posts tagged with 'adventure'

five out of a thousand

Harvey and Elijah looking out at a frozen pond

great outdoors

The best kind of New Years Resolutions to make are ones for other people. This year I resolved that my children—and me too!—would spend 1,000 hours outside over the course of the year. At a minimum. 1,000 Hours Outside is a thing; ironically, I heard about it on Facebook (which I barely ever look at, honest!) but it seems like solid motivation to get out and moving. And sometimes it's fun to do things other people are doing too. Of course, there's an argument to be made that midwinter isn't the best time to kick off this sort of challenge—but on the other hand, now's the time when we need some pressure to keep us from settling into too cozy a hibernation!

We kicked off the hours with a whole-family walk at Fairhaven Bay on Saturday afternoon. It was gray, damp cool, and drizzly: just the weather to make you love being outside. There was some dissension in the ranks as to how far we should try to walk, but in the end the compromise of about an hour and a half out was about right. Elijah really wanted to go farther, though, so he was pretty grumpy after we turned back towards the car. He stayed grumpy all the way home then stomped upstairs without talking to anyone, ran himself a bath, then came downstairs in his bathrobe and fell asleep on the couch for two hours. After that he was the liveliest and cheeriest of all of us!

me and boys pausing for a rest and water in the woods

everybody was having fun, I promise

Yesterday we took a walk with friends up to the center of town, where we played on the playground and skate park. Some of us discovered that it's possible to slide down the halfpipe head first on your back! Thrilling. We also visited the library. Then today I tortuously manipulated our errand route to take us by Mount Misery in Lincoln, where Harvey, Elijah and I—Zion was home with a stomach ache—enjoyed walking up and down the hills, across logs over streams and ditches, and, tentatively, onto the brand-new ice. It's finally gotten cold! It's been a while since we walked at Mount Misery; in fact, we haven't since our first visit back in late summer of '20. It was so dry then that the streams were basically gone, but we saw the bridges and wished we could enjoy the water. We enjoyed it today!

Elijah crossing a log over a stream

but be careful not to experience it too directly

With four days down in the year we're at five hours outside. Well under the two and three-quarters a day needed to hit 1,000, but it's early days. Cold and wet days, too; things'll be different in the summer. And not only are we doing better than some other folks I know doing the challenge, we're having fun too!

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elevated expectations

We took a bike ride in the woods yesterday, and I turned on the Strava because it's actually the best way to navigate on trails where you're not sure where you're going or where you want to go. And because I like recording things! When we finished up after a couple hours of fun exploring I was maybe a little disappointed to see that our ride came in at under four and a half miles. Is that all we could manage?! But then I thought about it a little more and started to wonder if it wasn't actually reasonable. After all, some kids don't even regularly do five miles on roads! And this ride wasn't on roads.

the boys walking their bikes on rocks across a stream

it wasn't all quite that bad

Well, not paved roads at least. We were in the Estabrook Woods in Concord, and one of the cool things there is the old Colonial-era roadways that still run through the woods: Estabrook Road and Two-Rod Road, straight between the stone walls at either side. As we rode along we tried to imagine what the landscaped looked like when instead of trees it was all fields and pastures, but we couldn't really. It's a big woods, and though we've been there before there are still lots of parts we haven't explored. The big find this time was an old limestone quarry: a gorge eight or ten feet deep and not much wider, with a cave at one end and a cool Pride Rock outcropping overhanging in the middle. Just right for a little chorus of "Nants ingonyama".

Elijah posing on a rock like in Lion King

the helmet is baby Simba

the boys in a pretty deep cave

it's hard to take pictures of caves

We also stopped a few times so the boys could climb glacial erratics, and to have snacks and water, and to consider the world from the heights of Hubbard Hill. And of course in Estabrook woods there are lots of streams and ponds to check out. Sure it was too cold to want to fall in but not cold enough for ice, but that doesn't stop us being fascinated by the water.

Zion throwing a rock into a pond

and almost-midwinter afternoons look like evenings

No, they're good riders and hikers, and I'm lucky to have them as company for such delightful jaunts in the woods. Not every kid would go for it! And if I want someone to do a ten-mile ride with me, there's always Harvey. And probably Zion next year. And Lijah not far behind? We'll keep practicing!

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we need to see the ocean every couple months

Elijah, in blue coat and backpack, looking out over the blue ocean

ocean's blue

Tuesday is our outing day. So yesterday, after some work time and recorder practice, we packed up and headed out for a big one to Rockport, where we hadn't been since August. And our main goal was somewhere we've never been before: Halibut Point State Park, which came highly recommended by a good friend in our Friday evening group. While we're usually pretty smooth at getting out the door, there were some hiccups in the planning process. Zion made his lunch and packed it up in his backpack, but when we arrived (after a drive of close to an hour) he found that he never managed to get his backpack into the car. Also, the clothes he had chosen to wear weren't quite up to the rigors of the weather, which was pretty cold and windy. As it was already past noon when we got there, we ate lunch at the first semi-suitable spot we found, which was only... semi-suitable. It was pretty cold. On the other hand, we had a great view over the deep cliffs of the quarry pond!

the boys huddling behind a rock to eat lunch above a quary pond

if we could just lift our heads to look...

