As is traditional during Camp Gramp, I repurpose my mother’s updates on how the four cousins are doing as content while I vacation. I used to actually write often enough that this saved me some writing. But now I know there are ardent Camp Gramp fans out there who I swear just read my blog to get the goods from my mom!
Camp Gramp has officially started. It had an unusual start. People have been here for 4 days, but Brenda and Adam left for Ashland today, so it is just the two generations. We decided to go to the Morton Loggers’ Jubilee. We saw the toppers climb 80 ft in the air with the axe hanging from their belt. Then they topped the log. We saw the Hot shot chain saws, and hopefully prevented hearing damage. The two person buck saws were fast and we watched people use their axes standing on a buckboard. Parents, you will be pleased to know that each family now has a souvenir. (Editor’s Note: I’m hoping to get Adam to turn our souvenir into a table.) Let me know how you want me to ship it to you! There was a competitor from Golden Valley, MN, and one from Australia!
This evening we hope to watch “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and do the crossword puzzle. We are enjoying the new projector and the screen which is larger than it ought to be!
Thanks to the kids for joining us. It is great fun!
Today was the tour of the Boeing plant in Everett, Pike Place Market, and the play area at the Center, plus a short visit to Del. The kids were GREAT! Cooperative and enjoyable.
Clearly, I am failing in my picture taking. For the Boeing plant, I have an excuse. The allow no phones, even turned off and in your pocket, on the tour. That place is amazing. Largest building in the world, by volume. We were in the tunnels running the width of the building (1/3 mile wide), and on the 4th floor looking down at everything. We didn’t see many workers, but our tour guide assured us that they were there.
The rest, I was too busy enjoying to take pictures. Kay bought a poster at the market and Baz some tea. They are on per diem, so of course we ate at McDonalds. We were going to do the Space Needle, but it was so hazy that you can’t see anything. We will take them when it clears up, if it clears up.
As we close the book on the summer, I can’t help but think that this will be The Summer. I’m sure you had a summer like that – a summer you look back to in your childhood. It stands out golden and long and joyful, and is the marker for what summer should be. My Summer was when I was 9, and it included a pond and a raft, waves of grasshoppers that would explode from every footstep I took and journeys through the wild woods behind my house.
This summer, Grey was 11 and Thane was 8. And if this summer wasn’t peak-childhood-summer, I don’t know what could be.
We did a bit of pre-season summering with our first camping trip of the year, to the Waterville Valley Campground. It was a superbly relaxing weekend. We didn’t go very far or do very much, and were contented to hang out in hammocks and read books and be together. It was a superb camping trip, and we resolved in the future to carefully plan more nothing for our camping trips.
The summer started a bit quietly. School ended in mid June. We spent the last few weeks of June saying goodbye to our dear and beloved friends, as they prepared to move. We spent absolutely as much time together as possible, including heading up to New Hampshire together to celebrate about five of the kids’ birthdays. I armed them all with NERF for some epic neighborhood battles.
It was a strangely empty neighborhood we left for our longest camping trip of the year, the 4th of July trip, to our ancestral camping grounds at White Lake State Park. We’ve been there every summer since Thane was a 9 month old, and it never ceases to be a favorite of all of ours. You can take a hike, hang in a hammock, go down to the beach, ride bikes or forage for the sweet fern which grows nearby. In keeping with the traditions of our camping trip, there was extreme weather. In this case, we upped our game to include tornado warning, which sent us to a favorite local watering hole. In this case, the correlation between the soccer game we wanted to watch and the necessity to shelter in place was very serendipitous. We returned to a campsite that hadn’t been evacuated, but which had been clearly flash-flooded. Since we include moderate flooding in all our camping plans, this was accepted as nothing more than expected excitement.
We’d only be home a few days from the camping trip when the second annual Flynn’s Fiery Feast came up. It was a particularly peripatetic adventure, since the weather was gorgeous… between storm cells. So we kept moving the people and the stuff in and out, and in and out. Everyone was remarkably good sports about the whole thing.
The very next day, it was time to drive to New Hampshire again (a theme in my summer) to drop an extremely confident eldest son off at his third (or fourth?) year at Camp Wilmot. We spent a special week at home with our littlest one, and got exactly one letter from our eldest telling us what we’d forgotten to pack him. The next Sunday found me driving that oh-so-familiar stretch of 93 to drop Thane off for his first year. He sent three letters in six days, earning the “Mailman” award at camp. When Erin and I picked up our collected progeny, Thane told me that as much as Grey loved Camp Wilmot, he (Thane) loved it more.
