Dan and Hannah on a Boston Whaler

Dan and Len in front of the Boston Whaler

Dan and Len in front of the Boston Whaler

Here’s the back story.  Lenny and I grew up in Radburn, a family-oriented, park-centric community in Fair Lawn, NJ in the 1960s.  As teenagers, we’d walk the two miles to Thomas Jefferson Junior High School.  There were no school buses.  While I was a benchwarmer on the ninth grade TJ basketball team, Lenny scored and rebounded with the first team.

Former Fair Lawn High School basketball coach, Hubie Brown when coaching for the Knicks

Former Fair Lawn High School basketball coach, Hubie Brown when coaching for the New York Knicks

In high school he played for the Hubie Brown; that’s right, the Hubie Brown who later coached the New York Knicks.  Though Len had the game to play on the high school tennis team with me, he chose high jumping for his spring sport.

And then we lost touch for 45 years.  He went to college on Long Island and I to Ohio, then Arizona.  The late 60s and early 70s were times of upheaval in the lives of twenty-somethings in our country divided by the Viet Nam War.  We were each finding our own paths, taking our next steps, wondering how the Universe would unfold.

And then as the Universe will, Lenny showed up at my mother’s memorial service this past January.  While visiting his mom back in Radburn, he joined our friends, Gabe, Doc, and Penny, who were coming to Mom’s service.

Gulf of Maine

In the few minutes we had to connect, damn it was good to see him.  He’d moved around but ended up on Cape Cod in the early 1980s about the time Hannah and I moved from Arizona to Maine.  For the next 30+ years we each had no idea the other one was living just across the Gulf of Maine.

Cape Cod Massachusetts

Cape Cod Massachusetts

We talked of visiting the other in the coming year.  Recently, with his work in canvas and sail making on the Cape slowing down, he emailed and wondered if Hannah and I would like to visit.

It seemed like just the opportunity to explore where the good vibes from last January might lead.

L9H catch of his life sign

As opposed to the horror that is driving to the Cape in the summer, traveling to the Cape in late September is the classic Marie Antoinette piece of cake.  It’s a mere two and half hours of driving from home in York, Maine through the center of Boston to West Harwich 150 miles away.  After an afternoon of biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail (see blog for October 11, 2014), we meet up with Len and Sage.

Over dinner at the local’s Villa Roma in West Harwich (four stars), we set Mr. Peabody’s way back time machine for the 1960s (The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show).  Living on the streets next to each other in Radburn, Lenny and I had the tumult of the Sixties of the Beatles and the Peace and Love Generation as the prelude to our coming of age.  Who knows what we were like as teenagers, but over dinner Hannah and I enjoy their company and are touched how he looked out for us throughout our stay.

Sliding the Boston Whaler into the Herring River

Sliding the Boston Whaler into the Herring River

Come Tuesday morning, Lenny has checked the tides to know that we can’t put his Boston Whaler into the tidal Herring River until 1030A.  As a classic Cape Cod boat, the Boston Whaler can’t sink and maneuvers easily in the mud flats of tidal rivers.  Due to its foam construction, the Whaler will remain afloat if sawed in half or even if completely swamped.

Hannah checking out upstream

Hannah checking out upstream

Backing down the town dock, Len maneuvers the trailer like someone who was born on the water, not in suburban New Jersey.  Though a mile to the Nantucket Sound and then on to the Atlantic Ocean, we motor inland to nature’s paradise, the Bell’s Neck Conservation Lands.  Purchased by the town of Harwich to protect the Herring River and West Reservoir, this sanctuary is home to, of course, herring as well as otters, swans, blue herons, night herons, and kingfishers that we will see today.

Captain and first mate

Captain and first mate

In shorts and sweatshirt, the late morning in mid-September ride on the Boston Whaler takes us peacefully along a channel bracketed by low and high grasses.  We quickly leave the few river houses behind as we putter along on our river journey.

The Boston Whaler skipper

The Boston Whaler skipper

Passing a kayaker with two fishing poles set up to catch striped bass, I get the feeling that river denizens live and let live.  Throughout the morning Lenny deftly fields our questions about this tidal ecosystem.  Quite knowledgeable, I mean, like tour guide knowledgeable, he adds to his credibility by saying he doesn’t know when he doesn’t know.  Humble wisdom at its best.

Kayaker with two poles fishing for striped bass

Kayaker with two poles fishing for striped bass

Lenny navigates at a respectful 5 mph and the kayaker pulls right so we avoid his lines.  As a river man, Lenny calls out to others navigating the Herring River this morning.  He seems so natural in these aqua-surroundings; this Jersey boy has found a home on this water paradise.

Herring run from the brackish water to the fresh water of the West Reservoir

Herring run from the brackish water to the fresh water of the West Reservoir

While the grasses are still green, the maples are beginning to turn red.  A herring run allows the fish into the fresh water pond to spawn; they then return to the salt water ocean where they are breakfast, lunch, and dinner for tuna.

Crabbing

Crabbing

Passing under a country bridge, we wave to a couple crabbing. Every July and August, the waters warm enough for the mating season of the blue crab, of which there are millions on the Cape.  As nocturnal crustaceans, blue crabs favor estuaries like the Herring River with muddy bottoms.  Fifteen crabs make a decent meal, which works out well since twenty-five is the daily limit for crabbers.

Mother swan patrolling

Mother swan patrolling

Passing a pair of mate-for-life swans and their cygnets, we give them a wide berth as swans are known to aggressively protect their young.  As plant eaters, they feed on roots, stems, and the leaves of aquatic and submerged plants.

L9E H in boat

At the far end of the Herring River, Len turns off the motor and we just appreciate the Simon and Garfunkel sound of silence in the early fall.  Appreciative of our sweatshirts against the cool river air, we ride back through another place and time; a place few tourists to the Cape get to see.  The motor on the Boston Whaler quietly hums as we make our way back to the dock.

And again, the Universe unfolds into all its goodness.

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Dan and Hannah Bike the Cape Cod Rail Trail to Chatham

Map of Cape Cod

It’s the worst.  Bar none!  Traffic to Cape Cod in the summer is the worst in all New England, maybe the known world.  As residents of New England for thirty plus years, we wouldn’t dream of going to the Cape during July and August.  Conveniently, my high school classmate Lenny has invited us to the mid-Cape in September.

The Urban Dictionary describes Cape Cod as a small peninsula off Massachusetts that sucks money out of tourists to survive since the fishing industry is slowly dying. Basically we hate tourists, but without them we’d be totally impoverished.

