posts tagged with 'beach'

wet weather? let's go to the ocean!

It's been sunny and beautiful for at least parts of the last couple days, so of course when it turned gray and rainy we headed out to visit the ocean!

the boys by the shore at Good Harbor beach under gray skies

perfect beach weather

Actually, the timing wasn't really deliberate like that. It's just that we have a lot on our schedule, actually, and it's been a couple months since we've been any distance from home; so when last weekend I saw that Thursday was free I put a trip out to Cape Ann on the calendar. In my defense, the forecast at that point called for sun! Not that we minded the light drizzle—we're that hardcore, and we'd actually much rather have rain than crowds.

Our first stop of the day was the rocks along Atlantic Ave, where, before we did anything else, we had lunch (we got a late start because there was lots of school work to do first—like I said, busy schedule!). It turns out it's cold at the ocean; at least two of us wished for warmer clothes (not me! nobody dresses warmer that I do). But as soon as we finished lunch, an hour of climbing around the amazing rocks warmed us right up. Nobody died, either. When Elijah fell on his face it wasn't from 25 feet above jagged rocks, which had been my fear.

Zion and Elijah looking down at white water from orange rocks

looks perfectly safe, right?

Then just as we were about done with the rocks, Harvey found a piece of sea glass, and then another one. I don't know if you're aware, but sea glass is rare in New England these days—maybe the only downside of people no longer routinely throwing their garbage into the ocean. So his find touched off a sea glass gold rush, and each of us got at least a dozen pieces. Lijah and I are going to combine our hoards and display them in a jar.

Next we went to Good Harbor beach. The tide was rushing out beautifully under the bridge and it wasn't at all crowded, but the boys were getting a little tired—and it turns out that without a full tank of physical and emotional energy the water's a little too cold mid-January to do much wading. We did find—and walk through—some very interesting sandy mud: it was almost fluffy, with a consistency like slush to a depth of three or four inches. It's lucky there was something harder underneath, or we would have sunk to our deaths!

We ended the outing with a visit to Rockport. We walked around town and out to the tip of Bearskin Neck, admiring all the closed stores and their range of varied and clever please-wear-a-mask signs. Then on the way back to the car we stopped at the candy store where we bought some fudge...eventually. It was actually kind of hard to come to a decision about what to get. It may be that she felt sorry for us or just that she's a wonderful human being, but the woman running the store also gave us—for free, gratis!—a bag of chocolate-covered swedish fish. I had no idea such a thing had ever been even contemplated, but they actually aren't bad! It helps that Tuck's Candy has, as well as wonderful generosity, really good milk chocolate. Tuck's Candy—check em out if you're in the area!

Then we went home. On the drive, both ways, we listened to an audiobook about Martin Luther King Jr. Because, you know us, that's how serious we are about school work!

Oh, I almost forgot the best part of going to the ocean in the winter! Even better than the empty roads and beaches: we found ice among the rocks! It may have been small, but our rink by the water was, for fifteen minutes at least, just about the best thing ever.

Zion and Elijah sliding on a patch of ice among rocks by the ocean

our two favorite things, together at last!

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winter beach beauty

On Saturday we celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents by taking a walk on the beach. That hasn't been part of our traditional observances in the past, but you know, this isn't a traditional year. It was my mom's idea, but we picked the beach: Good Harbor. They'd never been; we're somewhat familiar. The boys and I were last there a year ago, and Harvey was first there before he really knew what was going on. As always, it was beautiful beach weather.

the boys and dogs near the water at Good Harbor beach

we're at the beach!

Within two minutes of crossing the bridge to the sand, Zion had fallen in. That set the tone for the outing: all the boys got pretty wet, despite having their boots on most of the time. Boots only work when they're taller than the water is deep.

Zion and Elijah in the water, with a wave washing over Lijah's boots

look out Elijah!

Zion especially had to stop occasionally to bale.

Zion pouring water out of his boot, Grandpa looking on

it'll be fine when he gets the water out, right?

