Yesterday the kids I decided to go back to Grafton Notch State Park to hike the Eyebrow Trail. They were motivated to hike the mountain they saw across Route 26 when we were on top of Table Rock last week.
I had asked my friend Carl how challenging the Eyebrow was and he said it was steeper than Table Rock (and we thought that one was a challenge). But the kids wanted to give it a whirl before our fall schedule kept us from visiting the park again this season.
And yup, it was a really steep climb! There were several areas with ropes to grab on to to pull yourself up the trail.
And some metal railings to hold on to on the open rock face area (this particular spot made the kids really nervous but once they got over the shock of the drop, they did great).
And then it went up - and up - some more.
The elevation gain for the mile it took to get to our lunch spot (pretty much at the top) was about 1,200 feet. That was the most gain the kids had ever done in that mileage and although they were tired at the top, they were really pleased with their accomplishment.
We enjoyed lunch with a beautiful view.
And waved to the Table Rock trail across the way.
I had brought along our GPS unit, not to find geocaches, but to try a new website - everytrail.com my friend Lisa told me about. The site lets you save your 'tracks' (the path you hiked that you can save on the unit) and upload it. You can also add waypoints and photos so you can really share a comprehensive view of the trail. Basically, it's a free mapping program that sounded like a great resource. It could also be a great site for people looking for trails but aren't sure what the area is like if people share their info there.
And as I've admitted many times before, I'm a geek. This kind of site is totally up my alley, especially because it turned out to be really easy to use. I connected my GPS unit to my computer, opened a free interface software program from the site and it did the rest.
Then I added photos to the waypoints I had taken (the software matched the waypoints to my tracks automatically so adding photos was all that I needed to do). And voila, it was done!
What I thought was even cooler was the fact that they had code to paste into my blog (just like YouTube).
The kids have plans to save more tracks to our GPS to make their own maps on the site this fall.
If you give it a try, let us know so we can check it out!
G. got that position thing during the following round with her friend.
And the girls had a chance to see some other kids who know how to shoot.
But not only did the kids enjoy shooting, they also loved tracking down the stray arrows in the woods. Most in the group were novices so there was a fair amount of time during those first few rounds spent in the woods between shooters.
And even the adults had a turn to shoot and it was a toss up who was having more fun.
Basically, the site owners do the hard work by providing the mining work already. Visitors to the quarry area fill a bucket of dirt and rock mined from the area quarries to sift through to find the gems.
The kids didn't mind the digging work at all.
Afterwards the kids sifted small amounts of dirt and rocks from their bucket through a screen.
Then dipped the screen into a tub of water to rinse off the remaining dirt before dumping their booty on to the table to sift through and look for the gems.
All the kids found some kind of tourmaline (black, green, pink and watermelon) but most were very small pieces.
But it turned out that one of the older boys in our group found a large piece of green tourmaline and was told it was worth quite a bit of money (over $500 for sure, with the guess it was really worth much more than that).
The trick of digging for gems is knowing what you're looking at. For instance feldspar comes in a bunch of different colors so identifying it isn't always so easy. The kids found a lot of feldspar that they liked and thought they could make jewelery out of it along with the tourmaline they found.
My girls had fun peeling the mica apart - there was a ton of it in the area.
G. got tired of looking for gems (she had a full baggie of them) so she decided to make designs with the smaller rocks on her table.
And we found that once you start digging it's hard to stop. Fino was as enthusiastic about the activity as the kids.
There was a poster with some of the more common gems found at the site. The kids found an example of each of these displayed the day we visited.
They've enjoyed doing this so much I thought I'd share how we did it.
We used an embroidery hoop and 100% nylon material (a 'sheer' fabric - like the kind used for dance costumes - worked great for us) to make the screen.
Then the kids drew a simple design (nothing too intricate) on to a piece of paper and then traced it on to the material (securely fastened in the hoop).
We used Mod Podge and a small paint brush to 'paint' the glue on to all the areas of the screen that we did not want ink to go through. We applied two coats of Mod Podge to make sure the screen was well-covered (and it turns out after making several of them, the screen lasts longer with two coats).
