posts tagged with 'outing'

the river, quickly

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

the boys in the canoe on the river in warm clothes

bundled up for the water

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

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

Harvey posing with a mailbox on a post in the woods

the box wasn't actually attached to that post

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

more

October on the water

It's been super fun having two boats this summer—when we actually got out on the water, at least. In actual fact though, we managed that way fewer times than we might have wanted to. That's mainly because it's more than twice as hard to get the two boats on the car, but also because Harvey's is wet enough that he wasn't excited about taking it on the river for a long paddle. We were thinking about all that this past weekend, and I proposed a river trip for Tuesday to make up for it, in one boat or two: get out in the clear fall air, see the leaves (which are changing faster along the river than anywhere), get some exercise... Only, after some mid day work in the garden we felt so hot and summery that we just had to head to Walden instead.

the boys swimming in the pond with the canoe pulled up on the shore

because what could be better

It wasn't really swimming weather; there were lots of people there, but most of them were sitting on the beach, boating in sweatshirts, or walking around the pond. Plus a fair number of open-water swimmers doing their regular all-weather thing. But no other casual, play-in-the-water folks like us. The rest of the world didn't know what they were missing! Sure, the water was chilly, but the sun was hot and drying so it totally balanced out! The boys swam and practiced martial arts using their life jackets as dummies and tried to ram each other with the canoe, and I alternately lay on the rocks and dipped myself in the beautifully refreshing water. Elijah and I did a little exploring by boat, and he and Zion got out there too. I still want to do the river before the leaves all fall, but I absolutely can't complain about an afternoon at the pond.

Zion and Elijah paddling the canoe out in the pond

perfect afternoon

more

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!

more

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

more

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!

more

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!

more

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!

more

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

more

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!

more