July 30, 2005
July 28, 2005
Douglas Mtn not so family-friendly anymore
Late in the afternoon a day earlier this week, we decided to take the short 1/4 mile hike to the top of Douglas Mountain. We haven't been there this year and the stone tower is a favorite spot. And the kids are hosting a new Flat Stanley so they wanted to show the flat character the sights from the top of the mountain.
Once we turned onto Douglas Mountain Road to get to the trailhead, we found a ton of signs (it felt a bit like NYC without the lights) directing us to a new parking lot. It seems the town has decided to move the parking area and trailhead. But, they haven't completed a portion of the trail so hikers have to park in the new, gated lot and walk up the steep, narrow road to the old trailhead. OK, change takes a while. I can understand that. But what was really upsetting was that the new parking lot is locked at 6 p.m.! And there are barriers, tape and signs everywhere - and I mean that literally - that there is no parking anywhere else on the road or within a mile of the old trailhead.
It's summertime. The sun doesn't set until after 8 p.m. Why close the parking lot that early? Why not close at dusk instead to maximize the hours hikers can enjoy the trail? Does the Town of Sebago not understand that even if the kids are in camp this summer, families might still want to take a late-afternoon hike to enjoy a picnic dinner on Douglas Mountain?
I used to really like the trails in Sebago but the new "hours" are really disappointing and inconvenient. It's a real bummer. I guess we'll have to go back to Rattlesnake Mountain. There are great views of Sebago Lake there without the gates and regulations and rules to follow. Nor all the sign-age litter.
July 27, 2005
Honey bees steal the show
My daughters' 4-H group attended an orienteering class at Pineland Farms today. And you won't hear me complaining about the weather -- Mother nature cooperated nicely with comfortable temps and no humidity. Even the bugs weren't too bad on the trail. A shocking, but welcome surprise.
Orienteering combines map-reading skills with the reward of finding control stations. It never fails to keep my children engaged during their hike on the orienteering course.
The orienteering class covered map-reading skills before hitting the actual course. Kids mapped the "Land of Phil" to learn about following nature's landmarks and orientating the map to their current position.
As much fun as orienteering is, it's the honey bees at the Visitor's Center that always steal the show.
G. took this picture, along with several others, of the bees in full honey-making mode.
July 23, 2005
Chickens are everywhere
Big news in the Almeida chicken coop this week - two new baby chicks hatched!
The kids are thrilled with the new additions to our flock and telling everyone they know about the hatching. And I think they have spent more time in the coop than our house for the past few days.
I had never seen a live hatching before and I have to say, it was pretty cool.
At least it's warm and the baby chicks can be out in the coop with the mother chicken. This past June, the chicks Fino and the girls ordered from the feed store took up residence in our basement bathroom for two weeks because it was too cold outside in the coop for them. Let's just say that farm animals should not live in the house. Nothing is cute about them until they move out.
60 degree water is balmy for lots of Maine kids
Today's How's the water? story offered some interesting insight into why ocean temperatures in Maine are so cold.
Some were quick to blame the warm Gulf Stream for missing the Maine coast.
That's part of the story. Georges Bank, an underwater plateau the size of Massachusetts, does block that warm-water current from entering the Gulf of Maine.
But even without a warm current, scientists say, the summer sun is so powerful now that the surface water here should be a lot warmer than it is.
For a full explanation of Maine's cold water, swimmers should look skyward. At the moon.
My kids never pass on an opportunity to swim in the ocean even when the air is chilly, let alone care about the temperature of the water.
When you live in Maine you expect your skin to change colors as it freezes and goes numb while swimming in the ocean. The difference about swimming in the summer is that it happens a little slower than the rest of the year.
July 17, 2005
Kids and air conditioner inseparable this past week
The kids spent the past week at a theater arts camp and sweated their little behinds off. They had a great time but it seemed that watching a movie in front of the air conditioner at home after camp was their only relief. They didn't even have the energy to go swimming at the lake in the afternoon. So needless to say, we haven't done much in the way of our usual outdoor activities. And to be honest, the thought of hiking in 90 degree temperatures with high humidity isn't my idea of fun at the moment either.
