Friday, July 29, 2016

The Acadia Diaries: Days 1 & 2

This Faint-Hearted Adventurer just got back from a  family vacation to Acadia National Park.

Overall thoughts on the trip: It was full of Ups and Downs, both Literally and Figuratively

Participants: Adventure Husband, Adventure Daughter, Adventure Dog, and me

Lodging: Our Pop-Up Camper, affectionately called Zelda (after the character in the Nintendo game of the same name.  Any guesses why?)

Zelda (and Kevin) at home in the driveway
Campground: Somes Sound View Campground

I'm not out to write a full-scale review of the campground, but I will say this: it was not our favorite.  Only one bathhouse for the entire campground, some distance from our site (down a steep hill, so we couldn't even easily bike to it, which would have made it more fun.) There were porta-potties, one rather close to our site (eww).  I am not a fan of these and only visited it once. The bathhouse itself was serviceable, but it should have been cleaned more frequently than once a day (at mid-day).

Our favorite Campground on MDI is, hands down, The Mount Desert Campground, where I have camped at least four times (maybe five?).  But the MDC doesn't allow dogs between July 2 and Labor Day weekend.  And we were not leaving Kevin behind for this adventure! Hiking is practically his favorite activity.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't make a reservation anywhere until just a few weeks before the trip.  When that's the case, you take what you can get.  And we were happy to get something that would take we three,  Zelda, and Kevin.

Day 1 (Saturday): We spent the morning at home finishing our prep and packing--food, clothes, bikes, etc.  We didn't rush, figuring we had until 6PM to check in at the campground, but when 2:00 rolled around and we were still packing, we started to feel a little pressure.

The ride up: Uneventful.  Not too much traffic, got there in good time.

Obligatory on-the-road selfie with Kevin and Abby (photo credit: Abby)
First oops: Realized en route that we had forgotten pillows.  Stopped at Walmart (not my favorite choice), and bought pillows for $5.87 each.  These pillows proved remarkably comfortable.

Set-up: Somewhat hurried due to impending thunderstorms (that never came) and some challenges getting the camper level.  We totally need to invest in some sort of leveling device like this or this but we don't camp a lot and keep avoiding the $$ of such a purchase.  Sent Jon out to buy firewood and milk.  The campground charged $5 for roughly 7 little sticks of wood.  Myriad places along the roadside on the ride in sold more than that for $3 per bundle.

Dinner: Forgot salad dressing for pasta salad (oops the second).  Grill woes--our wee grill hadn't really been fired up in quite some time--seemed on the slow side, and we forgot to bring our grill brush, but we managed hot dogs and chips, plus an apple.  Could have been worse.

Photo credit: Abby (note attractive porta-potty behind us)
Post-Dinner: Began planning adventures for Day 2--a big hike, debated between Norumbega and the North Bubble (with a longer return plan than this map shows).

Sleepy time: Kevin slept in Abby's bunk, which pleased everyone (most of all, Abby)  Somewhat restless night for the adults--the camper bunks aren't exactly loft-y.

Kevin proved a delightful bunk-mate for Abby (photo credit: Abby)
Day 2 (Sunday): Our first full day and our biggest hike.
Family selfie over breakfast (hello, chins!)

Our trail is outlined in white.
Distance: roughly 4 miles
Breakfast: Cereal (Adventure Dad: Honeynut Cheerios; Adventure Daughter: Cheerios; Me: Froot Loops.  Hey. Don't judge me.)

Prep: Packed our adventure bags with map, sunglasses, snacks, bug spray, sun screen, first aid kit, Kevin's bowl, lots of water, etc. etc. etc.

Third Oops: Realized we forgot to pack Abby's sneakers. Of all things! Can't hike in flip flops, so she ended up with an awesome pair of Merrells (ouch to the pocket book, but gosh darn good shoes).

Hike: The North Bubble and Beyond

We scored a parking spot at the teeny-tiny Bubbles Parking lot--which was shocking after our delayed start due to the shoe-buying excursion.

Ups and Downs of the hike:

Up 1: The view of Jordan Pond from the North Bubble is delightful.

