posts tagged with 'beach'

beach school day

We had so much fun at the beach the Friday before last that I decided to make it a thing, and we went back again this past Friday. By ourselves this time; everyone else was either busy or resting. Which was maybe just as well, because when we got there it didn't really feel like a typical beach day.

the beach under gray clouds; Zion standing in the waves, Elijah drawing in the sand

chilling at the beach

It was even colder than we expected, but that was fine, because we had lots of non-swimming activities to do. Like schoolwork! I made the boys bring their journals and stuff to draw with, just in case. It turns out Wingaersheek is popular with homeschoolers. Last time we met some kids who must have been (they were collecting invasive species crabs and feeding them to seagulls), and Friday we arrived at the same time as another family of school-aged kids who I actually asked if they were doing a beach school day too. And they were!

But it couldn't be school right away. Our first order of business was to walk out onto the sandbar, the one that almost drowned Harvey last time. This time we arrived just about at low tide, so were able to wade out to the bar without even getting our shorts wet, and then walk way out into the ocean on (relatively) dry land. (That's where the picture up top was taken.) It was super fun, even if we were a little worried about getting cut off. As it happened, we survived.

Elijah standing at the end of a sand spit among waves

the end of the land

By the time we headed back the clouds were beginning to disperse. It still wasn't swimming hot, though, so after some lunch we took advantage of the expanse of low tide beach to walk around the corner, inland along the Annisquam River. We enjoyed the different consistencies of sand, the light on the channel, and the space to run around.

Elijah running, waving his shirt, along the beach

joy in the sunshine

With memories of too much sun the week before I also brought our little beach tent. As cool as it was the sun didn't feel like a threat even once it emerged, but it was also a great place to rest in out of the wind! And it let us organize our piles of spare clothes, food, and school materials. The boys did some journal writing, drawing, and reading.

Elijah reading in our beach tent, his brothers lying on a rock outside drawing

beach school room

To that point they would have been fine limiting themselves to a little wading, but I wasn't having that. As the tide began to creep up over the rocks I tried out the water myself, then invited—forced?—them to come and give it a try with me. It was too chilly for Elijah, but once the older boys got in they had to agree that it actually wasn't that bad. And as the tide flowed around the rocks there were lots of opportunities for fun!

Harvey in the water among rocks, Zion on one getting ready to slide

the best rock for sliding

Wingaersheek is a fairly sheltered spot, so it's not generally a place you'd go to for waves. But the wind was so high it was actually kind of choppy, and as we let the tide push us up the beach as it rose we found some spots where the waves were certainly big enough to be fun.

all three boys playing in the smallish waves

even Elijah got back in for a bit

As delightful as it was, though, a couple hours in the water left me, at least, feeling increasingly cold. And Elijah was getting bored, running out of things to do by himself up on the beach. Plus everybody wanted to go into town! So even though it was 25 minutes in the wrong direction for home we packed up and headed to downtown Rockport where we walked around, took in the sights, and bought candy and food for dinner. Among other stores we visited the Bearskin Neck Country Store, which I'd somehow never been in before. We admired the wide range of gummy candy items available—and the player piano!—but all we bought was a jar of spicy pickled beans.

Zion and Elijah looking at the player piano

more than just a piano!

Even in town, though, we couldn't escape the fact that the true lure of Cape Ann is the ocean! And I feel so lucky to be able to visit it regularly.

Harvey walking out on the breakwater in Rockport



fun in the sun

This week was our official start of school, but as much as I wanted to get cracking on the academics we can't deny that it's still summer. And not only that, it's the best part of the summer for going to the beach!

