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Archive for the ‘The Great Outdoors’ Category

Finally, some vacation recaps!  It feels like it’s been forever, and it has been a year since our last trip of a week or more.  Last year, we flew twice – once to California for a wedding followed by a family reunion and vacation, and a month after that, to Florida for another wedding.  So my one criterion for this year’s vacation was this: no flying.  I picked four driveable locations – the Adirondacks; Maine; Smith Mountain Lake or Congaree National Park – and told Steve to choose.  He picked the Adirondacks, so we started gleefully planning a week of hiking in and around Lake Placid, New York.  We drove up to my parents’ place on a Saturday in late August, crashed overnight, then drove the rest of the way on Sunday morning – and on Monday, our first order of business was to hike.  For our first trail, we picked the Brewster Peninsula Nature Trail.  Steve signed us in at the trail register – an Adirondack must – and we were off.

First views of Lake Placid!  I grew up coming to this area all year ’round, but especially in the winter – for skiing, ice skating, and snow fun.  Our Adirondack summer fun was concentrated around the Sacandaga, although we did come to LP to kayak from time to time.  So it was a treat to get to immerse myself in the Lake Placid region for an entire week.

The sun was sparkling on the clear mountain lake.

Nugget and Peanut dove right into their favorite hiking activities.  Peanut immersed herself in tracking “the Blood,” a forest creature of her own invention (shhhh) and Nugget set up a camp kitchen.  We probably loitered by this stump for twenty minutes while he cooked up trail delicacies for the rest of the family – and the Blood.

Get your trail snacks!

I passed on the dirt pies in favor of a much more delicious trail snack – wild raspberries!  (Of course, you should never eat anything that you can’t identify.  But I grew up picking wild raspberries from the large thicket that grew around my grandparents’ camp on the Sacandaga, and I can easily tell them apart from less palatable trail produce.)  There were wild raspberries growing all over Lake Placid, and I plucked a few whenever I spotted them – which was often.

What a welcome to Lake Placid!  The Brewster Peninsula trail was fun and family friendly, but still an Adirondack trail – so there were plenty of roots and rocks to keep the terrain interesting.

And plenty of incredible views to soak in!  I kept pinching myself, because I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be looking forward to a whole week of this.

That afternoon, Nana and Grandad arrived to share in our Adirondack fun, and we all headed over to the municipal beach on Mirror Lake.  My memories of this beach are all wintery.  I’ve tobogganed down the hill and onto the frozen lake, and practiced my skating moves here on freezing February days – but I don’t think I’ve ever waded in on a warm August day.  Time to correct that!

The kids both enjoyed running and splashing in the crystal clear water.

In addition to being gorgeous and clear, the water was also quite bracing – refreshing, sure, and we did get used to it, but after a good dousing both kids were shivering.  Time for the action to move to the beach – good thing we were well stocked with sand toys.

Nugget enjoyed dumping buckets full of sandy water all over Grandad’s feet.  Meanwhile…

It’s not an official day at the beach until Peanut has a mermaid tail.  Thanks, Nana!

What a fun welcome to Lake Placid!  I’m already plotting a way to return to that bright mountain sunshine and sparkling water.  For now, more soon.

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The 52 Hikes Project chugs along, almost under its own steam – I’ve slowed up a bit because of unexpected family stuff, but getting out into nature is always healing for me, and so I’m still hitting the trail whenever possible.

Hike 21: Theodore Roosevelt Island (Washington, D.C.), June 24, 2018.  This was possibly the muddiest hike I have ever done.

Hike 22: Huntley Meadows Park (Alexandria, Virginia), July 4, 2018.  We desperately needed some trail time on Independence Day, so we re-visited Huntley Meadows.  The last time we were there was in March, and it sure has changed with the seasons.  Lots of animals spotted on this one.

Hike 23: Bash Bish Falls State Park (Mount Washington, Massachusetts), July 7, 2018.  Still needing that nature release, we checked out one of my parents’ favorite hikes near their home, and it was just beautiful.