Up 2: It felt great to head on instead of turning around and going back down the way we came up (like everyone else who got to the summit when we did).

Up 3: There is a magical pine forrest along the shore of Eagle lake.

Up 4: Wild blueberries!

Down 1: The Eagle Lake Trail is listed as E (for Easy) on the map.  Part of it was indeed easy.  Other (long) parts included much climbing and scrambling over big chunks of granite.  This is super fun, but nearly a mile of that sort of scrambling after already walking nearly 3 miles, felt a little much.

Down 2: Kevin took an elicit dip in Eagle Lake (there is no swimming, human or otherwise, in Eagle Lake).  He only swam very briefly, but he found the glistening water too much to resist.  Sometimes I forget how young and impulsive he is, as he is usually so well behaved.

Photos from the Hike

Fun climbing on the way to the North Bubble Summit
Photo Credit: Abby!
At the summit of North Bubble (hikers in the background just went back the way we all came up.  Too bad for them!  Good for us--had the rest of the hike mostly to ourselves! They were a big, sprawling party.)
Jordan Pond view from the North Bubble Summit (photo credit: Abby)
Lots of photo ops
View of Eagle Lake (and of cute kid and cute dog)

Video of the magical pine forest (thanks, Jon!)
It doesn't exactly capture the magical essence of the place, but trust me, it was special!

Mere moments before Kevin's indiscretion
Post Hike

Everybody was pretty tired.  Back at the campsite we had ham and cheese sandwiches (I crave these when hiking for some reason).  Some of us were grumpier than others about how boring campsites can be.  (Hint: it wasn't Kevin, Mom, or Dad)

Made a trip to Bar Harbor to poke around.  But it was hot, crowded, and the same old stuff for sale year after year.  Was pleasantly surprised by the number of stores that allowed dogs inside.  Also pleased with Kevin's in-store demeanor. Abby bought a stuffed animal.  Is this a surprise?  No.  Also, we bought salad dressing, cheese, and a metal spatula (oops number four) at the Bar harbor Hannaford's.

Abby fell asleep in the car on the ride back to camp, and then snoozed for well over an hour in the backseat while we made dinner.  Had a nice meal of burgers and pasta salad, followed by a s'more for Abby.  I am an expert s'more maker, though I do not eat them.  (I just go for the toasted marshmallows.)

Acadia Diaries, Day 3: forthcoming.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Motivationally Speaking...

Motivation is a fickle thing.

This blog is making me think a lot about my relationship with the great outdoors.  When push comes to shove, I usually need both to get up and get outside.

I've been pondering why that is, exploring my fears (dying in a freak accident) and freak-out causers (bugs).  But only recently have I started focusing on the concept of motivation.
Motivation: the state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something  (I'm going with's second definition here).
What are my reasons for wanting to spend time in the out-of-doors?  Well, let's see:

1) It's pretty.
2) I live in Maine--I'm supposed to want to go outside.
3) I need exercise because I am not as healthy as I want to be.
4) Kevin needs walks.
5) I feel great when I get back inside after going outside.

Recently I started reading Michelle Segar's book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.  Now listen; it has actually taken me a fair bit of courage to tell you I'm reading this book.  I worry about people gettin' judgey over my choice of reading material.  I find the title of the book corny, and I look at any self-help text with a wary eye, but I bought this book because I am constantly bemoaning my lack of motivation and will power.

I'm only a few chapters in, so I'm reserving my full judgement of it for now, but something I read in the book about motivation has been playing pinball in my brain.

At one point, Segar asks this question: "On a scale of 1 to 5--with 1 being 'a chore to accomplish' and 5 being 'a gift to give yourself'--circle the number that best describes how you feel about exercise.  1 2 3 4 5."

I've been subbing in other words in place of "exercise" in this question: writing, bike-riding, going outside, cleaning the house, etc. etc.  Segar suggests that when something feels like a chore, it's because the motivations for it lie outside of ourselves--they are "should"s  imposed by society ("I should lose weight," "I should be healthier").  But activities that feel like a gift have internal motivations ("This makes me feel awesome").  So people who love running because of how they feel when they run are going to keep at it longer than people who run because they think running is something they should do to stay healthy.