Not that anybody minded wet boots or pants. They were having fun! The dogs, of course, had no trouble at all.

the dogs running in the waves

yay for wet paws

Grandma and Grandpa were very patient with the slow pace of our progress down the beach. It was lovely to see them, and we even talked a little bit about what we'd eaten for Thanksgiving to make it seem like a real holiday thing. I don't know that the beach will be my first choice for Thanksgiving next year, but I'm certainly sold on visiting it in November.

the dogs standing on the rocks by the ocean

beautiful

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our day at the ocean

Summer is over—we celebrated the equinox last Tuesday evening with a fire and lights. We did a lot less swimming than we usually do, and visited fewer beaches, but at least we got one solid day of real beach fun in, back at the beginning of the month when we were on the Cape. We love Leah's parents house in Truro and the easy walk to the beach on the bay side, but we do crave adventure now and again, so on the last day of the trip we packed up the bikes and a picnic lunch and headed for the ocean waves. As a kid I loved going to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, not because the beach itself is anything special—the whole stretch from Eastham to Provincetown is pretty much the same—but because you can get there on a delightful bike path over the dunes. Well worth a bit of a drive from Truro. And this year all three boys could ride it!

Well, almost ride it. Lijah did need to walk up some of the steeper hills; but he pushed on like a trooper, and I guess he thought it was worth it when we reached the end of the path (how is it riding to the ocean ends with a steep uphill?!) and heard the sound of the waves. We've been to the real ocean before, but somehow every year the boys' expectations are reset by the mild waves of Rockport harbor and Cape Cod Bay so they're able to be delighted anew by the real swells of the Atlantic Ocean as they crash into the Outer Cape.

Delighted, and unnerved too—at least at first. The camera can't really capture how big the waves looked that day when you were actually down there in the water, but suffice it to say that you needed to keep an eye on them at all times if you were anywhere near the waterline. Zion was the first one to venture in wholeheartedly.

Zion bracing to take a big wave

he's well-braced and ready

It was fun challenging ourselves to stand up to the breakers, but before long I needed to get in a little deeper. As steep as the shore is there you can get past the break only ten or fifteen feet out, and then you can float easily if thrillingly over the waves just as they rise. Harvey and Zion were a little unsure at first, but they joined me before too long. All that swimming practice this winter really paid off! Seeing the fun we were having, Lijah wanted to join in, so I held him where I could jump to keep our heads about the water.

Harvey and Zion floating in a wave

it's hard to tell, but that's a big wave!

Of course, the day wasn't totally without mishaps. We weren't just floating; some of the waves we tried to body-surf, and while it mostly went fine there were times we messed up and got tumbled. And some waves got us even when we weren't trying to ride them! Both me and Zion were bloodied—his was worse—and all of us had water and sand driven into our nose and ears. One wave in particular caused chaos, and not just for us. It was so big that I couldn't jump above it, but with Lijah in my arms I couldn't swim either. So I threw him over the worst of it, and mostly caught him when he came down... but I was also being tumbled head over heels along with everyone else. Then I couldn't rescue him right away because the violence of the wave had pulled my shorts down; that took a moment to fix.

I don't think anyone noticed though, since the whole beach had been pretty smashed: the wave overran lots of chairs and blankets and knocked over kids and old people. One little girl lost her glasses. Lots of people tried to help her find them, but they were gone for good. Her family stayed at the beach for a while, but I don't think she had any more fun. We had an easier time recovering—all of us except for Zion, at least. He held a grudge against the waves for the rest of the afternoon, especially when the drawing he was trying to make in the smooth sand kept getting washed out. Still, he let the other three of us play for a while more.

The problem with the beach is that when you're done having a great time you find yourself filled with sand and encrusted with salt, and changing into clothes and getting onto the bike again doesn't seem like the most fun. Especially since fifty percent of our towels had been soaked by waves. But we made it happen, and some of us even enjoyed the bike ride back. We all enjoyed the post-beach ice cream. That was a summer day.

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what I did on my summer vacation

We spent four days on the Cape last week and, while we didn't do everything we hoped to, we certainly hit the high points! The main things we were looking forward to in a vacation was going to the beach and spending lots of time sitting around reading and playing games, and the weather cooperated perfectly, with two rainy afternoons for curling up and warm enough weather that we could swim any time we wanted to. Including once in the rain!

