Tag Archives: National Park

Four Foto Friday – Black Hills and Beyond

As you may have heard, we’re trying to “Live Below the Line” this week. This is a challenge to raise money and awareness to fight global hunger, and we set out to eat on just $1.50 each per day. We’ll plan to write more this coming week on how it all went (spoiler alert: we survived!).

Despite limited food rations and lower than normal energy levels, we also managed to complete one of our most active weeks thus far! Turns out, this corner of the US has many great attractions and, with several days of sunny weather, we were able to pack in a lot.

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Owen amongst the boulders of Devil’s Tower, WY.

Montana and Wyoming: OK, I spoke too soon about the nice weather. Last weekend was pretty cold and rainy as we headed east on Route 90. Sunday found us passing over rolling hills of the high prairie with strong winds and freezing rain. We opted to make an unexpected stop in the town of Gillette and wait for better driving conditions. Despite the slowdown, we still managed to salvage the long drive with stops at the Little Bighorn Battlefield (site of “Custer’s last stand”) and Devil’s Tower National Monument. Both marked our entrance into Plains Indian territory, and it was interesting to learn the significance of these two sites to the local Sioux. A good perspective as we entered their most sacred region, the Black Hills.

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Cubs at Bear Country, USA.

Rapid City, SD: Our first full day in Rapid was a slow but enjoyable one. We explored the downtown area and discovered a really cool store called Prairie Edge, which was filled with Native American artwork, a fine arts gallery, and an extensive collection of western books and music. In the afternoon, we went to Bear Country USA, a drive-through game park that featured over 100 black bears. Normally, we try to avoid such touristy stuff, but this one was surprisingly well done. We had a great time passing through the bear pens, which also contained wolves, buffalo, big horn sheep, and many other large mammals. The highlight, however, was in the walk-through area (more like a zoo) which had a number of new bear cubs that were born this spring. We loved watching these little guys wrestle and play (not unlike a couple of active young boys we know!).

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Our American Family

The Black Hills: On Wednesday, we drove into the heart of the Black Hills with our first destination: Mount Rushmore. This seemed like an obligatory stop for our trip, but we all left highly impressed by the artistry and craftsmanship behind this audacious project. The visitor center did a great job of showing just went into creating the monument, and the spectacular viewpoints gave us many opportunities to appreciate both the sculpture and its natural setting. From Rushmore, we passed by the Crazy Horse Memorial (still in the making) and on to the National Museum of Woodcarving in the town of Custer. Owen, especially, loved visiting this place and seeing the many fine pieces of carved wood. This definitely reignited his interest in woodcarving and gave him a few more ideas for his own projects. To cap off the day, we drove back to the RV park via Wildlife Loop Drive in Custer State Park. This scenic drive through prairie lands featured many animals (buffalo, elk, pronghorn, deer, etc) as well as newly born baby buffalo, which were super cute to see.

On Thursday, we returned to the Black Hills to visit the Old West mining towns of Deadwood and Lead. Deadwood’s wild past (think outlaws, saloons, brothels, and gunfights) has largely been replaced by a modern casinos and staged performances for summer tourists. We found, however, an authentic historic record of the town in the Adams Museum. Nearby, we also visited the town of Lead, home to the largest gold mine in the western hemisphere (Homestake Mine). The good folks at Black Hills Mining Museum gave us a great tour and we left with a much better understanding of the South Dakota gold rush and the history of mining in this area.

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Climbing around the Badlands.

Badlands and Minuteman: Today, we traveled east of Rapid City and found two very different national parks. First was the Badlands, whose landscape was desolate, but beautiful. We only had a few hours here, but enough time to hike over and the through the otherworldly formations. Nearby, we also visited the Minuteman Missile Historic Site. This included a very interesting tour of the underground control station (given by a man who had actually worked at the site) as well as a look into a defunct nuclear missile silo that is inconspicuously surrounded by acres of grassland. This experience gave us a good opportunity to share with the boys what it was like to grow up during the Cold War and the nuclear age. Both both parks were interesting sites that we all enjoyed.

One last pit stop for the day was Wall Drug. Like South of the Border in the Carolinas, this store’s billboards stretch out for hundreds of miles in both directions. We appreciated the 5 cent coffee (which fit into by “Live Below the Line” budget) and the boys picked up some fudge that they’ll be able to eat tomorrow. Wall Drug is a great story a great story of persistence, luck, and the entrepreneurial spirit.

