Dan and Hannah Pay It Forward – Pandemic Style – KGUA #40

Winter evening in York

Funny how paying it forward works.  Let me explain.

The best gift, bar none, Hannah and I ever received as parents was when someone would take our young kids so we could get away for some “us” time.  League leaders in this category were my mom and dad.  Regularly, they would settle into our house in York, Maine with Molly, Robyn, and Will while Hannah and I would take two nights going up the coast to Camden.

Circa 1945 My mom and dad in the Pacific during WWII

With the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic, Hannah and I have a chance to pay it forward with our daughter Molly’s family.  Our grandsons, Owen (8) and Max (6), have been remote schooling and hanging with their parents going on 12 months. 

Now that Hannah and I are two weeks past our second Pfizer vaccine for Covid, we are set to have the boys for our famous 24 Hours of Owen and Max.  Molly and her hubby Tip get to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

The first weekend in March is still winter in Maine.  Highs this Saturday are in the upper 20s; though the sunshine adds a few degrees, the wind takes away a few more.

The Home Depot Kids’ Workshop has been cancelled, the York Public Library is not an option.  Basically it’s the great outdoors.

Taking the boys to the mailbox, Hannah turns toward the icy pond in our front yard.  The boys have their plastic sleds and we all have struck outdoor gold.

After an early lunch, we pile into our Prius for George Derby’s place on the Atlantic where we hunt for sea glass, explore the rocky coastline, and get nicely surprised by George just returning from clamming. 

Sea glass hunting
With Owen, George is just back from clamming with a peck of clams, which is about 15 pounds of clams
Owen with the clam fork

Just north of George’s place is the Fort McClary State Park for further exploring and a short trail hike.

A wintry 28F on the coast of Maine at Fort McClary State Park
Cannons that protected the Maine coast in days gone by
Owen, Max, and their Omi at Fort McClary

After three hours outside, we all return to our Chases Pond Road place.  The boys settled in with a Netflix movie, Bigfoot Family, while I go to the York House of Pizza for dinner.  Then Hannah and I have a glass of wine to toast our extended family.

After their large pepperoni pizza and our mushroom, we play cards, Sevens and Sh-theed.  Bedtime by 730P leaves us all ready for a good night’s sleep.

Next morning, Hannah makes omelets-to-order.  Max choses cheese while and Owen opts for onion.

Twenty fours after I picked up the boys, I return them to their pop.

It was one of the best 24 hours of the entire winter!  As you can see, paying it forward has multiple winners!

Max and his cheesy omelet
Owen digs onions in his omelet

By the way, when asked to rate Bigfoot Family from one to ten (ten being high), no surprise that the children of a math educator (their mom Molly) would rate the movie a 9.7 (Owen) and 9.9 (Max).

Dan and Hannah Hike Wolfe’s Neck Woods near Freeport, Maine

The end of our driveway on April first.  Most unusual to still have such snow.

The snowy end of our driveway in York on April first. Most unusual to still have this much snow.

For Hannah and me cabin fever can be real during Maine winters.  The winter of 2014 has been a doozy.  Windows are sealed so that no precious heat escapes.  Country roads are bound by snow banks so that walking them means dodging passing cars.  Cold viruses are just hanging around wanting a piece of you.  Working out at our local gym is a godsend for Hannah and me, but the fresh air draws us outdoors today.  Come April in Maine, it’s a time for something more than four walls.

Dan at the front gate

Dan at the front gate

The forecast for this April first is sunny, albeit mid-40s; we drive 60 miles north on the Maine Turnpike to Freeport to hike at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park and to shop at the LL Bean outlet.  With over four and a half miles of trails, Wolfe’s Neck Woods is 200 plus acres of coastal trails and woodlands.

Trails of Wolf Neck Woods State Park

Trails of Wolfe’s Neck Woods

With six inches of snowpack still on our front yard, we wonder if snow-covered will be the operative word for the trails through the woods today.  Coming from the town center of Freeport on Flying Point Road, we turn right on Wolfe’s Neck Road past fallow farm fields and stands of oak and pine.  We pass the experiential, residential Coastal Studies for Girls, a semester-long science and leadership school for tenth grade girls in Maine.  Who knew?

Maine takes care of its seniors!

Maine takes care of its seniors!

