn't take nearly as many pictures on top of Bald Peak, where I think we had lunch; it's always thus for the day's second summit. I did manage to use my phone to snap one of Leah, celebrating her freedom on her first hike in five years not carrying someone!

Leah by the sign at the top of Bald Peak

she proves we did it

The way down was just as steep, and the boys (and some of the adults!) found that controlled sliding was the best way to manage the grade safely. Harvey wore two big holes in the seat of his pants.

Harvey sliding down a steep rock face

and this wasn't even the Giant Slide Trail

By the afternoon it was pretty hot, and we were all footsore and happy to make it back to the cars for a bit of a rest. But back at the campsite the boys quickly revived and got ready to hit the pool!

Zion, Harvey, and Nathan doing a silly pose in their swimsuits, goggles, and life-jackets

silly swimmers

While some swam, others cooked dinner, and as the sun started to get low in the sky we sat down to a lovely meal of pasta and meat sauce. We'd all earned those carbs—especially the little ones, who permitted us to have so much fun.

all five of the little kids eating pasta at the low table

kids table

Yes, they all know how to do this camping thing!

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big kid outings

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

look at them go

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

the boys sitting on a bench eating their hiking snack

just desserts

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

the Old Reservoir in Bedford

somewhere around there is a red water bottle...

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

Mama watching Lijah as he comes pretty close to really swimming

like a fish to water

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

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

everybody's happy

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

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a walk on the farm

a view of Great Brook Farm beyond the fields

down on the farm

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

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

hiking partners

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

Zion licking a vanilla ice cream cone

big lick

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

hundreds of tadpoles swimming in shallow pond water

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

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

Rascal shaking dry

he feels refreshed

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

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

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first "spring" outing

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

Harvey geared up for a cold-weather cycling expedition

ready to go

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

the three boys in a tree

another tree pose

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

Lijah eating a store-bought granola bar

less chewy when it's cold

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

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

still bearing

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

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

hard-working climbers

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

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

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

outside wears you out

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

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