Sunday, May 17, 2015

Appalachian Trail-Maryland Days 2 and 3

I have literally no pictures of day 2. 

The reason I have no pictures of day 2 is that we were cold, and tired, and sore, and then it started raining. Still, we met some really cool people at the shelter the night before and were ready to go our requisite 8 miles to the next shelter that day.

It started out beautifully. Lovely, easy hiking. And then we went up a huge hill that was covered in boulders top to bottom. It was really hard. The 2nd half of the trail that day was much nicer, but that's when the rain started. 

The boys did great. Really and truly great. Lilyanna did great, too, but with significantly more whining. The boys took off ahead of us at some point with the instructions to find the shelter and get set up and then head back to help with their sister. While it was just Lilyanna and I, we took A LOT of breaks. Breaks seem like a nice idea except when you're wearing a really heavy backpack. And my pack was heavier that day because I had lightened some of Benjamin's load from the day before.  

Also, while I'm sure nobody wants to hear about this, I was also dealing with some major feminine hygiene issues throughout the whole thing. Basically, I learned in great detail what NOT to do. 

Anyway, around mile 6 that day and in the rain sat down and refused to go another step. Just refused. There was weeping and wailing and howling and gnashing of teeth. I finally asked if she wanted to go home the next day. She jumped up said, "Yes, Mommy, thank you!" and practically ran the remaining miles to the shelter for that night. 


When we arrived, we found quite the crowd of friendly people already set up, but they made room for us and helped us get our dinner together quickly before it got too dark.  Lilyanna made friends with the only other girl there (she was in her late 20s, but Lilyanna was feeling desperate for some girl time.  The AT was a little too male-centric for her tastes.) She also announced to anyone who would listen, "Hi! I'm Lilyanna! We're backpacking, but I hate it! I just want to go back to the cheap motel and watch Food Network. I don't ever want to go backpacking again!" She said it all so cheerfully, though. Poor traumatized child. 

It was at this point that Benjamin was suddenly super in to the whole idea of backpacking since he'd been talking shop with the fellow backpackers at the shelter. Nothing like war stories and comeraderie to inspire a surly teenager. ;)

When we woke in the morning, we took our time with breakfast, gave food away to those who would still be continuing on for a few more days. Gave information to the ones who were heading north where we'd already traveled, and called for the shuttle to come pick us up. We filled up our water bottles at the spring and hiked an easy mile to the highway to get picked up.

The weather was glorious. And we were sore, but everyone was in good spirits.

I reminded myself that I wasn't a total failure. The dream of hiking the whole state was mine, not my children's, and we'd accomplished quite a bit. We were also better prepared for next time. Though my kids swear there won't be a next time, I'd like to go down to finish the state of MD and WV, perhaps in the fall. I'll take whomever wants to come with me. 

My 5 year old hiked 18 miles in 2 days. She rocks. (Even if there was lots of whining while she did it.)

Lilyanna crawled into her sleeping bag as soon as we arrived at the shelter on day 2. She ate both dinner and breakfast in "bed".

Waiting for the shuttle at the trail head. Everybody feeling very chill knowing that they were "supposed" to be walking 10 miles that day.
Favorite game? Wait until Nathaniel is sitting down. When he asks for food, throw it just out of reach and watch him flail a lot trying to grab it without taking off the pack or standing again. (Seriously. I wish I had video. It was hysterical!)

This is the only photographic evidence that I was even on this hike. 1 picture.

A little historical site-seeing was in order on our way home. Except every time we got out of the van, there was a chorus of "ooo, ow, oh, ow". We were a little stiff and sore.
Benjamin somehow forgot the belt for his hiking pants, so this is what I fashioned for him so he would stop mooning us while hiking up hills. ;) Bungee cords should be kept on hand for all backpacking emergencies.
We took our extremely stinky selves to Cracker Barrel for a meal that didn't need to be reconstituted first. And then we headed home, where were able to have a few relaxing days left of spring break.