Five miles from town, the country road winds its way towards Casco Bay as we slowly negotiate the spring’s frost heaves.  Passing three cars parked on the side of the road, we come to the park gate 100 yards later which blocks vehicular access to the park.  Though we can see that the park road beyond is clear, the woods are snow covered.  Fearlessly we forge ahead.

Hannah on snowy trail

Walking around the locked gate and down the dirt road, we see that the trails are indeed snow-covered.  Icy trail hiking is a deal breaker for us.  Hannah’s left leg protests such hiking for it is still reasonably pissed off at what she did to it while water skiing nearly two years ago.  It wants no more funny business.  As you can imagine, when Hannah’s tibia talks, she listens.

Shore at Casco Bay

Shore at Casco Bay

Thanks to a full sun, the snow is mushy, allowing us to sink in for reasonably stable hiking.  We head through the pines to the waters of Casco Bay.  Down to the water’s edge, gingerly we take the wooden steps.

WNW 9A steps in snow on trail

The trail hugs Casco Bay for two tenths of a mile with shore access points along the way.  Turning inland through the forest, we find the trail, thanks to the footsteps of previous hikers.  The Harraseeket Trail takes us back towards the Wolfe’s Neck Road, up and over the snow-packed forest floor.

Snowy trail in April

Snowy trail in April

Then we meet an athletic thirty-something couple, appealing in a crunchy granola sort of way, who seem to love hiking in the mushy snow as much as we do.  We stop and connect over conversation; they tell us about falls on the other side of the road at Freeport Bay.  Changing course we head for the bay.

WNW 9C snow trail

As they leave, I think how important it is for dating couples to hike together.  Or, to do something challenging under difficult circumstances to see how they each react under stress.  Is he a good sport when she likes hiking more than he does?  How does she react when he loses the trail?  A prince?  A princess?  A sweetheart?

WNW 9G snowy trail thru woods

The slushy snow makes for easy hiking on a day in the mid-40s with sun that makes it feel fifty.  Near the water, the wind is up and we duck for cover into the forest, glad myself to be wearing two sweatshirts.  We never do see the falls as we hike 25 feet above the Freeport Bay with a view to town.

Cliffs above Freeport Bay

Cliffs above Freeport Bay

As we hike on, I wonder about Freeport.  Where did it get its name?  Was it a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves wanting to be free?  Unromantically, Wikipedia guesses that it has to do with the openness of its harbor (free of ice).  In 1912, Leon Leonwood Bean opened a shop in the basement of his brother’s clothing store here in Freeport, selling his signature Maine Hunting Shoe.  LL Bean’s now has its own indoor trout pond and remains open 24 hours a day.

A burning deal

A burning deal

Our 90 minutes hiking on the level, snow-covered terrain is just what the doctor ordered to bust open the doors and windows of our cabin fever.  Off to the LL Bean outlet just down the hill from the flagship store up on Route One, we look for bargains.  Striking hiking boot gold, Hannah finds $149 hiking boots for $42!

Nancy Sinatra would be so proud.

Nancy Sinatra

Dan’s Day 22 of 29 Gifts – Surrogates

Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire

Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire

Our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandson Owen live in Virginia.  Molly and Tip are local kids, having grown up on the Seacoast (southwestern Maine and the entire 13 mile seacoast of New Hampshire).  Virginia has the temperate winter climate that we Mainers can only dream of.  When it snows (they’ve had four inches in the Arlington, VA/DC area in the last two years), it melts the next day.  December snow in Maine rears its ugly head (okay I’m not a skier.) through March.

Dan and Hannah's picnic table

Dan and Hannah’s picnic table

The down side of living in Virginia is that it’s 550 miles away when big events happen.  Tip’s Aunt Pat died this past week.  The Virginia Family Rawding is unable to come so Hannah and I are their surrogates.  Woody Allen says that 90% of life is just showing up.  And showing up for calling hours in Portsmouth is what we do.

Day 10 90% quote

A popular woman, Aunt Pat has the line snaking out the front door of the funeral home in Portsmouth, NH even after two hours of visiting hours.  It’s important that Tip, his folks, and sister know that we are forever a part of their extended family.  Family shows up.  We hug, we meet Aunt Pat’s family, and just remind them by our mere presence “they are not alone.”

Day 22 you are not alone