posts tagged with 'outdoors'

1,000 hour day

This year we vowed to spend 1,000 hours outside. Well, I vowed and made the kids go along, but they're good with it. Halfway through the year we were still under the 2.75 hour/day ratio we needed for a thousand, but I wasn't worried: I knew there was a lot of summer days to come. And that was a good call, because today, with almost two full months to spare, we reached our goal!

Looking at the spreadsheet at the beginning of the week most of us predicted that we'd hit the 1,000 hour mark on Saturday, and we contemplated what sort of celebratory outing we should plan for the momentous hour. As it happened, though, today was so nice that we were out in the yard for over four hours even before we headed to our friends' house this evening to sit around their fire; we finished our thousandth hour at around 7:30. What will we do now? Not stay inside, that's for sure! I think we're going to keep pushing to see how many hours we can do... and set a mark to try and beat next year!

playing in the woods

Back at the beginning of October we ventured into the wilderness to climb Mt Monadnock. The hiking was fun and rewarding and we had a great day on the mountain. But even without the lure of alpine adventure Monadnock State Park is a worthwhile destination, because the next we also had an amazing time just exploring around the campground!

the boys exploring a stream in a broad gorge

campground wilderness

Gilson Pond campground is a pretty cool place even if you don't leave your site: the hilly terrain means that each site is unique, above or below the road and often with wooden platforms hanging off the slope to make enough room to pitch a tent. And they're well-spaced out too, so there's lots of woody slopes to play in between sites. Which we did! (the boys also enjoyed using the spare platforms as stages and battle arenas).

And just beyond the boundaries of the tenting sites there's a pond, a stream through a gorge, and cliffs to climb that are small enough to be doable for younger ones but still big enough to be interesting. And wide open white pine woods: we started off following a trail, but then bushwhacked a ways in search of a shortcut back to our site, and it was even fun just walking through the pines (and along the giant trunks of a couple that had fallen!). It's just the sort of landscape that would be perfect for an outdoor adventure camp with a group of kids; as much fun as we had with just the four of us, we immediately started planning a return trip next year, with friends!

the boys atop and angled rock slab

we could play here all day


rocky rest

The last time we were in the Middlesex Fells it was a major hiking expedition. And there was a time before that when just the boys and I explored for a few hours before going to dinner with friends, but I don't remember exactly when it was and I can't find it here on the blog. Both of those times we did lots of walking, and the woods felt giant. Yesterday we were back again, and this time with bikes. And we managed to get a lot further in a lot less time!

Harvey and Elijah coming out of the woods onto an overlook above Spot Pond

running out of woods

In the end we only went about two and half miles, but it was over varied enough terrain, and we made enough stops, that it felt like a real adventure. Plus we went up some serious hills. There was also a high school cross-country meet going on, and we were able—in one case were forced to—stop and watch a couple of the races.

Among all the delights of the outing, my favorite was our stop at a rocky outcropping that's actually in Stoneham's Whip Hill Park (which was our entry point to the Fells). With our eyes on the adventure ahead we barely glanced at it on our way in, but coming back tired and a little ahead of schedule for our next engagement it seemed like just the spot to stop and rest. Especially since it came with a ready-made chair.

Zion sitting on a big natural chair in the woods

the throne of a mountain troll

Besides sitting, we also climbed and explored and found a scattering of feathers where a bird had been killed. Only I have no idea what kind of bird: black and yellow and spotted? Zion and Elijah made crowns with the feathers, to go with their rocky throne.

Elijah with yellow and black feathers in his hair

one of the kings

We never managed to climb the cliff itself, despite some serious attempts. But on the other hand, Harvey didn't knock Zion off to his death when he threw a shoe over the edge and hit Zion on the head, so we can count that as a win! And as much fun as all the biking and moving was, it was also delightful to stay in one spot for half an hour or so in a beautiful spot in the beautiful late-afternoon light. The outdoors are pretty awesome!

Elijah and Zion relaxing in the late-afternoon woods



500 hours

Not only was Monday a big day thanks to Fourth of July celebrations, it was also a special occasion for our family: the day that we reached 500 hours outside (and smashed past it, to 506). We're doing this 1,000 hours thing and I'm having fun recording our time, after I come back inside, on a spreadsheet. We started off doing the beautiful "color in a box per hour" recording sheets, but it was too easy to lose track of which hours we'd recorded—we're not organized enough for that. The spreadsheet is easier, plus—plus!—it gives me our average hours per day for the year and each month, along with the running total for the year. We reached 500 slightly past the midway point in the year, and we haven't quite hit the 2.75 hours/day mark that we need to be sure of 100, but there's more warm weather in the second half of the year than the first so I'm not worried. Plus we haven't even gone camping yet! Here's to another 500 amazing hours this year!

out and about, lately

We ended February with 52 hours outside for the month, which is a little bit under the two hours per day we were hoping for. But still respectable! And we had some lovely outings the past few days, very much enjoying the winter that still has us in its grip.

Zion and Elijah on the ice at Estabrook Woods

there's still ice

After the snow on Friday we took a walk Saturday morning at Great Hill in Acton. The parking lot wasn't plowed and as I drove in anyway I was worried we would never be able to get out again. Luckily the snow was light and fluffy so it wasn't a problem, but the same lightness made the walking very tiring indeed. Even though folks had broken trail, we still sank and slid with every step, like walking in deep sand. Also, Great Hill is kind of a big hill. So our walk wasn't long, but it was invigorating... and beautiful.