Looking ahead, our plan for this weekend is to make some progress across the plains and make it to Chicago by the middle of next week. We’re still on target for a return to CT on March 20, but have the Great Lakes and upstate New York still to come. Thanks for following along!

Four Foto Friday – Hot Springs, Ghost Towns, and More!

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Hanging out at the hot springs.

Lava Hot Springs, Idaho: Last weekend, we met my parent’s friends (the Meier-McKenna family) at a KOA campground. We were in our RV and they were in a cabin. On Saturday we went to a amazing indoor and outdoor pool. When we drove up we saw the outdoor pool and it was huge. They had a water slide that went over the sign and a gigantic pool, but the outdoor part was closed because it was too cold. When we went inside they had a heated pool. The pool was big and it had a diving board and a climbing wall. I think that the climbing wall was the best because I could climb to the top and then fall and not get very hurt. After that we drove a few miles to the hot springs. They had different parts where the heat was hotter or cooler than the last one, but they were all hot. The hot springs were very relaxing but we needed to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. The food that we had at the campsite was really good. We had tacos and grilled steak that were great. We also built a fire that was really warm and it was just right to roast marshmallows. We had a great time hanging out with our friends.

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Old mining equipment.

Bannock State Park, Montana: Bannock was a old mining city in the 1860’s that got turned into a ghost town. The people who used to live here were mostly miners that mined gold. The gold there was 99.5% pure and that is more pure than most gold and that is why they settled so far away from other places. I think the ghost town feels and looks like a real town that was left after people moved. The state park wants it to feel like the people left and every thing hasn’t fallen down yet. The hotel is huge and the rooms look like they would’ve been big and nice. The state park did not put replicas of furniture and other stuff so I had to imagine how other people would’ve lived. The mining equipment was really cool because I got to pick them up and play around with the carts. There was an old truck that was really interesting because I could see the engine and the other gears.

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Bison pooping.

Yellowstone National Park – wildlife: We spent the rest of our week at Yellowstone where we saw tons of wildlife like bison, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, and mule deer. The bison were huge and there were tons of them. On the road we got stuck because a herd of bison was walking and there was no way to get past them but finally after about 30 minutes they gave us just enough room to pass them. We saw a bighorn sheep on the side of a hill and I thought that it would feel horrible to have those heavy horns on my head. The elk that we saw were very scruffy and they had weird looking butts. We saw birds too and the coolest birds were a bald eagle, ospreys, and ravens. The ravens might not seem cool but they are huge and they look really cool when they fly. One of the ospreys that we saw was in a nest with a baby tucked under its wing.

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One of the geysers that we saw.

Yellowstone landscape: At Yellowstone the geysers were really cool. Two geysers that we saw erupt were really cool because they went really high and the went for a long amount of time. The big pools were amazing because of the colour. The colours were really bright and there were so many all in one pool. My favorite colour is the emerald green. Yellowstone also had a Grand Canyon that was really amazing and the waterfalls were over 300 feet high. I threw chunks of ice off of were we stood and they floated down (even the big heavy pieces). At the geysers, the smell from the steam was gross because it was warm and it smelled like rotten eggs. The way I blocked off the smell was by using pine needles to block the bad smell with a good one. The mud pots were places that hot water mixed with soil and made mud that bubbles and looks pretty weird. I think that Yellowstone is so far the best national park we have been to because of all the wildlife and the unique landscape.

Four Foto Friday – Canyons of Nevada and Utah

DSC_0278HOOVER DAM (NV):
On our last full day in Las Vegas we went with our friends, the Merritts, to see the Hoover Dam. First we went to see Lake Mead, the lake created by the dam. Right now, the lake has much less water than it used to and has a large white ring on mountains surrounding the lake where the water level should be. When the lake is full it has enough water to submerge the whole state of Connecticut ten feet deep in water. After the lake we went to the visitor center to learn about the use and production of the Hoover Dam. After the visitors center we went out onto the dam. The dam was gigantic, over 700 feet. If you looked down you could see where the water came out and made a new river, but looking down made me dizzy. On our way home from the dam, we drove to a trampoline park called Skyzone but it was closed. That night I was sick so it’s probably a good thing I wasn’t jumping around.