We left home right on time on Tuesday before lunch, and had a quick and easy drive all the way to Truro. On the way we listened to Diana Wynne Jones' The Year of the Griffin, our current vacation audiobook; it was little hard to remember what was happening since last time we heard the story, on the way home from camping more than a year ago, but we put it together somehow. When we arrived it wasn't long before everyone was in the water!

the boys in the water with Grandpa, Leah walking to join them

this is what we've been waiting for!

Well, almost everyone: it took the dogs a little while to get used to the idea of waves, even the little waves on the bay side beach that we could walk to from where we were staying at Leah's parents' house. They had it figured out by the end of the day when we took an evening walk on the beach, as pictured at the end of this post. It was hard for everyone to go to sleep in a new place, but eventually we managed it; one of the boys even fell asleep in the bed assigned to him!

The next day dawned cooler and overcast, and with rain forecast for the afternoon we scheduled some essential outdoor activities for the morning hours. The boys went to play tennis with Leah and Grandpa—he's an skilled player, and provided both slightly-larger kid model tennis balls and mostly patient expert instruction. I took a bike ride.

my road bike by the shore of a little pond

seeing the sights

In the afternoon the rain seemed to be holding off, so everybody except me went out for a walk on the beach. Of course, it started raining mere moments after they left, but that didn't faze them. In fact, Harvey and Zion took the opportunity for a rainy day dip in the ocean, never mind that they were wearing their clothes. One advantage of this sort of vacation over camping is that laundry facilities are easily accessible! When they got back (and put their clothes in the dryer) we settled down to some card-playing and reading.

The next day was warmer but just as overcast, with the addition of fog and possible thunderstorms. Leah and I are limited in our ability to sit still in a place where we don't have chores to do, so soon after breakfast we packed the boys up for a hike. We went to Great Island in Welfleet, which, as the most promising hike within range of Truro, we've attempted before. The last two times we defeated—or at least kept from doing any "hiking"—by hot sun, gnats, and sandy trails that are just about like walking on a beach, so we figured a day where the fog was coming in ever-thicker would be perfect for another try.

Leah and the boys hiking among the marsh grass at Great Island

the island looming through the fog

We did get farther than we ever have, but once again detoured to the beach before we reached Great Island proper. It's just as well; not only do I learn that dogs aren't allowed on the island, the beach was empty and beautiful. The humans collected lots of rocks and shells, the dogs collected gross dead birds, and the boys and dogs enjoyed the water (one of those groups wished they had brought their swimsuits).

the boys and dogs wading in the ocean in the fog

the ocean is irresistible

After we had enough (and conveniently just as other people started to fill in) we headed just down the road to Welfleet Harbor. Leah and the dogs took a rest in the car while the boys and I played on the playground, walked on the town beach, and ordered some take-out fried food for lunch, which we brought back to the house. We were disappointed of our thunderstorms, but it did start raining right on time just after noon, so we settled in for another round of games. "Code Names" was very engaging for everyone but Elijah.

Leah and her mom thinking hard about Code Names

intense competition

We originally planned to stay through Saturday morning, but we missed our house and decided to leave Friday evening. Before we took off, though, the boys and I needed to do the most important adventure of the vacation: the bike ride to the ocean beach with the big waves! They did not disappoint.

Lijah looking at a crashing wave

crash!

After the beach we stopped for ice cream on the way back to the house. Now that's vacation! Grandpa very kindly prepared us a take-out order of hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, so as we made our weary way home even our dinner on the road was still vacationy. It was all lovely. We'll be ready to do it again in a year or so.

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hiking and swimming

the boys splashing in Berry Pond

splish splash

We had a flexible morning yesterday. We woke up thinking we were going to meet friends at Walden Pond at 10, but we learned before breakfast that they weren't actually able to make it. Then a different friend invited us to Berry Pond, only to cancel at the last minute (with justification: she was going into labor!). At that point we were already in the car, so we headed off to the pond by ourselves. It wasn't easy to get there: the storm the day before hit the towns to the north of us pretty hard, and not only did we need to take a detour for a crew clearing a downed tree, there was another detour on our detour! But we got there eventually, to find that we had the place entirely to ourselves.

