It always amazes me how two girls who, moments ago, were “too tired to do anything” can suddenly have amazing amounts of energy to pelt Papa with snowballs!
On Sunday afternoon, we took a hike with some friends from Dane Street. We wanted an easy, family-friendly hike, so we headed to the Beverly Conservation Area. The hike ended up taking about two and a half hours, a bit longer than we had planned, but everyone powered through until the end. The kids had a great time exploring the woods, playing with sticks, rocks, leaves and water.
There was an especially exciting spot towards the middle of the hike. There was a bridge across a small stream, but high up above the bridge (right at about my shoulder level), there was a log that had fallen across the stream. It had platforms built onto either end of it, and the top of the log had been leveled into a flat, but skinny walkway. You can see it here in this shot from Appu’s camera:
Catherine went across first, a bit skittish, on her hands and knees. Esme and I followed behind, and though I tried to keep a hand on Esme to steady her, she would have none of it, and strode boldly across the log on her own, then came back, then went over again! “Papa, I don’t want you to hold me!” she said. In the photo above, you can see her coming back across. Check out the far end in the photo… the nice big drop didn’t scare her at all!
Everyone was exhausted by the end of the hike, but it was worth it to get lots of great exercise and spend time with friends! You can see all of the photos from our hike here.
Though we had previously been to nearby Crane Beach (one of the best/most expensive beaches to visit in MA, if you have a chance), none of us had been to Castle Hill. I had seen photos of its beauty, and was quite excited to visit. It didn’t disappoint me.
We hiked up a steep hill, and explored the remains of a once-grand vegetable garden.
We continued hiking, up to the main house. It looked like something out of Downton Abbey, and indeed was designed after an English country house.
After admiring the front, we hiked through the woods to the back of the house, where we came to my favorite part of the visit. While the entire grounds of Castle Hill are beautiful, the centerpiece in my opinion is the Grand Allee, a beautifully landscaped hill rolling down toward the ocean. It blows my mind. Just think: at one time, this was somebody’s backyard. I walk out onto my back deck and see a swingset, some trees, some grass. These people could take a morning stroll out to their back porch and see THIS.
Nice. Here’s a Photosynth embedded Panorama I created, showing the view from the top (let me know if it doesn’t work for you):
I highly recommend a visit to Castle Hill if you can make it there. You can see all of our photos from this beautiful place here.
Our outing of choice for today was a hike to Wright’s Tower in Medford, MA. This tower is in the southern part of the Middlesex Fells Reservation. The Fells were one of my go-to places for hikes when I lived in Woburn, as it was pretty easy to get to. I’d never hiked to Wright’s Tower, however.
I picked this hike for today because it is a fairly short hike, and the view from the top is pretty rewarding. The hike starts next to Bellvue Pond, where we saw some ducks and geese.
We walked along a fire road for a bit before turning off onto the Skyline Trail. This makes a fairly steep cut up Pine Hill towards Wright’s Tower.
Once at the top, you’re treated to some amazing views – both from the top of the hill itself, and from the top of Wright’s Tower.
As an added bonus, at the top of the hill, we also met another family with two kids who were relatively close to Catherine and Esme’s age. Catherine was her usual outgoing self, walked right up and introduced herself to the kids, and before long they were all playing together and building a fairy house up at the top of the tower. I stayed up at the top of the tower while Rebecca was at the bottom with the kids’ mom, and the kids showed enormous resolve in trudging up and down the stairs carrying sticks, stones, grass, and other things to build the house.
Catherine got some scraped knees when she tripped on the way back down (later tonight, she took off the band-aid and declared: “It’s healed!”), which soured her mood, but other than that, everyone had a terrific time!
I’d highly recommend this easy hike for anybody who lives near Boston and wants some great views of the Boston skyline!
You can see all of my photos here.
We are fortunate to have such a great variety of natural beauty here in our area, most of it just a short drive away.