She spends a good deal of time explaining about how extrinsic motivation does not really help someone achieve goals, but intrinsic motivation does. 

Looking back at my list of reasons for spending time outside, I see that 3 of the 5 are extrinsic.  Oops.

She goes on to talk about how we can reframe our motivations, but I'm only part way into that chapter.

Here's how this has impacted my life this week:

Kevin and I have gone for a hike every day so far (Mon. to Thurs.) and I have been very conscious of my "why."  Yeah, we could both use the exercise, but I've been focusing on a) how lovely it feels to be outside and b) how great I feel when I accomplish a hike.  It has really felt great.   I've definitely had a "gift" instead of "chore" mentality.  Who knew?

Monday: Hedgehog Mountain

Tuesday: Mackworth Island
Wednesday: Hedgehog again

Thursday: Winslow Park

Addendum: I have also had an absolute blast keeping track of my walks on Strava.  Lots of my biking friends use this (as does Adventure Husband), but I've started using it to record my walks, and I have a groovy time filling in my log for the walk and adding photos.  It's cool to see what a route looks like, how long it is, and what the elevation changes are.  It also gives me my pace and all that jazz.  Super cool. Here's a sample from this week.

Monday, July 18, 2016

When a Chore Becomes an Adventure

I have a confession.

I never mowed a single lawn until I turned 40.

As a kid, it was my brother's job (if my dad didn't just do it).

Now my mother, she judged how well she felt by how much lawn she could mow.

Several months into her chemo treatments--this was a good day.
For a host of reasons, I managed to avoid lawn-mowing duty when I started adulting.  My husband did it, I hired someone to do it, my retired mother-in-law did it.  Lucky me!

But our current house has a fair bit of lawn, and the budget no longer supports frivolities like paid lawn-care, so we maturely cashed in the tax return for a fancy pants mower.

There's Jon on the new mower, and this is just a wee bit of the lawn. (And Kevin!)
We also got a push mower, for the harder-to-reach areas.  That's what I used to start my lawn mowing duties.  No photos--nothing pretty about me pushing a lawn mower.  I felt pretty good about it, and like maybe my mom would be proud of me.  But I can't say it brought me the same joy it brought her.  Maybe with time...but probably not!

The push mower didn't really float my boat, but I knew I needed to pitch in and help with the lawn care--it's a lot of work--but, well...

In the interest of full disclosure, I was terrified of the riding mower.

I was afraid to mow the lawn on it. I kid you not.

Finally on Saturday I decided I'd better woman-up and give it a go.  In the moments on the driveway while Jon explained to me what this lever did and that button released, I felt my heart race.  It all seemed so impossibly complex.

This is ridiculous, of course.  I am not one to shy away from technology, but lawn mowers have freaked me out since forever.  Give me a big truck and I'll gladly drive it across the country, but a riding mower, with those whirring blades underneath, um, no.

Still, in the spirit of new adventures, I finally gave it a go.

And you know what?

Google Photos!  You crack me up!
I liked it.

Where have you been all my life, riding lawn mower?

Friday, July 15, 2016

100% Mixed Up

I've started this post three times.

Each time, I felt like I was whining and complaining, and that's something I am consciously trying not to do here on this blog.

I don't mean to say that everything I write about is happy and perfect and special and awesome, but I do try to focus on what I manage to do versus what I don't do (out of fear, apathy, lack of time, or lack of skill).

But today?  This afternoon?  I am a non-starter.  I cannot seem to get myself to do anything.  

Here is a list of things I could or should be doing:

1) Washing dishes
2) Unearthing the dining room table
3) Vacuuming
4) Revising an essay
5) Picking up clutter
6) Walking the dog
7) Organizing my Google Drive files
8) Cleaning up my laptop's desktop (isn't it grand that we now have to clean up both literal and virtual spaces?)
9) Calling campgrounds to make a reservation
10) Figuring out a plan for dinner
11) Taking out the recycling
12) Exercising in some form
13) Blogging about any number of recent experiences
14) Getting a jump on the roughly ten million college recommendation letters I'll have to submit this fall
15) Pulling weeds or mowing the lawn

Multiply that by, oh, twenty, and you'll have a good sense of all the things that need doing. (You've likely got your own list just as long.)