All in all, I'm really glad we did it. We have some really fun memories and stories, and my kids know that they can do hard things. I'll force them into doing it again sometime soon, but I'll let them forget a little bit more first. ;)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Appalachian Trail-Maryland section Prep and Day 1

I think we are now sufficiently recovered from our hike to talk about it. 
I have long wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. I would REALLY like to take a few months and do the whole thing, but alas, it is not in the cards right now. Perhaps someday, I'll do it all on my own. 

Before Lilyanna was born, I'd come up with a plan to take the boys "in a few years" and do big sections of the trail. One state at a time.  Then I got pregnant. And the timeline shifted a little bit. 

Last year, though, I read an article by some hardcore backpacker who discussed backpacking with his 5 year old son, and I realized that Lilyanna was about to be 5 and maybe we COULD do it! I did crazy amounts of research to make sure that while we would have lightweight, yet economical items. Outfitting 5 backpackers could easily have broken the bank, so I took 6 months to purchase all necessary items to help spread out the cost.

I also researched which state we would be able to complete in the 5 days we had during spring break AND that would be easy enough for my 5 year old. The Maryland section of the trail seemed to fit the bill, so that made it easier for me to narrow my research for the trip and make plans for that specific section.

The day before we left, I assembled all the food we would need for our 5 days. I will say, we probably could have gotten away with less. Even though we were hungry, we were more tired than anything else. However, it did make it so I was able to easily share with fellow hikers without worrying that we wouldn't have enough.

 We drove down to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia right after church on Sunday and checked into the a local motel to get our last night of "comfortable" sleep. Family tradition dictates that The Food Network must be watched when we stay in any hotel/motel. This we did.  After the kids went to sleep, I stayed up and went over everything again, one last time.

 And that is when I started to panic. For nearly a year, I'd been telling everyone that our trip would be fine! That there was nothing to worry about! And then all of a sudden the night before I realized that I had no bear bags or even rope with which to tie food up in a tree. Also, I noticed that right before we got there, ALL the shelters in MD had been closed for tree trimming near the shelters. This was particularly problematic because we didn't have tents. In an effort to cut our weight, and since on the MD section of the trail, you're required to sleep at shelter areas only, we didn't bring any. Because we were so early in the season, I was counting on the shelters being available. After about 30 minutes of research, I was finally able to determine that shelters had reopened the day before, so we were fine.

Still, it was a mini-panic attack in the making.

The next morning, we got dressed in our outfits, ate breakfast and did the final prep on our packs. We drove to Harpers Ferry where a shuttle picked us up and drove us to the PA/MD border about 45 miles north.  He dropped us off on the PA side, so we were able to hike 1 mile and then hit the Mason-Dixon line.
 Caleb LOVED all the rocks! There was lots of marble all over the place that made it slightly less terrible to climb over all the rocks and boulders.
 We stopped for a little trail mix and a rest, and Nathaniel fell over. Rather than put down the trail mix, and right himself, he decided it would be easier to keep lying there eating until it was time to get up and go. This is so typical Nathaniel....

 There are many pictures from the first few miles of the first day, because we were still fresh and the big nasty hills and rocks and hadn't started yet. It got so much worse so fast.

Notable things from day 1:
1.We had to cross a swollen stream about midway through the hike, which required some creativity on my part to first get my pack across and then my daughter. 

2. We hiked 10 miles the first day. The last 2 in the dark. I don't recommend it. 

3. We arrived at the shelter after dark, and were too tired to eat, so we all just went immediately to sleep.

4. I was reduced to tears only once that first day when all of the kids expressed their extreme dislike of my plans for our spring break AND then I banged my head hard on a rafter in the shelter. The rafter put me over the edge.

5. Our gear choices were excellent, and I was very pleased with how all of that turned out, specifically our clothing. 

6. Our maps did not seem to accurately reflect the mileage. It's possible we went further than 10 miles. If it was only 10 miles, it was the longest 10 miles EVER.

7. Fellow hikers of the AT are generally good people who are happy to chat, and swap stories. There's a real sense of community among the trail hikers. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A New Addition to the Family!

 Meet Rudy.

Rudy is a dog. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to be precise.

We said we'd never get a dog. We said it repeatedly. And adamantly. A lot.

And now we have a dog.

He is a super sweet and good tempered dog. Really. Like one of the nicest dogs I've ever met. 