We opted to use Lumiere fabric ink instead of the more typical fabric paint because it is not as sticky and less likely the clog-up the screen. The downside to the ink is that it requires heat-setting (laying an iron on the design for several seconds once the ink is dry). The kids also liked the metallic paint options with the ink and I liked that a little of it went a long way. I purchased 3 bottles of the ink at the beginning of the summer and still have 2 half full bottles after making nearly two dozen t-shirts.
We use a piece of folded, coated paper - a newspaper ad circular actually - to spread the ink on the screen. It works great.
An extra set of hands to hold the screen in place while spreading the ink is helpful.
When making letters with the homemade screen, they aren't perfect - designs are more 'forgiving' for inaccuracies with the screening. But after the paint dried on these particular t-shirts, the kids outlined the letters with glitter fabric pens and the effect was really nice. The shirts are still drying as we speak but I'm sure you'll see the final results in a future photo here ;-)
These t-shirts made by my nieces were screened with metallic ink and they liked the 'fancy shine' to them.
Thursday was the first time I'd ever traveled Route 26 beyond Gray/New Gloucester (Range Pond is about the farthest point we've ever gone on the road). So it was an enjoyable drive along the route to see all the places I've heard people talk about but had never seen first-hand.
Then there was the silly stuff. Like the sign we read outside a country store.
I bought a pizza for my wife.
It was the best trade I ever made!
Probably an old joke for those in the area but I had a good chuckle over it and so did L.
L. also spotted a deer crossing sign with a red circle sticker on it's nose.
It turned out that the 2-hour drive to Grafton Notch State Park on the single-lane highway really wasn't so bad. Between the sights and the audio book ("Half Magic" by Edward Eager - the kids gave it a thumbs up!), it was a pleasant ride for all of us.
We took a road trip to Grafton Notch State Park yesterday. We had never been to the park, mostly because it's a 2-hour drive from our house and finding a day completely free of other activities is rare for us.
There were a lot of clouds and it seemed likely it was going to rain so we packed our wet weather gear (i.e., pull-overs) before heading to the park. It turned out we didn't need to because it never did get around to raining while we were there.
After reading the state park brochure (see pdf of it here) with the trail descriptions, we decided to hike to Table Rock.
We chose the white blazed trail (there are two trail options to get to Table Rock) which was a steeper climb and a challenge for the kids but with a few breaks along the way, we managed the 1.5 miles to the top (with approximately a 900' elevation gain I think - correct me if you know for sure!) with a sense of accomplishment.
View of Table Rock from Route 26
We ate lunch on the actual rock but I wouldn't let the kids step past the crack in it because it made me too nervous for them to be any closer to the edge.
It's a straight 900' drop.
The kids decided to make some goofy poses after eating their lunch. Apparently my kids aren't happy unless I let them do funny face pictures after the obligatory smiling one.
And L. wanted me to share with everyone that she hasn't forgotten her first bunny friend even though she brings her Webkinz everywhere these days.
Hiking back down the mountain was just as demanding on the legs as climbing up. L. said they felt "funny and wobbly" by the time we made it back to the car. And actually we met several different couples with dogs that did not make it to Table Rock because the dogs couldn't manage the rocks and steep climb (see video for details).
Personally, I would not suggest this hike for young children either unless they had a good endurance level. It is listed as "easy" in various guides but I believe that rating relates to adults. Yes, kids could do this hike but only if they really like to hike and don't have a tendency to complain about walking uphill.
G. had brought along her "Forest Trees of Maine" guide book so she could do some more work on her deciduous tree 4-H project.
I love the fall but really wasn't prepared for the colorful leaves just yet ...
After our hike, which took several hours, we decided to stop at Mother Walker Falls, Screw Auger Falls (where did they come up with those names!?) and Moose Cave. We dipped our tired feet in the icy cold water of Screw Auger and it felt great.
And I had a chuckle over this site. I love the ruffles even if they aren't the socks I asked her to wear on the hiking trip (she does have socks that absorb sweat and cushion her feet better). But it does go to show that a girl can love the outdoors without sacrificing her feminine side.