Zion jumping off a rock into the ocean

rocks plus water equals joy

So that's what we did this morning. The original plan was to go up to Rockport, but when I heard that the Gloucester beaches were free and open after Labor Day we just had to visit Wingaersheek, where we had so much fun a year ago. And it was just as much fun this time! We arrived a little before high tide, so we spent a delightful half hour trying to reach the most far-away rocks before they were covered up. Then once the tide was full we did some jumping off rocks, as seen above. At lunch time our friends arrived and we ate together on the biggest of the rocks, where we made our camp, before heading back to the water to play.

the boys sitting on a big rock on the beach

the scene at high tide

The best thing about Wingaersheek is how it constantly changes as the tide rises and falls. You can never get bored! With fond memories of sliding down that rock last year we looked to repeat the experience, but for the longest time we couldn't find the right spot. Never mind, there were lots of other fun places to play! Like this ridge of rock where, for about half and hour, the waves sluiced over just right so that if you were sitting on it when one came you would get washed down the other side like a waterslide (or a toilet...).

the kids sitting on a smooth part of rock getting hit by a wave


As the tide fell further the kids started to get interested in making their way out to the sandbar that is the most exciting feature of Wingaersheek at low tide. It was still too soon, though, and when the younger kids started to get over their depth they turned back. Not Harvey and his friend, though: they can swim well enough that they pressed on. Which was maybe a mistake, because the tide was ebbing so fast that they actually got stuck out among the distant rocks for quite a while, unable to swim faster than the tide to make their way back. And here we thought they were just enjoying some teenager time to themselves! Eventually we realized their plight and I swam out and helped them find their way to shore. It was a bit traumatic for them, actually, but also will make a good personal narrative essay someday. So that's something.

the boys walking in the shallow water at Wingaersheek beach

that water doesn't look dangerous, but...

All that playing was pretty tiring, so after only about six hours or so we were ready to head home. Just as well; even though it's September now I got a little too much sun! I guess there's still more summer to enjoy!


vacation number 1

One stressor of summer is finding time to get away. When can we possibly have room in our schedule for vacation trips?! Well, now’s the time. We’re gearing up to head north for our annual camping excursion on Wednesday morning, and the second half of last week saw us enjoying the ocean on the Outer Cape.

the boys walking along the edge of the ocean in the evening

it's so big there's lots to enjoy

Oh, did we enjoy it! It was hundreds of degrees hot when we left, and still very warm by the seaside, so being in the water felt like a good plan. Our trip down was built around a visit to the National Seashore, so the boys and I worked hard to pack up the car while Leah delivered the dogs to their vacation accommodation, all so we’d be able to get on the road in time to get to Eastham by lunchtime. We just made it and enjoyed a relaxed meal in the shade before getting the bikes–all four bikes!—off the amazing new bike rack and hitting the bike path to the beach. The older boys zipped off right away while me and Elijah went at our own pace; he noticed that, for the first time, he was able to do the whole hilly ride without walking even once! And for his part, Harvey commented that the ride gets shorter and shorter every year. Funny that!

Elijah riding over a bridge over a salt marsh

the best ride

The air at the beach was still warm and the sand was blazing hot, but the water was comfortable: mid-fifties Farenheit, way warmer than usual! The waves were disappointingly small when we arrived but built nicely, so there was plenty of wave action for all (but no blood or other serious injuries). Elijah was excited to figure out body-surfing for the first time in the shallower part of the waves, and sad that he didn’t learn until the last third of our beach time. Leah had a work meeting to take and walked rather than biked, so she didn’t have as much time in the water as we did, but what she had was plenty for her. Us boys could have stayed until it got dark, but we had a dinner date so with some reluctance we dragged ourselves away.

the boys playing in the waves

wave action

Of course, dinner with the grandparents was delightful and we were happy to settle in to their lovely (air-conditioned) house. After dinner and some quiet time we went for a walk to enjoy one of the most interesting attractions of the Outer Cape, so unusual for the East Coast: getting to watch the sunset over the ocean!

Zion and the sunset at the beach

Zion silhouette

The next day dawned cloudy and hazy, and we hung around the house for a good while before we got bored enough to organize an expedition into Welfleet. First there was some shopping: we browsed the toy store idly for a good half hour before I decided I’d help finance the purchase of souvenirs, then seriously for another 15 minutes until the boys picked out what they wanted (a puppet, a stuffed dog, and some sticky putty). Then Leah and her mom went to check out some of the more sophisticated shops while the boys and I got the bikes off the car and headed out to explore the town and harbor.

the boys eating fried food at a beach picnic table

exploring the food options

We did a little off-road riding, played on a playground, and had a light lunch at the seafood place (you can’t visit the ocean and not get some fried seafood! Even if one of us is a vegetarian and another said he preferred chicken). There was some frustration and grumpiness, but we resolved it in time to enjoy a happy hour of beach time. Mostly digging.

