Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

Peakbagging.  When you mention that you’re into it, you are almost guaranteed to get one of three responses:

  • That’s so cool!  Which mountains?
  • What on earth are you even talking about?
  • Oh, peakbagging.  No, thanks.  I hike because I love nature, not to check things off a list.

I count myself lucky that I’ve never gotten response number three.  As luck would have it, pretty much everyone I know either has no idea what peakbagging is, or they are themselves peakbaggers.

To start with a definition, for my non-mountain-chasing friends, peakbagging is a crazy hobby involving challenging oneself to summit every mountain on a particular list.  Think Colorado 14ers.  South Beyond 6000.  Fire Tower Challengers.  Saranac 6ers.

Adirondack 46rs.

I’ve mentioned before that Steve and I are very, very slowly working our way through the Adirondack 46.  So far, we’ve been at it for three years and we’ve summited three peaks: Cascade and Porter, and Giant.  At the rate we’re going, we will finish in 2060.  (We’ll have to step up the pace at some point.)  I suppose we could have started with a kinder, gentler peakbagging chase, like the Saranac 6 or the Fire Tower Challenge.  But go big or go home, right?  And the Adirondack 46 is definitely going big.

So, like I said, I’ve been lucky enough not to run into the anti-peakbagging crowd.  I have hiking friends who aren’t interested in bagging peaks, but they don’t look down their nose at the pursuit, either.  And I have several friends and relatives who’ve already finished the Adirondack 46 or are well on their way (and considerably further ahead than Steve and I are).  But there is a contingent that likes to sniff and act superior.  Or at least I’m told they’re out there.

As I understand it, the anti-peakbagging argument is that hiking should be about communing with nature and growing as a person and celebrating the journey and all of those worthy pursuits, and treating mountains like bullet-points to be checked off is disrespectful or amateurish or something along those lines.  To which I say: pffffft.

There are lots of good lists of reasons why peakbagging is cool.  (A moment’s appreciation for the splendid irony of defending hiking-by-list with… another list.)  My favorite is this one from SectionHiker.  I’m not going to make a list, even though that’s amazing.  Instead, I want to respond to the “it’s about the journey, not the destination” critique of the peakbagging pursuit.

Peakbagging is about the journey.  It’s about deciding to do something big and audacious and then trying, maybe failing, bouncing back, learning as you go, and descending every peak a different person than the one who signed in at the trail register.

It’s about building endurance, starting with the “friendliest” mountain and working your way up to the biggest, baddest summit in your sights.  It’s about brushing off the naysayers and believing in your own capabilities.  (If someone asks you “are you sure you can…” – well, no one’s ever sure they can climb a mountain.  You have good days and bad days and the mountain has something to say about whether you’re summiting or not, too.  But you can give it your best effort and you can ignore the negative voices, whether they’re in your head or outside of you.  As long as you’re smart.)

It’s about views and burning quads and scrambling over granite slabs and climbing waterfalls and calling it Saturday.

Peakbagging is about having the guts to go exploring in the great unknown.  And no, you don’t need a list to go hiking.  (Most of my hikes are not Adirondack high peaks.)  But when you decide to work toward a huge goal, it can’t be about anything but the journey.  Because you’ll reach the destination once – eventually – but you’ll be on the path for a long time before you get there.

Are you a peakbagger?

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Happy belated birthday to my favorite state park!  The original Adirondack Park was created on May 20, 1892, when New York State Governor Roswell P. Flower (yes, really) carved out protection for 2.8 million acres of the North Country.  The park has more than doubled in size since then, and now covers some six million acres.  It also contains some of my favorite places in the world.

The Great Sacandaga Lake is just “inside the blue line,” as New Yorkers refer to the Adirondack Park.  It’s one of the largest lakes in the park and is located in the southernmost corner of the protected area.

I basically grew up on the Sacandaga – sailing, paddling, swimming, running and playing.  I pretty much had the ideal childhood, and the Sacandaga was a huge part of it.