Hike 24: George Washington’s Mount Vernon (Alexandria, Virginia), July 22, 2018.  We saw a hawk!  The hike was a bit curtailed as a result – we turned back rather than hike the whole nature trail, in order to give the hawk space.  But well worth it.

Hike 25: Turkey Run Park (McLean, Virginia), August 4, 2018.  Holy switchbacks, Batgirl!  This was a new park for us and definitely a good one.  Last Thanksgiving I was thinking this would be a good Friday-after-Thanksgiving hike, just because of the name, but we didn’t get to it then.  Maybe this year!

Hike 26: Mason Neck State Park (Lorton, Virginia), August 5, 2018.  We were planning to kayak on this day, but after seeing how high and fast the Potomac was at Turkey Run the day before, we scrapped that plan (sob) and decided to knock off another hike instead (yay!).  My favorite Virginia state park was clearly the perfect spot to celebrate being halfway through the challenge – wahoo!

Hike 27: Brewster Peninsula Nature Trails (Lake Placid, New York), August 20, 2018 – Starting off our Adirondack vacation right, with expansive views over Lake Placid.  Also, Nugget set up a camp kitchen in a tree stump, and I ate wild raspberries directly off the bush.

Hike 28: Owl’s Head Mountain (Keene, New York), August 21, 2018 – There’s no more epic way to celebrate a sixth (!!!) birthday than by climbing a mountain, right?  We hiked this fun mountain as a family with Nana and Grandad, and gave our birthday girl some summit kisses.

Hike 29: Big Slide Mountain (Keene, New York), August 23, 2018 – Fourth Adirondack high peak in the books!  Big Slide was kind of a big slog for me, but I gutted it out and made it to the summit, and the views were 100% worth it.

Hike 30: Heaven Hill Trail (Lake Placid, New York), August 24, 2018 – This hike was beautiful but unlucky.  First, we were shut out of the hike we had intended to do (Heart Lake) by a full parking lot – oof.  Then Nugget face-planted on the wooded connector trail leading to the field.  Then, no sooner had we started taking in the views of the wildflowers and the mountains, but Peanut was stung by a bee – ouch!  She’s a tough cookie, though.  She gutted it out on the way back to the car and was fine almost immediately.  But we called a stop to the hike and took her out for ice cream instead, obviously.

Well, I’m still WAY behind on the 52 hike challenge, thanks to this weird summer we’ve been having.  But this last stretch of hikes has been pretty great.  It’s taken us rambling on trails in four different states/jurisdictions – Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Virginia and New York – past waterfalls and up mountains, and even up close to a hawk.  I can’t wait to see what the next few months, and the next batch of hikes, has in store.

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I’m not exactly a gearhead.  Oh, I’m not above spending hours exhaustively researching the kayak, paddles, and SUP outfit I’d love to have someday.  I’ll click dreamily through Canoe & Kayak, REI, Werner Paddles and Hurricane Kayaks, mentally outfitting myself and imagining my paddles slicing through the water and the bow of my kayak tracking steadily along through melting Adirondack ice or warm southern rivers.  (Sometimes, in my more outlandish fantasies, I’m kayaking with whales – orcas in the San Juans or Antarctica, or humpbacks in Hawai’i – but I’m always in an orange Hurricane Sojourn 126 with Werner Camano – or sometimes Little Dipper – paddles.)  Okay, maybe I am a gearhead.  But less so when it comes to hiking, even though I hike much more frequently than I paddle.  But there’s one exception.

Last summer as I climbed Giant Mountain with Steve, more than once I caught the eye of another woman on the trail.  We’d nod, smile, and then one of us would say, “I like your boots.”  And then we exchanged the secret handshake.  (Just kidding.  Or am I?)  Because it seems there is an it boot for Adirondack hiking, and that is the Oboz Bridgewater BDry.  In raspberry red, please and thank you.  I swear I didn’t know this when I bought them.