You can find VCU Rams everywhere

You can find VCU Rams everywhere

Leaving after the morning Boston rush hour commute, we take I-95 south and then follow I-93 through the heart of Boston.  Gliding onto route 3 on the South Shore, we will have major highways for 98% of our 150 mile drive to the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

Once over the Sagamore Bridge onto the Cape, we take to the four lane route 6 which leads us east through the heart of the Cape.  Along the way we stop at the visitor center for bike maps and fortunately learn of the side bike trail to Chatham.  Nearby at their picnic tables, we lunch on our obsequious Subway Tuna and Chicken Salad subs.

Getting ready to roll

Getting ready to roll

The Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) is a 22 mile walking and biking trail from Dennis to Wellfleet.  As the Cape grew as a destination for vacationers in the early 20th century, the Old Colony Railroad transported travelers throughout the Cape.  Then, Henry Ford had the bright idea to mass produce automobiles and with that came the death knell of the railroad on the Cape.  With the building of the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges over the Cape Cod Canal in 1935, the rail lines soon fell into disrepair.  The silver lining of this playbook is that the Cape embraced biking as recreation and made the one time railroad into a modern day bike trail.

Cape Cod Rail Trail

Cape Cod Rail Trail

Exiting route 6 at exit 9 onto route 134, we pass malls, gas stations, and a barbecue grille store to find the trailhead parking lot on the left with room for 40 to 50 cars.  Since the elevation on the Cape never seems to change by more than a few feet, biking here is easy going and leisurely.  Ten feet wide with a dividing yellow line in many places, the CCRT on this Monday in mid-September has little bike traffic so Hannah and I can ride side by side.

Hannah as the trail begins

Hannah as the trail begins

The trail bisects the Cape Cod peninsula, which is a good thing considering its vulnerability to the inevitable rising sea due to global warming.  On this sunny day in the 70s, it is ideal for biking, but here is the rub – it’s not great for picture taking by amateur photographers like myself.  The sun through the trees on the trail picks up the light and darkens my pictures.  You might be thinking, Wah-wah-wah.  Give me a break; you are on the Cape with Hannah on a 70 degree day.  You got me there.  Mea culpa.  Sacre bleu.

Picked over cranberry bog

Picked over cranberry bog

Passing one of the many cranberry bogs on the Cape, I later learn that cranberries grow on vines in bogs layered with sand, gravel, and clay; some vines are more than 150 years old.

Biking east to Chatham

Biking east to Chatham

After three miles we break off the main CCRT and take the Old Colony Rail Trail to Chatham (Chatham is thought of as a drinking town with a small fishing problem – thank you Urban Dictionary).  Throughout our twelve miles of biking we never see the ocean as we pedal under spreading canopies of still green leaves.

Biking in 70 degrees is all it's cracked up to be

Biking in 70 degrees is all it’s cracked up to be

Finding the ride an excellent work out, we have a trail wide enough to easily pass others without slowing down. Though Hannah’s bike bell alerts others, many times walkers or bikers don’t hear it; just about everyone has ear buds and has zoned out listening to their favorite tunes.  With a strong wind to our backs (we are fortunate that much of our lives are that way), the pedaling is easy and the ride mellow.

Crosswalk courtesy

Crosswalk courtesy

Cape Codders are the new Canadians. Throughout our entire 24 miles of biking, not one car raced through the crosswalk as we waited to cross.  Not one.  Lenny suggests police enforcement may have a lot to do with that.  Even so, I am sticking with the Canadian heritage angle to explain their courtesy.

Hannah at Chatham Lighthouse

Hannah at the Chatham Lighthouse

The trail ends in Chatham; its over-priced Main Street of shops is easy to navigate on this Monday in September.  Like much of the Cape, Chatham is suffering from an exodus of young people and young families due to the high cost of housing and the lack of suitable employment. The majority of Chatham homes sit empty in the winter.

Hannah at Chatham Beach on Nantucket Sound

Hannah at Chatham Beach on Nantucket Sound

I have yet another lament to break your heart.  Beach walking is over rated.  There I’ve said it and I sense a lot of nodding heads and Amen, brothers.  Others are again thinking, Wah-wah-wah.  I get that, too.  Hear me out.  The beach sand is soft granules that give way with each step.  With no rhythm to our walk, we plod and plod some more.

I think you can feel my pain

I think you can feel my pain

Then at the shoreline, the bank to the water is so steeply angled that we are stepping four inches lower with one foot than the other. Give me the flat beaches at low tide in Scarborough, Maine or Hilton Head, South Carolina.  I sense very little love for my position on beach walking.  Give me a midday forest trail or a seaside road at 630 AM any time.

Heading back to the trailhead

Heading back to the trailhead

The twelve miles back to the trailhead is into a steady wind that has us pedaling in middle gears.  Even so, the trail is bracketed by 6 to 10 feet mounds much of the way and we catch a consistent pedaling rhythm here in paradise.

Mileage marking along the Cape Cod Rail Trail

Mileage marking along the Cape Cod Rail Trail

The Cape Cod Rail Trail and biking spur to Chatham are delightful “walk in the park” kind of bike rides. Let me tell you that coming to the Cape in the fall is all it’s cracked up to be.   I can see why tourists come despite, well, the tourists.

Dan and Hannah Climb Mount Hunger in Vermont

 

The trail up Mount Hunger

The trail up Mount Hunger

This is no hike.  Mount Hunger is a serious C-L-I-M-B!  But let me tell you, it’s a worth-the-drive-from-anywhere kind of climb.

Rated “Advanced” and “Difficult” in various hiking guides, Mount Hunger is smaller than its sister, Camel’s Hump, across the valley.  That said, Mount Hunger at 3500 feet has 2300 feet of elevation gain over its 2.1 mile ascent.  On this 58F Tuesday morning in early September, there is no fee to hike this trail .  Or on any morning for that matter.

Dan gets the point at the trailhead of Mount Hunger

Dan makes his point at the trailhead of Mount Hunger

After an overnight with friends Phyllis and Wally in Burlington, we have a simple 30 minute drive south on I-89 to Waterbury, VT.  Taking exit 10 north past the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Complex towards Stowe on route 100, we hang a right on Howard Avenue to Waterbury Center and eventually work our way to a left onto Sweet Road. A a mile and a half later we arrive at a designated parking area; coincidentally we park next to a car with Maine plates.

The trail begins

The trail begins

Immediately the trail gets your attention as it steadily rises towards the summit of Mount Hunger.  With Hannah in the lead, we hike along a trail of gnarly roots, stones, and protruding larger rocks.  The forest canopy covers us nearly completely and will do so until the last few hundred feet of the trail to the summit.

Little sun breaks through the forest canopy

Little sun breaks through the forest canopy

Breathing heavily and stepping on and around rocks, we hike steadily through a forest of pines and hardwoods.  Crossing small mountain rivulets, the trail climbs higher and higher with its Adirondack switchbacks (i.e., the trail goes straight up the mountain).

We have rocks and more rocks.

We have rocks and more rocks.

