Happy Memorial Day

This evening, I was trying to think about what was going on in our life past memorial days. Then it occurred to me I probably blogged about it.

In 2009, we were in Confluence and did the usual assortment of adventures.

Back in 2008, it was more of the same. Even though Parke had a stomach bug she still had an action packed weekend.

In 2007, I doubt we even realized it was Memorial Day.

This year, we are in Confluence again. (With some friends this time)  We are eating loads of greens from the garden. Planting tomatos, peppers, and so on.  There is a zip line that is providing hours of enteratinment for the kids. We’ve been biking on the passage. We kayaked/rafted the Middle Yough.  At age 2, Oliver took is first rafting trip and is the youngest family member to complete the Middle.  When you ask him how it went, he says it was “So Scary!”  Tomorrow is more planting and maybe a few other activities. I love weekends in Confluence.

Skiing at 7 Springs

We enrolled Eli in ski-school, left Ollie with the grandparents and hit the slopes at Seven Springs. Perfect day and the 12 inches of snow we got a couple days ago makes for excellent conditions.

We also found where the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail passes through. We hiked this section of the LHHT about 8 years ago in the middle of the summer.

Pontiac Lake Orienteering

Eli and I enjoyed Sunday afternoon running around the woods with a map and compass searching for flags and trying not to get lost.  The day was perfect for one of my favorite activities, Orienteering.

From Wikipedia:

Orienteering is a family of sports that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain. Participants are given a map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points.[1] Originally a training exercise in land navigation for military officers, orienteering has developed many variations. Among these, the oldest and the most popular is foot orienteering. For the purposes of this article, foot orienteering serves as a point of departure for discussion of all other variations, but basically any sport that involves racing against a clock and requires navigation using a map is a type of orienteering.

I took a class at the local YMCA a few years ago (Al Newman taught it) and I have been hooked ever since. Most orienteering events are organized by local clubs. The Southern Michigan Orienteering Club puts on 4-6 events each Spring and Fall. Each event has several levels of difficulty (White, Yellow, Orange, Green and Red) so everyone can enjoy the day.

This weekend’s event was at Pontiac Lake.  This is my first time at this venue and it is an excellent spot. There is plenty of interesting terrain, loads of hills, and the map is outstanding. (We still managed to get confused in one spot though).  Eli and I did one event last year and went with the White course. We breezed through that event and I thought we could handle Yellow course this time.

When you first get to the event, there is a check in table where you pick your course, pay the modest fee ($5 bucks if you are a member), and get your map.  There are usually people there to help out if you are a newbie and need some instruction.

Checking In

Checking In

Orienteering maps are extremely detailed.  The trick is to understand what each symbol means and to pay close attention to where you are and what features are around you. Sometimes it is a simple as “run along this trail until I get to an intersection” or ” run along this stream until I get to the bottom of the hill” and other times, it is using your compass to “take a bearing and run 25 strides”.

The Map

The Map

Each flag or control is represented by a circle on the map and you need to find all of the controls in order. (There are other variants of orienteering that have different rules, but the basics are the same) At each control is an orange and white flag with a punch. You punch your sheet to prove that you found each control.

First Control Found!

First Control Found!

The other key ingredient to a good day in the woods is to bring high energy snacks. We raided Eli’s Halloween stash and that did the trick.

Having a Snack

Having a Snack

Can’t wait to get back out there.

A Vista in SE Michigan!?!

A Vista in SE Michigan!?!

Mushroom Hunting Along the Great Allegheny Passage

Today we took a trip out to one of our super secret locations along the Great Allegheny Passage to collect some chanterelles. We found enough to have a side dish with tonight’s dinner and they were tasty.

The other super secret location that we find them is along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.  There were probably many more there, but it requires either a serious off road adventure in the truck or a 10 mile hike/trail run which involves several thousand feet of elevation gain. The truck adventure was attempted but the “road” was too washed out to make it down this year. We made it to both places last year and scored a huge bag full.  Since it is such an adventure to get there, there really is no point in keep their location a secret. Simply start in Ohiopyle and hike to the Ohiopyle shelters along the LHHT sometime in August.  You’ll find a few spots right along the trail, with large groups (colonies?) in the valley near the shelters. Good luck getting there, you are sure to see some beautiful scenery.

Hunting for Chanterelles reminds me of the times we went looking for them in Sweden.  They were more abundant there, but much harder to find since the leaf litter matches the mushrooms.  We were also able to find two other varieties in Sweden. I can still remember the amazing flavor of the big brain looking one. Parke and I were discussing that score during our adventure today.  Hopefully Mats found a few this year.  Looking at the photos of our last hunt in Sweden also reminded me that Marley went along on that trip and that was probably the last and best adventure we had with him.  We miss you Marley!

Heading in to see if there are any around

Heading in to see if there are any around

Got some in the bag

Got some in the bag

Out of the bag and into the pan

Out of the bag and into the pan

The highest kid in PA

We had a busy Memorial Day weekend. Saturday was devoted to garden construction. We finished up the raised beds and moved about 7 yards of topsoil. Everything is looking good. The potatos got zapped a bit during a frost last Monday, but they seem to be recovering.

Sunday we headed out to ride across the Eastern Contintal Divide along the Great Allegheny Passage. The new murals look great! We then made our way through the Big Savage Tunnel and had lunch at the overlook. We set up for a new photo for the blog banner and hopefully it came out good. The present banner was shot there last summer. From there we went to Mount Davis, the highest point in PA. It is arguably the most unimpressive highest point I have been to. The view from the tower is nice and the drive around is lovely, but the rock which is the actual high point is, well, a small rock.