It turns out Halibut Point is a pretty cool spot. It's the site of a former granite quarry, which means there's the big pond that would be the best place ever to swim if there weren't 400 "no swimming" signs (ah, the sadness of living in 21st century Massachusetts), and also an immense looming headland which seems to have been made made by piling up mined-out gravel boulders and filling the spaces in between with dirt and gravel. But before we went up there we had to go make our acquaintance with the ocean, and play on some naturally occurring rock features.

Zion sticking his head out of a cave between boulders

he could live in there!

The ocean was as fascinating as it always is, and the rocks near it as fun to explore. Zion took the camera for a while, but the only disappointing thing about rocky shores is how hard it is to capture photographically the power of the waves. Still, he did his best!

the waves beyond the rocks

actually I think I took this one

Moving on after a bit we found a spot where, on a giant flat rock just like a table, people had built up dozens of piles of rocks large and small. As I looked at it I saw a crazy walled city, ancient or cyberpunk, and I told the boys about it. They totally agreed and we spent the next ten minutes adding to the city. Especially bridges. Finally turning our back on the epic creation we headed back up the hill to the headland, where besides a dizzying view over the edge of a cliff we found another stone table with a hole in it just right for recreating that scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Harvey sacrificing Elijah on a stone table on a headland

Elijah is Aslan

By that point we were running out of State Park energy, but we had enough left to finish our loop around the quarry pond (stopping at a couple amazing "no swimming" swimming spots) and find the way to the visitor center building, which was closed. The whole place was very accessible—I bet it's mobbed in the summer.

Zion pointing across the pond

"that's where we ate lunch"

Back in the car we decided that we actually weren't done with the adventure: we needed to visit the playground by Front Beach that we missed out on last time we were there. And the beach too, of course. The water there wasn't too cold for wading, and, even more exciting, there was actual sea-glass to find! Only very small pieces, but still thrilling. And then we had all the time we wanted to play on the playground and explore the rest of the park. By then we weren't even so cold any more! It was a fine day.

Elijah jumping over a stream on the beach

yay ocean!

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outings with pre-teens

It's interesting being a parent. As soon as you think you're starting to have things figured out, they change. Not that I in any way feel like I've got anything figured out! But this past Saturday I did have notice how much the experience of going on outings has changed with big kids, as I got the boys—well, some of them—out the door for a bike ride to the Old North Bridge.

Harvey and Elijah walking their bikes over the Old North Bridge

can you see them up there with their bikes?

On the one hand, they're all much more capable than they used to be. It's a little under five miles along the unpaved bike path to get out to the river, a distance that used to feel like a major expedition. Saturday we took it at a pretty relaxed pace and made some stops to see the sights—especially the bird sanctuary tower again—and we still did the whole trail in well under an hour. That surprised both boys, who remembered it as being much more arduous.

Wait, "both boys"?! Yes, there were only two. Zion declined to join us, which points to the other difference: going out and doing things doesn't have the appeal it used to. It's easy to get preschoolers psyched up for an adventure—they trust you that it'll be fun, and they don't have the competing pull of preteen activities like sitting on the couch reading books or playing Minecraft.

Oh well, hopefully we had a fun enough time that he'll feel better about coming along on future outings! Certainly it seemed plenty fun to me. We floated bark boats in the river, which is flowing much higher and faster than is typical for fall; Elijah and I rode some stairs; and we enjoyed an early snacky lunch (slanch) at a table on the pavilion above the river. Then, best of all, we explored and played hide-and-seek among the crazy overgrown ornamental trees that cover the bank below the visitor center house.

Harvey and Elijah eating lunch at a table on a lawn over the Concord River

lunch pavilion

the two boys in a crazy tree

just one example of the fascinating vegetation

Then we zipped home in plenty of time for Harvey to play Minecraft with his friends. See, it's possible to adventure AND be a preteen!

