posts tagged with 'outing'

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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other adventures

Not content to rest on our camping laurels, we scheduled a full slate of adventures for this week. Today's was a trip to Rockport with our school friends who, despite having lived in Massachusetts their whole lives, have never been there! Good thing we know all the best spots.

the boys at the end of the wharf in Rockport

looks suitably nautical

We started off with a look at the harbor and the shops along Bearskin Neck. The strudel shop was open so we stopped in for some croissants, which we ate along with our lunches from home on the breakwater. Then the kids ran along the rocks to the end of the breakwater where some of them, not content with the amount of danger they'd already exposed themselves to, climbed the warning sign pole.

Elijah climbing a sign pole at the end of the breakwater

he wasn't the only one to go up

On the way back through town we passed by the ice cream store and, despite my suggestion that it might be better to wait a little to get hungry again, the kids insisted we stop for another treat. So we did. They regretted it too and some ice cream ended up going in the trash can, but that's ok: it's all part of the experience. The picture looks good anyhow.

the boys eating ice cream in front of the Ice Cream Shop

you have to, on vacation!

Then it was on to the beach! The water was a little chilly for some of the party, though nothing to those of us who had been swimming in Maine a couple days ago. Plus it was dead calm and shallow for quite some distance off the sand—just like a salt water swimming pool! We had lots of fun swimming and also running and doing gymnastics in the water, and also put in some time climbing the rocks at the side of the beach.

Harvey and Zion in the dead calm ocean

still waters

With a baby along on the expedition the fun couldn't last forever, so we pulled the kids away from the water before they were quite ready. Before we left town, though, we had to visit the higher rocks which I like to think give the town its name (that's right where we were parked anyway). It was an acceptably romantic prospect.

Elijah climbing down giant rocks to the ocean

eponymous rocks

All that, and we were even home in time for supper!

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little adventures

As I was thinking about plans for the week back on Sunday I was reflecting on how much easier outings used to be when the boys were little. How many times did we just walk down to the stream a quarter mile away and watch the water for an hour or so? And then of course there were all the hours we spent at the playground, or just walking and scootering to the center of town and back with the dog (remember when we just had one dog? the picture on the masthead does!). Now I feel like we've got to do something epic every time we leave the house, something befitting my crew of intrepid hikers and cyclists: visit somewhere we've never been before, or at least some woods that feel big enough to do some real exploring. All that time in the car! Well, maybe I actually don't really need to lead grand adventures; even for eleven-, ten-, and seven-year-olds small adventures can be pretty fun too. That's what I learned when I tried it today and got them all up and out for a picnic at the playground.

the boys eating lunch at a picnic table at the playground

just like old times

We headed up after they finished up their weekly book group at 11. Our first stop was the skate park, where Harvey and Zion rode the obstacles in a relaxed manner and Lijah and I pushed ourselves (only I got badly hurt). Then we ate lunch, luxuriating in the beautiful cool late-spring air (or in one case being cold). Then we played tag in the field and tag on the playground, and when Zion tagged Lijah into a fence stanchion we took a break from that and Harvey and Zion timed each other doing climbing challenges. Then we went home. We could have stayed longer, too, but there was another Zoom class to attend. That's something that's different from four years ago, and sometimes I wish it wasn't. Another difference is that the boys are all much better cyclists (or cyclists at all!) so we only needed to budget ten minutes for the trip home, and I don't think it even took that. It would have been 25 in the old days. Maybe these days are the best of all worlds!

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last week's adventures

a gang of folks walking up a piney hill

out and about with friends

As I mentioned, last week we got to go on a couple hikes with friends. First up was the Fells in Stoneham. I admit that, when I heard the invitation, I wondered why we should be driving 25 minutes—on the highway!—to walk in the woods, when we have plenty of woods around here. But just a couple minutes into the hike I understood. They have rocks! (I guess that's why they call it Stoneham...) We all had a great time mountaineering on the various crags.

Zion and Elijah sitting on a rocky outcropping

a rest on the rocks

It was also lots of fun not to be in charge of operation. Andrew, a veteran of many Fells walks and runs, led us to all the best spots. The coolest was maybe this gorge, which at some point in the early 19th century had been dammed for mills, which as some point in the early 20th century were repurposed into decorative features. It was just like one of those decorative streams in a garden, but 20 times bigger!

the boys looking over a stone bridge at a trickly waterfall

water feature

The outing was also made even more exciting by the weather. I'd been out to walk the dogs before we left so I was able to tell the boys to prepare for wintery conditions—and "wintery" wasn't an exaggeration! It wasn't that much above freezing, and with the considerable wind felt well below. Of course the boys complained when they were working hard in sheltered spots and got warm, but we sure wanted those coats and mittens when we got up into the wind! There was even a little snow on the last leg of the expedition.

It was considerably milder, though still breezy, on Friday when we visited Greenough Land in Carlisle with different friends. Unfortunately not quite mild enough to want to go into the water—which otherwise was very inviting!