IMG_9772NARROWS TRAIL IN ZION NP (UT):
After we left Las Vegas we went back to Zion National Park for the second time. While we were in Zion we did a hike that took us through the longest slot canyon in the world. A slot canyon is a canyon that is significantly higher than it is wide. This one was about 25 feet wide and 100-150 feet high. This was my favorite hike that we have done on our trip because the hike was in the river. At the start of the day we went to a store outside of Zion and rented dry suits that looked a bit like hazmat suits. When we got to the river we started to walk on the side where it was dry, but Owen and I went in and found out that if we lay down in the water we floated. Once the water went up to our chests the suits would inflate like a ballon and it felt like an octopus sucking you into the suit. Inside the suit it was really warm but if you touched the water with your hands it was freezing! My favorite part was on the way back going down river; you could just lay back and float along down until it was to shallow. Another really fun thing that I did was go down the rapids. I really liked this because it made me go a lot faster but some time I ran into the rocks. Hiking up the canyon was also fun because I would try to walk up the rapids. We also learned that where the water was dark it was deeper. Some of the deeper parts were up to ten feet deep! I really like canyoneering in the Narrows and would love to go back again.

bryceBRYCE CANYON NP (UT):
After hiking in Zion we made a short drive Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce is not actually a canyon but a huge natural amphitheater carved out of the mountain face by erosion. At Bryce some of the coolest things are the rocks. My favorite rock formations so far have been the hoodoos, which are large but thin spires of rock that have been left after a mountain face erodes. While we were driving we saw a prairie dog crossing sign and then a few seconds later the prairie dogs. These were the endangered Utah prairie dog and they were on this patch of land right at the intersection. The cars zooming across the road didn’t stop them from running out into the road and if a car stopped they might go and walk around it and sniff it. In the park we also saw huge ravens and a herd of pronghorns. Next we took a hike at the top of the mountain at 8000 feet altitude. This was a really cool hike because it goes right to the edge of the mountain were you can see out arose the canyon/amphitheater. On this hike we saw the oldest species of tree, the Bristlecone Pine. On the way back out of Bryce we saw an amazing arch called the Natural Bridge. We still have another day in Bryce and we are going horseback riding in the canyon.

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Yesterday, we decided to go biking on a canyon trail close to Bryce National Park. We only have three bikes with us on the trip so only me, Owen and my dad went. When we got there we took a trail called the Casto Canyon Trail. This trail was really hard to go up because it went right through a dry river bed with lots of rocks and sand. On our way up we saw a hoodoo right off to the side of the trail. When we got to it, we found that hoodoos are very fragile and we could just rip off chunks of rock with our hands. Though the trail was hard to get up, going down was easy and incredibly fun. On the way down we got going really fast and the trail was a bit twisty and it was fun to go around the corners. We have done a few mountain bike rides, but this one had a unique setting with desert plants and red canyon walls.

Four Foto Friday – Death Valley to the Vegas Strip

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Miles on Devil’s Golf Course

Death Valley: We started the week in the lowest, hottest, and driest place in America… Death Valley National Park. Fortunately, the springtime temperatures kept things relatively comfortable at a dry 100 degrees. We had one day to see some of the most accessible sights: Golden Canyon (where portions of the original Star Wars was filmed), Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the valley), Artist’s Palette (a scenic drive through colorful mesas and foothills), and Furnace Creek (an oasis town that’s home to the main visitor center.). This photo was taken at Devil’s Golf Course, where the land is so parched that it forms small mounds encrusted with evaporated crystals of borax and salt. Death Valley was otherworldly (NASA testing grounds for the Mars rover, in fact) but also diverse and colorful under the shifting sun.

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Scenery of Zion Canyon

Zion NP: From Death Valley, we drove the RV straight on through to southwestern Utah. Our plan was to see Zion National Park for a couple of days before finishing out the week in Las Vegas. Our two days in Zion allowed us to see the main canyon, where the Virgin River has spectacularly cut through 3,000 feet of brilliant red sandstone. We hiked along the river and also to the seasonal Emerald Falls. We also took advantage of the warmish weather and tent camped in a nearby campground. Zion was amazing and we really just scratched the surface there. Fortunately, we’ll be heading back for more at the start of next week.