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riding in Fairhaven

Yesterday we introduced another family to the joys of cycling by Fairhaven Bay. They have a fourth-grader and a kindergartener who are kind of into mountain biking, but not totally sure about either the risk or the energy requirements involved... and one parent who would really like to get them into the woods and moving. So I thought the Fairhaven trails would be perfect—they're practically designed to introduce folks to the fun of trail riding. The landscape between Fairhaven Bay and Walden Pond is beautiful and varied, and there are lots of fun spots to stop and play off the bikes. And on the bikes, there are steep hills where, for a second or two, you can feel like a real downhiller. And most of all, the paths are almost entirely smooth and free of roots and rocks—super rare for woods around here. So the little ones can ride for way farther than they would be able to otherwise! We managed four or five miles, which felt about right, and which took in the cliffs, the boathouse and its lawn, a stop at Walden Pond, the train tracks (where we waited for a train to pass and the boys successfully signalled the engineer to sound the horn), and the old race track. Then back at the car there was plenty of Halloween candy for a recovery snack. Good times.

the river, quickly

We're doing lots of learning with friends this fall, but we don't have as much time to adventure as I'd like. "School" with friends is Monday, Wednesday morning, and Friday. Wednesday afternoon we have our park day. Thursday is Grandma's house day. Saturday is full of playing with friends, and Sunday the same plus church. So it's pretty much only Tuesday that we can just take off into the wide world. And even then other pressures and commitments call us. So our trip to the river this past Tuesday morning was a short one. But no less delightful for it!

the boys in the canoe on the river in warm clothes

bundled up for the water

It felt wintery as we put the boat in the water. As I buckled my life jacket over layers of sweatshirts I was very aware that I really didn't want to fall in. And once we were on the river every tip of the boat as anyone adjusted their position just about sent us into a panic. For a little while. Then we got used to it, and even started to enjoy the downdrafts and gusts ruffling the water as they sped towards us.

We paddled far enough upstream to see the hill at October Farm Riverfront in the distance and wish we had time to go there, then turned around. On the way back downstream we stopped at what we call Mosquito Island, figuring it would be safer at this time of year. It was, and we had a pleasant time exploring with only imaginary coyotes and mountain lions to run from. The boys found some pottery scraps that we brought home to puzzle together (they were a crock jug), and Harvey spotted a mailbox that we left there.

Harvey posing with a mailbox on a post in the woods

the box wasn't actually attached to that post

When we got back to the boat launch after about an hour the old men fishing were surprised to see us again so soon and asked if we had gotten cold. Nope, I said, that was just all the time we had for the morning. How has life come to this?!

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farewell to summer

We're never quite sure where exactly the equinox falls. On the calendar we marked it down for today, but does that mean that tonight is the same length as today, or was it last night? In any case, we figured that yesterday was the last day of astronomical summer and we determined to celebrate it appropriately. Which, never mind that it was actually kind of chilly, meant taking the boats to the pond!

Harvey and Zion swimming with the canoe, Elijah lying on a rock on shore

waterfront action

We actually haven't gotten them out all that much the last couple months, so it was extra exciting to hit the water. The sun came and went as we paddled around looking for a good spot to set up camp, but by the time we found one, ate our lunch, and got ready to swim, it was solidly hidden by low gray clouds. So while the water was probably warmer than just about every time we've swum this summer, it was a bit of an effort to take the plunge. Of course we all did eventually, and after a while the clouds parted again for a time. Elijah had to take the most breaks to warm up, but there were rocks to jump on (and lie on when the sun was shining) and he and I even took a little mini hike up the hill above the pond. Harvey and Zion just swam and swam, and played with the boat and paddles.

With peaches from the farmers market on the way home it felt like a perfect way to see off the summer. Then at supper time we made a fire, and, though we were a little too busy playing and chatting with the friends who came over—and toasting marshmallows—to do any real reflection on the change of seasons, I think it did the job of marking the equinox the way it deserves to be marked. Now bring on the fall!

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in the waves

Our Cape trip last week was mostly about playing in the waves. With Hurricane Larry somewhere in the mid-Atlantic we expected some heavy surf; in the event I don't think it made much of an impact, but there was plenty of wave action for everybody anyway.

Harvey breasting a wave at Coast Guard Beach

testing them out

As I mentioned our first stop on the trip was Coast Guard Beach in Eastham. We parked in the visitor center lot and the boys and I rode our favorite bike path in to the beach—and this time Elijah made it the whole way without needing to push up any hills! Leah doesn't bicycle these days so she walked, and very much enjoyed the rare opportunity to be out by herself without the dogs. We got to the beach at right about high tide, and the waves were big enough to be fun without being at all threatening. Best of all, they were pushing right up the beach without a lot of rolling chaos, so all the boys were able to body surf without a problem. As the tide went out it got a little more challenging, but no one was seriously injured and all would have been happy to stay even longer than we did. But dinner in Truro awaited!

The beach on the Bay side in Truro is usually pretty sedate, but on Wednesday a steady wind out of the southwest was pushing some pretty good swells against the sand at a 45 degree angle. Expecting calmer waters the boys had the inflatable boats with them, and we spent an exciting couple hours launching them into the surf, riding the swells, then being pummeled back to shore. So fun!

Zion and Elijah launching an inflatable raft into two-foot breakers

waiting for the perfect moment

a view of the launch efforts from above, on the bluff

they're some noticeable waves

the boys playing on and around the raft in the ocean

but once you're in, it's all easy!