Not far from the Sacandaga – Lake George!  Lake George is one of the iconic Adirondack places, and it’s awash in beauty.

So many Adirondack icons can be found here.  Like the Sagamore Resort…

And the Minne-ha-ha…

I have fond memories of cruising Lake George on the Minne-ha-ha with my grandparents.  And last summer, my friend Seth and I got up close and personal with it – in kayaks!

Lake George is not “my” lake, the way the Sacandaga is – but it’s still special to me.  It’s where I enjoyed my first ice cream cone (I don’t remember this, but my parents love telling the story), the scene of many wanderings with high school and college friends, and a favorite day trip from Albany.

More recently, Steve and I have fallen in love with the high peaks region.  In this section of the park, most of the 4,000+ foot mountains cluster – beckoning climbers, trekkers and day-hikers alike.  So far, we’ve climbed three of them.  Progress toward becoming 46rs is sloooooooow.  But it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Cascade and Porter.


There are so many Adirondack places I’d like to explore.  We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the iconic spots in the park – there’s the rest of the 46 to explore, for one thing, and the quintessential Adirondack non-high peak hikes, like Indian Head and Mount Jo.  There’s Lake Placid, which has always been a special place for me – for kayaking in the summer and fall, and skiing Whiteface in winter – but to which Steve has never been.  There are childhood places I visited with my grandparents – like Blue Mountain Lake – that I haven’t seen in decades.  There are new challenges to tackle, like the Saranac 6 and the Fire Tower Challenge, and waters to explore, like the St. Regis Canoe Area and Tupper Lake.  We could spend a lifetime combing the park and never uncover all of its secrets – and we live hours and hours away.  But no matter how far we live, we’ll always keep coming back to these places.

All that is to say, happy, happy, happy birthday to the ADK.  You’re a gift to the world and you’ve been a gift to me all my life.

What’s your favorite state park?

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As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a hot second, I love taking my kids to pick-your-own farms.  Apple-picking and berry-picking was something I did with my grandparents when I was a kid, and I cherish those memories – of hours spent in the strawberry fields, filling up flats with my grandmother, and then taking my fruit home to bake something special with her.  I have always known that I would carry the tradition on with my kids, and at two and four, they’re old hands in the orchards and fruit fields.

There are so many picking options in the summer – it’s hard to know where to start!  Pick-your-own flowers are a thing here, and there’s a place to pick any kind of fruit or vegetable that interests you.  We missed strawberry season again (every year) but blueberries were still an option, so I declared last Saturday blueberry picking day.  I love picking blueberries with the kiddos – they’re not ready for the blackberry and raspberry brambles, but blueberries are a perfect choice.  No thorns, growing in thick clusters on high bushes – it’s as if someone designed blueberries to be harvested by toddlers.

Longtime readers may recall that I loved picking blueberries at Awald Farms when we lived in New York.  For our first blueberry season in the D.C. area, I hoped to find something just as good.  I considered a few options in Loudoun County, but we always seem to go out there and I was in the mood for something different, so I was definitely interested when I found Butler’s Orchard, a family-owned farm in Germantown, Maryland.  I tossed out the idea of blueberry picking at Butler’s while discussing a playdate with one of the other moms from Peanut’s school, and she was into the idea.  So on Saturday, we met up with C and her mom for some pick-your-own fun.

There was a big, beautiful farm stand right at the entrance to the farms.  We stopped inside to pick up our buckets (they had other places to pick up picking containers as well, but we wanted to get the lowdown and check out the market too).  There were plenty of other fruits and vegetables for sale, plus a kids’ area with toys and books, some berry-themed home décor items, and prepared foods and pantry goodies.  Plus…

PIE!  Heck yeah!

After picking up our buckets, we hopped back in the cars and drove to the fields.  After only one wrong turn, we found the blueberry fields.  Although the sign warned that the picking was “scattered” because it was the end of the season (note: why can I never seem to keep track of when the picking season is, for anything?) we found that there were still plenty of blueberries and we had no trouble finding lots of fruit left on the bushes.