Oh and I had to include this pic because the girls liked this bit of trail humor...
We chatted with several families with children on the mountain yesterday who aren't fans of the Eagle Scout trail. It's much longer than the 1/4 mile to the top from the Ledges Trail. And I was asked a couple of times at the trail head where the short trail to the top was.
I'm not sure if it was Mimi the dog or simply the kids that attracted questions, but several other people along the trails and at the top of the mountain commented on not being prepared for the length of the Eagle Scout trail and about how the mountain used to have a nice short trail and that the new trail 'was too long.'
Having made the mistake once before, I told them I knew just what they were talking about. And although the new Eagle Scout trail is not that long, it's just not what visitors expect when their friends suggest they hike the mountain because it has a short trail and yeah, even little kids can do it.
So if you're taking your little ones hiking and want to find the Ledges Trail - the one that's a steep climb but only 1/4 mile - park at the new trail head off Douglas Mountain Road. Then walk back out to the road, take a left and follow the paved road up the hill to the old trail head.
There is NO signage to direct you to the Ledges Trail from the new trail head and that's unfortunate. But once you find it, the Ledges Trail is well-marked and easy to follow.
The Ledges Trail
The stone tower is all the motivation the kids need to make the climb up the mountain.
Of course the Webkinz came along for the hike.
We found a nice shady spot to relax and have a snack.
Mimi made lots of new friends on the trail because there were lots and lots of dogs hiking with families yesterday. People with dogs always stop to chat and my kids really enjoyed all the friendly dogs and people.
Yesterday we returned home to find the yard empty -- not a chicken in sight.
But after a walk around the coop we did find our neighbor's rottweiler prowling the area.
It seems the dog escaped her yard again (for the millionth time). We've tried for years to be patient with the rottweiler's owners and neighborly when returning the dog home.
Yesterday, after discovering a bunch of feathers (usually the sign a chicken has been killed) and facing the task of rounding up the flock (a time-consuming and not-so-fun job), I decided it was time to take a firmer hand with the situation.
G. and I caught up with the dog and guided her back home (she's a big dog with big teeth and although has never bitten us, I know she has never been trained properly so we don't get too close her). Fino on the other hand knows how to handle this dog but unfortunately he wasn't home at the time.
After ringing the bell several times the owner's girlfriend came to the door. I explained that the dog has been in our yard a lot (even more than usual lately) and was hoping she could keep the dog in their own yard.
I was told by the girlfriend that she and the owner thought the dog was staying in their yard all the time now and didn't need to wear the collar for the electric fence anymore (which was purchased less than a year ago, previous to that they didn't have anything to properly keep her in their yard).
The nonchalant delivery of that statement cinched my decision to call animal control.
A little while later we had all our cousins outside helping us round up the chickens. I assumed we'd find at least one dead chicken after discovering a bunch of feathers that definitely did not fall out naturally.
But it turned out that Napoleon was still alive; he just had a lot less tail feathers.
We tie-dyed t-shirts outside yesterday after our trip to the race track. It's one of those summertime crafts that my kids love because it's both messy and colorful. And they particularly enjoy making matching t-shirts to wear with their cousins and friends.
My cousin had picked up the dye and t-shirts but I turned out to be the slacker and had forgotten to buy elastics. We improvised by using clothespins and were all pleasantly surprised how well they worked out.
We used a full package of powdered Rit dye and mixed it with very hot water in buckets outside.
My experience with Rit dye in the past is that the color washes out if you use the amount of water it calls for on the box. And asking the kids to hold the fabric in the dye for more than 20 seconds while standing over the bucket with their shirts is too much for them.
I used about a gallon of water with the full packet of dye.
Once the kids chose the area of the t-shirt to dip in the dye they counted to 20 before they removed it.
The downside to using clothespins (which they put on before they dipped it in the dye) was that it was a bit tricky to squeeze out the excess dye so I helped the kids do that part.
L. was being silly when I asked her if I could take a picture while she was making her t-shirt.
After the kids were done with the dye, they washed their shirts (with the clothespins still fastened) in a bucket of cold salt water (one gallon of water w/ 1 cup of table salt).