Soon the rock facing sides of the mountain have us scrambling as we engage in hand-to-stone combat.  Meeting up with the couple from Maine with their golden retriever, we think there is no way that their pooch can make it over these slick stone facades to the top.  Surely, they will turn back.

And all the trail roots we would ever want

And all the trail roots we would ever want

We do banter with them long enough for me to ask them if they think there are antennas on the summit.  They think not, but my question is just a ruse to launch into the story of two antennas meeting on a roof, falling in love, and getting married.  The wedding was just okay, but the reception was terrific.  Surprised and pleased, they smile and we as strangers relax in each other’s company.

VCU ram makes the turn on the Mount Hunger trail

VCU ram makes the blue blaze turn on the Mount Hunger trail

It’s a challenging but not perilous climb; worthy of its “difficult” rating.  Soon we begin to see the first glimpses of blue sky through the leaves, knowing the summit is at hand.

Rock wall on the way to the top

Rock wall on the way to the top

On schedule within 200 feet of the top, we have a panoramic view of the Vermont countryside looking west to the Green Mountains.  It’s real and it’s spectacular.  An hour and twenty minutes after starting we have climbed the two miles up and been richly rewarded.

Looking west to the Greens (Green Mountains)

Looking west to the Greens (Green Mountains)

Within minutes the couple from Maine arrives with their golden retriever!  Duly impressed, we want dog lovers to know that Mount Hunger is accessible for your canines, but it will be just as challenging for them as it will be for you.  Later we learn that some dog owners carry their pets over some of the rock facades.

Early September chill atop Mount Hunger

Early September chill atop Mount Hunger

The top is windy and my sweatshirt warms me from the steady cool wind; Hannah wishes she had gloves.  We have a 360 degree view with the Green Mountains to our west and the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the east.  Surveying nature’s stunning beauty, we know a steep descent awaits.  While the hand holds on the rock faces make the climb up manageable, what about sliding down these stony facades?

As we leave the summit, we immediately approach the rock faces, and it’s butt scraping time.  And then it all seems quite manageable.  In fact, this expansive rock face that we climbed up twenty minutes ago is easier coming down.  Clearly it is no climb to do in wet conditions.

Surefoot Hannah descends Mount Hunger

Surefoot Hannah descends Mount Hunger

We soon meet an affable local with an Alaska hat; easy conversation follows.  Feeling at ease, I ask if he has jumper cables.  He shakes his head no, which offers me the invitation to tell him that a pair of jumper cables goes into a bar.  The bartender says I’ll serve you but don’t start anything.  He loves it.  And I love that he loves it.

As we part, knowing he will see the Maine couple at the top, I say, Ask them about antennas.  With this light-hearted interlude, the door opens for us to be a momentary community of hikers.

Massive stones of Mount Hunger

Massive stones of Mount Hunger

The hike down is slow going as our knees and toes in our boots take the brunt of our descent.  Hannah is nimble and agile over the rocks and shows me the safest way down.

Mount Hunger as we leave on

Mount Hunger as we leave on sweet Sweet Road

It turns out the hike down takes ten minutes longer (1h 30m) than the climb up.  Though counter intuitive, in the beginning we are bursting with that start-of-the-hike energy.  Coming down the mountain we are more cautious and mellow.

At 1P we return to the trailhead, de-sock and de-shoe for our sandals, agreeing with the guide book that calls Mount Hunger one of New England’s ten best hikes.

Benihanna and Jerome

Benihanna and Jerome

Heading for home, we pass the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Complex.  How can we pass up this opportunity to go on the factory tour.  We are right here!

Well, there are two reasons: Owen and Max.  How much better would it be to take our grandsons on the tour with us.  Owen and Max, put it in the calendar of your future iPhone 12s: Omi and Boppa are taking you to Ben and Jerry’s.

For more information about this hike, try Hiking Vermont by Larry Fletcher (Mount Hunger pp. 145-147 for directions and description)

Dan and Hannah Climb Camel’s Hump in Vermont

Vermont map

A shout out goes to our friend Jerrod Hall who responded to my Facebook posting looking for a Vermont hiking recommendation.  Turned on to Camel’s Hump, I am reminded that while he and our son Will were roommates at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, they hiked this third highest mountain in the state.

Eaton's Sugar House in South Royalton, Vermont

Eaton’s Sugar House in South Royalton, Vermont

Leaving home in York, Maine at 6A on this Monday in early September, we know we have a three plus hour drive to Camel’s Hump in north central Vermont.  Our friend Liz Marshall suggested Eaton’s Sugar House in South Royalton, VT for breakfast.

Picnic tables at the Sugar House

Picnic tables at the Sugar House

Ideally located within a half of mile of I-89 off exit 3, Eaton’s Sugar House looks like something out of the 19th century California Gold Rush.  Once inside, we are greeted by our waitress Charity and select one of the fifteen picnic tables on this quiet Monday.

The Original IQ Tester

The Original IQ Tester

Opting for blueberry pancakes, I wait for them trying my skill at the IQ Tester peg game.  Leaving just two pegs means I am above average; which totally confirms what my mother always told me.  Hannah chooses the two egg, bacon, home fries, and homemade bread toast with coffee special for $4.95.

Hannah's Hyundai Elantra arrives at the trailhead for Camel's Hump

Hannah’s Hyundai Elantra arrives at the trailhead for Camel’s Hump

Carbo loaded, we drive another hour to exit 10 on I-89 and wind our way through the town of Waterbury, VT; shadowing the Winooski River we see signs for Camel’s Hump which eventually guide us to the trailhead lower parking lot suitable for twenty cars.  The upper lot can handle 20 more for what many believe is the most popular (and no fee) hike in all of Vermont.

VCU Rams are ready for the Monroe Trail

This VCU Ram is ready for the Monroe Trail

It’s 11A as we put water bottles, sandwich fixings, gorp, and energy bars in our fanny packs for the climb to the top.  Even on this workday Monday there are ten cars in the lot and no shortage of people hiking.

The forest canopy shades the Monroe Trail on the way to Camel's Hump

The forest canopy shades the Monroe Trail on the way to Camel’s Hump

The Monroe Trail is a 3.4 mile ascent that has us hiking to the summit of the only undeveloped peak over 4000 feet in Vermont.  In guide books there are two prominent trails up the mountain: the Burrows, shorter at 4.2 round-trip, and the longer Monroe at 6.8 miles round-trip with its 2600 feet of elevation gain.

Vermont woods

Vermont woods

In 1.3 miles through the heavy forest, we see the turn for the Dean Trail to the top but we opt to stay on the Monroe Trail since we don’t know how much the elevation gain will take out of us.  As a trail that is rocky and constantly rising, it’s really a climb/hike through hardwoods and pines.  As “here for the physical challenge” hikers (as opposed to “stop and smell the roses” hikers), Hannah and I are loving the climb as we pursue a great workout.