Is there anything prettier than blueberries on the bush?  I don’t think so!

The crew got right down to business.  Daddy and Nugget started picking and Peanut tested the merchandise.  Nugget needed a bit of explanation but he seemed to grasp the berry-picking concept pretty readily.  (It’s not his first rodeo…)  And there was only one berry-flinging incident.

Rows and rows of beautiful berries!

I loved Butler’s Orchard!  I don’t think I’d ever been to this corner of Maryland before – it was so beautiful.  Lovely rolling hills and lush greenery – reminded me of the Hudson Valley, near where I grew up.

Peanut and her little pal had a great time picking berries and chattering away, and I had a similarly great time picking berries and catching up with the other mom.  We vented about work, talked about plans for the next school year, and traded ideas about Christmas traditions.  (Never too early.)

I’m not sure where the boys were – probably in the parking lot, greeting the trucks – but the girls had a grand time.

Eventually, we all agreed that the sun was baking and it was time to find shade and call it a day on the picking.  We both ended up with slightly less than half of our buckets filled.  But considering the sad little handful of berries I got last year (when I spent the entire time chasing Nugget away from the cars) we did very well indeed.  Our haul:

Blueberries all freshly picked by Peanut and me!  (The peaches were from the farmstand.  And unpictured – I obviously also bought the kids books: a berry counting book for Nugget and a garden science book for Peanut.)

So, what to do with all of these berries?  My plan was to shove them in our mouths by the handful, but Peanut had a better idea.

PIE!  We pulled up a recipe online (actually cobbled it together between Martha Stewart and Ina Garten) and got to work.  Peanut helped out with pretty much every stage of the baking!  (Nugget was a liability.)

She was so excited to be baking like a big kid.  I had to drive the ship, of course, but she surprised me by doing a great job following my directions.  Now I want to make baking with her a regular activity!

The final product looked pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself.  And it tasted fabulous, too…

We’ve definitely redeemed ourselves after The Great Gingerbread Fail of 2016.  Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk, my friends!

Do you like to go berry-picking?



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Waaaaaaaay back in the day, when Steve and I were first discussing moving to Buffalo, I told him that if we were going to be New Yorkers again, I wanted to work on the goal of becoming Adirondack 46rs.  46rs are a particularly insane group of peakbaggers; you earn the title when you have summited (and then descended) all forty-six of the high peaks in the Adirondack Park.  The high peaks are defined as mountains with an elevation over 4,000 feet (although the measurements were taken over a century ago and aren’t completely accurate – there are a couple of peaks that are shy of the 4,000 mark, and at least one that wasn’t included on the list when it should have been; 46rs are a tradition-loving bunch and so they’ve stuck with the original list).

Well, as my longtime reader/friends may recall, Steve and I made a start at chipping away at the list back in 2014, when we climbed Cascade and Porter in the same day.  (Not the crazy endeavor it sounds; there are a few high peaks that can be strung together for the chance to knock off two in a day, and neighbors Cascade and Porter are on that list.)  We had a great time on those peaks, learned some helpful lessons, and descended ready to take on our next Adirondack adventure sooner than later.  Of course, you know what happened – I found out that I was pregnant (and in fact, I had been pregnant when we climbed the peaks; I just didn’t know it!).  Scaling mountains took a backseat to pregnancy and then parenting another newborn, and next thing we knew, we were moving back to Northern Virginia with only two of the 46 peaks done.

But we’re still in upstate NY fairly regularly to visit my parents – in fact, we probably make the trip from D.C. to Albany just as often as we made the trip from Buffalo.  So why not keep working on the list?  I figured the Fourth of July weekend was a good opportunity to knock another mountain off the list – after all, it had been Fourth of July weekend when we climbed Cascade and Porter three years ago.  So I asked my parents if they would watch the kids one day so Mom and Dad could escape to the ‘dacks for an adventure.  They said of course, and at 3:45 a.m. our alarms went off for the trip into the park.  We drove through the sunrise and some weird walls of fog, and by 6:30 a.m. Steve was signing us into the trail register for our chosen peak – Giant Mountain.