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Those tiny specks are rock climbers!

Red Rock Canyon: On Thursday, we left the RV in Utah and backtracked to Las Vegas for a little fun. The big attraction for us: seeing our ISB friends, the Merritts! Our first destination with them was Red Rock Canyon, an incredible natural formation just on the outskirts of town. The visitor center had a great display of desert ecosystems, and then we headed into the hills for an afternoon of hiking and family fun. 

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On the Strip with the Merritts

Las Vegas: Friday night, we hit the Vegas Strip. This first foray into town was a family affair, so we stuck to kid-friendly attractions like the Bellagio Fountain and Hershey’s Chocolate World. Some of our best entertainment, however, came from people-watching on the street, which was filled with costumed characters, street performers, and partygoers of all varieties. This was a different kind of “educational experience” for the boys, but one that’s uniquely American. Viva Las Vegas!

We still have another day here and are looking forward to a visit to Hoover Dam. It’s been great catching up with friends and experiencing this amazing city in the desert.

Four Foto Friday: Spectacular Sierras

Our final week in California was filled with great scenery, warm weather, and loads of fun at two incredible national parks. Here are the details:

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Reflections on Mirror Lake

 

Yosemite: Saturday was our last day in Yosemite National Park. With plenty of sunshine, it was a beautiful day for hiking in the valley. Our morning destination was Mirror Lake, a seasonal pond that forms at the base of Half Dome. The reflection of a few thousand feet of granite towering above was truly impressive. After a picnic lunch and a quick trip to the visitor center for Junior Ranger badges, we set out for Vernal Fall (a fitting destination for this first day of spring). The hike was another steep one, but the view of this thundering waterfall was a great reward. Yosemite is a magical place — our favorite national park thus far — and we hope to return here again.

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The biggest living organism in the world.

Sequoias: A few hours south of Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park is another highlight of the Sierra Nevada mountains. With names like General Sherman, Sentinal, and President, it’s trees that are the rock stars here. Giant Sequoias are the largest living organisms on the planet. They can reach heights of 300 feet and form a base circumference of over 100 feet (that’s 36 feet in diameter — large enough to park our RV on!). Walking through the Giant Forest is like walking back in time; some of these trees are 2,500 years old. Giant Sequoias can only be found at 6,000-8,000 feet in elevation. Our campsite was in the valley at 800 feet, so the drive back and forth to the groves was an adventure in and of itself.

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High Sierra view from Morro Rock

 

Other Sights in Sequoia: Along the way (a.k.a. straight up the mountain) we made a variety of stops: a picnic lunch near river rapids, a hike through an alpine meadow, a visit to the tree museum, etc. One of our favorite side trips was Morro Rock, a granite outcrop which afforded great views of the High Sierra peaks, as well as the San Joaquin Valley below. What made this most special, however, was our first bear sighting. We spotted the mama bear and her three cubs on a hillside not far from the trailhead. Downwind and quietly, we watched for about 20 minutes as they foraged through the brush and fallen trees. Eventually, they cuddle up together for a snooze (we were told they were still groggy from the light winter and a short hibernation). Altogether, Sequoia was another incredible national park.

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Enjoying the campfire and stream.

 

Camping: Rounding out the rest of our week, we slowed down a bit and enjoyed some good old-fashioned camping. Our campground sat in the foothills just outside the park and was surrounded by orchards and horse ranches. Our actual campsite sided up against a pretty stream, providing lots of privacy and the relaxing sounds of nature. The weather was warm enough to be outside in the early mornings and late evenings. Jen enjoyed her cup of tea by the gentle stream and the boys loved making campfires each night. This campsite was one of our favorites thus far, a good place to take a deep breath, enjoy a slower pace, and reflect on our many good fortunes.

We’ve seen a lot of California this month: deserts, coastline, cities, mountains and forests. It’s been a terrific adventure and we’re sad to say goodbye, but it’s time to start heading back East. Nevada and Utah are coming up next, and both look just as promising. Stay tuned!