We ended up with a colorful mix of shirts for the cousins to wear together.
Since both my girls and my cousin's girls are horse fans, we decided to check out the Family Fun Day at Scarborough Downs yesterday to learn about harness racing.
I will admit that when I first walked into the building I thought we'd made a mistake with our decision to take the kids to the track. It was the wagering booth and smoker's room that had me a little concerned about what I was exposing my kids to.
But once we walked through the building and into the track's outdoor seating area, we found the kid-related activities.
All the kids enjoyed feeding and petting the horses.
It turned out that Mimi the dog was the most enamoured with the horses.
L. in particular liked the horse puzzle book she was given and jumped right into it while the races were going on.
There was also a demonstration on how the harness works and the kids were given a chance to try it out.
It turned out that the pinball machine in the clubhouse was a hit with the girls. They don't usually have opportunities to play the game so it was a treat to play it with their cousins.
We only spent about an hour at the track and although they had some interesting stuff for the kids, it was a little more *education* about gambling than I had would have preferred. But everyone had fun and the girls got to spend some time learning about horses so it was worth the trip.
It's been pretty windy the past couple of days so the kids and their cousins dragged out the kites for some kite flying in the yard.
But it took some help from Fino to get a couple of the kites detangled and flight-ready.
I doubt there's a parent out there that doesn't know what a drag this job is.
After all that work Fino decided he needed a turn as well.
And as I was downloading these pictures I couldn't get this song out of my head so I thought I'd share it in the spirit of a windy weekend in Maine.
Let's go fly a Kite
The girls have always really liked that song and were especially pleased when their dance teacher chose it for a recital number this past year. It turned out to be one of their favorite routines of all time.
There is a lot of behind the scenes work done by the 4-H Leaders Association to spiffy up the 4-H-related areas for the Cumberland County Fair in September. The girls and I made time this year to lend a hand with the cleaning of the 4-H hall and spent an hour at the fairgrounds yesterday.
We only made a small contribution to the cleaning effort by washing windows ...
... and the display shelves.
Later in the car on the way home the kids were chatting about how much they were looking forward to the fair this year, especially working in the food booth.
It may be that summer is almost over and school stuff is starting but for my kids, September is a month to look forward to because it's all about having fun at the fair.
My day didn't really start yesterday until I pulled into the driveway after a busy morning at work and an afternoon doctor's appointment.
This is just how life is for most families ....
What greeted me in the driveway that was less than typical was one of our chickens walking funny (and no, it wasn't Lucy). After a closer look at Una, I realized the problem.
WARNING: Continue reading at your own risk. I would suggest putting down the food you're snacking on at your computer right now!
Una hadn't been taking care of herself and had so much crusted poop on her tailfeathers, she couldn't walk straight.
Bizarre but unfortunately, true.
I walked into the house, dumped my backpack and lunch box, rounded up the kids, changed into old clothes and grabbed some rubber gloves to set about giving Una a good soak in the water to clean her up.
She lost a few tail feathers in the end but she was walking more normally.
Unfortunately the fun wasn't over at our house just yet.
Around 8 p.m. L. and I were sitting at the kitchen table reading our books and snacking on ice cream when something flew by us.
We both had a delayed reaction in coming to the realization that it wasn't an oversized moth or small bird.
Nope, it was a bat.
After she and I screamed, L. dove under the table so fast she did a number on her back.
She said she was so surprised she couldn't get under the table fast enough.
I went under the table with her (see I admitted it Fino!) while G. hid behind the counter. That's when Fino came fuming into the room yelling at me about the reason the kids are always so afraid of everything -- I overreact.
I mumbled some less-than-complementary words about husbands under the table before yelling at him to get rid of the (insert expletive here) bat.
Unfortunately the bat went MIA and the kids and I decided to take our reading material into the bedroom while Fino started looking around the house.
It turned out Toddy - the blind as a bat cat - found the bat hanging (literally) on the window in the kids' playroom and was meowing at it.
Apparently he has bionic hearing.