Ready to go!

Giant’s original name was Giant of the Valley – I love the poetry of that.  (In my head, that’s still its name.)  At 4,627 feet tall, it’s the twelfth highest peak in the park – quite a bit taller than Cascade and Porter, the 36th and 38th highest respectively.  It’s also the tallest peak in its immediate vicinity, and it looms over the entire Keene Valley.

The Trail

One of the things I always want to know when I am reading blog recaps to plan Adirondack hikes is – what’s the trail like?  Adirondack trails run the gamut from smooth and maintained to boulders all the way up.  But blogs never seem to share what I think is pretty pertinent information.  Perhaps you’re just supposed to assume that all high peaks hiking is going to be mostly scrambling over huge masses of granite.  (That would be a safe assumption.  But I like to know.)

So, there was a lot of bouldering and a lot of scrambling.  It’s the ‘dacks, after all – comes with the territory.  But one thing Steve and I kept discussing, all the way up Giant, was how much better the trail was than the trail up Cascade.  There were stretches of actual! maintained! trail!, and the bouldering sections were broken up with recovery stretches in between.  It was a completely different hiking experience from Cascade, and we agreed that we far-and-away preferred Giant.

I mean, sure, there was some of this.  That’s the trail?  Yeah, get used to it.

There were also a lot of switchbacks.  Giant is a popular mountain, but it’s definitely not everyone’s favorite.  One of the complaints I heard from multiple people about Giant is that there’s really no warm-up; you get out of the car and you start climbing, and you don’t stop climbing until you summit.  The reason Giant is popular is the relatively short distance of the trail – only about three miles to the summit.  But that short distance also means that it’s all climbing.  We knew that going in, which probably helped.

The Conditions

Remember how last week I told you that Grafton was muddy?  Well, that should have tipped us off that we were in for a wet time of it on Giant the next day.  (Of course it didn’t, because we are slow learners.)  And man alive, was that trail wet.

Had to climb up that thing!  Steeper than it looks!

So, I don’t mind getting dirty on a hike, and I certainly don’t care about a little thing like mud on my hiking boots.  I could happily slosh through puddles – and I did.  (Oh, and by the way, I was wearing my Oboz Bridgewater BDry boots, and they kept my feet completely dry through the entire soppy day.  They were also popular choices on the trail; I saw three other women wearing them – all in the red color, too!  We exchanged the secret handshake.)

The thing with a wet day in the high peaks region is that because a lot of the hiking involves walking and scrambling over bald granite, if the rock is wet it can get slippery and treacherous fast.  I’m adventurous and generally up for pretty much anything, but I’m actually terrified of falling on ADK granite and tumbling down a long rock slide.  Hikers have died in the high peaks and it’s not something to play with.  So I was taking my time and going verrrrrry slowly over the exposed rock.  Steve said he thought I probably could have trusted my footing more, and I’m sure he was right.  But I’d rather take it slow than take a potentially devastating fall.

Here’s some extra-slick granite to climb!  Enjoy!

So, I’m selling this whole peakbagging thing really well, right?  I’ll bet you’re thinking – this sounds terrible.  Why would anyone do this?  Well – that picture, above, is why I do it.  First views, less than a third of the way up the mountain.  The magic of this park is this – it makes you feel so small, and yet wraps you up in something so big.

The Washbowl

After a little less than an hour of climbing, we came to a landmark that I’d been waiting impatiently to see for months – ever since we started planning the hike.  Giant’s Washbowl is a small but stunning pond that is perched right around the 2,300 foot mark on the slopes of Giant.

As we approached the pond, I literally gasped out loud.  It was more beautiful than anything I could have possibly imagined.

There was a super rustic bridge over the narrowest part of the pond – you could see the axe-marks in the logs.  Steve remarked, “That’s the most Adirondack bridge that was ever built.”

Just on the other side of the bridge was the perfect peaceful little rocky beach.  I rushed over and snapped a few dozen pictures.  I was in awe of the beauty all around me.