But while I may not have realized that I was joining a sisterhood – the Sisterhood of Oboz – when I bought my boots, I like having this connection to other women on the trail.  I especially like that this connection is through boots, which carry us all so many miles, over ridges, past vistas, to summits and cols and goals.  My boots aren’t as bright red anymore – they’re faded from love and adventure.  But when I eventually replace them, I plan to buy the exact same ones.  Red as the sky at night, hiker’s delight.  And I’ll cherish every connection I make on the trail, a friendly place already that just becomes friendlier when I catch sight of a flash of red and a smile.

I’m not in the market for new hiking boots, obviously, but what are your favorite hiking sandals?

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After we had an unexpected death in the family, Steve and I were both totally thrown for a loop and didn’t entirely know what to do with ourselves.  We’d been planning to take a long weekend and go up to New York State to visit my parents around the Fourth of July, which we thought about cancelling (they’d have totally understood).  Ultimately, we decided that we wanted the distraction and to be around family during a sad time for us, so we packed our bags and headed north, as planned.  We did the normal things for our summer visits to my folks’ – a day at the lake, pizza at Kay’s – and my parents also asked us if we felt like a hike.  We did, and they took us to one of their favorite spots – Bash Bish Falls State Park.

Bash Bish straddles the border between New York State and Massachusetts – so much so that there is one parking lot in NYS and one parking lot in Mass, and you can approach the waterfall from either.  We headed to the Massachusetts lot, because my parents told us the hike was more fun – down an actual trail, into a ravine.  (From the New York side, the approach is just a dirt carriage road – easier than the Massachusetts hike, but not as interesting.)  We loaded the kiddos up and started the hike down, down, down.

The falls were gorgeous!  And it was a hot day – the water looked so inviting.  There were people wading and swimming (despite signs warning visitors not to swim) but having kids on our backs, we stayed well up on the driest part of the boulders.

I had Peanut, who – as I told Zan on Instagram – only weighs one pound more than Nugget these days.  (Amazing.)  She’s actually a little easier to carry, because she’s taller, so her weight distribution is a little better (for me).  But since they’re basically equivalent, we just let them decide where they want to ride these days.  Anyway, even if she’s a little easier to carry, I was kind of regretting it, because she wanted to get down and swim – and when I said no, she had a good, solid tantrum right in my left ear.  Lovely.

Steve’s burden was much quieter.

Anyway, after listening to Peanut whine for 15 minutes (keeping it real, folks) I told her I was done carrying her and, also, time to go.  I plucked her out of the backpack and told her she was hiking out of the ravine on her own two feet.  Which she did, powered by her five-year-old rage, without breaking a sweat.  When we got back to the parking lot, the four adults were heaving out-of-breath and dripping with sweat, and she looked like she’d been sitting on the couch watching cartoons.  So unfair.

Bash Bish Falls, you’re lovely!  I’m so glad we got to visit and try out one of my parents’ favorite hikes – and to add another state to our total for 2018.

Have you hit the trails recently?

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Our June hike – and twentieth of the year, almost halfway to 52! – is definitely going to be one of the highlights of the year.  Lake Minnewaska is a small gem set in the Shawnagunk Mountains of New York – just a stone’s throw from New Paltz and an easy drive from downstate.  My mom vacationed there with her parents, sister and brothers as a little girl growing up on Long Island, but the lodge where they stayed burned down long ago and my parents never took us.  (We had the Sacandaga for lake fun and plenty of Adirondack and Catskill adventure closer to home.)

Still, my mom often shared her memories of summer vacations on Minnewaska, and after my grandmama passed away last year, I think it became more important to her to share this place with us.  We had a golden opportunity to hike at Minnewaska as a family when my brother and sister-in-law visited from Colorado a few weeks ago – and we were in New York to attend Cornell Reunion – so we all piled into the cars and drove downstate for some family bonding on the trails.

Our first glimpse of Minnewaska was from the picnic area on one of the many cliffs, but after we enjoyed our sandwiches we all made our way down to the shore.

What a treat to get to hike with Dan and Danielle!  We only see them once a year if we’re lucky, but since we’re all avid hikers we always try to make sure that we hit the trails at least once on those occasions.