We picked the kids up from New Hampshire on Saturday. On Sunday, we drove up to New Hampshire for a tubing trip on the Saco (rescheduled from the 4th weekend when the river was at flood stage). We had a great time throwing frisbees and floating, with the exception of the section where Thane and I managed to get totally tangled up, lose our tubes and I permanently lost my favorite hair thingy. Woe! Thane is not a huge fan of tubing after that, sadly.
They had a whole five days between that tubing trip to recover before it was time for my company summer outing at Six Flags. It rained, but that just meant that there were ZERO lines for the biggest baddest rides. Thane is now tall enough for Superman (the biggest of the Six Flags roller coasters, and a legitimately big one). They have no fear, those children. It was neat to be able to do it with friends, as well!
The day after our Six Flags adventure, we flew to Barcelona and spent a totally jetlagged day there, as well as most of a second, walking the green and joyful espalandes of Las Ramblas. Thane chased the pigeons, we ate ice cream and caught Pokemon and lost ourselves in the rambling alleys of the Gothic Quarter.
The next day we went up to Montjuic on the Funicular, and spent time going deep on the history of that grim fortress – first built to protect the city and then used to terrorize it. We walked in the gulleys where hundreds were executed, and watched the flags flying with philosophical questions.
The next day we took the train from Barcelona to Carcassonne. As we sped through the Mediterranean countryside, the boys opened their dice bags and continued the role-playing games that have threaded through all the fun times of our journey. Carcassonne city was glorious. We stayed in the newer section (you know, like 1600) in this Roaring 20s era hotel near the train station. We’d walk through the high end shops and cross the bridge to go up to the medieval city itself. It was truly remarkable, even knowing that it had been restored a mere shmere 130 or so years ago. You could lay your hands against stones that had been placed there by the Romans as they spread across Europe. But there was this whole lack of self-consciousness of the weight of history that only the Europeans can really pull off. Even the medieval city felt lived in, as though it was home to real people.
Also, the cassoulet was unbelievable.
Our greatest highlight of the Carcassonne portion of our visit was the day we spent with James MacDonald visiting Lastour and Minerve, and coming to come to intimately know the Cathars and the Crusaders who persecuted them. Climbing up to the remarkable towers at Lastours was unbelievable. It looked like a Byronic play backdrop. Minerve seemed barely changed at all from the siege of 1220, except for the Victorian bridge that now spanned the chasms. Between them we visited a neolithic tomb. There are some days where you can feel yourself accruing the value of your life. Days where you find the very meaning that you have longed and yearned for. This day was all that – to gaze on these places and walk their worn steps. It was remarkable.
Adam and I passed our 17th anniversary in the warmth of Barcelona, before we headed back to the states from a truly remarkable week in the 13th century. (And a scant week before terrorists plowed through the crowds we’d just been part of in Las Ramblas.)
Once again, we gave the boys a gracious allowance of a week before the next thing. Although this particular week, we sent them to boating camp on Spot Pond where they spent six or so hours a day on the water honing their sailing and kayaking skills. I counted, and the children kayaked on three distinct bodies of water this summer, in three different states. I kayaked in zero bodies of water. I think this shows that my children are living more wisely than I am.
My folks departed Boston ASAP on Friday night after they finished boating camp for parts west, racing the sun across the country to be in Idaho Falls in totality to witness the complete eclipse. On the way they passed through Niagara Falls, Minnesota with their cousins, Wall Drug, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, the Hiawatha Trail (where they went on a 17 mile bike ride) and Yellowstone. They also kayaked on Mineral Lake at the end of their journey.
They got back from this adventure about 3 days before school started. (Meanwhile, I was hiking Chocorua.)
We were supposed to go camping Labor Day weekend. I regret that we didn’t. It is not restful to be home, I swear. But we were so worn out from all our wanderings that we just stayed at home and took a deep breath in preparation for our busiest season, the fall.
But truly, if that doesn’t count as the best summer of your childhood (maybe your life?) then, well, I’m not really sure what it is you are hoping for. It was a glimmering, golden, busy, joy-filled, friend-filled, nature-filled, history-filled, ice-cream-filled summer, and I will treasure it forever.
There comes a point where you just shut down your computer on a Friday, and don’t open it up for a week. I hit that point. Man, did I need a vacation. I’m so grateful I’ve gotten it! Meanwhile, Camp Gramp is in full swing. Instead of the typical email updates, my mom has been posting Facebook updates. I can’t blame her for it, but in the interests of stealing her writing and using it as my own (hey, it’s not a vacation if I have to work, right?) I’m reposting here for your delectation!