This was when Steve announced that he was going to hike “Ron Swanson-style” for the rest of the climb.  I asked him what that meant, and he said he was going to conserve energy by not smiling.  For the rest of the hike, we assumed our tired-hiker personas – he became more taciturn and grouchy and I matched him by being as annoyingly upbeat and positive as he was grumpy.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, I did call him “Ron” all day, and yes, he absolutely called me “Leslie.”

I reluctantly tore myself away from Giant’s Washbowl – heart burning with envy toward the lucky people who camp there – and we continued on with our climb.

The Views

One of the things I’d heard about Giant was that while it can be a bit of a beastly climb (although I didn’t find it all that bad on the way up – down was another story, though) the mountain more than makes up for your hard work by really delivering in the view department.  That turned out to be totally true.  There were multiple opportunities to stop and take it all in, and Steve/Ron was constantly hurrying me along because I/Leslie kept pausing to gape at the majesty around me.  The view above was my favorite – Giant’s Washbowl, from the vantage point of another 90 minutes or so of hiking.  I couldn’t believe that we had climbed all that way (and still had more to go – oof).

The Summit

After a little less than four hours of hiking, we found ourselves making the final push to the summit and our third Adirondack high peak.

Working hard, looking forward to celebrating on top of the world!

We came around a corner, felt the wind biting, and there it was:

The views were absolutely unreal.

I stood on the bare rock of the summit and felt like I wanted to say something to mark the moment, but there were no words.

We took off our packs and dug into our trail snacks – we were both feeling pretty hungry by this point.  We probably spent about an hour on the summit, soaking in the view, refueling, and celebrating our achievement.

Three peaks down!  And speaking of down…

The Descent

I’m weird.  I much prefer climbing to descending.  I never want to leave a summit because I know what’s ahead of me – a few hours of treacherous picking my way over exposed rock and rooty, bouldery trails – even on a good day, and as already established, the trail was muddy and slick.  I spent the next several hours nervously skidding down the mountain.  I did a lot of butt-sliding (the Adirondack butt slide, you guys – no shame) and a fair amount of whimpering.  No pictures, because I didn’t want my phone in my hand as I tried to survive the descent.  Eventually we made it back to the trailhead and our car.  I was elated and excited on top of the mountain, and totally spent on the bottom.

The Reward

Noon Mark Diner.  Blueberry pie.  (Oh, and dinner too – but look at that PIE!)  I kept expecting Luke Danes to come around the corner in his flannel shirt and backwards baseball cap and judge me for ordering a coffee at 4:00 p.m.  The waitress did seem a bit surprised by my order.  But I’m sure she could tell by the fact that I was covered in mud and looked a bit unhinged that I’d just come off some mountain or another.  And the fact was I had a bit of a dehydration headache – the coffee was necessary.

The Next One?

I studiously avoided mentioning more peaks to Steve for a few days after the hike, but I’m already whittling down a list of the next likely targets.  It probably won’t be until 2018, because I don’t think we have any plans to be in New York during the prime autumn hiking season, what with all of the other travel we have coming up.  But I can say for sure that there will be more peaks bagged – I think Phelps might be next, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Three peaks down!  What’s the toughest hike you’ve done recently?

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As I mentioned last week, in addition to our sunny two days spent on the lake, we also squeezed in a couple of hikes.  We had a major adventure planned for Sunday, but as a warm-up and for some good friend time, we also made plans to hit the trails on Saturday.  My friend Christine is moving to Denver soon, so I knew that this trip was probably going to be the last (easy) opportunity to hang out.  Of course, maybe I’ll touch base with her on a future visit to my Colorado-dwelling brother and SIL, but we’re in Albany more often than we’re in the Boulder/Denver area.  So I suggested that we meet for a hike before she rolls out and told her to pick the spot – since she’s moving.  After some discussion, she settled on Grafton Lakes State Park.

I have fond childhood memories of the beach at Grafton, and the kiddos were chomping at the bit to go swimming.  (We dressed them in their bathing suits before leaving the house, which really ratcheted up the hype.)  But first thing’s first – a hike was in order.