Yesterday, we took a walk at Strawberry Hill in Ipswich. This is a great country walk that takes you up and down a hill, across a causeway, and up onto an island. The island has some great rocky beaches and a big grassy clearing. Our girls love the rocks, sticks, and straw that you can find all over the place.
More photos from Strawberry Hill.
Today we spent the afternoon at Wingaersheek Beach in Ipswich. It’s one of our favorite beaches – when we can get to it! During the summer we only go after 5pm, when they stop collecting a parking fee, but off-season they don’t charge for parking. The parking lots were understandably full today, given that it’s Patriot’s Day and the start of the local school vacation week. Many people were out enjoying the vast expanses of shallow water and sandy beaches, and terrific collections of rocks for climbing and hopping. Our girls love digging in the sand, climbing the rocks, and splashing in the tidal pools. I love it for the wide open space in which we can walk around, relax, and enjoy the outdoors.
See more photos from Wingaersheek.
These days we are enjoying:
Halloween Decorations: This fall has seen a magical intersection between Catherine’s fine motor and scissor skills with her love for papercrafts. The result? Paper pumpkins, bats, cats, and ghosts to welcome the trick or treaters.
the Swing set: This 10 year old swing set is enjoying a second chance at life now that it has been moved into our back yard. Many thanks to Grandpa Lowe for the reconstruction and Grandpa Wood for the blue swing!
the Leaves: Who can resist a big pile of autumn leaves?
New Headwear: The girls have been coming to church with me this week to help set up for the Holiday Fair. Esme found and modeled some fun headwear!
(this last one kills me! I was sorting books and turned around and found her exactly like this. I nearly died laughing!)
I have a small dream. I dream that our little family will fall in love with camping. And that we become skilled and efficient campers who breeze into a campsite and effortlessly set up camp. Then we go off to frolic in the waves or hike a mountain or ride our bikes to the camp store to buy bubblegum.
My family camped when I was young, but not so much from kindergarten on. I did a couple weekish long backpacking trips in college and Peter and I have spent a handful of nights under the stars, but I wouldn’t say that we are avid campers, yet. This summer we spent a few days camping in the Finger Lakes and we have just returned home from a long weekend at Salisbury Beach State Reservation.
It seems the only way to get to ‘easy living camping’ is to just get out there and practice. We’re in a funny place somewhere in between having all sorts of great camping gear and knowledge and not having either at all. We’ve cobbled together some new gear, some hand-me-down stuff and a bunch of memories of camping. Add to that some tips from the internet and advice from Mom and Dad and you have a couple of ambitious, but somewhat clueless tent pitchers. We’re learning quickly, though, and have had a good time spying on the other campers to see what gear they have and how they do things.
Despite our novice camper status we had a fantastic weekend. The weather was cooperative, we cooked some meals on the grill, did some swimming, beach walking and lots of digging in the sand. We brought a crate of books, art supplies and notebooks and they were much loved during our stay at 24 Y Street. We also set our tent up atop a medium size rock (which, luckily, didn’t end up disturbing our sleep), fumbled with the charcoal grill (making the wait for meals far too long) and, yet again, found ourselves without a working flashlight, we will have to get a new tactical flashlight amazon.
Each experience was a lesson. A lesson in exploring the world, being a family, being observant, learning to buy quality, and enjoying life. We had wonderful conversations with Catherine that were sparked by the many new things and people she was seeing. She learned what a ‘striper’ is. She made new friends. She dug a ‘car’ in the sand, complete with shifter, and drove herself and her Papa to the ice cream stand. Esme was thrilled to the core each time a sea gull flew over head or dove close to the ground. She happily followed her sister around camp desperately trying to learn the ways of the ‘big girl’. Both girls sat fascinated on the dock watching the fishing boats being towed out of the water on their trailers. Everyone fell fast asleep quickly at night.
As with so many things in life, this journey has its own allure separate from the destination. As we hone our camping skills (in pursuit of the ‘expert camper’ title) we’ll enjoy the togetherness that comes with the territory. We’ll make each new site our own, starting here with site Y24.
