Sunday, July 20, 2014

Castles on a Hill, Secret Ponds and Bamboo Paths -- Gotta Love Boston!

What a whirlwind weekend it's been! We arrived in Boston on Friday, and we're headed back to DC now, Sunday afternoon. We promised the kids lots of adventures while we were here, and I think we managed to deliver.

On Friday, I wanted to do some hiking in the Blue Hills Reservation. We arrived at the reservation and I finally inspected the trail map. There was a kid friendly loop around a pond, but that's not what I had in mind. Instead, I wanted to truck up hill a half mile to see the Blue Hill Observatory, a weather station which has been in operation since 1885 (It's "the oldest, continuously operating weather Observatory in the United States"!!) I've seen pictures of the weather station, and it looks like a castle tower, so I promised the kids that if they made it up the hill, they'd see a castle.

We started up the hill, and it quickly became apparent that this was most certainly not a kid friendly trail, and would have probably been out of reach of many adults. Not only was the trail steep, but there were sections that required traversing various boulders and cracks. The whole trip up, Shira and I kept looking at each other: how the heck are we going to make it down?.

We only had the two older kids with us, so against all reasonable judgment we pushed forward. The kids ended up doing amazingly, and they summitted the hill with relative ease. At the top was a weather station, and sure enough, it looked like a castle. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to go up into the building, so we had to make do with playing 'Troll' on the grounds outside the station. (And how does one play troll? An unsuspecting victim sits quietly while, the Trolls jump up from behind them and scare them. It's non-stop fun for 5 year olds.)

After the crazy hike up the mountain, Shira and I really wanted a more gentle path down, so we started down a road that stopped at the weather station. The kids were disappointed; they wanted to go back and play on the rocks that we had just scurried up.

Luckily, as we walked a little ways down the road I saw a sign for an observation tower and I hoped that would distract them. The tower was relatively close to the road, and a trivial walk to get to. The kids were thrilled, they'd found another castle. For the rest of the trip, everyone we passed would get informed by the kid that they had just seen two different castles (and that one was closed).

We took a red dotted trail down the mountain and while it was steep, it was easy compared to the way up. The kids were pleased to get some rock time, and quickly figured out how to slide down the large boulders on their butts.

At the bottom of the hill was the Trailside Museum, which turned out to be a sort of itty bitty zoo. They had enclosures for turtles, a bald eagle, a few turkey vultures, a lone white tailed deer and the kids' favorite: a hyper-active river otter. It was nature on a very small scale, but one they could appreciate.

The way back to the car required a half mile walk along the sidewalk of a fairly major road. I had Dovid's hand while Shira held Chana's. Dovid and I were a ways back, and as we approached the parking lot he decided we needed to sprint to catch up. Chana would have none of it, and she took off with Shira. To my amazement, the kids finished our mountain climbing adventure not too exhausted to move, but running their little hearts out. It was an awesome hike, and the kids far exceeded what I could ever expect a 5 year old to do.

On Saturday, Shabbat, we headed off to another adventure: this one to a "secret pond." Our destination was Chandler's Pond, a small spot of blue on the map, relatively close to the kids' house. This time we had all 4 children. To our surprise, little Tzipora lead the way, often running in front. I remember a couple visits ago when her walking range was measured in yards (if not feet!) before she was too tired to move.

We made it to the pond, and it was absolutely delightful. There were a number of different bird species (including a Blue Heron) that I got excited about, but I don't think impressed the kids. They, however, loved collecting up feathers, exploring all the snails they discovered and their favorite activity: chucking sticks into the water. With my new outlook on feathers and this commercial playing in the back of my head, I encouraged the kids to just explore and take it all in. After fun times at the pond, and before we had one of them fall in, we went across to a massive field and played ball.

I had some fun 1 on 1 time with Gavriella while the other kids played ball. She's such a cutie, and slowly, but surely warming up to her very big, and very active Uncle Ben. We'll get there.

Nap time was easy on Saturday, as everybody was completely exhausted from the walk and play time.

And then there was today, Sunday. I just had to squeeze in one more outdoor activity. We hit Back Bay Fens. The kids loved running around the rose garden, climbing on the war memorial, getting up close to the ducks and walking through a bamboo trail. The collection of gardens that folks can rent also made for a fun maze to walk through,

All in all, we had a fantastic time. And I learned that when the trail is out of control steep and rocky, just put a pair of 5 year olds on point. They'll figure out a path for you.

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