We headed for the trail around the lake.  It started out fairly easy, and we trotted along comfortably, chatting about Chris’s upcoming move, her job search in Denver, and our Adirondack plans for the next day.  (Chris is a 46r – a hiker who has summited all 46 Adirondack high peaks – and she offered great advice for our trip into the peaks region the next morning.)

The trail started out very easy and pleasant, albeit a little bit muddy (which boded ill for the next day’s hiking, but we didn’t really give it much thought – not that we would have changed our plans anyway).

Spotted a cute little canoe!

Then the trail started to get a bit more challenging – with a lot of rocks, roots and massive mud puddles.  I put the iPhone away for most of it, not wanting to drop it into six inches of mud or onto a big rock.  But Nugget gave me a lovely head massage (at least until it turned into aggressive hair-pulling).

The lake was about 2.5 miles around.  About halfway through, we stopped at a little beach to regroup and sip on our water bottles.

Hi Steve!

And obviously, any stop is an opportunity for selfies.  Hi, Chris!

Eventually we made it around the entire circumference of the lake, and everyone fancied a nice refreshing swim.  Steve and Chris stood around talking while I chased after Nugget.  Hmmmmm…

Each of the lifeguard chairs had a pile of sand in front of it, that was clearly put there just for Nugget’s enjoyment.  Obviously.

As was the lifesaving dinghy.

And the rescue kayak.  Moana songs were sung.

We finally made our way back to Dad and the little mermaid.

What a fun day!  The hike was a great warm-up for the Adirondacks, and the kids had a blast splashing in the lake (which was cool but surprisingly not cold).  And of course, I was getting all kinds of chills watching my kids play in the same state park lake that I splashed in on school trips as a kid.  Full circle, you guys.  Full circle.

Thanks for a great hike, Grafton!  And best of luck in Denver, Chris – hopefully we’ll see you out there one of these days!

What’s your favorite childhood state park memory?

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I sit typing this post early in the morning, while the kids are asleep, the sky is dark and rain is pouring down outside – it’s definitely back to reality for me.  But as I ease back into schedules, routines and to-do lists, I’ll be hanging onto the memories of a sun-drenched weekend with family and friends, up in upstate New York.

We arrived at my parents’ house outside of Albany on the Thursday before the Fourth.  The original plan had been to travel on Friday, but Steve had a work deadline that meant he would need to be at his computer all day on Friday and couldn’t spend seven hours driving.  So rather than miss out on plans we had already made, we pushed our travel day up and extended our trip.  Steve and I both fired up our computers and got to work on Thursday, while the kids settled right down to the business of vacation.


They discovered Nana’s garden hose and shenanigans obviously happened as a result.

Someone was still loving on his belly button…

Friday was more of the same – work for the parents; fun for the kids.  The grandparents took them to a small local amusement park and playground for the morning while Steve and I typed away at our computers.  Our weekend started in earnest at 5:00 on Friday afternoon, when we all headed over to the home of some family friends for a cookout.  It was my favorite group of “framily” – friends who are like family to us – my parents’ closest friends, who hosted, and my high school best friend and her family.  Love them all so much!  All the kids had a blast playing (in the super-not-babyproofed house!) and the adults ate delicious food, drank rosé, and got all caught up.  We heard all the details about upcoming weddings and trips to Disney, and shared what we’ve been up to in D.C.  I took plenty of pictures (of course!) but won’t share them here – they’re destined for my private family album.

Saturday and Sunday were set aside for hiking and we had fun and exciting hikes both days.  Both hikes deserve their own posts, so I’ll save those details for later this month and skip right to Monday.  For the Fourth of July, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than the lake!

I tell Steve I have one requirement, and only one requirement, for the Fourth – spend it near water.  I don’t need a cookout, fireworks, funny sunglasses or anything else, as long as there’s water.  In Buffalo we usually went to Canalside, which was fun, but never quite satisfying because we never actually got on the water – just stood and looked longingly at Buffalo Harbor Kayak.  The lake is a different story.