Because now we weren't meeting a nine-months pregnant mama with a kid in a stroller, we got warmed up for our beach time with a little hike. Berry Pond is in Harold Parker State Forest—tucked up at the edge of the sprawling preserve—and the forest is just packed with trails. We followed one pretty much at random, and while there was some nervousness from some of the party about just how long our loop would be, it ended up being a beautiful hike.

the boys hiking a trail along the side of a hill among evergreens

adventurous terrain

When we got back to the pond it was still empty, and we were hot and sweaty enough to appreciate the chilliness of the water. Berry Pond is smaller than Walden and the water isn't as clear, but despite being in a pretty regular suburban town it feels much more like a backwoods mountain swimming hole. If it weren't for the ropes restricting swimming to just a tiny area around the beach, it would be amazing. Just look at those rocks on the other side! No swimming there, sadly.

Harvey and Zion playing by the ropes in the otherwise empty Berry Pond

the beautiful waters

As we ate lunch the beach started to fill up—by which I mean three or four other groups arrived. No worries, there was still plenty of space for us to make an epic sand castle city. It was a good warm up for our planned trip to the Cape next week, because there were no waves or tide to threaten our city walls; except when someone splashed too close, that is. We lost the lighthouse on the point that way, but never mind, we quickly rebuilt it.

Lijah putting the finishing touches on a big sand city

finishing touches

While we would have loved to spend some quality time swimming with friends, it was also nice to have an quiet outing just with us boys. We're trying to collect our thoughts as we get ready to head into the new "school year" and the way everything played out was just fine for an easy and relaxing outing. We'll take it.

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finally the ocean

We're not a big beach family generally—that is, you're not usually going to find us heading out to spend a day by the ocean with an umbrella and cooler and frisbee and things like that. But we do love being by the water, and we've hardly even seen the ocean this summer. So now that we have a car that works—more on that later—I thought it was past time to take an adventure to somewhere where we could smell the salt water and feel the ocean breezes blow. Like Rockport!

the boys walking on the beach with their backpacks on

adventurers on the march! (on the beach)

The boys have some memories of the last couple times we visited the Cape Ann peninsula, and were excited to revisit some of their favorite spots. There was one difference this time though: it was mid August under a heat index warning. So while the town itself was less busy than usual for a summer day, there were plenty of people on the beach. Not what they were expecting! Never mind, we still managed to have a great time, and even found some new favorites spots.

Elijah looking down from some rocks on to a crowded beach

too many people

People who go to the beach probably aim to park near it. Not us! One great thing about Rockport is that there is always free parking available. It just meant we got to walk a bit. To the pier in the center of town, where happily the the public bathrooms were open, and down to the end of Bearskin Neck to see the breakwater. But only briefly: the beach was calling! When we got there, though, there was some dismay at the crowd—the crowd, and the presence of a lifeguard. To show you what our usual beach experience is like, we were kind of expecting to be able to change into our swimsuits in an out of the way corner. That was not possible, but no worries, there was another open bathroom. Once changed the boys chose more yet walking in order to try out Back Beach, slightly further away and slightly less sandy. It was a good call, and we were able to get in to the water with no other people within 20 or 30 yards.

Harvey and Zion swimming off the beach with no people in sight

an ocean of their own

Although, "getting into the water" wasn't as easy as all that: it was COLD! Harvey asked if it was colder than the ocean usually is, which of course it wasn't... in retrospect I think it was the contrast with the sweltering air that made it a little shocking. We did get used to it, but it was also nice to take breaks out of the water, making sandcastles to try and hold back the oncoming tide.

the boys making sand walls among beach rocks

earthworks

mounded sand houses atop a rock

the king's palace

The children might never have moved from that spot, but I felt a little nervous about sun exposure and wanted to get us somewhere with some shade for lunch. It wasn't too hard a sell—back in May of last year we'd been frustrated by construction keeping us out of a park behind Front Beach, so when I let them know the park was probably open by now they were happy to give it a try. I don't what the park looked like before the excavators went to work on it, but it's fantastic now: it's a beautiful setting for the little stream that runs from a millpond above it down through a culvert under the road into the ocean. There's a playground there too, but who needs that in a park full of beautifully-landscaped rewilded brook?! After we ate lunch in the shade we played hide-and-seek.