Never does the Monroe Trail seem perilous nor does it have the steep rock faces that its sister climb across the valley has (Mount Hunger in Center Waterbury).  Rarely do we have to grab the stone mountainside for balance.  It’s a challenging nearly two hour hike but not daunting; clearly with all the stones and rocks, it is no mountain to climb in even light rain.

On this 60s day, we hike in shorts and tee shirts, sweating much of the way.  A hat for protection from the sun, even sunscreen is hardly necessary as we are shaded for 95% of the hike.  The trail is well-marked and easy to follow.  Climbers up and down provide for a moment of connection.

Approaching the summit

Approaching the summit

A clearing just 0.3 miles from the top is the convergence with the Long Trail and the Burrows Trail as we prepare for our final assault.  By the way. going along the mountain tops of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada, the Long Trail predates the Appalachian Trail.

From atop Camel's Hump

From atop Camel’s Hump

Once at the summit, we have panoramic views of the Vermont countryside.  With dogs aplenty at the top, we hikers are all admonished to walk just on rocks and stay off the grassy portions of Camel’s Hump due to its fragile arctic alpine vegetation.

Check out the video from the windy mountain top.

 

Barefoot hiker's imprint

Barefoot hiker’s imprint

While the descent taxes our knees over jutting rocks and roots, we are soon passed by a barefoot hiker.  While our hiking boots allow us to step on the sharp edges in the rocky trail, he navigates in and around them quite effortlessly.  When we ask, he says if you walk properly and care for your feet, it’s not hard to do.  And then he’s gone.   We’ll stick with hiking boots.

The many trails of Camel's Hump

The many trails of Camel’s Hump

Once back at the trailhead there is a feeling of satisfaction.   Checking my watch I see that it took us just as long to descend the mountain (1h 50 minutes) as we did to climb it.  Camel’s Hump is Vermont hiking at its best.

For directions and description of the Camel’s Hump hike try:

Vermont Hiking: Day Hikes, Kid-Friendly Trails and Backpacking Treks by Michael Lanza

Hiking Vermont by Larry Fletcher

(Both I found on interlibrary loan in the state of Maine)

Click on this link for an excellent trail map.

Dan and Hannah Spend Tuesdays with Owen and Max

Bill map

Billerica, Massachusetts is just an hour south of our home in York, Maine.  Traveling to visit our daughter Molly and her family there is a piece of cake compared to the ten hours and 500 miles we used to travel to Virginia to see them.  Now we have them in the “neighborhood.”

Leaving after the morning Boston commuter traffic, Hannah and I have major highways for 95% of the drive south (I-95, I-495, and route 3).  The Family Rawding (aligned with the Family Von Trapp) rent an apartment in Bee town as transition housing until they find housing housing.

Max and Owen

Max and Owen

Another of the many benefits of being retired is that Hannah and I spend Tuesdays with our grandsons – two year old Owen and four month old Max.  While Molly teaches in nearby Lexington, Tip is home with the boys.   Coming down on Tuesdays allows us to free up Tip for errands, getting some exercise, or whatever he pleases.

Before we arrive at 1P, we stop at the Taco Bell to bring a little Mexico for lunch.  While Owen finishes his nap and Max chills on a blanket in the living room, we enjoy our chicken and bean burritos with Tip.

Bill town fair tire

Today by 2P Tip is off running errands while Hannah and I have the boys in their strollers heading to the playground on this 90 degree humid early September day.  As we head to the playground, I notice Owen’s stroller’s rear left tire is as flat as a top-of-the-line Parisienne  crepe.  With the Universe looking out for us, we roll on towards Town Fair Tire just one hundred yards up the road.  Wheeling both strollers into the showroom of tires, we ask Ethan if he can help us – we just need a quick blast of air.  Delighted, Ethan smiles us in and takes the stroller to the backroom.

It gives Owen time to climb and hide among the mounds of tires.  Soon Ethan is back with news that he has filled all three tires on Owen’s jogging stroller.  We soon are talking strollers with this expectant father and leave, buoyed by our interaction.

Owen with his American flag at Demoulas

Owen with his American flag at Demoulas

On our way to the playground we stop at the recently reawakened Demoulas Grocery Store to get Owen a cookie from the bakery.  While we thank the Demoulas workers for their standing strong in support of Arthur T. Demoulas, we learn that this older Demoulas store does not have a bakery.  Thankfully we hadn’t promise Owen a cookie, but a checkout lady is taken by Owen’s sunny disposition and gives him an American flag.

Owen waits for the rain to stop under the Bank of America drive thru lane

Owen waits for the rain to stop under the Bank of America drive thru lane

As we leave with Owen waving his flag, the skies to the west are coal grey heading to black.  A trip to the playground is definitely on hold.  Not five minutes later, the first drops fall and then the deluge.  Fortunately we are within fifty feet of a Bank of America drive-thru canopy.  For the next half hour the heavens open up and we have a three foot stretch of dry pavement for the four of us and two strollers.

At this point, despite the heavy rain Owen is ready to be out of his stroller.  You tell me what good grandparents should do?  That’s right.  We let Owen out and you can see the rest in the video below.

Bill O at wire game

Owen in the Children’s Room at the Billerica Public Library

Soaked as he is, Owen settles back into the stroller; Hannah and I believe that the sloppy playground will have to wait for another day.  With the sun now smiling on us (both literally and figuratively), we head to the Billerica Library across the Boston Road.

Owen with Elmo

Owen with Elmo

There Owen pushes colorful blocks along colored wires; he plays with Elmo and the alligator in the stuffed animals section of the library.  The Billerica librarians welcome us with open arms and genuine smiles, even though Owen can be excited and loud with a capital E and a capital L.

Max adrinking in Boppa's arms

Max adrinking in Boppa’s arms

His brother Max is no shrinking violet in the volume department when he is hungry.  No one misses a beat as I feed Max a bottle of pumped breast milk.

Pushing strollers for home, we have just had three plus hours of the best days of our lives.  No exaggeration.  Most grandparents know what we mean.

Prior to bedtime, Owen rips around the living room while Molly feeds Max.  Owen has just learned the word fantastic and draws out each syllable – Fan-tas-tic!  Dinner is bits of a grilled cheese sandwich; Molly and Tip try to sell him on fish and humus.  Owen loves his humus.  Fish not so much.  He washes it all down with some fine whole milk.

Hannah and I get to put Owen to bed for the night.  First it’s changing him into a onesie and then into his pajamas.  While we are getting him dressed, I say to Owen Stand up for America (so I can get his feet into his pajamas more easily.).   Immediately he turns and points to his gift from Demoulas and says “American flag.”  Like your children and grandchildren, ours are brilliant, too.

