Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Hampshire Foliage

My family has lost interest in hiking, but I've really missed it so I decided to start going on my own. Today was the first time. It is near peak foliage color in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the weather forecast turned decent at the last minute. I hiked the 4.5 mile Welch and Dickey Loop trail.

Much of the hike itself is in evergreen forest. But about 3/4 of the way around the loop, when one gets a view of the cirque formed by Mounts Welch and Dickey, there is an absolutely spectacular deciduous forest. I sat and admired it for a long time.

Rhodie wasn't so interested in the view, but she loved the exercise.

More to come, including probably some winter hiking.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Acadia National Park

We rarely travel on three-day weekends because holiday weekend traffic on the roads in and out of Boston is legendary. But back in the spring our neighbors Brendan and Molly told us that every Labor Day they go up to Acadia National Park in Maine. We made campground reservations together, and I planned to take Thursday and Friday off to beat at least one of the traffic jams.

We haven't visited Acadia in the eight years we've lived here because the drive is long. Google Maps says 4.5 hours, but for us that means at least 6 because 1) Ruby isn't very fast and 2) we like to stop, and we sometimes take scenic routes. But with the extra days off work it was worth the drive.

We stayed at the Blackwoods Campground, which is part of the park. It was very nice. We expected it to be packed for the holiday weekend, but I don't think we ever saw it more than 2/3 full. And, strangely, many people came for one night on Thursday, Friday and Saturday so our campground neighbors kept changing.

Acadia is an unusual national park in that it was formed from land donations and acquisitions. So it's more surrounded by "civilization" than other parks. The beautiful town of Bar Harbor is only a 20 minute drive from the campground and we ended up going into town every day, I think.

One of the major land donors was John D. Rockefeller Jr. He dreamed of making the entire Mount Desert Island car free. Toward the end, he funded and supervised construction of 50 miles of gravel carriage roads in the park, including a bunch of beautiful granite bridges. We brought four bikes with us and enjoyed a very pretty ride on Friday.

On Saturday Charlotte and I and our neighbors hiked up Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the island and in the park. The hike gains 1500' over 3.5 miles, so it's very gradual. It's a gorgeous view most of the way. Charlotte did very well. Audrey and Carol were having a mother-daughter day and met us at the top.

Sunday morning we went on a boat cruise called "Diver Ed's Dive-In Theater". Diver Ed is a manic guy who has been a commercial diver forever. They have a high tech camera rig and a hydrophone-based audio system. We motored out into Bar Harbor and next to one of the Porcupine Islands that are part of the national park and anchored in about 60' of water. Diver Ed suited up and had the kids on the boat push him in. Then he gave us a high definition video tour of the bottom with narration over the hydrophone system, with his wife as the straight man on the boat. They were hilarious. He showed us sea stars, anemones, crabs, fish and tons of lobsters - and his favorite: sea cucumbers.

He collected a lot of animals in a bag and eventually brought them back to the surface. Then he had all the kids come up to the front area and showed them the animals up close and let them handle them. When that was over they released all the animals back into the sea.

It was quite entertaining. Diver Ed is quite the character. In the off season, he dives for scallops during their season from December to April. The water gets down to 26 degrees! He also doesn't like to use a dive light because it blinds him to everything that isn't directly in its beam. So he dives in almost darkness. His wife said he regularly gets harassed by fairly large animals and has to guess what they were because he can't really see. One time, what he assumes was a seal dragged him down an embankment. Anyway, that cruise was well worth the price of admission.

On Sunday the remnants of Hurricane Harvey passed through. The original forecast was for it to rain all day, but that kept improving and the rain didn't actually arrive until 4:15pm. We got in a hike from Sand Beach around Great Head. The rocks were very cool and the views very pretty. When the rain did arrive we headed into town and found a lovely seafood restaurant for dinner with Brendan and Molly and Anna.

We did pretty well on traffic on the way home. We left Acadia around 11. We didn't really hit traffic until 7 miles from the I-95 bridge over the Piscataqua River, which forms the border between Maine and New Hampshire. Our GPS took us on a circuitous alternate route through countryside. It was probably a draw in terms of time, but at least we were moving and in shade a lot of the time instead of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the hot sun on the freeway. We stopped in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a late lunch before the last hour to home.

T'was a very lovely weekend.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Crane Beach - Aug 6

Camps and vacation were crowded right against school getting out this summer, so we hadn't had a beach day, yet. We're running out of time!

We've discovered that it can be fun to go late in the afternoon. The parking lot is emptying out by then and we can park right up front with no stress. The beach is also emptying out so there's plenty of space. And we get some wonderful light for photographs (although a little intense in tonight's photos!).

It was not quite hot enough for most of us to swim, but Charlotte swam a lot and loved it.

We'll go for a proper beach day in the next few weeks.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Seattle/Richland Vacation 2017

Last week we returned from our annual pilgrimage to our respective homelands.