Zion looking at a beautifully landscaped pond

green and shady

Before we left home Zion had suggested maybe a one-hour stay at the ocean; he had plans for things to do at home. Of course those plans were had to keep in mind in the salt air. Even worries about crowds melted away after lunch, and the boys spent the next hour playing happily in and around the busy waters of Front Beach.

the boys playing in the wet sand at the edge of the water

playing together

Eventually I dragged them away to do what I wanted to do: climb on the rocks that give Rockport its name! Those were over on the other side of town, back where we parked the car. There was some small unhappiness about the hot walk on the sidewalk, but those stresses of civilization were deemed worth it after we stopped in a candy store for a half-pound of fudge and a couple bottles of cold water (the only way the pandemic affected our trip? all the drinking fountains were closed). And of course the rocks were lovely as always.

Zion climbing ocean-side cliffs

Rockport climbing

And the best part of it all? Nobody got heat exhaustion!

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an outing unphotographed

Yesterday we took a trip to the Harold Parker State Forest. It took us an hour of driving (round trip) for an hour of pond and forest fun—maybe we would have done things differently had we planned it from the beginning—but never mind, it was was totally worth it! The adventure was conceived around 3:30 in the afternoon: we were all stultified by the heat, but Leah had enough brainpower left to suggest a swimming trip. Of course Walden Pond was closed—and while eastern Massachusetts is studded with ponds, most of them are either private or poisonous. So our next best option was a half-hour drive away.

After packing everything up—including a picnic supper—we hit the road at quarter past four and got out of the car a few minutes before five. The gate to the parking lot closes at 6:00, so we had a hard stop. Leah and the boys went straight to the pond, where they swam and chased fish, and Lijah practiced going underwater. I brought my bike to ride some of the many miles of trails the forest offers, with the idea that I'd get back in time for the picnic—maybe even in time to take a quick dip in the pond. And take some pictures! Of course, I should have known that wouldn't happen. I always lose track of time when I'm riding, and on top of that I took a wrong turn when I did decide to head back and spent a little too long riding fast in the wrong direction. In retrospect I should have left the car keys with Leah so if necessary she could have waited for me outside the gate—the park doesn't close, just the parking. But I didn't, so I just rode faster and got back to the lot at 5:58. Phew!

Everybody had a great time: my stress was balanced out by the fun of the ride and all the great exercise. And my family saved me some food! Still, next time we head that way we'll budget a little more of the day for the outing. And take some pictures.

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our six-hour pond visit

Even though it got us all sick our outing a week ago was pretty fantastic, so I wanted to note some its positive aspects. Because there's not much better than boating with friends!

the view from our canoe to our friends' kayak on Walden Pond

delightful

Even though there was no forward planning—I just thought of the outing that morning and invited our friends at around 7:00—we were able to throw things together in time to meet at the pond at 8:30 (we had to make sure to get in before it closed!). We took a leisurely paddle across, and all around, the pond, then set up camp at a nice spot to swim. Of course, when there are boats pulled up on the shore they exert a powerful pull, and before too long the swimming was well-mixed with boating. Left on shore without a boat I could only hope they would come back! (Of course they would: I had the lunches!)

kids and boats out in the pond

can you spot them all?

As the morning wore on our beachy spot got a little crowded, so we re-loaded the boats and headed to another cove which, besides being less occupied, gave us a chance to swim in the shade! It was also right by the rail line, and we were lucky enough to be by the tracks right as a train went by. I should have shot a video!

Zion and Lijah holding their ears as a train roars by ten feet away

whoooooosh

Soon afterwards our friends needed to head home. We saw them off, stopped by the bathroom, then re-embarked to find a quiet spot to have lunch. People definitely spread out more at Walden now than they did pre-Covid, so it took us a while to find a private space—we never would have managed it without a boat! After lunch I tried to nap while the boys swam, then I joined them for some water play. Then finally it was time to leave—not to go home, but to visit the Farmers Market in Lexington. What a full day!