Harvey and Elijah hiking on a snowy slope

great hill, great snow

Monday we got out for some sledding with friends. I sledded, at least; the boys, not loving the characteristics of the snow, took a walk instead with their crew and discovered that the ice was actually—surprisingly—in fine shape, neither melted nor snow-covered. So of course they had to get the skates out (luckily we always keep them in the car!). The younger kids engaged in some spirited short-track races while the older set lay around on the ice and talked about how to monetize a Youtube channel.

Zion and friend skating, Harvey and a friend lying on the ice

something for everyone

Tuesday's outing was to Estabrook Woods in Concord. We had never been there in full winter, so I was interested in possibly taking the sleds on the "ski slope" that those woods feature—but just like our airport hill the slope looked a little too bramble-covered to make it worth dragging the sleds all the way in. Plus getting up to the top of that hill is no joke! So that will remain an unfilled dream for now. Despite that disappointment the rest of the walk was great—the going was much easier than on Saturday, with most of the trails well-trodden and packed down. And there was some ice to play on. And we got to have a picnic lunch!

Elijah eating lunch on a snow-free rock by a pond

just enough melting to have somewhere to sit

Then yesterday, of course, was park day: three and a half hours of sledding and hanging out with friends. Five hours in the first two days of March... not bad.


more outside that I can count

When we started our 1,000 Hours Outside challenge in January I kind of assumed that we'd have a tough start, but things would all get easier as the weather warmed up. Well, yesterday was pretty warm—positively spring-like—and we certainly spent plenty of time out of doors. The kids had on shorts, we ate lunch on the deck, there were bike races and basketball and tennis games (tennis with dodge balls is the best!). But how many hours did we log? I have no idea! See, when it's wintery cold we pretty much only went outside in discrete chunks, either for an adventure or to very deliberately play in the yard. The rest of the time we were inside recovering. Now I remember that, when it's warm enough to have the doors open—as they were for a couple hours in the middle of the day yesterday—we're constantly in and out. How should I keep track of that? I'm going to give us three hours for the day, but that's only the bare minimum: it could well have been four. I just can't say for sure. Oh well, those three keep our February average to an even two hours per day so far, so I think we're doing fine!

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!


the marks of summer

It's wintery cold this morning, but last week had some days where summer was clinging on and on one of them I had a summery experience that I'd so far avoided this year: I got poison ivy.

Some people claim to have no reaction to poison ivy; others are terrified and stay away from any and all leaves to avoid the itchy curse. I definitely have a reaction, but at this point in my life I guess I feel like it's an inevitable part of summer. And while I've definitely had big terrible rashes in my life—as a kid—these days it doesn't hit me so hard. My current exposure dates to last Friday when we were doing trail building. Moving rocks we came upon some yellowing poison ivy leaves, and I donned gloves and a plastic bag over my hands to pull them up. Then I also probably touched the roots when I was scrabbling in the mud around the rocks. I washed my hands well, but didn't get far enough up my arms; maybe Wednesday I came out with the rash on the inside of my forearms.

But as I say it's not so bad. Sometimes it itches, in which case it's pleasant to scratch. Often I forget about it. Given that mild level of severity, I count it as nothing more than a sign of a summer well lived. So it's a good thing I got it in before it was too late! Now bring on the winter!

picnic season

The best part of this time of year is eating outside. We like it so much we even push into days when it's maybe a little questionable. Yesterday it was warm and entirely delightful; today our lunch on the deck was somewhat aspirational. It was barely 50°F, after all. But the sun was hot! And we're so excited by the coming of spring. And when we eat outside we don't have to clear all the projects off the kitchen table!

the boys eating lunch at the picnic table with snow in the background


vernal equinox, observed

We learned this evening that the equinox was actually a couple days ago; never mind, we celebrated it today. The 19th was rainy, anyway! Today was beautiful, if chilly, and a Saturday without much in the way of obligations gave us lots of time to welcome the summer half of the year in the proper fashion: by getting outside!

Zion and Lijah looking down a steep grassy slope in the woods

wide vistas

To make the day extra special we took a trip in the car—the first in eight days!—to Concord's Estabrook Woods, which we last visited just under a year ago. It was a great choice—despite a startling number of cars at the trailhead the woods are big enough that we barely saw anyone, and we spent two and a half lovely hours exploring a very steep hill, vernal pools and a real pond, a couple of streams—one with a spillway waterfall. The best part was the sunny spot we found by the pond for our picnic lunch. We haven't been feeling particularly cabin-fevery, but still it is nice to get out a bit.

Harvey and Zion crossing a stream on rocks

active explorers

There was lots of playing outside in the afternoon, then towards evening we built a fire. After it had done its part cooking our supper it transitioned into a (very small) bonfire to greet the spring and roast us some marshmallows. We burned the wreath that adorned the front of our house for three months; more because we needed kindling than for ceremonial purposes, but it still seemed nicely symbolic.

Zion roasting a marshmallow over our fire

vernal marshmallow

Of course, the coming of astronomical summer doesn't mean the weather automatically turns lovely. There's cold rain in the forecast for much of the coming week—and you know we're not getting out of the house to any indoor activities. So it's a good thing we got as much outsiding as we did today!