Elijah behind a sand castle

it was a group project

Zion and Elijah wading way out in shallow water in Welfeet Harbor

no swimming at low tide

Back at the house a visit from older relatives kept us indoors for the afternoon, but after dinner we took another walk on the local beach. The resident connoisseurs were disappointed in the lack of sunset display, but we didn’t mind: waves on the bay more than made up for it!

the boys watching waves

this is supposed to be the calm side!

The next morning the picture couldn’t have been more different: sunny and flat calm. I got in a quick dip early early, and then we were all down at the beach by 8:30 for a couple hours of swimming and hanging out.

the boys on rafts in the calm blue water, Leah on a towel on the beach

the life

And that was it! After lunch we needed to head home in order to pick up the doggies and water the plants, which just barely didn’t die in the extreme heat. It was a great trip but did feel super short… so it’s a good thing we have another one to look forward to soon!


ready for adventure

This morning our friends invited us to Berry Pond, which is in Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover. It's about half an hour away, so not someplace we usually go by ourselves, but definitely worth a trip with friends. I wanted to make a real outing of it, so I packed up a big picnic in the cooler, told the boys to bring clothes for hiking along with their swimming things, and loaded up the bikes on the new bike rack. I knew our friends were just thinking about a relaxing couple hours on the beach, but it never hurts to be ready for anything that might come up. Like maybe the pond might be closed? It was! Our friends were dismayed and apologetic, but we didn't mind a bit. With all our prep and packing, we were all set to lead a short hike and then set a beautiful, full table for a lunch picnic.

our picnic feast on a picnic table


And then after we ate the kids went down to the beach anyway. They figured there was a lot of fun to be had even without swimming, and they weren't wrong. Especially when they decided that even wading quite deeply would be fine. They spent a happy hour or so hunting for pond creatures to stock the aquarium they built by digging a hole in the sand and lining it with plastic sheeting. Delightful!

the kids wading in the pond with nets

they aren't swimming

After that our friends were done—with a one-year-old you sometimes have to limit your outings—so they headed home. But we hadn't used the bikes yet! So we made contact with some different friends and arranged an off-road cycling outing at Great Brook Farm. We went an extremely round-about route in order to get in some errands on the way, but that was fine because it gave the boys' clothes some time to dry (we helped by hanging them out the windows). So they had something to wear when we hit the trails.

the boys and friends riding on a dusty trail by a cornfield

high summer riding

It was hot, and the second adventure of the day is always harder than the first. So once again Great Brook proved a good choice for a ride, because it let me buy everyone ice cream at the end. Now that's how you end a full day of outdoor excitement!

Zion eating a giant blue-and-pink ice cream cone

cotton candy flavor


inside the ropes

Freeman Lake has provided us with endless hours of fun so far in 2022. In the winter we skated on it for hours. Then not long after the ice melted we started bringing boats to paddle around in and, when the water warmed up enough not to kill, jump off of. The last few weeks of park day, though, have been boatless. That's because school has ended and official summer has begun, which means lifeguards, rules, and ropes.

kids swimming in the swimming area at Freeman Lake

roped in

Actually, despite significant grousing from many kids and parents (homeschoolers are really united by a dislike of rules) everybody has had a great time swimming inside the protected area. Sure, it's so shallow that the adults and big kids don't have enough depth to tread water in. But it's still wet and cool and filled with fun people. And not only our group: with their liberation from school all sorts of other kids have been able to come to the park, and our kids have even played with some of them. Amazing!

