Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Summer Adventures, Part Four

After the week of our Vermont and Star Island trips, I got pretty sick with a virus we'd been passing around the family all summer. We spent a week just watching TV and playing Minecraft (the girls) and lolling on the couch while coughing (me). By the time I felt better, I realized that the summer was winding down and we hadn't done some of the outings with Gram that we had hoped to do. So Mike's mom and I made a plan to meet up and take the girls to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. She surprised us with a side trip to Cannon Mountain to take the tram to the top and have a picnic first! It was the perfect day for it.

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is part of the Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountain National Forest. Interstate 93 passes right through the Franconia Notch mountain pass, so Cannon Mountain is easy to get to and the drive up is absolutely gorgeous. It's a ski resort in the winter, but in warmer months, the entire state park is laced with hiking and biking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail. There are bike rentals and the New England Ski Museum at the base of Cannon, and Echo Lake Beach is next to it.

We went up to the visitor's center, had lunch on the observation deck, and hiked the short summit trail which takes you to an observation tower on the opposite side of the peak.

After we took the tram back down the mountain, we headed south to Holderness to our original destination, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. [Note: Holderness is where On Golden Pond was filmed.]

The Center is a walking trail through the woods and marshes with native animal habitats and educational exhibits along the way. They have deer, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, otters, foxes, etc., all under a shady canopy of green trees around a small brook, pond, and wetland area. It's a great place to go on a hot day in the summer.

Black Bears

The boardwalk through the marsh

You can also pass through the Kirkwood Gardens from the Science Center to get to the Holderness Inn, which has a cafĂ© and a shop selling local art and crafts.

If you squint, you can see the girls running laps across the lawn. Where do they get all that energy?

Dancing under the pergola where they host weddings.

After ALL OF THIS we were exhausted and starving, so we stopped at the Common Man Restaurant in Ashland to have a very nice dinner, complete with a frosty bottle of root beer. Cheers, Gram!

The VERY NEXT DAY (and after a sleepover at Gram and Grandpa's house) we took the subway into Boston to catch the ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands National Park to spend the afternoon on Spectacle Island -- because we are gluttons for fun and punishment, I guess.

The ferry leaves directly from the waterfront downtown (so the girls were able to run around on the playground in Columbus Park while we waited for our ferry time), and there are 34 islands, 12 of which have camping, hiking, swimming beaches, and/or historical sites on them.

Spectacle Island is just 15 minutes from the city and is a great choice for a day trip because it has a visitors center with a snack bar and bathrooms, a swimming beach (with lifeguards), picnic areas, and walking trails. There is also a marina for private boats and an event venue -- they were setting up small fire pits and wheeling in catering carts as we were leaving! How fun would that be?

Look! You can see Boston from the pier and the beach! It's pretty weird to be on a little island with the city RIGHT THERE.

Never have I ever seen so much sea glass and broken china (Kate insisted on calling them "cup parts") on one beach. They actually have a mural made of sea glass and exhibits on the stuff that has washed up there in the visitors center.

The girls also got to do a little splashing on the beach, even though it's pretty rocky and it wasn't a terribly warm day.

Under the pier was their absolute favorite place on the whole island!

After two days of fun and more fun, we were beat! The girls slept and slept and I washed some Motrin down with a pot of coffee. But it was tons of fun, and I definitely want to explore more of the Harbor Islands next summer. There's always so much more to see...

... like the Duck Tour of Boston, for instance. Can you stand to hear about ONE MORE excursion?? Well, hold on there for just a couple more minutes, here we go...

Our school district has kind of a weird schedule at the beginning of the year. Maggie started a week before Kate, and the second Tuesday (the day before Kate started) happened to be an election day, so their school was closed as a polling station! So we had three days of school, a weekend, one day of school, a day off, and then Kate's first day. So weird. But it was a good excuse to run downtown again to squeeze in one more day of fun.

I asked the girls what they wanted to do: Visit our modern art museum (the ICA -- we've already done the MFA)? Run around the Common and do the swan boats in the Public Garden? Children's Museum?

They wanted to do a Duck Tour. It's pretty pricey and parts of it are kind of slow for small kids, but they loved splashing into the Charles River and seeing the city from the water. They even both got to drive the boat and honk the horn -- and the Con-duck-tour (ha?) gave them a TON of stickers. So fun!

And that's it. Our summer, in four parts. We really sucked the marrow out of it, I think. I always feel the most thankful for living in this amazing city, and New England in general, in the summertime when we get out of our winter cave of hibernation and see and do so many wonderful things in such a short time. There's an incredibly huge range of stuff to see and places to go -- city, country, mountains, ocean, historic sites, forests, museums -- and all of it so very close by. We've seen and done a ton of it and have barely made a dent.

I'll have to start making a list of things to do next summer right away, but for now it's time to start thinking about apple picking and pumpkin patches. Yesterday was the first day of Autumn, and we noticed the leaves changing on the tips of some of the trees along Route 2. I'll think I'll make some tomato soup for dinner tonight!

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