Four Foto Friday – NorCal Coast to Mountains

We started this week between Santa Cruz and San Francisco on the California coast watching sea lions and surfers.  Then we headed to the  Sierra Nevada mountains and ended in beautiful Yosemite National Park hiking up giant mountains and to gorgeous waterfalls.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 9.05.42 PMAlcatraz Island:
When we were in San Francisco we went to Alcatraz Island. I really liked the audio tour that was narrated by the prison guards and former prisoners. Some of the most fascinating things they talked about were the one successful escape from Alcatraz and the privileges that the prisoners got. It was an ingenious escape and the people were never found again; they just disappeared.The privileges that the prisoners got, other than basic food, water and shelter, had to be earned. Also they had some prison cells furnished so we saw what a typical cell would have looked like. Last, we saw an art exhibit by Ai Wei Wei, an artist from China. He had three pieces of art; the one that I found most interesting was the one about political prisoners.

IMG_6964Mountain Biking:
While we were staying near San Francisco we went biking in Big Basin Redwoods State Park near the ocean. I really liked biking here because there were so many cool trees and plants, like coast redwoods. During our bike ride we stopped near a river and saw a newt! The newt was swimming in the water and looked exactly like a salamander. It was a really muddy trail, about wide enough for two people to walk on, with steep drop-offs where you could fall right off the side, which I almost did.

DSC_0656Yosemite Water Falls:
Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite parks so far in America and, while there, we did lots of activities. Some of my favorites were going to see the water falls. On our first day, we did a moderately strenuous hike to see the Upper Yosemite Falls, one of the highest on earth (2,425 ft). On our second day, we did some easier hikes to the Lower Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls. All of them were pretty, but you can only see them in the spring because they dry up during summer.

DSC_0672Yosemite Hike:
We did several hikes to get from place to place in Yosemite. All of them were in Yosemite Valley, which is a huge place and, even still, it’s less than 5% of the total national park. Besides the waterfall hikes, we did a ranger guided tree walk. This was very informative, but the ranger leading the walk kept getting distracted and talking about birds or animals and a lot of things that didn’t have to do with trees. This was OK because we learned about a variety of things, but not as much about the actual trees. We saw many black oaks, incense cedars, ponderosa pines, and my favorite, giant sequoias.

We still have one more day in Yosemite and so far it has been really great. Next we will be going to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.

Four Foto Friday – Amazing Arizona

I think someone from the northeast heard we were in Arizona this week and sent a little wintery weather our way. Fortunately, the recent snow storms didn’t slow us down too much and we were able to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon.

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Hiking into the painted cliffs of Blue Mesa.

Last weekend, we arrived in Holbrook, AZ for what we thought was going to be a quick swing through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. These two national parks straddle Route 40 in northwestern Arizona, and a 25 scenic drive through the middle of the parks makes for a great day of sightseeing and hiking (on several 1-mile loop trails). We had good sunshine, which made the landscape colors really stand out. We also learned all about area geology at the interpretive centers and an awesome rock store; Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood.

Not wood, but 200 million year old stone trees.

Not wood, but colorful stone in these 225 million year old trees.

On Monday morning we awoke to 3 inches of wet and heavy snow. Our first snow day! Miles and I hopped in the truck and drove back through the Petrified Forest, hoping to take some great photos (it turned out to be just so-so due to the clouds). Back “home” we celebrated with a game/movie day. Unfortunately, our one snow day turned into two, as bad weather in Flagstaff kept us from moving further West. Much to the boys’ chagrin, our second snow day was spent catching up on Math and other school work. Oh well, such is life with a couple of teacher/parents!

Sunset over the South Rim

Sunset over the South Rim

On Wednesday, we made a break for the Grand Canyon. Due to another winter storm (which is scheduled to bury them this weekend) we knew it would have to be a quick visit. We made good time and were at the park’s South Rim visitor center by 3:00PM, which gave us time to attend a ranger talk on how the canyon was formed. Following this, we explored the Rim Trail and drove out to Mohave Point for an incredible sunset view.

Jen and the boys on the Blue Angel Trail.

Jen and the boys on the Bright Angel Trail.

Thursday morning found us hiking down below the rim on the South Kaibob Trail. This short hike was a little tricky, given the recent snow and steep decent. But… the views were AMAZING. Our destination was the aptly named Ooh Ah Point. We ate our picnic lunch with a near 360 degree of the canyon, and then hiked another portion of the Rim Trail above. In the afternoon, we relaxed at an IMAX movie on canyon explorer John Wesley Powell, took a short hike on Bright Angel Trail, and drove to Pima Point for another great sunset view. It was a full couple of days, but entirely worth the effort to experience the Grand Canyon.