Camp Gramp Day 1 – Saturday
We are here! The tents are up! The sleeping bags are out! The children are happily playing. They are old enough now for some self-determination, so they have decided our destination in Canada will be Vancouver. The criteria is — a good science museum! Parents are raising these kids right!
Two kids have outgrown their tents, and a third tent is on its last legs. We have two new tents and will need to replace a third.
Camp Gramp – Day 3
Today started with a bang. A flat tire. The van has a spare, but it is under the front seat and really hard to get to. We played old people and used our AAA. The nice young man had bad things to say about getting the spare out.
I needed to go to town to get the tire fixed and visit the Group Health lab, so we gave the children a choice. Go to town and chase Pokeman Go or stay home. They chose stay home! They have been upstairs playing together much of the day. When they weren’t doing that, they were playing outside. This sounds like the MOST BORING Camp Gramp. But they are enjoying themselves. I think it is a sign of maturity. First, they can make choices themselves. Second, they can entertain themselves!
It is like a Lan party for Matthew. Feed them and stay out of the way!
Camp Gramp Day 4 — Tuesday
Today is Gramama’s birthday. We spent a while at the lake with the boats. The children did a great job, no one got wet by accident. We did have an incident of a nest of bugs in the canoe, but otherwise, it was great fun. Swimming too. The cake was the work of the W. children!
Camp Gramp – Wednesday
Today was organic farm day. A colleague of mine has a new farm in Ashford and the kids spent a couple hours there. They met Otis the dog, and the chickens. They came home with some eggs they collected. The met the llamas and the alpacas. There was also hay climbing and chicken chasing.
Then the evening was spent on Mt. Rainier at a Star Party. Sebastian was a helper, keeping the moon in the telescope. It was great, but very late when we got home. Fortunately, they all woke up enough to get out of the car and go to bed.
Mom and dad finally made it to their own beloved bed last night!
It is a good 24 hours when you score 3 magnets! 3 of them!
Bad Lands — we have been there before, but never done the loop drive. Well worth the time. We then went to our hotel, got dinner, and went back to the park. I hiked a little bit, then we sat in the car and watched the stars come out. We think the howling was coyotes! It was awesome.
The hotel was not. I didn’t even know they still had smoking rooms. Tonight I put on my PJ tops and then took them off. They smell like smoke! It was in Wall, SD — the last week in July. For the unknowledgeable, don’t go there in the end of July or the beginning of August. Sturgis!
This morning was Mount Rushmore. My oh my! They have really done a good job of crowd management, but 20,000+ visitors a DAY. It was crowded. We saw the mountain, Watched the movie, visited the museum, they bought the magnet in the world’s largest tourist trap shop!
Then on to Wind Cave. It was the 7th national park and we hadn’t heard of it. I took the cave tour in front of a man from France. A fellow tourist was narrating the whole thing for him is great French. That was fun to listen to. When I grow up, I am not going to explore caves! Then, we bought the magnet!
It was an eye candy day. Wyoming is really beautiful. We had a lovely time.
We are in Billings. We hope to wander a little in Montana tomorrow, and make it home sometime Friday. I don’t know what the odds are that this is our last night out. You know, the horse to the stable syndrome! It has been a fabulous month!
While my parents and children were off exploring colonial America (and being Very Hot in the process), Adam and I took an alternate track and went up North to the Bay of Fundy.
I struggled quite a bit with what to do this vacation. I knew it would be happening, as it’s a crying shame not to go on vacation with your spouse when your parents are taking your children for a week. For a while I dabbled with the South of France, but after a very lovely month off and tropical island vacation between jobs, that seemed a touch financially irresponsible. (Tragically. Still saving it for next time.) So then I figured we’d go camping in Canada. You know – like the White Mountains only with Tim Hortons. I did not very much research, no prebooking, and very little planning. I knew I wanted to see the Joggins Cliffs. I knew the Bay of Fundy was internationally renowned for have the world’s largest tidal differences. I knew it was a Dark Sky preserve. And I knew it was in Canada. On this vast wealth of knowledge we went on vacation.