Next up was a trip to a bog. Oliver loved it and enjoyed having his bare feet in the bog ooze. It was a full body experience for him. I’ll try to post some photos from the trip later. On the way back to the Anthill we found a black rat snake, which was quite big and quite musky/stinky.

Monday, we finished planting the garden and each picked a tomato plant for the Great Tomato Race. The person who picks the plant that gets a tomato first wins. Later we took a ride out to 5 mile meadow in search of tadpoles. A couple of weeks ago we found a vernal pool teeming with tadpoles but we didn’t have anything to bring a few back in. So this time we brought set containers and a kitchen strainer to scoop them up. Unfortunately the pool was dried up and the tadpoles were gone. Sigh, one week too late. We stopped for a snack at Finnegan’s Ledges and did some exploring. Parke and Eli found the spring that feeds the small waterfall.

Now we’re in the car headed back to Ann Arbor while we listen to The Goblet of Fire. Good times.

Highest kid in PA

Highest kid in PA

Parke’s Foolproof Plan for Losing Those Last Few Pesky Pounds of Baby Weight

Step 1- Head down to vacation house, with plans for a weekend full of fun outdoor activities

2- Day one, spend busy day out in the garden.  Have husband, who usually does heavy lifting and digging jobs, stay inside to cybercommute to his job.  Do lifting and digging yourself.

3- For dinner, have make your own pizzas on the grill.  Enjoy it, it’s your last meal for a while

4- Go to bed very early.  Wonder why you’re feeling so tired, figure it’s all the work in the garden

5- Wake up at 3 AM.  Realize you were feeling tired because you’ve come down with a stomach bug.

6- Breakfast.  Have a spoonful of yogurt.  Try not to throw up.

7- Go for a 20 mile bike ride, because you are on vacation, damn it, and you’re not going to spend it in bed.  Ride a bike with a tagalong and 40 pound 4 year old attached.  The 4 year old will occasionally pedal, providing a power assist, but will just as often drag his feet, negating all the earlier help. 

8- Stop at the half way point for lunch.  Have a cracker with cheese. Try not to throw up.

9- On the way back, beg husband to pedal w/ 4 year old.  Relax on husband’s recumbent tricycle- absence of 4 year old means no power assist, but also no feet dragging.  Lack of constant commentary from 4 year old allows you to pedal in peace and indulge in elaborate fantasy of Medivac helicopter coming to remove you from this remote portion of bike trail. 

10- Arrive home without helicopter assist.  Find hungry infant, who will have decided this is a great time for a growth spurt.  Nurse him, and continue to do so, more frequently than usual, throughout the weekend. Skip dinner.  Go to bed early again.

11- Wake up.  Repeat previous day’s breakfast.

12- Plan for hike on Laurel Highlands Trail.  Because you’re on vacation, damn it.

13- 6 Mile hike up and down hills of LHT.  Husband will carry 15 pound infant for approx. 500 feet, but infant will so make clear that he would really prefer to be carried by you.  Swap baby and carrier with husband. Keep hiking.

14- Stop halfway for lunch.  Eat a Fruit Loop and an M&M.

15- Head home, infant now happy to be carried by husband.

16- Drive back to Ann Arbor, congratulating self on surviving vacation w/stomach flu.  Manage to eat a little dinner on the ride home, but decline the cookie your husband bought for you.  I know, this sounds crazy… YOU? Decline a COOKIE?  But trust me, you will….

17- Next day, head to the basement.  You know that big crate of clothes down there?  The ones you haven’t worn for over a year?  Go check them out….THEY ALL FIT! Can’t imagine why…..

Hiking to the top of the world, ok just to the top of Laurel Ridge

Top of the worldWhile we were down at the Anthill this past weekend we packed in lots of activities. My favorite was the hike from Ohiopyle along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Over the years we have hiked many sections of this trail, but we haven’t done the first few miles. Mostly because it is straight up, then down, then back up, then back down. You get the idea. But Pam and Paul just got back from trekking in Nepal where they took some hikes that made this look like a small knoll.

Actually Parke did this hike when she was a kid, probably about 20 years ago. So it had been a while. At the top of the ridge you are rewarded with a stunning view of the Yough river and the surrounding hills. We hiked up, took a break for lunch at the overlook and then hustled back down as the rain was setting in.

This hike inspired me to consider the Laurel Highlands Ultra which takes place in Mid June. The entire hiking trail is 70.5 miles and about 100 hardy souls complete the journey in one go. The winner usually finishes in an astonishing 12 hours and the cutoff for those at the back of the pack is 22 hours. A couple of years ago they started including a 50k option (31 miles). I’m thinking of trying the 50 k option. I figure it is only 5 more miles than a marathon and I plan on walking/hiking a big part of it. Plus, I’ll have my support crew meeting me a various points along the way so I can always bail out if it gets too dicey. The downside is that the terrain is much harder than a typical marathon and I haven’t been training for a marathon lately. But I’m in decent shape so next time we’re down at the Anthill, I’m going to do a run/hike over the first 10-15 miles to see how it goes and then decide if I want to sign up. Whatever I decide I’m sure it will be an adventure.

Trail head, the adventure beginsHiking with OliverMile Marker #2Eli runs across a bridgeEnjoying the view