Elijah and Harvey on pool floats in the pond with friends

chillin inside the boundries


the pond the back way

Today was real summer. I was sure this morning that Walden Pond would be closed for lots of the day due to capacity, and I wanted to swim without worrying about that timing. So we went in the back way! Of course, that meant we had to walk a couple miles to get there, but that was all part of the fun.

the boys walking along a woodsy trail on the side of a hill

walk to swim

We parked at the Walden Woods project and walked in along the Sudbury River. We didn't take the longest path, but it was far from the shortest either. The hiking was fun, and it was actually the imminence of lunch time that kept our route from extending even farther. It was lovely and cool in the woods, and the bugs weren't bad at all (we were nervous when right at the start we crossed paths with someone wearing a full mesh veil). We got to the pond right at lunch time, and even though everyone was hungry the water looked so beautiful most of us had to take a dip before eating. And I can tell you that nobody waited half an hour (an hour?!) afterwards!

the boys swimming in Walden Pond

yay pond

On the way home we took the most direct path to the car—only about a 20-minute walk. It would have been fine even longer though, since spirits were still high. Good outing.


jumping off boats

Over the last month or so we've been doing a lot of swimming and a lot of boating. So it's only natural that the boys combine the two activities in the most delightful way possible.

Elijah jumping out of the canoe

living his best life

Over the course of the month they've really been working on their boat jumping game. These pictures are all of Elijah, because I managed the best ones of him, but the others are getting into it too. Back at the beginning of the month they were doing it with their cousin.

Elijah jumping out of the canoe, with Harvey holding it

the other kids jumped too, I just got the best pictures of Elijah

Lately we've taken to using the sailboard, an easier platform for launching. Elijah is working on flips.

Elijah upside-down, jumping off the sailboard

good thing he's learning how to swim!

Who needs a diving board?!


these kids can swim

A fun thing about parenting is seeing the kids grow and develop, and a fun thing about being kind of unschooly is getting to be surprised by some of that progress! Like, now that it's turned conclusively summery, I can see that I don't have to worry nearly as much as I did at the beginning of last summer about any of the boys drowning if they fall into deep water. Harvey was already totally there, of course, but I don't remember Zion being such a confident swimmer out of his depth without a life jacket. Now he doesn't seem to have any concerns. And while Elijah isn't going to be swimming across the lake any time soon he's very interested in jumping out of the boat into water just a little bit over his head. And, comfortable splashing around with the big kids.

Elijah swimming, goggles pushed up on his head

yay water!

Of course, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Elijah is so dense he hardly floats, so he needs to work some on his technique. And none of them swim as well as their cousin, who's on a swim team, or Elijah's friend who at seven is such a natural in the water she looks like a seal as she flips and dives. But they're in great shape to enjoy a summer in the water! And six hours of swimming over the past two days seems like a good start.


water babies

The boys have spent a lot of time in the water the last few days. Monday, of course, it was nearly four hours in the pool. Yesterday was cooler, but we brought the bikes to Walden and rode trails for an hour or so until they were warmed up and ready for an hour or two in the pond. Today for park day I had no anticipation of swimming at all, with the temperature in the 60s and rain in the forecast. Of course, I should have known better! Good thing the swimsuits were still in the car.

Elijah wading into Freeman Lake in the rain

just swimming in the rain

Zion's and Elijah's, anyway, even though I suggested they bring them inside where they could dry (Harvey is a better listener). And when we got to the park I requested they stay away from the water; even though we had dry clothes, other families did not. But then it started raining, and we all got pretty wet anyways. And a few kids changed and went in, and reported delightedly that the water was warm: way warmer than the air! While we parents worried a bit about what would happen when they came out, it seemed cruel to deny them the opportunity to try.

Not everyone went in; some of the kids, far from having swimsuits, were wearing long pants and hadn't brought dry clothes. A few of them were pretty unhappy about it. But there were other fun things to do besides swimming, like directing the course of the streams that were flowing down the hill across the beach. And in the end, everyone got wet, either in the lake or in the rain. So we all learned a valuable lesson: when you're going to be by the water, bring a swimsuit. And a towel, definitely a towel too.


weekend beach day

On Saturday it was supposed to be hot. What to do? Head to the ocean! Of course, when it was still in the 60s and drizzling rain at our departure time I felt a little silly, especially since I had persuaded some friends to join us on our expedition to Rockport. We briefly thought about just staying home, but I really hate giving up on a plan... Plus even if the weather wasn't perfect, we didn't have anything better to do. It was a good call, because the beach is always magical.

the boys walking towards the ocean on the misty beach

especially magical-looking in the mist!