On Friday we went to a very swank French restaurant in Boston (the meal there may have cost us as much as the rest of the week put together) and walked across a glowing Boston back to where my car was parked at my office in Cambridge. Then Saturday we packed and headed north. The first night we spent in Bangor (which might be the first time I’ve ever used rewards miles for anything). The second day, we listened to podcasts and hit the Bay of Fundy National Park. We went to the middle of nowhere, took a right, and drove for another hour on mosquito-ridden roads to get to Point Wolfe Campground. I’d picked it because it seemed rural, tent-focused, and was right near the bay we’d come so far to see.
It was also, it turns out, crammed cheek-to-jowl and lit with obnoxious street lights. (Which seriously – National Park in a dark sky reserve with street lights?!?! What are you thinking, people?!) The sites were also often too small for us to pitch our (granted – enormous) tent on. We picked the least bad site and thought dark thoughts about switching campgrounds, although we were too lazy.
That first night we came in was beyond foggy. We kept driving past these viewpoints that claimed to be veiwpoints that were really fog-points. It started raining almost as soon as we entered Canada, and not a day on vacation was without its precipitation. But that first night was the foggiest. We went down the trail in the dying light to the Wolfe Point beach. We walked and walked on slick rocks and red clay and never found the ocean – it was too far out. Our shoes and pants were covered nearly to the knee in the reddest of clay. It was otherworldly in the mist, as we could not even hear the sound of waves and mountains appeared and disappeared to our right and left. As we slept that night, raindrops fell on our head through the thin cover of our tent-sides.
On Monday we went to Cape Enrage. With the timing that evinced my careful preparation and thought, we were there at high tide (which meant we couldn’t see very much). We opted not to do the zip line or rappelling, but we spent a long time sorting through rocks finding all manner of 320 million year old fossils. We thoroughly enjoyed the treasure hunt of finding the fossils. In fact, so much of my photography of this journey was fossil-related I have an entire album of fossils from Cape Enrage and Joggins Cliffs (penultimate day) which you can see here. We also got some dulse. Gamers beware.
It should be noted that someone (who would that be?) quite literally did not think for a minute about the well known fact that our cell coverage does not extend to Canada. We grabbed 15 minutes of wifi a day by parking outside of the National Park headquarters, and once or twice dining in establishments that offered free wifi. We navigated with actual paper maps and brochures. How very odd it was!
Tuesday we went sea kayaking. Given that we’d come so far to see these cliffs and tides, this seemed like the thing to do. Fun fact: sea kayaking is quite a workout! We didn’t turn over (there are hardly any waves that we witnessed in the Bay of Fundy, although we saw dolphins twice). We did manage to keep up with all the appallingly energetic Quebecois couples with their teeny French-speaking children who went on the tour with us. Mostly. It was a really lovely trip on what we were assured was a “beautiful warm” day on the Bay of Fundy. By which they mean light rain and mid-60s. Man, those are some muscles I don’t use often. But it was a lot of fun!
Wednesday I thought far enough ahead to plan for a day that involved a lot of sitting. It also involved thunder as we drove through Moncton. We arrived at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs after a long drive and several outlandish theories about Nova Scotia (supported by too few data points – eg “Nova Scotia is primarily inhabited by cows”).
So here’s the thing about your Bay of Fundy vacation.
1) Be prepared for it to be cold, even during a heat wave in Boston in mid summer.
2) Be prepared for it to be soggy. See also #1. 3) Plan your trip around the tides.
But in this case, I tragically did not calculate the tides. One great thing I got out of this was a clearer understanding of how tides world. They go low to high every 6 hours and 18 minutes – based on where the moon is as the earth turns plus the fact that the moon is also in motion (that’s the 18 minutes). We got to Joggins 2 hours before high tide, just as the water was getting high enough to prevent us from getting to the coolest stuff. And four hours before it would be any lower than it was that very moment (at 3 pm, a 3 hour drive from our tent). We hunted the shore for neat fossils and found very many indeed – but I was really sad that we’d come so far in order to NOT see the famed standing trees which have stood where they took root for well over 300 million years. Trees that helped Darwin understand evolution. And they remained past a spit of land that the high tide kept from us. So close!
That night, for the first time, we truly enjoyed the dark skies afforded us by being 100 miles from the nearest Starbucks. The Milky Way was as clear as though it was painted across the sky. The stars were close, glorious, beguiling, beloved. We stayed out, necks crooked, enjoying the brilliance of the archaic night sky.
By this time, we’d pretty much exhausted the entertainment options within a 2 mile drive. I mean, there were hiking trails. And, um, er… the Hopewell Rocks. We didn’t see those. It was a beautiful, lovely, restful place. But the combination of an inhospitable campground and not much else to do encouraged us to go home a wee bit earlier than originally planned. On Thursday, we awoke to a novelty. Sunshine.