Next week however, we hope to get back to our outdoor activities. The kids are taking another class in orienteering at Pineland Farms with their 4-H club. The kids are looking forward orienteering with their friends who have never tried the sport.
Now if the warm temperatures continue without the high humidity, and the bugs can be managed with only one application of bug spray, we'll be one happy family.
July 14, 2005
A bitter sweet map lesson
My kids have a busy camp schedule in July but we've purposely not scheduled any formal camp programs for August. We have a few day trips planned and wanted some flexibility to check out some new places or take a few workshop classes that we could do together.
After discussing possible destinations with the kids yesterday, I checked out the Maine Audubon's website for family programs. There are a lots to choose from.
And if it's any surprise to anyone, our August day trip plans are quite diverse. But we checked one off our list when we took an impromptu visit to the kids' favorite ice cream store yesterday. And I'm beginning to rethink how great it is that G. and L. can read the GPS and have developed a good sense of direction.
While sitting at the picnic table eating our ice cream, G. said something to L. about their favorite candy store. The girls chit-chatted about it for a few minutes while I kept quiet. And between the two of them, they had figured out exactly where the place was -- and that it was only a few miles from where we were.
So for any doubters that think teaching their young children about maps and GPSs is too advanced a concept for them to grasp, think again. Kids can figure anything out when it serves their purposes :-)
July 09, 2005
Talking maps today in the car
My family is involved in a group that exchanges Flat Stanleys. He's a character from a book that travels through the mail to meet new people. It's been a great geography lesson for the kids to map out where each Flat Stanley we host is from and where he's been. And the whole family has had fun taking goofy pictures with the flat friends too.
L.'s Flat Stanley in Deering Oaks Park
We just received a new flat friend from Texas and opened the envelope in the car. L. was trying to figure out where Texas actually was. We didn't have a US map at the time so I was trying to describe it. I'm not sure which clue I offered prompted her to remember (bottom of the US map, it's big, it's between New Mexico and Louisiana) but suddenly she remembered.
"Ooooh mommy I know now. It's the state shaped like underwear!"
OK, hadn't thought about it that way but I guess there's a couple of leg holes there.
July 03, 2005
Urban hike was fun
We just returned from our week-long trip to New York City. We spent an entire day in Central Park and only saw half of it. The kids did their homework to decide what parts of the park they wanted to explore. They settled on the area between 59th and 79th streets where the Belvedere Castle and Balto statue were (they wanted to see a "real" castle and they love the Balto story).
We also tried out the "Ramble" hiking trail in the park. It was hard to believe we were in the middle of a major city; it was a nice trail and we saw tons of birds there. We even had a nice picnic lunch near the pond.
And of course we had downloaded the coordinates for a virtual geocache in the park, which we had to find (and did) near 79th Street.
After walking more than 4 hours through the park and back to Grand Central Station, I was glad that the family was in such good shape from all the hiking we do here at home. We just have to get a little better at people-dodging. The kids have a habit of walking into people and/or poles on the sidewalk. At least this time neither of the kids were cussed-out by a semi-crazed, in-need-of-medication guy as L. was last year when we were there.
Now we're back to enjoy the less-traveled and mostly smog-free trails of Maine.
"King Wacker" at the driving range
After some discussion about what new outdoor adventure we should try for my next Outdoors with Children column, my crew decided to hit the driving range. There's one close to our house and with a busy camp schedule and upcoming vacation (we'll be in NYC next week visiting our cousins) it seemed a good time to try it.
I know nothing about golf. I've never been on a fairway unless you count the winter sledding I did once in high school at a course. Fino doesn't golf either but he loves to go to the driving range. Why? "Because you get to wack the balls really hard."
And it turned out Fino was the king "wacker." His golf balls fell between the 175-250 marker range while the kids barely made the 50 marker. No matter though. We laughed a lot at my ineptness and the many swings -- and misses -- that went on through the 100+ golf balls we had.
And of course the kids found many new ways to use the golfing equipment after we ran out of golf balls.
There were the driver club jumps by G.
And the new fashion wear by L.
And for the record, I do not coach these photos. It's all them.....