We spent the first four days in Seattle and visited a lot with John's parents and sisters. We enjoyed dinner with Grandma Kay and Grandpa Doug and Aunt Betsy almost every night. We also had a reunion dinner with a great circle of friends from Seattle, including Kathy and Mark and their kids in town from Myanmar. This whole circle of friends met when none of us had kids; now we all have teenagers.

This year Audrey flew to Seattle two weeks before the rest of us and attended Hidden Valley Camp. John worked there as a counselor for two summers in college: 1981 and 1982. We drove to camp to pick up Audrey a few days after we arrived. The camp is still run by the same family and it was great to see them again, and to revisit camp. Audrey definitely wants to go back next year, and Charlotte is considering it.

The next morning we had breakfast with John's sister Tricia and her husband Frank. John's sisters and Frank are building a house together in Puyallup, to sell. We visited it when it was nearing completion. Tricia and Frank are also selling their current home in Puyallup and moving to Yakima. The girls helped them out by mowing their lawn with their riding lawn mower.

Then we headed over the Cascades to Richland to stay with Carol's parents. Richland is always very relaxing. We watched the entire 5 hour broadcast of the Tour de France every day (some of it through eyelids). Carol played cards with her parents every evening. And we had two wonderful boat outings on the Columbia River, one of which was with Carol's childhood friend Kim and her family. It's the second straight year we've done that and it might need to become a tradition.

One thing that does seem to have become a tradition is driving back to Seattle via Chinook Pass. It's a "minor" pass over the mountains that is closed in winter. It's very scenic, and there is a 3-mile loop hike that leaves from the summit that is very pretty. The kids thought it was a death march this year, but they survived.

Back in Seattle we turned into tourists for three days. We visited the Museum of Flight, Alki Beach and Pegasus Pizza, the Pike Place Market and the University of Washington.

We also enjoyed a lovely backyard feast with Carol's brother Bob, his wife Torii and cousin Alex and his wife Jade. Bob and Torii are foodies and the vittles are always fantastic. This year it was steamed clams and cowboy steaks - huge steaks that take special preparation and then everyone carves off what they want.

On our last day the girls got to swim in Greenlake, which is always a must.

This vacation felt nice and long, which is always a good sign. And by the end we were ready to head home.

But man, was it fun.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Winter Vacation 2017

Picacho Peak

Hey, it has only taken me a month to post the photos form our winter vacation in California, Arizona and New Mexico!

We flew to Los Angeles and arrived in the evening. We picked up our freakishly cheap rental car ($77 total for a week!) and hit the road for my parents' winter home in Palm Desert, arriving there about 10:30pm.

The girls had a great time hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Betsy, as they always do. Grandma and Aunt Betsy love to take them shopping for clothes. This year we made sure to arrive with suitcase space to spare. They filled it.

We celebrated both girls' birthdays with their favorite Grandma dinners: spaghetti for Audrey and Lasagna for Charlotte. And for a bonus, Grandma made a Thanksgiving dinner! It's also a tradition for us to go to The Old Spaghetti Factory so we did that, too.

Our trip is usually the week preceding the Oscars, so Carol and I try to go to as many nominated movies as we can. This year we saw Lion, Passengers, Arrival and Manchester by the Sea.

After five days we drove to Tucson to stay with Carol's parents. Carol and I love the five-hour drive across the desert. The kids tolerate it with devices and a wifi hotspot. We make them look out the window every once in a while. We also play a game where we guess the distance to the next mountain range. The girls are getting pretty good at it!

In Tucson we spend a lot of time relaxing. That's always very welcome.

This year we took a bonus trip. In the early 80s I became friends with Barry, a coworker at Boeing, and his partner Rabih. Two years ago they retired and moved to Las Cruces, NM, where Barry went to college. Last year they built a custom home in the hills overlooking the city and the Rio Grande valley. During our visit to Tucson in 2016, Barry & Rabih came to Tucson and they and Carol's dad and us all went to Kitt Peak Observatory and we all went to a lovely dinner. We pledged to visit them in NM in 2017.

We rented a minivan so we could all make the four-hour trip in one vehicle.Once in Las Cruces we had a delicious lunch at Las Posta de Mesilla, a restaurant in what was once a stagecoach station. Then we headed to La Cueva, a BLM property that was previously the site of a sanatorium, and also housed a hermit for many years in the namesake cave. After that we returned to their house for a wonderful dinner.

In the morning, after another delicious home-cooked meal, we drove east about an hour to the White Sands National Monument. We rented sledding discs from the gift shop and had hours of fun sliding down the white sand dunes. It's a spectacular place. Great vistas and sparkling light. The weather was perfect - warm enough for t-shirts but not broiling. White Sands was a highlight of the vacation for the girls.

We had a couple of days left after returning to Tucson. We went to the go-karts and laser tag place and had fun. And this year all four of us hiked Picacho Peak. Carol and Charlotte had never been past half way, but this year we all made it to the top. Charlotte loved the cables and catwalks and did very well.

Then it was back home to winter in Boston. Although Boston had been having a warm spell and on at least one day it was warmer in Boston than where we were!