Fino tried to catch the bat then gave that up and opened a window. With some active redirecting, the bat flew out of the house a few minutes later.
The kids turned in their summer reading list to the library the other day and a couple of the audio books we listened to while driving to our various outdoor adventures were real gems.
At the top of the list (and was recommended by a librarian at Baxter Library - Thanks Deanna!):
"The Skull of Truth" by Bruce Coville
It was a full cast of great voices and the story had the endearing characters and humor that made it enjoyable for not only the kids, but for their parents as well.
"The Penderwicks" by Jeanne Birdsall was another favorite (summer is the perfect time for this one). It wasn't the typical humorous or magical-type book that the kids usually prefer so I was pleased they expanded their horizons with a title they wouldn't have necessarily picked up on their own.
We also listened to a few books that the kids weren't so enthusiastic about. They really liked "Bright Shadow" by Avi right up until the end of the book when one of the main characters dies. The audio was great and kept their interest and they both said they understood about not getting all your wishes but didn't think the author had to kill anyone off. They were angry about it and there was no talking them in to agreeing it was a good book otherwise.
I can appreciate always wanting a happy ending. I'm pretty much an escapist reader myself.
I also took a chance on a classic, "The Enchanted Castle" by Edith Nesbit that was written in the early 1900s. The audio quality was terrible with the copy I had and the reader spoke too quickly. It was a bad combo. We kept with it until the 3rd disk before the kids said they'd had enough. We might try another Nesbit book but I'm going to have to more carefully preview it to make sure the reader and quality are better next time.
The kids 'reviewed' their favorite audio books for their YouTube channel and while there were some digressions with mentions of flying chickens, chatter boxes, Dulce the kitten and bad jokes, they did talk about the books too.
Well, they are kids and they like books enough to make a video about them.
Couldn't ask for more than that.
Favorite audio books (with title and author info at the end)
If you have a favorite audio book for kids, tell us about it! We're looking for new titles for the fall.
Some orphaned kittens needing a home came through the animal hospital this week and Fino and the girls decided they HAD to rescue one.
Meet our new addition to the family -- Dulce!
She has a little caramel-colored spot on her forehead so "dulce de leche" suited her and that is her 'official' name. But everyone's calling her 'Dulce' for short.
Of course, the girls took a ton of photos of her yesterday - 65 pics that I downloaded this morning to be exact.
I won't bore you with them all; these are the highlights.
One of several deer-in-the-headlights shots.
Dulce playing with a variety of stuff and some non-approved kitty toys, including L.'s new Webkinz charm bracelet.
She learned to navigate the stairs pretty quick. She's tiny but she doesn't have a problem jumping around on them.
G. fell asleep because Dulce kept her up most of the previous night crying about being in her sleeping box (Dulce needs to learn to use the kitty potty box before she's allowed to roam at night).
Toddy isn't so keen on having Dulce around just yet but we're sure he'll get used to her. Since Toddy can't see that she's about 1/4 of his size, he can't quite figure out if she's a threat or not right now.
But I think Toddy is going to like having Dulce around in the long run because now that there's a female cat in the house for the girls to dress up, the heat will be off him to do it all.
This time she involved some American Girl 'Molly' dolls along with the plastic cups and she and her friend A. had a grand 'ol time with the game yesterday while the thunder and lightening storms were going on.
G. didn't play; she took it upon herself to record the game to share with her YouTube friends.
What do your kids do indoors on a thunderstorming day in the summer?
Our friends took us out on Sebago in their motor boat for our annual afternoon ride on the lake on a beautiful summer day. The adults did a little swimming and a lot of relaxing while the kids were thrilled with swimming and jumping off the boat.
Of course L. is never without at least a couple of Webkinz. I was told CheChe the monkey and Patti the googles LOVE boat rides.
Pulling out of the marina onto Sebago.
A large sailboat was beached and it looked like it had a problem. We found it being towed out when we returned to the area later.
The water is always a little rough in the afternoon.
The kids had fun hanging out below deck.
The highlight of the day was jumping off the back of the boat.
The kids did it over and over again.
And A. found belly flops not too painful in a life vest.