The whole group!  (Minus me, behind the lens.)  My dad, Steve (well-hidden), Dan, Danielle, Nugget, Peanut and my mom.  All together in a beautiful place – it doesn’t get better than that.

 

After a few minutes of taking in the view at the water’s edge, it was time to climb again.  My mom explained that the trail circumvented the lake and stopped at several overlooks along the way – which meant it was time to go up, up, up.

The trail was beautifully maintained and marked – Nugget made it his mission to be the first one to spot every red blaze along the way – and the views were well worth the elevation change!

World’s best sister!  How lucky am I?  She’s the coolest.  (Thanks, Dan, for finding her.)

Stopped to take in the view at one of the overlooks.  (See how well-contained Peanut is?)  Uncle Dan decided to do a little impromptu bouldering.  Brave!

Wave hi to Steve!

 

Back on the trail – Nugget kept us all on track with his map.  We were all revolving doors of kid-transport.  Nugget and Peanut both made the rounds of Mom and Dad’s backpacks, hand-holding with Nana and Aunt Danielle, and hitching rides on Grandad’s and Uncle Dan’s shoulders.

Back down to the water’s edge, all the way on the other side of the lake.

We found a little friend!  This guy was hanging out in the shallows with about a dozen of his family members.  At first, Uncle Dan thought these were tadpoles mid-transition, but when Aunt Danielle scooped him up we realized he was a newt (or salamander? anyway, not a tadpole).

Back up!  The views from the other side of the trail weren’t too shabby, either.

I’m so glad I finally got to experience Minnewaska, after hearing so many stories of it (and seeing so many pictures of the lake resort in the 1960s, looking like Johnny and Baby were about to come tangoing down the trail).  And getting to hike it with the whole family was gravy.

Until next time, Minnewaska!

Where have you been hiking lately?

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Now begins the season of the year when I have lots and lots of fun to recap.  After three-and-a-half blissful days at Cornell Reunion, we jumped in the car to drive another three hours east – because the fun wasn’t done yet!  When we realized that we would be in New York in June, and that my brother and sister-in-law were targeting the same timeframe for a trip back east (they live in western Colorado), we decided to coordinate our visits and get some family time in.  Dan and Danielle arrived late on Saturday night, and by mid-day on Sunday, we were all together!

 

The first order of business, naturally, was splashing and hilarity in Nana’s backyard.  What else?

Yes, spraying the children with a hose is always a good idea.  An even better idea: give Nugget the hose.  We all got wet.

After we got out of our soaked clothes and into some nice, dry attire, we headed to our family friends’ house for a cookout – always a treat.  Great food, great company, and tractor rides – what could be better?

Grandad had never driven the tractor before, but that didn’t stop him from taking Nugget for a ride!  (While I hyperventilated up on the deck.)  Don’t worry – he has his own ride-on mower, so I think this was pretty similar.

Clearly, they had a good time.

The next day was lake day!  We all love my parents’ place on the Sacandaga – I don’t feel like we get there nearly enough, so I can’t imagine how much Dan and Danielle must miss the lake (although they seem to like their new desert abode).

Our first stop was the marina.  My parents usually moor their boat right off their lakefront stretch, but this year they decided to rent a slip for it instead.  I can see why, because it was a lot easier to just step right onto the boat rather than worrying about ferrying family members out to the mooring, unclipping – and all that.

I am Nugget of Alexandria.  You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti.

Grandad sailed most of the time, with the little swab as his helper and lap buddy, but Uncle Dan also took a turn at the tiller.

I can’t remember the last time I was out on a boat with this guy!  Best day.

Peanut spent most of the sail chilling with Nana in the cabin, but she did poke her head out of the hatch for a little fresh air on the bow.  The kids weren’t actually allowed up on the bow but they still got the breeze.