For those who don’t know, my parents, aunt and uncle all have adjoining lakefront properties on one of the Adirondack lakes.  I’ve been coming here since before I can remember, and it’s like a second home.  These days I try to make the trip at least once a year – it’s not easy to get here, living so far away as D.C. (or Buffalo, for that matter).  Last weekend was probably our only trip to the lake for the year.  Happy to be here!

My cousin Jocelyn came, too, and brought her dog Max – much to Peanut’s delight and Nugget’s concern.  My grandmother was there as well, and our family friends – what a reunion!

Peanut did some fishing for landsharks with her new fishing rod (note: she is wearing my hat).  Nugget has one too, which will be important later.

Obviously, if it’s at all possible to sail, we sail!  My dad made sure the boat was in the water in time for our visit, and we had a fabulously windy day on Monday, so a sail was clearly in order.  The crew included our friend Michael, my cousin Jocelyn, my dad, Steve and me and the kids.  Don’t worry – we’ve fit more than that on the boat.

Family boat selfie!  Only half of Mom’s face, but Peanut is actually looking at the camera and smiling.  IT’S AN INDEPENDENCE DAY MIRACLE.

The kids settled in and enjoyed a boat snack, which clearly had to be Pirate’s Booty.

Jocelyn sat in my favorite spot.

And the wind really picked up!  We sailed on the jib for a little while because it was actually a very breezy day and we didn’t want to keel too much with the littles on board.  Eventually we decided to raise the main, too, and we really started moving then.

I think certain people really enjoyed their first sail.  Of course, neither one of them can quite hang.  So this inevitably happened:


What a great sail, though.  I was so glad that I got out on the boat at least once this season.  When I was growing up, we sailed almost every weekend – summer doesn’t feel quite the same without that wind and water.


Back on shore, Nugget woke up (grouchy) and after he recovered from the shock of his boat nap ending, he had some fun waving a mini American flag around.

And we enjoyed drinks and happy hour, courtesy of our family friend Denise (who is an incredible cook).  I think I may have single-handedly eaten a third of the shrimp salad on endive leaves.  Oh, yeah, and Peanut took credit for the food.  She flung her arms wide and declared, “ENJOY this FEAST I have prepared!  I gardened the green parts myself!”  Ha!  A cookout followed, but I was too busy eating to snap pictures.

End of a beautiful day on the water.  What more could you ask for?

On the Fourth itself, we were obviously back at the lake.  I was trying to herd everyone out the door immediately after breakfast, but it actually ended up being closer to lunch.  Oh, well!  We got there eventually and immediately got down to the business of having fun.  Nugget stuck his feet in the lake.


And then he did some fishing of his own.  And by fishing, I mean attacking bubbles with his BB-8 fishing rod.  No shame, you guys.

The lake is still pretty chilly, so we inflated a baby pool and my mom and I took turns hauling buckets of water up from the lake to fill it.  Nugget was READY to go in that empty pool.

I made the kids promise to give me my annual Fourth of July gift: a cute picture of them looking at the camera and smiling.  They did promise, but then they tried to flake on me.  Oh, no…

Nugget, look over here.

Getting closer…

Called it good.  They both look kind of insane, but what can you do?  They are insane.

We had a much calmer day on the Fourth, so instead of sailing, I checked off the last thing on my Fourth of July to-do list: kayaking.

I am an avid kayaker, and I used to be out on the water paddling my little red kayak all the time.  Like with many other things, kids changed that for me and I haven’t been able to get out much recently.  My parents have had custody of my kayak for years and I am glad they’ve been enjoying it, but I sure do miss it.  When I saw how calm the water was, I immediately asked my dad to launch my kayak.

That’s what I’m talking about.

I paddled down to the end of our bay and then circled back to see about picking up a passenger.  Nugget had burst into tears when he saw me drifting off, so I thought he may like to join me for a little while.