This morning (Friday), we awoke to freezing temps and snow showers. So, we packed up quickly and hustled our way out of the mountains towards California. Our Grand Canyon campground was at 7500 feet; now we’re at 500 feet on the eastern edge of the Mohave Desert. The temps were in the low 70’s this afternoon, a welcome change from a wild week of weather in northern Arizona. Let’s hope there’s more of this sunshine and heat in Southern California!

BTW… if FFF has captured your interest, be sure to checkout the Gallery page on our website to see more pictures from our travels. We hope to have a new February gallery posted in the next few days. Enjoy!

Four Foto Friday – Boston and the Cape

Last weekend, the boys had a great time with their Aunt and Uncle (thanks Barbara and David!) while Jen and I enjoyed a relaxing couple of days to ourselves. On Monday, we resumed our family road trip with two days in Boston and another two on Cape Cod. Here are some photo highlights:

Practicing the muster drill at the Minuteman Museum

Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!

Concord: Minute Man National Park was the main historical stop with Uncle David and Aunt Barbara. Here they spent the day learning about the Battle of Lexington and Concord. They also enjoyed a private lesson on how to “muster” like a revolutionary solider. The boys also had a chance to go apple picking, do a corn maze, shoot paintball guns, watch the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, play in an arcade, win loads of candy, and ride a mechanical bull (seriously). Aunt Barbara and Uncle David are way too much fun… no way we can compete with that!

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Rockport Harbor

Rockport: With the boys in good hands, Jen and I also had a nice weekend exploring the north shore (Cape Ann). Our first stop was the quaint town of Essex, where we ate at Woodman’s, a 100-year institution that specializes in fried clams, and checked out the a few antique shops. Then, we visited Gloucester to pay our respects at the Fisherman’s Memorial in the center of town. Finally, we hit Rockport, a wonderfully picturesque village that beckoned for us to just poke around the many art galleries and cafes. A very pleasant couple of days.

Outside Paul Revere's House.

Outside Paul Revere’s House.

Boston: By Monday, we were back together in downtown Boston to explore many famous sites along the The Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail. The historical info was flying fast, but the guides and park rangers did a great job of keeping things interesting and understandable. We toured Paul Revere’s House, climbed the Bunker Hill Monument, boarded the USS Constitution, learned Revolutionary-era printing, and visited the first African American school in the country.  We also had fun checking out the buskers in front of Quincy Market and eating some incredible Italian food in Boston’s North End.

Skim boarding the Cape

Skim boarding the Cape

Cape Cod: On Wednesday, we said goodbye to Boston and headed south to the Cape. Most of the day was spent along Cape Cod National Seashore, which provided opportunities to hike around a salt marsh, climb the Highlands Lighthouse, enjoy the secluded beaches in Truro, and checkout the sand dunes near Province Lands. Skim boarding was the boys’ highlight… we even had seals (and probably sharks) watching us from the waves just beyond the sand bar. Sunset and dinner in Provincetown capped off the action-packed day.

Our time in Cape Cod has been so fun, we’ve decided to stay one more day in order to visit the annual Scallop Festival in nearby Yarmouth. Tomorrow, we’ll move to our final stop, Charlestown NH, and checkout a Revolutionary War re-enactment at Fort No.4.

Our first leg of GFRT comes to an end on Monday, so we’ll put a pause on FFF until our travel resume in early October. It’s been an amazing start to our yearlong adventure. More photos and reflections on New England (and much much more) are still to come.

 

Four Foto Friday – Acadia NP

Well, it sure feels good to finally be on the road, and Acadia National Park in Maine was a great first destination. The initial long drive in the the RV was quite a thrill (I’ll be writing a separate post about that) and our five days in Acadia were filled biking, hiking, boating, and exploring the gorgeous natural surroundings. It’s really hard to narrow them down to just four (I’m also working on setting up a photo gallery on our website), but here are some photo highlights:

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Jordan Pond: Our first day was spent exploring the interior of the Mount Desert Island, which contains many picturesque, glacially-carved lakes and ponds. We biked along the carriage roads, which were built by John D. Rockefeller nearly one hundred years ago, and crisscrossed the forested hills. This shot was taken at the Jordan Pond House, where some of our readers recommended that we stop to enjoy the traditional afternoon tea and popovers (great suggestion… mmmm!).