And then I read this post by Spinster Jane which says, among other things,
If you are having a bad day. Share it. If the world does not seem to be going your way. Share it.
If you are dealing with a depressive episode. Share it.
If you are suffering grief from loss. Share it.
If you had an anxiety attack this morning. Share it.
If you have a brain crushing creative block. Share it.
As for why, she goes on to write, "Because no one's life is full of bliss 100% of the time."

And she is 100% correct.

My day is by no means bad, but rolling around inside my head are the following thoughts, among others:

1) What the F*#%, Nice, France?
2) Trump--Pence (oh God. And the logo!)
3) Is my daughter's general malaise these past two days my fault?
4) How is it that I want to go to the Clam Festival in Yarmouth and at the same time, I don't want to go?
5) Why do so many people hate Hillary?
6) Why is it a train wreck in comments and replies if I ask that last question on social media?
7) What news source is a trustworthy news source?  I've seen the New York Times attacked three times today.  I thought they were the good guys.
8) Wow, it's hot.
9) I miss my mom.
10) How can another person I know and love in this world be battling cancer?

And this list is making it hard to focus on the list above.  Some days the world just feels weightier than other days.

Spinster Jane's post helped me reframe my crappy mood.  It has to be ok to not be productive all of the time.  It has to be ok to just let the messy shit tumble around in my head for a while, so long as I don't let it take over.

What I want most of all to do right now is crack open a bottle of wine and watch Netflix.  I want to cry over something sappy or laugh uncontrollably over something stupid. (Too bad I'm all caught up on New Girl.  But maybe we've got some Brooklyn Nine-Nines to watch.)  It would be nice if my husband wants to join me in this.  I'll have to ask him when he gets home from work.

Don't mind the mess.  I've decided not to.
The rest of the stuff on the first list has waited this long; it can all surely wait one more day.

Friday, July 8, 2016

So This Happened...

Blue lights flashed at several intersections around Monument Square this evening.  I realized, as I returned to my car after meeting a friend, that patrol cars were blocking off Federal Street, which I intended to walk down.

Foot traffic wasn't stopped, so on I went.  And then I heard chanting: "Hands up, don't shoot!"  I realized that a protest or march was headed my way, lead by a slow moving police car, blue lights flashing.

I passed an officer walking along the sidewalk next to the procession.  He smiled and nodded at me as he passed.

Some of the protesters wore "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts.  Some wore head scarves.  I saw a mother and daughter in sun dresses holding hands.  Some held candles, others cell phones.  Some people waved signs. A woman on the street started filming with her phone, and couple of the protesters came up to her, smiling and chanting.  The diverse faces in the group lit up in the blue and white lights of the police cruiser.

Here were people who chose this Friday night to protest police brutality instead of going out to dinner or to the movies.

And here were police officers, at work, escorting people who were protesting the police.

By the time I reached my car, tears streamed down my face.

I was struck by the choreography of it all--the organization, the roads closed, the escorting officers, the way the crowd moved slowly, rhythmically.  They way everyone involved moved together.



People coming together.

The police working together.

The people and the police moving through the city together.

I don't know what else to say.

I just wish there was a lot more "together" in the world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mornings are for Adventures

I like sunrises.  I like to think that I sort of "collect them."  I'd rather get up early on New Year's Day to watch the first sunrise of the year than stay up late on New Year's Eve.

My favorite time was as a kid, when my parents, brother, and I did just that.  We brought the camp stove and mom made us breakfast at the point.  Those photos are in a box in my dad's closet, but this one is from a solo trip I took to Hawaii during my freshman year in college.  The friend I was staying with slept in, but I slipped out to the beach to catch the sunrise.

Jan. 1, 1995 Iroquois Point, Ewa Beach, Hawaii
One of my favorite things to do in Acadia National Park is watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.

July 27, 2014, Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine
I think, technically, I am a "morning person."  During the school year, though, when my alarm goes off at 5:00AM, I do not feel like a morning person.  If there are degrees of morning people, I'm like a "Seven AM" morning person.