 

Bill reading to Owen 2

We read Little Blue Truck and Hand Hand Fingers Thumb and then it’s time for songs.  As soon as we say it’s time for songs, Owen gets a big lower lip and cries out Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.  Though we sing some old favorites like Old McDonald and Happy Birthday, Owen knows singing means he’s heading to his crib for the night.  The cries for Mommy crescendo and fill the apartment.

Shortly Mom and Dad come into say good night and attempt to soothe him.  No dice.  He’ll protest for 20 minutes and then, as my mother used to say, he gives up the ghost and falls asleep.

We share a glass of wine with Molly and Tip and enjoy the spaghetti dinner Hannah has made for us all.  This night we pick fantasy football teams and don’t leave til 945P.  It’s near 11P before we head to bed back in York.

Owen has it right; to be Owen and Max’s grandparents is fantastic .

In thirteen seconds this video captures the joy that is Owen Daniel Rawding.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Long Trail in Vermont Update

LT Jeffersonville map

Having traveled just south of the Canadian border to Jeffersonville, Vermont for a wedding, we are staying at Nye’s Green Valley Farm B & B.  Many of you may not know that Hannah was a B & B Innkeeper herself in the late 1980s with two rooms above our carriage house (well, truth be told it is our garage).

Even so, today is our first time staying at a B & B ourselves.LT Green valley farm image  For $95 we have a king-bedded (love the adjective!) room with a private bath and an all-you-can-eat breakfast.  The room is spacious and includes 10,000 stations of Direct TV.  The breakfast opens with fresh fruit, followed by blueberry pancakes made with applesauce, and then scrambled eggs.

Long Trail of Vermont

Long Trail of Vermont

With a trailhead on Route 15 just two miles away, the Long Trail predates the Appalachian Trail.  Built by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border.  It was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail…The Long Trail is 273 miles, well, long.   

LT 1 trail sign

Though the weekend is to be stormy, we set out to hike a little after 9 AM, putting our faith in the forecast that any storms will arrive later in the afternoon.  Hiking four tenths of a mile to the Lamoille River, we spot a white blaze directing us across the river plain.  Stepping from rock to rock, we see where plants have been flattened by the rushing waters of the past week due to Hurricane Irene.

LT 2 bridge spanning creek

Over the river itself is a 100 foot pedestrian cable suspension bridge which can handle the biggest of storms.  But the river plain below is much wider than 100 feet and it appears that this area has recently been under ten plus feet of water.

Crossing a dirt road, we pick up the white blaze trail that is sweet dirt and easy on the feet.  Over the next mile and a half we will climb 1000 feet of vertical elevation to Prospect Rock.

Above the Lamoille Valley

Above the Lamoille Valley

Prospect Rock offers panoramic iconic Vermont views of forested peaks with farm land along the Lamoille River Valley.  We hear the first distant rumbles of thunder.  We hike on.   We are so naïve.

White blaze along the Long Trail

White blaze along the Long Trail

Losing the trail briefly, we know that the major trails (Appalachian Trail and Long Trail) are so well-marked that if we don’t see a white blaze for a few hundred feet, we just double back until we see the last white blaze.  In this case, we have missed a double white blaze that means a turn in the trail.

Aftermath of Hurricane Irene on the Vermont countryside

Aftermath of Hurricane Irene on the Vermont countryside

Having taken less than hour to climb to Prospect Rock and since the thunder is in the distance, we decide to hike on to give ourselves a three hour hiking experience.  Ferns and small oaks bracket the trail as we ascend.  Rumbles of thunder are not so distant and a blow down (a tree crossing the trail blown down by the recent hurricane) seems like a good turn-around point.

It's amazing what eating oatmeal and raisins every morning does

It’s amazing what eating oatmeal and raisins every morning does

As we head back to the trailhead, we meet Bob, a Long Trail thru-hiker, who tells us he is just 50 miles from Canada.  Likeable enough, he does complain about young hikers texting at the shelters.

And then we three all feel the first rain drops.   We double time it under the oak and pine canopy.  The thunder is overhead and the rain picks up in intensity.  With Hannah in the lead, we are making excellent time, but it’s a fool’s errand to think we can outrun Mother Nature’s deluge.  Soon every part of our bodies drenched.  Rather than huddle under trees, which doesn’t seem too bright in a thunderstorm, we just keep run/walk hiking.

As quickly as it begins, the storm ends 25 minutes later and the sun reappears.   Hiking a half mile back to our car, we then drive back to our B & B for showers and dry clothes.  We’ll nap and arrive at the wedding to watch our son Will give a heartfelt toast to his college roommate Jerrod and his bride-to-be Danielle.

As always, when hiking, know thyself, thy limits, and the conditions.  Be prepared if the forecast is not exactly what is predicted.

Dan and Hannah Hike Caleb’s Peak on the Appalachian Trail near Kent, Connecticut

If you didn’t know it before, you know it now.  We are early morning people!   Four hours from home in York, Maine lies Caleb Peak on the Appalachian Trail near Kent in western Connecticut.  To beat the Hartford, CT commuter traffic two and a half hours away, we set our alarm for 4A.  Off by 430A, we will not see sunrise til well after 7A  on this late October morning in New England.

State of Connecticut (We hiked in the western green section of the map.)

State of Connecticut (We hiked near Kent in the central part of the western green section of the map.)

Sailing through Hartford on I-84, we are quickly dumped onto suburban roads heading west.  Just after 7A, the school buses are out; parents driving kids to school line up to turn left into the school lot.  Dunkin’ Donuts, Cumberland Farms, and traffic lights keep us well under the 35 mph speed limit.  Patty’s Restaurant in Litchfield, CT, thirty minutes from our trailhead in Kent, CT, is our breakfast destination.

Ordering two eggs (over easy for me, over hard for Hannah), home fries, and toast for $4.25 each, we have ourselves a very basic breakfast; one that is hard to screw up.  And they don’t.  What I am reminded of is that a good breakfast does not make it a good breakfast experience.  Hear me out.

Dan and Hannah at Patty's Restaurant

Dan and Hannah at Patty’s Restaurant

For me, a good breakfast experience is complete with an engaging waitress.  On this morning, there are customers at only one other table in a restaurant of 12 to 15 tables.  So the waitresses have time to engage.  They are nice enough and attentive, but they don’t know I love to interact.  They are not mind readers!

It is I who blow it big time by not initiating the conversation and giving them the cue to fully engage with us.  I can make the excuse that I am groggy from driving 190 miles in the predawn, but a mirror shows who dropped the ball; so Hannah and I are filled but not satisfied.  I’ll do better next time.  I promise.

I am amused when I go the men’s room.

1 Patty's gnome

Just 30 minutes from our trailhead in Kent we wind along rural roads, appreciating the country homes out in the woods; and so very thankful that we live near town ourselves.