But, still. He's a dog. And we said we were never going to get a dog. Todd is allergic. I have enough other things to do!

And yet, we have him. And we adore him.

Caleb is like a dog whisperer. Better, probably. I've never watched that show of the same title, but he and dogs have a thing. (This is as of about 3 years ago when he finally got bigger than most dogs. Until then, he was a little shy around bigger dogs. My parents got two dogs and Caleb did everything with those cuties the whole time we would visit my parents.

Then a few months ago he asked if he could start walking dogs since we couldn't have one. He decided he could be happy just helping to take care of other people's dogs on a regular basis. This seemed like a win win for everyone. Caleb earns money and gets to hang out with dogs, and I didn't have to get one.

But he LOVES dogs, and all of a sudden on our neighborhood fb group up popped a picture of this sweet dog who needed to find a new home due to some circumstances having nothing to do with him. And even though it was crazy, I asked for more information. And called Todd. And emailed back and forth with the owner and researched the breed. And talked to Todd. And then we met the dog.

Then Rudy came over for a play date. Then we went to California. And the day after we came home, Rudy came to live with us.

All the kids are happy, but Caleb is HAPPY. Like he glows a little bit every time this sweet dog so much as looks at him.

So, even though it means I have another kid in the house, essentially, and much more vacuuming to do, and we have to do all manner of crazy things to make sure Todd's allergies stay in check, just watching a boy and his dog is maybe one of the sweetest things I've ever seen.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring in CA!


I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that our summer plans got turned on their ear when the timing didn't work out to visit my niece and nephew in Spain while we were going to be in Europe. Happily,  we discovered that they were coming to visit their mother and Grandparents in CA, so we crashed that party!

Todd flew out a few days early with Caleb and Lilyanna since that was significantly cheaper than waiting the couple of extra days that I had to with the older boys due to their concerts, rehearsals, and tests at school. On a Thursday night immediately after Nathaniel's band concert was over, we went to the Dayton airport where we hung out for 5 or 6 hours waiting for our 5:30 am flight. Incidentally, if you have to be in an airport all night before you go through security, Dayton is an excellent choice. Lovely lounge areas for sleeping!

 Or not sleeping. ;) 

We are so tired.

A view from the San Mateo Bridge. I swear fog like that only happens in the Bay Area. I love it there.

 When we arrived, I was told there were going to be some family pictures. Surprise! So, Grandma took the boys shopping for adequate clothing to wear and I went to sleep. I think I'd been awake for something like 36 hours at that point. There's something to be said for having extended family nearby. I went to sleep and the village took care of my children. It was a lovely thing.
 Nathaniel hates pictures. But the weather was so fantastic, even he couldn't master too much grouchiness about the day.
Lilyanna is ready to move to CA. She was VERY happy to wear her warm weather dresses and sandals again!

 My nephew's English is very good, and my niece's is getting better all the time, but when that fails, the universal language of gaming and technology takes over nicely. ;) 

 Do you see this grass, people?? Caleb kept taking off his shoes just to feel it in between his toes. We'd forgotten about grass here in Ohio. It's been so long.

Oh, yes, and here is Lilyanna with the orange tree in my in-laws backyard. When my father in law is feeling particularly feisty, he texts me pictures of it heavy laden with oranges. He sends it to me in February. I usually send a note back that is impolite at best.

This was taken right after my 12 year old niece tied with my 15 year old cross-country running son. We teased him about that for the rest of the trip.

Seriously. Caleb and Lilyanna are ready to pack up and move.

Sunshine! Grass! Blue skies!!

 There was a shopping day for the girls. They picked these shirts out separately and were excited to model them later. Lilyanna thinks Maite is the best!

 The best part was watching these cousins play together. They only get to see one another every few years, so it makes me happy that when they do, they are able to jump back in to friendship with one another.

Speaking of being silly together, we stayed up late one night to do this to Grandma's kitchen. ;)

Some pranks transcend language barriers nicely.

It was a lovely trip. And we are even more resolved that we need to go visit them in Spain in a few years before everyone is entirely grown up and it gets too tricky to do so!