Dan and Danielle and I hung out up there and talked for a long time.  (Steve was on the boat too – back in the stern – I swear.)  I just love this picture!  Look how lovingly Danielle is looking at her niece and nephew – melt my heart.  I just wish we had more time together.  ((sob))

Eventually we docked back at the marina, piled back in the cars and headed over to my parents’ camp for a cookout – what a way to end the day!  The kids wanted to stick their feet in the icy cold water, so we all took turns holding them down at the bottom of the steps before it was time to wrap them up and head to the terrace for cold beers and a delicious grilled dinner.  And there you have it – just a few snaps.  I’m sad that it was such a short visit – although we did have one more adventure up our sleeves, which I’ll show you on Friday – but it was good to see Dan and Danielle even for just a couple of days (and my parents, of course, but we see them plenty).  Now I’m trying to scheme up a visit out west!

How do you make the most of visits with far-flung family?

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Now that the high summer hiking season is finally here, I’m trying to be on the trail as much as possible – which, admittedly, isn’t much given our schedules that never seem to lighten up.  But a few days out of town was a golden opportunity to do some hiking, and we took advantage of it – hiking three times during our stay in Ithaca and once more in the Shawnagunks with my whole family (pictures to come next week).

Ithaca Hike #1: Robert H. Treman State Park

Treman State Park was one of Steve’s and my haunts during our Cornell days, but we usually just plunked down somewhere and hung out.  Since I’d read that there was a swimming hole and cool waterfall, I wanted to check out the hiking, so we added that to our reunion weekend agenda.

Sadly, the swimming hole was closed because there was no lifeguard on duty – maybe it was too early in the season.  (New York summers are glorious, but they last about five minutes – that was one of my biggest complaints when I lived up north.)  Ah, well, we weren’t wearing our bathing suits anyway.

I promised Miss Peanut that we would come back one day when the swimming hole was open.  (She is really into the idea of swimming holes right now – we’re going to have to find one for our summer vacation later in the season.)

Foot shot!

How did we never find this part of the park when we lived in Ithaca?

Ithaca Hike #2: Cornell Botanic Gardens

One of my agenda items that we didn’t actually get to was a hike in the Cornell Plantations.  Next time!  But we did hit the Botanic Gardens, which was almost as good – there were lovely trails to explore, our friend Seth was by our side (at least until he peeled off to go hear a talk about online dating???) and our tummies were full of Cornell Dairy ice cream.  Not bad!

Started out on a pretty grass path down from the Ag School into the gardens.

Note to self: order prints for grandparents.

Forgot how much I love this garden!

To keep the kids on the trail, we told them that the plants eat children.  Peanut was skeptical but didn’t want to risk it.  Nugget bought the story hook, line and sinker.

I AM STANDING IN THE EXACT MIDDLE OF THE TRAIL FAR AWAY FROM THE CHILD-EATING PLANTS.

Hey, you know what?  Whatever works.

Yard Woman: A Statue of Me.

I really wanted to explore the herb garden more (and get some ideas for my patio garden back home) but tempers were short and nerves were fraying.

Ithaca Hike #3: Beebe Lake

The final hike of the Ithaca leg of our trip was a spur-of-the-moment addition.  The final Class of 2003 dinner was scheduled for the lakeside tent (YES!) and finding ourselves with extra time on our hands, we headed over a little early.  As it turned out, we were the first ones there – so nerdy – except for the Dinosaur BBQ employees, who were still setting up.  With time to kill, we decided to walk the trail around the lake, where I used to run as a Cornell freshman.

The sun was still high in the sky, but was starting to dip a little bit, and the dappled light coming through the trees was just dreamy.

As we wandered around the lake, I pointed out my favorite spots and views.

Cornell is gorges!

I used to jump off this bridge with my floormates, freshman year.  (Yes, it’s as high as it looks.)  And there were usually people climbing the sides of the gorge and jumping down into the lake – as rainy and snowy as Ithaca can be, we knew how to make the most of nice weather.  Upstream a bit is a lovely swimming hole with little waterfalls that we would slide down.

So, this is a new addition.

Eventually we circumnavigated the whole lake and found ourselves back at the tent.  Ended the evening with Dinosaur BBQ, the Big Red Band, and my classmates, watching the sun go down on another reunion.  We exchanged hugs that had to last until 2023, and the next morning, we were driving east – toward the ‘dacks.

Where have you been hiking recently?

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