Kent, CT on the banks of Housatonic River

Kent, CT on the banks of Housatonic River

Arriving on Route 341, we blink and miss the town of Kent; we then cross the Housatonic River and turn right on Skiff Mountain Road at the playing fields of the Kent School.

1 kent school

It’s a mile on Skiff Mountain Road to a right turn on River Road, which we have been warned is not paved but gravel.  (We get excellent directions at this link – Caleb Peak Trail).

What we saw turning right on the gravelly River Road

What we see turning right on the gravelly River Road

River Road hugs the Housatonic River, and about a mile later Hannah’s eagle eye spots the very small AT sign at the trailhead.

AT symbol on a trailhead tree

AT symbol on a trailhead tree

Today will be my 9th of 14 AT states.  Previously (going south to north), I’ve hiked the AT in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  By the way, Hannah has run on the AT in North Carolina and is one up on me.

Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine

Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine

Though it’s only 1.2 miles of hiking to Caleb Peak, we see a mountain of stone before us; the guidebook promises 99 steps to make our way to the summit.  Heading south on the AT towards the looming mountain across from the Housatonic River, we are here in late October and most of the leaves have fallen.

Trail to Caleb's Peak in late October

Trail to Caleb’s Peak in late October

Our sometimes rocky trail is covered with brown leaves, but the white blazes (painted 8 inch splashes of white paint) on the trees and rocks guide us without fail.  On the slowly rising ground our foot placements are deliberate and steady due to the leafy-covered trail.

The trail gets stony along the massive stone face

The trail gets stony along the massive stone face

Within 0.2 of a mile we are climbing by grabbing rocks to maintain our balance.  The rocks are irregularly placed and in no way seem like the advertised 99 steps.  Breathing heavier, we drop the conversation as I follow Hannah onward.  Fortunate that we only need fanny packs for our water and gorp, I can’t imagine lugging and balancing a 40 pound pack (common for AT hikers) up this precipitous rocky mountain edge.

And then we hit the 99 stone steps.  They are a godsend in negotiating this mountain wall with steady, sure, solid foot plants.

Looking back on some of the 99 steps

Looking back on some of the 99 steps

It’s hand-to-hand combat as we assault the mountain to the St. John’s Ledges which looks over the river valley; in 25 minutes we’ve gone just 0.5 of a mile.

Soon the trail levels out and our conversation begins again.

The trail levels out above the 99 steps

The trail levels out above the 99 steps

It’s an easy 0.7 mile further up the mountain to the lookout at Caleb’s Peak.

The Housatonic River from Caleb's Peak

The Housatonic River from Caleb’s Peak

As hikers know well, the trail down is tougher than climbing up.  Ascending has us sweating beneath our shirts, but climbing down we are wary of sliding on rocks, especially this time of year when the trail is entirely covered with dead yellow and brown leaves.  Often we climb down side saddle or even backwards to maintain our balance.

Stony trail down the mountain

Stony trail down the mountain

And then it happens, first I slip on my butt, then Hannah does; each time we bounce back up, fortunate not to have twisted an ankle or knocked a noggin.  Our guardian angels are working overtime today.  We don’t see another hiker all day and it is clear that this would be no trail to climb in wet weather.

In just under two hours we are back at the trailhead and still want another hour of hiking.  We head north on the AT now, which is the aforementioned River Road.

Heading north on the AT on River Road

Heading north on the AT on River Road

In less than a mile the road becomes a trail along the Housatonic River.  It brings to mind another era of tire swings, rafts, and fishing poles.  A nostalgia that I did not experience growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1950s.

The photographer got lucky with this dream shot

The photographer got lucky with this dream shot

We hike out 30 minutes and return 30 to reach our goal of three hours of hiking today.

Weary from the 4A wake up call, traveling four hours to this point, and hiking for three hours, we take country roads back to I-84 and eventually to Mom’s apartment in New Jersey two hours away.

Dan and Mom in New Jersey

Dan and Mom in New Jersey

Mom is a pretty sweet journey’s end.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Long Trail near Killington, Vermont

Long Trail in Vermont

Long Trail in Vermont

Throughout the night, rain splatters on the window of our top floor room at the North Star Lodge in Killington, VT.  Fortunately, the forecast calls for this rain to stop by the time we hike later this morning.  We’ve come to Vermont for a “couple’s retreat” to hike and talk about our marriage.

G D at Butternut Inn

Before hiking the Long Trail, we breakfast again at the Butternut Inn; but it is what happens after breakfast that surprises us and reaffirms that life is good.  As I am packing up our Hyundai Elantra, Hannah returns to thank the “Living Large” cook Craig for his positive energy during our two mornings at the Butternut Inn.  Yesterday, he was our waiter and cook and so full of life that he brings to mind our dynamic dear friend Big Steve.

As she finds Craig, Hannah thanks him and, among other things, mentions that she’s saving her rye toast from breakfast to make a sandwich.  Craig says, Why don’t I make you a sandwich with that toast before you go?  What would you like?  Five minutes later he returns with a tomato, bacon, spinach, cheddar cheese, and horse radish sandwich for Hannah.

What goes around comes around.  Hannah dishes out goodness all the time and goodness finds its way back to her again and again.

Morning fog over Killington Mountain

Morning fog over Killington Mountain

And in fact the rain has stopped, but a cloud remains on the rise of route 4 by the Inn at Long Trail just a couple miles from our overnight stay.

Morning fog over the Inn at Long Trail, obscuring Deer Leap Mountain

Morning fog over the Inn at Long Trail, obscuring Deer Leap Mountain

Fog engulfs the Inn as we look from the parking lot across the highway at 9A, with 50F degrees and “high seas” west winds.

Sherburne Pass at the rise of Route 4 at our trailhead

Sherburne Pass at the rise of Route 4 at our trailhead

Though the wind whips through the trees, we will soon be protected by the forest cover on this late October morning.

Hannah hiking the blue blaze trail to the Long Trail

Hannah hiking the blue blaze trail to the Long Trail

The side trail (blue blazes guide us) leaves from the east end of the Inn at Long Trail parking lot heading into the Vermont  woods.

It’s a steady half mile climb to the Appalachian Trail as we skirt Deer Leap Mountain.

October in Vermont

October in Vermont

Soon we meet Origami, the trail name of a one-time AT thru-hiker and currently hiking the Long Trail south.  When asked if he is a thru-hiker he said, I’m likely a “through” thru-hiker.  It’s rained the last three days.  After sleeping on the wet ground in a soaked tent and been hiking for five hours already this morning, I’m going into Rutland (five miles away down route 4) to decide if I am going to continue.  In fact, he tells us that a few days before, he fell and broke his iPod.  He adds in  a self-effacing but not self-pitying way, That meant I’ve had to pass the time with only what I have between my ears.  And let me tell you that leaves much to be desired.  He does sound resolved to get off the trail.