Lijah sleeping in his car seat

zzz

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too much!

Saturday evening after our delightful outing to the pond I was talking with Leah about how well-adapted the boys are to the sun, since they eased into it by being outside every day all spring and into the summer. They're basically sunburn-proof, I said. That was after we'd been at the pond for two hours in the middle of the day and all three of them had a delightful healthy glow. Well, yesterday we went back to the pond, and this time we stayed there for six hours: all the way from 8:30 until 2:30. As we finished our lunch I suggested they take a little break in the shade—there were places where they could be in the shade and still be sitting in the water!—but they were having too much fun. They were feeling great, and talking about what all they could do the next time we came. Could it be tomorrow? As we made our way back to the car, though, I noted how red they were looking. Harvey scratched an itch on his face and found that it hurt some. And we were all super tired.

As it turns out, the sunburns weren't actually very bad. All the redness was gone by mid day today. Hooray, but it turns out sunburns aren't the only thing to worry about from a full day of sun exposure: between the heat and the dehydration and all the exercise, all three boys were totally wiped out today. And worse than wiped out, downright sick, with almost feverish symptoms. Zion threw up a couple times in the morning and slept for an hour in the middle of the day; Harvey threw up after supper. Leah and I tried all day to get liquids into them: water, gatorade, lemonade, chocolate milk. Lijah and especially Zion couldn't find anything to their taste—trust Zion to worry about taste when he's dehydrated and throwing up. As the symptoms kept on towards bed time I started to wonder if they could have actually picked up a bug of some sort at the pond. After all, they were around people more than they had been any time in the last several months! But right now I still do think it's just dehydration and heat exhaustion. "Just"? That's plenty! Zion told me this afternoon that he's never going back to the pond again. I hope he feels better in the morning!

stress, relief

It remains hot here, so we want to be swimming. But there's also this virus thing that makes it a little more complicated and stressful. Our favorite swimming hole is Walden Pond, but even when we're not in the midst of a pandemic going there can be complicated, because there's a limit to how many people they let in before they close the gates until the crowd thins out. In ordinary years it's to keep the beach and trails from eroding too badly; now, obviously, it's to help us all socially distance. And of course the capacity is smaller that usual. That's all to set the scene for Saturday morning, when we planned on getting an early start, bringing the canoe and a lunch to the pond, and spending some hours there. Only "early" is relative, because when I checked at quarter past eight I found that it had already closed. At 7:36.

That was a blow, but we didn't despair: almost certainly it would reopen before lunchtime. So we started packing up, in between all the other work of the morning. Laundry and things. I was only checking Twitter—where the closings and openings are posted by @waldenpondstate—every fifteen minutes or so, so it wasn't until 10:20 that I saw that they'd reopened all the way back at 10:07! Luckily we've gotten somewhat better at getting out the door since back in June, and we were on our way in moments. We made it to the boat launch parking lot at 10:39, and were able to squeeze into what I was sure was the last parking spot available (no: one more family, better still at squeezing, came in after us). There was still lots to do before we could jump in the water—getting the boat off the car, changing into swimsuits, getting lifejackets and picnic supplies together—but we could take our time on all that. The stress and hurry was over!

It may seem silly to endure so much stress in search of relaxation, but I think it's worth it. After all, it's not like there's anywhere else we could go that would be much easier. Certainly nowhere closer! And once we were there, our stress—mine, anyways—just melted away. I enjoyed a leisurely conversation with the actual last family into the lot, who reported a very similar morning to ours; we paddled slowly across the pond and our boat didn't leak at all (unlike last time); we swam and floated and ate a peaceful lunch. I got to do some quiet reading, and even read aloud a little from our chapter book to the boys as they sat in the shallows (a first, for sure!). Harvey and Zion even piloted the canoe back across when it was time to go home, while I loafed in the bottom not even looking where we were going. It was a good time. We may even do it again one day.

Zion eating a sandwich sitting in the canoe

boat lunch

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