I'm still scratching mosquito bites and putting cream on the numerous horsefly bites (or maybe they were greenhead or deerfly bites, I was too busy swatting them away to notice specifics) this morning that I got at Reid State Park. But it seems that Georgetown isn't the only place with a lot of biting insects -- people are saying that there are more of them at Maine beaches this year.
Charlene Donahue, an entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, said that while she doesn't have any data on greenheads, she's heard reports that deerflies -- close cousins of the greenhead fly -- are present in greater numbers. She said no one can be sure, however, because the state doesn't have the resources to keep track of the numbers of insects that don't carry diseases that threaten people's health or hurt the state's economy by destroying trees.
What is certain is that we're in the heart of the season for deerflies and greenheads, as well as their other annoying relatives such as horseflies, and a bite by even one or two of the hard-to-kill insects can be a spoiler for people trying to enjoy the outdoors.
But this is the bit that was oh so pleasant to read over morning tea:
And the insects, which are swift and agile, also all have blade- like mouth parts instead of needle-like organs that biting insects like mosquitoes have. "They have mouth parts that tear into your skin and then they lap up the blood," Donahue said.
Yesterday we decided to go on an adventure to a place we'd never been. So after some discussion about what we were in the mood to do (kids wanted to go to a new beach) we settled on Reid State Park in Georgetown.
I had heard of the park but didn't know much about it so when we arrived at the park gate and paid our fee ($4.50/adults, $1/kids under 12), I asked for a map.
We had two options, take the road on the right to Mile Beach and Todd's Point or take a left to Griffith Head, Mile Beach and The Lagoon.
The kids didn't like the sounds of The Lagoon (they thought it sounded "yucky and weedy" - which was not the case as we later found out) so we opted to go right.
There was ample parking at Todd's Point but as soon as we stepped out of the car, we were bombarded with mosquitoes and horse flies.
They are no joke here!
G. was in charge of packing bug spray and she did. But bless her 11-year-old heart, she packed the bottle that had less than a 1/4" of liquid left. So after the girls got a good spraying from head to toe, I was left with a less than I needed (and yes, I am full of bites today).
The point offered a beautiful view of the ocean but the waves crashing against the rocks gave me pause. After walking around the rocks (at a safe distance from the water) and spotting the sandy shore of Mile Beach, we decided to climb over the rocks (there was an easier path in the grass to take but the girls liked the challenge of climbing better) to get over to the swimming area.
The kids immediately ran toward the water. The waves were bigger and stronger than I expected so I called them back and gave them the lay of the land (i.e., mom's rules) -- don't go in further than your knees.
But within a few minutes L. had a wave crash over her head, found her footing after a few seconds to stand up only to be knocked off her feet a moment later by a riptide.
This is not a beach for the faint of heart parent.
Needless to say I amended my instructions to the girls not to go above their shins.
L. is 9 and a pretty good swimmer but with barely 60 pounds on her, she had a hard time staying on her feet with these waves. But my 11-year-old is about 90 pounds and did not have the same trouble.
There were a couple of attentive life guards on duty and I stayed by the water the entire time the kids were in it. But I admit to being one of those annoying mothers yelling at her kids to get closer to shore when they wandered more than 10 feet past me.
All the while being bitten relentlessly by horse flies.
I lasted nearly an hour and half, which I felt was a generous amount of time for the girls to have their fun (which they did), because the water made me nervous. And that's not typical for me, I was a certified swim instructor once upon a time and truly love to be around water ... (But if the kids were older and stronger swimmers and we all had boogie boards, I'd have a totally different take on things - it's a great surfing spot!)
After I called it quits, we found the bath house showers to rinse off and change. THAT was really nice.
Before leaving the park, I drove to The Lagoon to check it out and found it packed with people (and no parking spots) but clearly it was the place for swimming in calmer waters. We saw lots of young children playing there.
When I got home I called a friend to ask if she'd ever been to the park. She recalled that she had but it wasn't a favorite spot. Apparently her son was pulled under by a riptide on the Mile Beach and needed a life guard to help him out.
I should have called her first. It would have saved me from the few gray hairs I see this morning.