Asked about his trail name Origami, he says, I fold dollar bills for tips.  I left some at the Inn at Long Trail pub years ago and am going down to the bar to see if they are still there.

Thru-hiking can seem glamorous from afar, but Origami has lived the other side of the story over the last few days.

Heading north on the Long Trail

Heading north on the Long Trail

At the junction of the AT and LT, we head north on the Long Trail that goes for 272 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada along the main ridge of the Green Mountains. If we had gone south, we would have been on the  AT and LT as one trail for the next 100 miles.  The Green Mountain Club, guardians of the Long Trail, make sure we take the correct path.

It certainly looks like a trail

It certainly looks like a trail

Without the white blazes of the Long Trail, it would be anyone’s guess where the trail would be as fallen leaves cover our path.

White blazes guide our way

White blazes guide our way

This 44 second video captures what much of the trail looks like.

Within twenty minutes, we meet Lazarus, a hiker out for the coming week.  We do not probe about the genesis of his trail name.  When he mentions his trail name, he smiles and nods to himself as much as to tell us that he’s been back from the dead.  We exchange email addresses.  Do you know how?  By typing them into our smart phones!

Lazarus and Shootin'

Lazarus and Shootin’

His comment on hiking with a cell phone proves wise.  Lazarus assumes that when he would most need a cell phone, he wouldn’t have cell service.  So he never counts on his cell phone.

Clearly not a rolling stone

Clearly not a rolling stone

After 90 minutes of hiking north, we turn back for the trailhead. Other than the steep climb to the AT at the start, our hike today is a leisurely, gently rolling one along the ridge of the Green Mountains.  Throughout the time we talk more about our couple’s retreat questions.

Do we have enough quality and quantity time?

What was our best date this year?

What are our best memories of the past year?

What are three romantic dates we can plan for the coming year?

What are two things that would improve our marriage?

Girl of my dreams

Girl of my dreams

41 years together and still counting.

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

Number one is Mount Fuji in Japan.  But the second most popular hike in the world is Mount Monadnock.  Here in little ole New Hampshire.  The word “monadnock” comes from the Abenakis meaning “mountain that stands alone.”  I think, How tough can climbing this mountain be if it is that popular?

mt m map

With a mid-September Saturday in New England predicted to be sunny and in the low 70s, with our friend Bill we leave our home in coastal Maine for a 100+ mile, two hour drive to the southwestern corner of New Hampshire.  Up at 5A, we are off before 6A so we can get breakfast on the road before the Saturday rush and hit the trail by 9A.

Joey's Diner - 50s dining at its best

Joey’s Diner – 50s dining at its best

Checking out online all the diners/cafes along our route west of Manchester, NH, Joey’s Diner jumps out thanks to Yelp reviews.  We had no idea we are in the for breakfast experience of our lives.

Arriving just after 7A we enter New Jersey circa 1950s: shiny red booths, mirrors everywhere and memorabilia celebrating Elvis and mid-century Chevy’s.  The décor and feel is cool, but it’s not the best part of the experience.

50s diner

50s diner

My two eggs over easy, home fries, rye toast and two pancakes prime me for the trail.  A good meal is important, but that’s not the best part either.

Our waitress is.  Hannah and I began breakfasting out when we were first married early in the 1970s at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple Restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona.  We learned that refills for coffee were free and my eggs and hash browns could swim in a sea of barbecue sauce.  But in 40+ years of breakfasting out, we have never had a better waitress.  Upbeat and personable, she makes mere nourishment an experience.  I begin by asking her name and introducing us three.  Are you a local girl? is my follow up question and our conversation is off and running.  She willing engages with Mama Bear information.  Not too little, not too much.  She gets our decafs and tea, gives us time to order, and once we order comes back just before the meals are to be served to see if we want any more decaf or tea!  Attentive and cheery throughout the meal, she made the experience.  She alone is worth the trip to Joey’s Diner in Amherst, NH.

26 mt m sign

Fueled and so energized by the Joey’s experience, we drive 45 minutes more along routes 101, 202, and 124 to Mt. Monadnock State Park.

25 mt monad wood map

The ranger peers into the car, determines there are three of us, and charges $5 each.  This is a gold mine for the state of New Hampshire.  With 35 cars in the parking lot just before 9A we easily find shaded parking.

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Told by the state park ranger that the White Dot Trail (2.2 miles to the top) is steeper, but the White Cross Trail has more obstacles and is longer, we learn he thinks them basically comparable.   Once done hiking  today we will feel very differently.

The gentle rise of the White Dot Trail

The opening gentle steady rise of the White Dot Trail

At Hannah’s suggestion we choose to go up the steep White Dot Trail and down the White Cross Trail as we join the legion of hikers.  Make no mistake about it, this is one popular hike.  But to me it doesn’t feel “busy.”   Right away we are climbing on an eight to ten foot wide trail filled with rocks.

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The white dots guide us to the best way across the rocky terrain.  The white dots are everywhere and most helpful.  Our climb is steady and relentless; my shirt under my backpack is soon soaked and in short order sweat seeps into my eyes.

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Bill and I use trekking sticks, and let me tell you they are a godsend on this rocky, steep terrain.  I can plant my sticks and push with my two arms as well as my legs to climb the rocky way, thus reducing the strain on my cranky knees.

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

As we hands-and-knee-it on the stone facades, we know that this is one demanding hike.  On these sharply angled stony faces, the trekking sticks can be a hindrance.  These are the times that my poles should be stored in my backpack.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns marking the trail.

No lie.  This is a taxing climb, not a walk in the park.  It’s challenging.  It’s relentlessly up.   As my friend Mitch says, these are Adirondack switchbacks (i.e., the trail goes straight up).  But indeed it’s satisfying.  Having recently hiked Mt. St. Helens and at Crater Lake, I know nothing we hiked there that compares to how tough this climb is.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

From the mountaintop

From the mountaintop

After one hour and a half of steady climbing with only one water break, we arrive to the celebratory mountain top which offers a 360 view.  Mount Monadnock is 3100 feet above sea level with the last 300 feet are above the tree line.  It’s windy up top and I can see how this could be a dangerous peak in cold weather on a trail that is open all year round.

Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

“Three Musketeers”  Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

Adding Bill to our hiking mix gives us quality extra interactions along the way.  We have hiked with him at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and he was our car courier when we biked across Prince Edward Island.  He’s good guy.  You’d like him.

Heading down the stony mountain

Heading down the stony mountain

After feasting on Hannah’s turkey sandwiches, snapping pictures with my iPhone, and providing a thankful hiker with band aids, we descend the bare steep rocky slopes below the mountain top.  I can’t imagine hiking in such rockiness in fog or light rain.  We’d be slip sliding away a la Paul Simon.  Below the mountain top, it feels ten degrees warmer.