My husband is not so much into mornings.  If given the opportunity, he'll sleep in til nine or later, though he almost never gets to do this.  Mornings before work are painful for the poor guy.

But when it comes to adventures, the early morning hours are magical.

Morning sunlight = beautiful photographs
While on a work day, it might take Jon forty-seven minutes to open his eyes, I've seen him pop up and head out before dawn to photograph the sunrise or hit a good fishing spot some distance away.

Adventure Husband, March 9, 2013, Sunrise at Ferry Beach, Scarborough, ME (with Orson and Finn)
But this isn't just about sunrises.  Mornings are perfect for adventures of all kinds.

When we headed out on our last road trip, we left at 4:30 AM.  Jon's onto something when he says, "no matter what time we leave, it still feels like we've been driving forever by 3PM.  We might as well be three or four hours further along at that point."

June 23, 2016, 8:08 AM--nearly four hours into the trip, en route to Kokomo, IN from Freeport, ME
I also love beating the crowds to my favorite restaurants by getting up early, especially the teeny-tiny places.  I highly recommend Hot Suppa, which opens at 7 daily (7:30 on Sundays), and of course Becky's Diner, which opens at 4AM.  Both of these places fill up fast.  Going early is best.  The earliest I've been to Becky's is around 5:15 AM.  Delightful!

Early Sunday mornings are perfect for getting to know a city--the roads are clear, you can take your time.  Jon likes to get his hair cut on Saturdays by 7AM--who wants to waste the day in line at the barber shop?

And of course, Dog Beach is best (and in the summer only available) early in the morning.

Love those long morning shadows.
July 3, 2016, 7:17 AM, Higgins Beach, Scarborough, ME
A day started early is a day well filled.

But then, sleeping in sometimes is nice, too.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Gear Up

My Adventure Husband has an insatiable desire for gear.

To understand what I mean by this, you must first understand that he is an expert hobbyist. This means that whatever his current hobby, he researches it endlessly.  From YouTube to blogs to articles to forums, he figures out just what makes a hobby tick.  And usually, it seems--at least from my perspective--the tick is created with gear.

In the many years before we met, Jon was an ice climber, white-water kayaker, and sailboat owner, just to name a few of his hobbies.  Our storage room contains multiple bins of gear to prove it.  Our closets are filled with the best outerwear, and one of two kayaks still rests next to the garage.  He owns four bikes, and he's picking up a new one (new to him, a la Craigslist) this week.  We've got boxes of helmets, a pair of motorbike boots, hip waders, and a fishing kayak (that sucker's big).  I just pawed through a box of backpacks last week.

His non-sporty hobbies include woodworking and photography, also known as $$$$$$ and $$$$$$.

I'll admit--he sees the just-right bike, jacket, tool, or gadget...

...and I see dollar signs.

He frequently begins sentences with "I ordered x, y, or z, but don't worry, it only cost..."

When I suggested some years ago that he might like photography, I was thinking two things:
1) I am so vain, so this will totally feed my desire to be in pictures.
2) I have a nice Canon SLR, a cool zoomy lens, and a tripod already, so he won't need much gear.

Ok, so my vanity has definitely been indulged, but I couldn't have been further off when I thought he wouldn't need much gear.

Take a look, if you will, at this photo:

Gear used: New tri-pod (mine was malfunctioning), new camera (waaaaaaay fancier and the reason we could get this low-light shot), giant reflector (new also, because we didn't have one! And it proved necessary!)

Now look at this one:

Gear used: fancy camera, (new) light stand, (new) flash with (new) small umbrella.

And this one:

Gear used: fancy camera, (new) backdrop stand and (new) roll of white paper, assorted flashes, flash benders, maybe an umbrella or a beauty dish (new, new, new, and new), I don't know I wasn't there, but Woo do we have a lot of camera gear I haven't listed here on shelves in the basement, like a studio light, more flashes, more light stands, a really BIG umbrella, a light meter, color checkers, all manner of processing software, and so on and so get the picture (ha ha!)