(Note: I think that before taking young kids out in any boat, including a kayak, you need to know the kid and know yourself.  I am an experienced kayaker and Nugget is a good listener, and I felt comfortable with the idea of having him out on the water with me.  So did Steve, obviously.  I wouldn’t take either of the kids out in a canoe, where they’d have more room to roam and stand up, but with twenty years of paddling experience I felt that Nugget was perfectly safe on my lap.  But I actually did a ton of research about the appropriate age to introduce a kid to a kayak before letting him in there with me!)

Someone else wanted a turn, too!  Funnily enough, I was more nervous about having Peanut on the kayak than I was about Nugget.  Nugget at two is actually a better listener than Peanut at almost-five, and while I trust my own abilities, I wasn’t entirely sure I trusted her to follow my directions and not goof off.  We did have a talk about not leaning over the side (I don’t care if Moana does it) but after that, she was really good.  I ended up giving both kids two rides, and I’m so glad to know that they can go paddling with me now!  I don’t know if it will be an option in D.C. (the water on the Potomac can be a little rough, and I don’t know if I can take them out in a rental) but at least we’ve done it once and established that it’s possible.

Back on shore, Nugget wanted to play “Maui.”

He also asked to go SUPing.  (He was very particular about the paddles – only wanted to use the SUP paddle on the SUP, and insisted on holding the kayak paddle while sitting in the kayak.)

We finished the day with an early cookout and drove back to my parents’ house as the sun was setting, knowing we had an early day the next day – and by 4:30 the following morning, we were on the road back to D.C.  It was a warm, sunny, happy weekend and I know we’re all going to cherish the memories we made for a long time.

Happy (belated) Independence Day!  How did you spend your Fourth?


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June has been two things: (1) busy, and (2) HOT.  Because it’s been a busy month, we haven’t had much spare time.  Because it’s been a scorcher, we’ve spent what spare time we have had at the pool and the splash pad.  It’s been nice, but I started to get a little concerned when I looked at the calendar and realized that we had exactly one weekend left in June, and that weekend was the one we were planning to spend on Virginia Beach.  Fortunately, Rebecca lives just a short walk from one of the entrances to First Landing State Park.  I knew we’d be spending time at the park, since that’s where we go to the beach when we visit Rebecca – much nicer to walk to a small local beach than to load up the car and fight the crowds on Virginia Beach proper.  So I requested that in addition to our regular beaching scene, we add in some time to explore the trails at First Landing.  Rebecca was glad to oblige.

The result was that I had two different hiking buddies!  Rebecca and I snuck off while the kiddos were napping and Steve was working on Sunday afternoon.  Brandy the dog came too, so it was an all-girls hiking expedition.

There is a surprisingly large trail network at First Landing.  I have no idea which of the trails we were on.  I only know that I asked for a trail that ran along the water and Rebecca delivered.

Hiked into some wetlands and saw a couple of gorgeous cranes.  Once again I cursed my inability to remember my dSLR on these outings.  But an iPhone snap is better than nothing, right?

Hiking ladies!

Hey, look – some water views!  Rebecca asked if I remembered taking the boat along this stretch last summer.  I sure did – that was a night I’ll never forget.

Brandy says: come on, what’s taking so long?

We reached the point where Rebecca usually turns around, but were having such a lovely time that we decided to press on.  It was scorching hot…

Brandy found a cool spot.

Silly dog.  Isn’t she cute?

We continued on along the water for about another half hour before acknowledging that we had to turn around and head back if we were going to make it home before the kiddos woke up – plus we had exciting evening plans (about which, more on Friday).

Brandy made sure we all stayed cool by running down to the water every chance she got, taking a dip, and then shaking off her wet fur all over us.  Thanks, pupster!

First Landing State Park was so beautiful.  I just love our state park system here in Virginia!  We’ve loved exploring some of the NoVA parks – like Leesylvania and Mason Neck – this spring, and it was a joy to spend time at First Landing again.  Perhaps I need a new project – hike in every Virginia state park?  Twist my arm…

Where have you been hiking lately?

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