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Oceanside and Gorham Mountain Hikes:  Day two was classic Acadia – hikes along the rocky shoreline with spectacular views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman’s Bay. The Oceanside trail took us to Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs, two must-sees. Gorham Mountain was a steep climb, but afforded great scenery at the top. In this photo, the boys are recording their observations as part of their Junior Ranger program. Teacher Jen is taking advantage of this “school work” and grabbing a quick nap.

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Boat Tour: Day three and four were down along the coast: first at the less travalled Schoodic Pennisula (which can be seen in the background of this photo) and then on a Maine lobster boat tour which took us around the bay. We learned the ins and outs of lobstering and caught several glimpses of the area’s wildlife: porpoises, harbor seals, sea birds, and even a bald eagle. This pic shows one of the seals frolicking in the surf, a rare event to see at mid-day, according to our guide.

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Yummy Lobstas: No trip to Maine would be complete without a lobster dinner. Here we are on the wharf in Bar Harbor enjoying the scrumptious crustacean. Food was definitely a highlight on this trip, which also had us sampling such “Downeast” staples as steammed mussels, fried clams, blueberry lemonade, whoopie pies, BBQ, and craft beer. A delicious way to refuel after some very active days.

We left Acadia on Wednesday and are now camped just north of Boston. Yesterday we toured the bewitching town of Salem and today we’re headed to Gloucester, Marblehead, and Rockport. The boys are with their aunt and uncle, so Jen and I have the “run of the house”… all 35 feet! We’ll reconnect with them next Monday on Boston’s Freedom Trail. Hope you’ll stay tuned!

Exploring Nature in Acadia

DSC_0087We did many activities in Acadia, which is a national park in Maine. We stayed there for one week but two days were definitely the best.

One of my favorite things that we did in Acadia was going to Sand Beach. Sand Beach is a small beach that we swam in and also hiked around. First we did the walk and went off the path to look at the tide pools. The tide pools were packed with sea creatures: barnacles, mussels, and snails. After we were done with the tide pools we continued on the walk to Thunder Hole, which is a hole in the rocks that if a big enough wave hits it, it makes a sound like thunder and the water sprays up. Next we climbed Gorham Mountain which was about a 2 mile climb and took us to the summit of a steep mountain were you could see sparkling lakes and rolling forests. Next we went down the mountain and went to sand beach where the water felt refreshingly cold (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit). We used our skim boards and relaxed on the beach after the long hike. To end this great day, we went to the Jordan Pond House to eat popovers which are like the a big a cream puff without any cream and you put jam and butter on them. It was a sweet and smooth end to the day.

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My other favorite day was Wednesday when we did a lobster boat tour. First we went and looked in stores around the port. Normally I don’t like to shop but these stores had some hilarious shirts. The shirts that they had in these shop were incredibly funny which said things like “Confidence: The felling you get before you fully understand your situation”. Even though I didn’t buy any I took many pictures. After this we went on a lobster boat tour on the calm ocean where we saw the captain bring up the huge lobsters in the cages. Each cage was large and had about 10-15 lobsters in it and he brought up 3 cages. The tour guide said the average fisherman brings up 200-300 cages a day. We also held the lobsters. They felt hard on the top and on the bottom soft and squishy. After we were done holding them we threw the small ones off the boat into the water rushing past us. One of my favorite parts of the tour was getting to stand at the very front of the boat where I could feel each wave jarring the boat as we past over it.  The tour guide showed us a book of lobsters that were vivid blue and half black on one side, half orange on the other. She said that one blue lobster can cost up to $10,000! On the ship they also had other animals that we got to touch and hold. My favorite was the sea cucumber. It felt slimy like a snail and like there was nothing in it. When I held it, it squirted water everywhere. Some other animals that we saw were porpoises that swam close and happily jumped in the water. Then we arrived at an island where we saw seals laying on the rocks warming themselves in the sun and playing in the water near the rocks. Overall I loved learning about lobsters, riding on the boat, and seeing the ocean animals.

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