The truth is, I love Jon's photos. Love Love Love them.  I'm pumped about our plan to convert part of the basement into a photo studio, but what started as a "hey--you can use my camera!" kind of thing, evolved into a massive gear collection and a reduction in monetary resources.

Really, though, the guy is resourceful.  Most of the wood-working power tools in the basement have come from Craigslist, and he does his homework to the degree that he finds sales, figures out where to get the best deal, and does exercise limits.  We don't have the most expensive camera or studio light, but we don't have the cheapest ones either.

And more to the point...I promise, there's a point to this post...I'm starting to see things his way.

Since I've been attempting to be more adventurous, I've noticed something very important about gear:

Having the right gear increases the quality of the experience exponentially.

I used to think a walk through the woods was a walk through the woods, regardless of attire or accouterments.  And to some degree, that's probably true.  But let me tell you, happiness has a heck of a lot to do with pants.

From my first biking adventure on Martha's Vineyard
From a long ago hiking adventure
From more recent adventures:

Jon is probably tired of hearing me say over and over again, "I just love my new pants."

I did not know pants could change my life. The just-right pants are light-weight, dry quickly, have pockets exactly where I need them, and are much cooler than jeans (and less likely to chafe).  Plus, when I get home, I can change into my jeans, which are now not caked with adventure dirt and sweat.

As for the Adventure Bag, it's this one from LL Bean.  It's super light, can fold up into a tiny self-contained pocket, and it nicely holds water, sun screen, another layer, etc. etc.  Jon has one in orange.

We've decided to have these Adventure Bags ready to go at a moment's notice.  So they've got the basic supplies (those listed above plus a pocket tool, a little first aid kit, tissues or a handkerchief, a hat, and whatever Kevin might need on a hike, like his portable water bowl and a leash).

Having the right gear, and having it handy, is really starting to change the way I see adventuring.  If I've got what I need to be comfortable, and the basic gear is grab-and-go, what excuses remain?

These things have seriously upped my Oomph.

Kevin has an adventure bag, too.

Kevin's Adventure bag, left, has toys, treats, treat pouch, poop bags, leash, and water bowl and is always by the door within easy reach.
And here's his handy, collapsible bowl:

While I may grumble about price tags, I've finally come around to seeing the benefit of spending a little more on the Just-Right gear to really enhance Adventuring.

But gosh I hope Jon doesn't read this, or who knows what we'll be ordering next!

Friday, July 1, 2016

When Opportunity Knocks...

On our long drive home from Indiana last week, I received a text from a friend:

Are you back in Maine? The offer still stands if you can come to Squirrel Island tomorrow, Thursday?? We'd love to have you!
Husbands, dogs, children welcome, too!

My immediate response should have been "HECK YES," but here's a thing about me--I'm not great at "yes."

Admittedly, this was an easy adventure--it involved throwing some shorts and t-shirts into a backpack, taking a ferry, and then walking and lounging on a beautiful island off Boothbay.

Nothing to fear in that offer, I tell you.  Nothing!

But I was tired.  It had been a long weekend with two long road trips. I spend my life making plans--for the classes I teach, for my daughter's activities, for what we might eat for dinner on any given night--and sometimes when it's time to make plans just for me, I'm burnt out!

It was going to take at least a little bit of Oomph to get my act together and go.

But I'm not completely stupid.

Of course I said "yes!"

Jon couldn't come--he had to go back to work--but Kevin and I packed our bags and set our plan in motion.  In true me-fashion, I was nervous about taking Kevin by myself, but it was too good of an opportunity for him to miss, too.

Turns out, Squirrel Island is magical.

This fairy house was constructed by a dentist.
There are real teeth on the shelf in the front yard.
Adventures like these nearly always work out perfectly.  I don't know why it takes so much of my energy to get up and go to them.  I suppose it's not knowing what to expect, and getting a case of the what-ifs, but seriously: friends + Maine Islands in the Summer = Perfection.  This is a pretty obvious equation.

Happy Adventure Dog
He doesn't even mind swimming in the seaweed.

Thanks, Joan, to you and your wonderful family for hosting Kevin and me!  We had a truly splendid visit.