The big beach wasn't actually our original intention—the thought was we could walk around the center of Rockport, climb on the rocks and the breakwater, maybe go in the water at Front Beach. But when I noticed a sign saying that beach sticker parking doesn't start until the 28th I thought we might give Good Harbor a try. Even though there were lots of people taking advantage of the last free parking weekend, there was still plenty of room in the giant lot. Plenty of room on the giant beach, too: the tide was lower than I've ever seen it, so even though there were hundreds of college kids (so many bikinis and lacrosse sticks!) we had plenty of room for photos that made it look like we had the place to ourselves.

Low tide also revealed a path to the island a little ways off the beach, which we'd never been to before. So while we waited for our friends to arrive we headed over to check it out. It was a fun climb up (though a little hard to avoid the poison ivy and 19-year-olds), and with the sun peaking through the clouds we warmed right up.

Zion and Elijah posing on top of a rock on the island

not pictured: 87 other people exploring the island too

Feeling warm meant that, on their way back to the car to meet our friends, the two younger boys let themselves be caught by the waves and got wet up to their middles. Which would have been fine, except at the car they were also going to change into their swimsuits. They didn't think it was a problem that they had soaked their only non-swimsuit clothes, but I wasn't thrilled.

Oh well. In actual swimsuits they took to the water again, first in the tidal stream that runs along one side of the beach. Some of it was shallow enough to wade across, but there were plenty of spots deep enough to swim in... or even to jump in! It's a pretty good beach where you can do cannonballs from the sand.

kids jumping into a stream on the beach

into surprisingly deep water

When they had their fill of that we moved to the waves. While the stream was cold, the actual ocean was positively frigid. Still, there were waves to play in, and that makes any level of chill bearable.

kids thigh-deep in the waves, Harvey raising his arms in triumph

braving the tumult

When I couldn't ignore Lijah's uncontrollable shivering any longer we went back to our blanket for lunch. Beach lunches sure know how to put the "sand" in "sandwich"! After we ate the boys wanted to go back in the ocean, but as we walked over a quarter mile of low tide beach through the fog it got colder and colder, and by the time we were able to put our toes in the water everybody was just about ready for dry clothes and a change of venue. Did I mention it was foggy? In patches, at least, and it was super fun watching them drift in from the water.

Elijah's friend walking on the misty beach

exploring in the mist

So yes, dry clothes. Oh wait, remember that my two younger children no longer had any such thing?! Poor Elijah in his hypothermic state was especially frustrated at his two-hours-ago self (or he should have been: he mostly acted angry at me). Happily his friends, more prepared than he, were able to furnish him with some of their spare clothes. Never mind that the shorts were a size too small and the shirt a size too big, and that both were from the girls' collection, he was glad to have dry cotton on his skin. And with him happy enough, we were able to head into downtown Rockport.

Harvey, Zion, and a friend walking on Bearskin Neck

where the action is

We spent a happy hour looking into shops, whining about things we wished we could buy, and climbing on the rocks of the breakwater. The boys found that, out towards the end, there are gaps between the rocks that make some pretty cool caves. They managed to travel maybe 20 feet "underground"!

Zion peeking out from a cave between rocks of the breakwater

how much to those rocks weigh?

Alas, by that point it was time to leave. Two of the children with us were only borrowed, and their parents were probably starting to miss them. Of course, we couldn't leave Rockport without buying some candy! Tootsie Pops and gummi worms we maybe could have found anywhere, but edible beach rocks were the perfect tourist purchase. And all the sugar fueled the long trek back to the cars. On the way I had to pause and snap a photo of Elijah, looking like a model in his borrowed clothes.

Elijah posing against a brick wall

world-weary at 8

What a beautiful outing! It would have been even better if accidents on the highway hadn't made the drive home twice as long as the trip out, but never mind, that's why we have the audio book.