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

We take to the White Cross trail which, though still steep in parts, is a gentler, kinder trail than the White Dot Trail.  It is no picnic, but again trekking sticks prove beneficial to a knee-compromised hiker such as myself.  I can place my sticks below me and use them to brace myself as I step down reducing the weight on my balky knees when I step down.  Multiple that by hundreds of steps and you can see how trekking sticks rock!

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

We learn 95% of all injuries happen on the way down.  Other than the scraped knee at the top, we see no twisted ankles nor bloody legs or hikers bemoaning beside the trail.

There are not too many people for me.  I love the interaction.  Sports is a great entre into conversation.  All the time I have wasted watching Sports Center is paying off.  To Red Sox fans (wearing the cap is how often tell) I say nice win last night to get the conversation going.  The Sox have comeback twice and beaten the Yankees this week.  To the one Yankee-capped fan, I sympathetically say tough game last night.  She laughs, but I know she is just hiding the pain and has daggers in her eyes for me.

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Let me say that the trail creation and maintenance are phenomenal on both the White Dot and White Cross trails.   Regulary stone steps are placed conveniently as well as stones have been hewed out for safer foot placements.

Hannah’s solid choice to take the steep White Dot trail up and the less steep White Cross proves genius.  She is one good thinker.  We are glad to have had both trail experiences, but we disagree with the ranger if he thinks they are basically the same.

The climb down takes a good 15 minutes longer than going up.  Gabbing with people and the longer White Cross trail explains some of that.  Our weariness explains another part of it.  The three to four hour estimate to hike up and down is reasonable.

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University after climbing the Grand Monadnock (another name for Mt. Monadnock)

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

At the bottom, I see adults folding shirts and wander up and ask them what’s going on.  It turns out they are from the nearby Franklin Pierce University and have brought the latest crop of first year students to the mountain to hike.  Having extra lunch food, they offer us sandwiches, salads, cookies, and bottled water.  Amazing what happens when we seek to initiate.

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Fifteen minutes from the park on our way home, we lunch at Howard’s Memorial Park on route 12 in Jaffrey.  Leaving this morning at 6A gave us the time to make our day relaxed and unhurried.  We even had time for a little garage sailing.

Nobody does it better!

Nobody does it better!

Dan and Hannah Bike the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway from Bourne to Sandwich, MA

Ever find yourself looking for an enjoyable, none too taxing bike ride along the water in a bucolic setting?  No cars to look out for?  Paved trail for easy pedaling?  I thought so.  Do we have a 13 mile round trip (or less if you choose) bikeway for you! 

Drive south of Boston, take route 24 to I-495 south; exit onto route 25, which in turn takes you over the Bourne Bridge on to the Cape.

Southeastern Massachusetts, USA

Southeastern Massachusetts, USA

Now take note.  Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn right and make your first right down Veterans Drive.  If you have gone to the Cape Side Convenience Store, you’ve gone too far.  At the bottom of the hill, turn right and .2 of a mile later turn left into the Bourne Recreation Area.

The final turn to

The final turn to the Bourne Recreation Area

Head right to the canal where you will find parking for 30 cars that is available and free.  (In the town of Falmouth, parking can be $20 per day for beach       going.)

And voila.  You are on Cape Cod Canal Bikeway.

Cape Cod Canal Bikeway

Cape Cod Canal Bikeway

At this point you have five miles of paved trail to your right heading to Sandwich, MA on the southern Cape side of the canal.

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

You’ll likely see sailboats motoring through the man-made strait which connects Cape Cod Bay in the north to Buzzards Bay in the south. The boats traveling the canal save 135 miles by not going around Cape Cod.  A swift running Canal current changes direction every six hours.  Opened in 1914, the Canal was first considered by Miles Standish of the Plymouth Colony in 1623.

A ten foot wide bikeway gives you plenty of room to ride side by side with no elevation gain to speak of.  On this pre-summer season afternoon, we saw many couples walking and riding this trail.

Cape Cod Canal Bikeway to Sandwich, MA

Cape Cod Canal Bikeway from Bourne to Sandwich, MA

Pedaling east we bike into a heavy headwind.  Again wind and the coast go hand in hand.  Across the river appears to be a companion trail just as accessible and easy to ride as ours.

Sagamore Bridge in the distance

Sagamore Bridge in the distance

Sagamore Bridge coming into view

Sagamore Bridge coming into view

Once under the Sagamore Bridge, pedal for another mile or so to a park in Sandwich, MA.  Today, many cars are parked there and people use it as a starting point for biking, too.

A mom and her three to four year old son, who both seem a little tentative, stand outside the men’s restroom.  I walk over and offer to watch the door if she would like to go in the men’s room with him.  She smiles, thanks me, and says, He definitely wants to do this on his own.  When I slow down away from home, it’s interesting what I notice.

Sunshine Hannah

Sunshine Hannah

There we have lunch.  I am again reminded of the low maintenance woman that Hannah is.  Lunch is peanut butter and cheese on Ritz crackers and apple slices.  And we both love it.   We are not into the fuss and expense of going to a restaurant in the midst of a ride.  Just find Hannah some sun, and lunchtime is sweet.

Super-size Barge

Super-size Barge

The ride home is pure joy as the east wind pushes us and makes pedaling easy.  Hannah’s bell is helpful signaling to walkers and other bikers that we are passing.  You may see a passing barge as we did.

Bourne Bridge with the Railroad Bridge in the distance

Bourne Bridge with the Railroad Bridge in the distance

Once back to the starting point we have completed ten of the 13 miles of this round trip bike ride.  Heading on towards the railroad bridge, we learn that this bridge is infrequently used; and when it is, it is for trash pickup during the week and for commuters on the weekend.

Railroad Bridge

Railroad Bridge

Railroad Bridge up close and personal

Railroad Bridge up close and personal

In the distance are wind turbines at Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  Controversy follows this seemingly perfect energy source.

Wind Turbine at Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Wind Turbine at Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Noise appears to be the major point of contention.  On the south side of the Canal, Falmouth has two 400 foot-tall wind turbines at the town’s waste treatment facility and, unfortunately, it’s near homes.

wind turbine too close

Though it considered spending $25 million to take them down, voters recently decided to keep them by a 2 to 1 margin, despite complaints from about 40 households of headaches, vertigo (dizziness), and problems sleeping.

wind turbine swindle

On this summery day, the darkening skies from gray to black clouds suggest an afternoon thunderstorm.  Turning around at the railroad bridge, we have a mere 1.5 miles back to the parking area.

This leisurely ride can be done by one and all in under two hours with time to appreciate the joy of just being away.

Cape Cod Canal as seen from the Bourne Bridge

Cape Cod Canal as seen from the Bourne Bridge