Elijah and a friend looking at a cove in the pond at Greenough Land

they wished it was a swimming time!

Our friends had been there before but hadn't explored exhaustively, so they let me push on to the next fun spot and the next until we were all the way around the sizeable pond (not what they had anticipated maybe). But there's so much to see! Besides the amazing old barn—amazing for it's suburban teenage graffiti as well as it's size, complexity, and slate roof—we enjoyed the pond at several spots. The best was the dam outlet where the pond drains down towards the Concord River. We've never been there in the spring before; there was some water running!

Elijah looking at the water flowing through a dam

I wish I could share the sound too

All in all, it was a lovely two days of expeditions with many miles walked. Good thing we got a weekend to recover!

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can you miss people you see three times a week?

One thing that helped us survive a week without our bubble school friends was a chance to hang out with different friends for the first time in over a year. While we see lots of them over Zoom—the kids do things together online three or four times a week!—they have an immunocompromised family member so they've been quarantining hard since February 2020. But now the vaccine has opened their horizons a little bit and we were able to take an expedition with them on Thursday afternoon. We drove to their house and then biked all together to Great Brook Farm: a short ride for the sake of the youngest cyclist, new to her own two wheels, but one that gave us a new sort of challenge as we navigated the high speed auto traffic of Concord Road in Chelmsford. We survived! And then we were glad to take to the trails at Great Brook.

It wasn't all cycling though. We spent lots of time watching and chasing the bullfrog tadpoles in the pond and comparing notes with another aspiring zoologist, a boy who approached the kids looking to play—and who turned out to be a long-ago member of our church community group. That was like six or seven years ago and he's only eight, so it didn't really matter to their interaction, but it was still a fun coincidence. We also jumped onto and over some horse jumps for a surprisingly long time; and, most importantly, the nine-year-olds had time to wrestle a little bit. You can't do that over Zoom! We were masked up of course, but it was still a wonderful opportunity for connection that we were missing. The only problem was that it was so much fun I didn't take any pictures of the kids playing together! Oh well, we'll have to do it again soon.

visit to the potato cave

Often when we're thinking about where to go for a walk Elijah asks if we can visit the potato cave. He's talking about an old root cellar or prehistoric dwelling in the Nashoba Brook Conservation Area in Acton. Friends introduced us to its splendors last spring and we've been back a couple times, but not as much has Lijah would like: because it's almost half an hour away. As nice as it is—and not just for the cave—there are lots of other nice woods in between here and there. But yesterday, when we needed to be out of the house for a while for Leah to do a podcast recording, seemed like a fine time for a return voyage. Plus we'd never been there in the snow!

the boys and dogs approaching the mouth of the cave

the main attraction

Now that the weather's turned warmer the snow can be squashy and lots more tiring to walk in, but yesterday afternoon at least the footing was fine and we could go at a good pace. But enough snow was melting that Nashoba Brook—which is really a river, at least compared to the brooks by our house—was roaring cheerfully. After I pulled the boys away from the cave, which doesn't hold as much interest for me or the dogs as it does for them, the water provided some interest as we went along. So, for them, did talking about Minecraft. Sometimes I wonder how much of the outdoors they really experience, when in their minds they're deep in the world of blocky fantasy. But that's fine, they're moving anyways—and let me say, Harvey and Zion are good walkers these days! And with the bright sunshine on the melting snow and the water rushing in the brook, even the most dedicated gamers can pause for a moment to soak it all in.

the boys looking over the railing of a bridge at Nashoba Brook

and enjoy the winter sun

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we're hardy folk

It got cold this past weekend. Not super cold, like single digits, but certainly lots colder than it has been for a while now. Which is hard when we're not used to it; also, cold feels colder when there's moisture in the air, which is the case when the temperature takes a sudden drop. But we didn't want to let winter being winter keep us from playing outside this weekend! Saturday morning, Harvey and I started the day with a couple hours of riding the trails in Landlocked Forest (the good thing about below-freezing weather is no more mud!). We were chilly as we got started but warmed up well before too long. Then after lunch the smaller boys and I rode up to the skate park to meet some friends. By that time there were clouds threatening the sun and the breeze was picking up, so there were moments when saner folks wondered if it was time to go home—or at least reminded their kids to keep their hoods up. Zion took off his shoes for better traction climbing on the half-pipe. Between the skate park and the playground we were out for close to two hours and had a lovely time.

Then yesterday other friends invited us to join them at Great Brook Farm for a hike. Seems they'd had plans to meet another family there, but when they backed out citing the cold weather we got the call. Because you know that if you ever need a cold-insensitive B-list family, we're there for you! In the sunshine it was actually quite pleasant and we all had a fine time sliding on the ice and climbing on the rocks. In fact, Elijah's friend even fell waist-deep into the icy water fully half a mile from the parking lot, and he didn't die! I will say, though, that while we are pretty hardy, I'm glad it wasn't any of my boys who went in. Cold air is one thing, but we do have limits!

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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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