[all our photos from the weekend can be found here in our gallery]
We have a camping trip coming up, and wanted to get a new tent to give the four of us plenty of room to sleep, play, get dressed, etc. We wanted one that was not too expensive, but had more room than our previous four-person dome tent (which was barely big enough for us when it was just Rebecca, Catherine and I camping). So we did some research, and ended up buying this Coleman WeatherMaster Screened 6 Tent. Luckily it was on sale for cheaper than it’s listed now, and we had a number of Amazon gift cards to redeem!
The tent arrived earlier this week, and we set it up in our backyard last night! Here is a photo of the tent mostly set up (without the rain fly):
One great thing about this tent is that, due to its “cabin” design, there is plenty of head room inside. I can actually stand upright and walk through the whole tent! It also has a room divider so we can have two separate rooms for sleeping. And it has a screen porch so that we can sit in the sun with a little bit of protection from flies. It also has a cool rigid, hinged door that opens and closes easily for quick entry/exit.
We are looking forward to putting it through its paces on our camping trip! You can see some more photos of the setup process in the New Tent gallery.
I wanted to go on an adventure this weekend. Rebecca did some research and came up with Purgatory Chasm State Reservation. It’s just over an hour away from Danvers in Sutton, MA. There is an incredible geological formation, a chasm with walls up to 70 feet high. Its floor is filled with a mish-mash of rocks and boulders. The trail through it is only a half mile long, but you must scramble up and down and around rocks the entire way through.
Before we hit the Chasm, however, we met our friends Becky and Derek and their kids Sarah and Nathan at the playground which is also a part of the park. We had lunch and the older girls played in the playground. One of the craziest features of this playground was a sort of overgrown merry-go-round, which Catherine dubbed “the roundabout.” It had a huge pole in the middle, and a rope net surrounding it in a cone shape, so that riders could climb up the inside or outside. So basically a few dozen kids would pile inside, a few crazy adults would get the thing going, and the kids would scream their lungs out while enjoying the ride. Catherine loved it, even after a couple of rough falls. Here’s a photo of the contraption:
So we ended up spending a bit more time at the playground than I’d originally expected… but eventually we made it over to the Chasm itself. Esme had the best seat in the house as the other three of us scrambled up and down the rocks.
Catherine was a wee bit tired and insisted on being carried through various parts of the Chasm. We didn’t end up hiking through the whole length of it, but we did get to see quite a few of the rock formations, and saw several rock climbers rappelling down some of the cliff walls.
The park itself was pretty well laid out, with a good visitor center, picnic areas, parking, and trails. I’d recommend it as a good day trip for folks in Massachusetts… roughly an hour drive from the Boston area. Come well rested and ready for the hiking and scrambling, and for the playing in the playground if you have young ones.
You can see all of our photos from Purgatory Chasm in our gallery.
We finished up Christmas with the Lowes on Saturday. We woke up and had a lazy morning, playing with the girls, watching TV, having breakfast, making cupcakes…
We also took the opportunity to sit down for some family Christmas photos:
In the afternoon, Rebecca’s aunt and uncle Gabi and Tom came over, along with their boys, and Corey and Vicky came back as well for a little post-Christmas get-together. Catherine had a ton of fun with “her brothers” as she calls them (they’re actually first cousins once removed, but since we have a photo of them on our refrigerator and we told her that they’re brothers, she calls them her brothers). We then had to pack our car full of luggage and loot (it really was full to the max) and head home. We stopped at “Pote-cho-le” on the way home, got the essentials unpacked, and since Saturday evening we’ve been in the process of unpacking, sorting out the gifts, deciding what to do with everything, and getting the house cleaned up. The holiday has been tiring, but it’s always good to be with your loved ones, to share some good food and laughs, and have some other people around whose names your kid can call on other than you (COREY! VICKY! NONNI! GRANDPA!!!).
I hope that all of our readers had a great Christmas! Feel free to share your own Christmas stories in our comments, or links to your own blog posts, photos, status updates, etc. If you hadn’t already, you can read about Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, pt. 1, and Christmas Day, pt. 2.