There were so many waves packed into those two days that we didn't even mind when Thursday was cool and rainy. We needed a break! Of course, even on the beach it's not all action: we know how to do a vacation right.

Elijah resting on the beach with his legs buried in the sand

what he does when he's not in the water

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a morning out

Cooler weather rekindled our enthusiasm for adventure last week, so on Friday we loaded up the bikes for a trip to Fairhaven Bay. I was interested in seeing how high the water was after the recent flooding, but mostly I just wanted to get out and moving! The boys were amenable.

Elijah climbing up the chimney by Fairhaven Bay

adventure

We've been there plenty of times now, but but it's a big place and there are still paths we've never explored, so we were able to try something of a different route. Elijah is constantly improving as a cyclist, and I was very impressed at how easily he handled the hills—sure, he had to walk up a few of the steepest spots, but he did it with a will and without hardly any complaining at all! Of course, the other boys are awesome as well. It's a great place to ride if you don't mind hills: the ups and downs are exciting, and the paths are mostly smooth and free of rocks and roots.

The river was a little disappointing: it was high, but less so than last time we visited. Never mind, there are other exiting things to visit—like Walden Pond, up on the other side of the woods. Some of us were a little nervous about crossing the train tracks to get there, but we all did it and were rewarded by getting to put our feet in the water. We didn't stay long though, because staying still we started to get cold, if you can believe it. Crossing the tracks again I opined confidently that trains came by very infrequently, so of course less than a minute later, as we were still putting on our shoes, there one was. They're always exciting to watch up close, especially when you're on the same side of the tracks as all your stuff.

Zion and Elijah watching a train go by

whoooosh!

Of course, the best part of adventuring is the snacks—and especially getting to eat them in all kinds of fun spots. Elijah enjoyed half of his on the cliffside perch pictured in yesterday's post and saved the other half until we found this shelter.

Elijah eating a granola bar in a stick shelter

we're not sure it would keep off the rain, but it sure looks cool

All that, and we made it home in time for lunch!

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surprise outing

Yesterday I had a loose plan for the day: do some cleaning, read some books together, and generally get used to living according to a schedule. That's something that we haven't been managing much for the last couple weeks, and with a very scheduled September coming up I though it would be worthwhile to do some prep work. But that went straight out the window when friends invited us to the beach. Because, the beach!

the boys and friends digging in the sand at the beach

it's still summer!

We went to Wingaersheek, which we've never visited (or spelled) before. I'd heard about it, but I was put off by the cost to park and the threat of crowding. The morning's clouds and iffy forecast meant the latter wasn't such a worry, and as for the $30—we'll do it if we get to go with friends! And I'm glad we did, because we had a super fun time. As out friends told us, the beach is best at low tide; sure enough, as soon as we got their (a few minutes ahead of them) the boys headed right out into the shallow water. Way, way out.

the boys walking out into smooth ocean water

this is just when they were getting started...

The other big attraction at Wingaersheek is the variety of rocks scattered in the middle of the beach—not just big cliffs on one side or the other, but littler ones from end-table to tractor-trailer sized. Everyone who wanted could find something that was fun to climb! The rocks also caused the creation of lots of different sized tidepools in the sand around them. We enjoyed rocks and pools for a bit, then at the moment of low tide we headed out onto a spit of sand, oh, a quarter mile or so from the beach—maybe more. I didn't take a camera because we were, you know, in the ocean, so you'll have to trust me when I say that the kids had a great time playing in the little waves that were crossing over the spit in all sorts of interesting patterns.

Eventually we made our way back to dryer land for lunch, and our encampment on a medium-sized complex of rocks was just the thing for eating on the beach without getting sand in all the food. We did have to chase off a number of seagulls though.

the boys and friends eating lunch on a rock rising a few feet above the beach sand

our camp for several hours

As the tide came in, it started to lap around the first of the rocks. After a bit we noticed that one of them made a perfect slide; that occupied us for a while.

the boys sliding down a smooth rock into the water

water park

Then we climbed some bigger rocks, then explored a whole new section of beach on the other side. It had its own points of fascination: another, smaller, spit; super soft squishy sand in one spot; a big temperature gradient from one side of the spit to the other. Plus the sun was out some, lighting up the shallow water a beautiful blue-green so it looked just like the Caribbean. Again, though, no camera.

By this point we were on hour five at the beach, but our interest was sustained by all the changes the tide brought to the already varied landscape. The last couple minutes the water lapping among all the different shaped rocks even put us in mind of a skate park, and we did some sweet tricks. If only the lifeguards didn't tell us we couldn't jump off the rocks (this is Massachusetts, after all) it would have been perfect. And because late August, nobody even got sunburned! Yay beach!

Elijah doing a split on the beach

yay beach

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