We grabbed the advantage to go on a hike. Now, Adam was nervous because the hike said “difficult”. When you take a “difficult” hike in the White Mountains (or even a “moderate”) you’re well advised to name your next-of-kin and carry a body brace in for the very likely event you break a leg falling off a cliff after being struck by lightening. I trusted this was more a “difficult” hike the way every other place I’ve been rated difficult and my confidence was rewarded. We hiked up these rain-forest hills along a bluff and to a spectacular lookout of the Bay. It looks almost cheery in the sunshine!
Then we crawled in the car and began the 10 hour drive home.
It was a good vacation. It was restful. It opened the clogged arteries of the soul. We had a really good time being together, as we so often do. I crossed off a few bucket list items: sea kayaking, Joggins Cliffs, dulse, dragging my husband to Canada. But it was not a transcendently wonderful vacation in the way the Wonderland Trail, Istanbul, or even Ashland have been.
My folks pulled out of Boston early this morning, heading towards Minnesota. Once they get headed homeward, they find it harder and harder to stop!
Boston! Here is the Camp Gramp report.
I am no journalist. Pictures are few and far between. We were too busy having fun! I will use that excuse anyway. There will be a few to publish, when I get a cord for my camera. It is at home on my computer.
I lost two towels. Sorry Brenda. I think one of them is at the pool at Yogi Bear. The other, who knows.
Movie evening is Jurassic Park. No wonder everyone found that terrifying. It is the music, I am sure! Scary movies require much popcorn. Poor floor.
Brenda and Adam are tired of rain and cold (there is no justice), so they are coming home tonight! It will be good to see them.
This was a great Camp Gramp. The children were wonderful. We are looking forward to coming back sometime when it is not lobster season and spending a lot more time in history land!
I remember that roadtrip, but I don’t remember Jellystone! I do remember the profound disappointment in Chicago.
Summer of 1982, we left Georgia with all our worldly goods packed in a mid sized U-Haul trailer and our camping gear loaded in the unnamed blue station wagon. Heidi and Brenda were in the back. We bought them a ream of paper and crayons and decided to muck out the car when we got to Washington. It was a great trip. The girls were really looking forward to Chicago. They had spent the year watching cartoons and listening to “Kids in Chicago are having a good time, they’re all watching, Chanel 9.” Heidi and Brenda could hardly wait to get to Chicago and join the kids there — great time. Chicago was a monumental traffic jam. One the freeway, we were passed by a man on a bicycle! So much for that.
But in Wisconsin we stopped at the Yogi Bear Campground. I don’t remember much about it, just that the girls loved it. There was play equipment and stuff for kids to do! We pitched our tent a little early and let the girls play.
Perhaps that is why we pulled off a little early on Tuesday night, our last night to camp, at a Yogi Bear Campground. After the military’s $25 camp sites, it was a bit of a shock, but the stuff to do — my oh my. There was a water park style swimming area, goofy golf, gaga ball court, laser tag, and a campfire pit. Obviously families come there for the week and stay in camp. Daddy rented a golf cart so he was really mobile. It was a nice stop.
We had spent the middle of that day at Monticello. Lovely. What an amazing view! It used to take 3 hours by carriage to make it up there. What an amazing house. We thought the tour was one of the best we had. We would like to go back with more time.
Read here, we would like to go back to almost everything with more time. We think Yorktown alone is worth 2 days. They have amazing driving tours there, but it was getting dark and the rain was threatening. It bucketed on our way back. Williamsburg is worth a multi-day pass also. Sadly, it was so hot we didn’t even get a whole day.
Wednesday was a driving day. The kids were amazing. They did role playing activities for most of the time in the van. They read and talked and played on their DSs. They were cranky that they couldn’t have their computers out when we drove, but sometimes I needed to stop fast, and then things flew. Un-anchored computers seemed like a bad idea. What wonderful children. They were just awesome!
Tomorrow is muck out the RV day — and return it washed and starched. Then there is laundry, etc. Baz bought a Wii game which the children didn’t get to play due to a lack of a monitor and a power cable. We will try to remedy that problem. And there will be some vegging.
We are very lucky grandparents. We have awesome grandchildren!
Tonight, we are in the Flynn household. It looked to clean when we walked in, I am feeling a little guilty, but not a lot! I sent the kids up to bed about 10:15 — after a bedtime snack of grapes. When I went up about 10:55, Grey and Thane were both awake and reading.