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Tag: vacation (page 1 of 9)

675,000 gallons per second

Wanderlust has overcome me again, and so we’ve headed east. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the Atlantic; we are ocean bound. With as little a plan as possible, we are easing our way along the southern edge of the Great Lakes—Michigan, Erie, Ontario. No such trip could be complete without a stop at Niagara Falls. Chris and I first saw the [singlepic=1207,300,300] Evening comes over the Falls Falls during our Canadian road trip in college. I remember it was our first major stop of the journey, as well, eager to get someplace beyond our familiar worlds.

Slow as we are (the near-noon departure doesn’t help) with our desire to drive secondary roads as much as possible (not much of a road trip on the interstate), we arrived in Buffalo, NY after 11pm, so we packed it in and set our sites on the Falls for the morning. We didn’t want to stay in the immediate Niagara Falls areas, as too much kitschy tourism can be pretty expensive, not to mention irritating, so we opted for the 30-minute drive or so from our hotel to the Falls—not too bad.

In the morning (okay early afternoon), we drove north to the Falls. After the battle for affordable parking, we took our time strolling around; the high temps and crushing humidity ensured we didn’t move too quickly. I’ve got to say, while the beauty of the falls is stunning, it was tough for me to see through the tourism and truly pushy people. Seriously, I’ve been to a few tourist destination in my time but haven’t been pushed around (literally) as much as I was at Niagara Falls. There were a lot of people in a big hurry, jockeying for the best views, to get to the front of this line or that, or just to shoulder their way past you. I grew tired of the experience rather quickly.

Chris and I had been to the Falls years before on the Canadian side. I remember tourism being pretty thick then, too, but I don’t remember it being quite so tacky. Perhaps we Americans like our garish gimcrack a tad more than our neighbors to the North, but even so, all those years ago Chris and I spent only a few hours seeing the Falls before moving on. (We couldn’t even afford the local campsites.) It all makes me a bit sad, because they are indeed beautiful. Why the beautiful Niagara Falls had to become the “Niagara Falls Theme Park,” I will never truly understand. It seems beauty alone isn’t enough without snow globes, overpriced tee-shirts, and souvenir DVDs. (Ahh, now I’ve turned all negative. I didn’t mean to.)

Honestly, I really was looking forward to experiencing the natural beauty of this landscape with Aidan for the first time. There is something pretty cool about sharing something you’ve experienced years before again this time with your child. Funny, though, as we walked around the park, Aidan mentioned that he’d thought it would be more remote—somehow more “natural” in its setting. It seems he and I aren’t so different in some regards.

Still, determined to make the best of it and embrace all the tourism (maybe not all) the park had to offer, we queued up for the hour and a half wait to board the famed and historical Maid of the Mist (dating back to 1846). This would be a new experience for us all. Despite the unbearably long wait (again in the heat and humidity), the 20-minute-or-so tour nearly under the falls really was worth it. It was a blast. Both Aidan and Chris screamed with joy and we all got soaking wet. Of course, Aidan never even put on his souvenir raincoat, being too cool to stay dry. Honestly, they did very little to keep anyone dry and it was so much fun feeling the force of the Falls so close and the mist covering us in all her glory.

In the end, we had a nice day at Niagara Falls, but we all agreed that one day was surely enough and set our sites on the next stop of our easterly, impromptu road trip.

winter fun up north

We sneaked a couple of days up north before school began and enjoyed a bunch of winter fun. We spent a day snowshoing our property, went ice skating, snow tubing, hiking, and I even got in a trail run along a segment of the North Country Trail–with beautiful Lake Superior by my side. Every moment I spend north, I feel renewed in body and spirit.

a footbridge and a red picnic table

Went north again this week. I feel myself drawn there more than ever lately. There is something about being just out of reach. Life moves more slowly. Cell phones seldom work. There’s nothing to plug in and nowhere to plug it.[singlepic=1143,330,330] So much depends upon a red picnic table… Staying connected means parking pickups side by side in the middle of the road for a spell to shoot the breeze with a passing neighbor. I like it this way–in the woods.

This week our plans included building a footbridge across our creek, clearing some dead wood, and finishing our picnic table. You’ve got to start with the basics after all. So this is what we did. First, I had to fall a dead leaning tree that was hung up in the trees across the creek and right in the way of our proposed bridge crossing. I was a bit nervous about this, having heard and read plenty about how folks have gotten killed messing with trees in this situation–not to the mention the fact that I don’t exactly know my way around a chainsaw. I didn’t let this discourage me. You’ve got to start somewhere after all. So, I purchased my Husqvarna 455 Rancher (along with all requisite safety clothing–including the Kevlar saw-resistant chaps, and forester’s helmet and face screen); I read the safety manual, watched countless instructional videos online, observed a couple experienced chainsaw users, and then pulled the starter cord. With a healthy bit of fear, caution, and respect for the destructive machine I was wielding, I successfully downed the troublesome tree and cleared away a lot of deadwood laying about our site. I survived the first wave of this week’s work.

As for the bridge building, the hardest part was by far getting the 250 pound stringers across the creek. We managed inch-by-inch with a little creative physics and a whole lot of sweat and patience. Our good neighbor George showed up just in time to lend a hand–just after we had gotten them across ;-) Seriously, we’re lucky to have such a good neighbor. He’s always willing to lend a hand it seems–to anyone along the three-mile stretch of forest road whom he calls neighbor. I suspect he considers most people in his life to be his neighbor.

Once we got the behemoth stringers across, the ordeal was far from over. Leveling, shifting, balancing–were all far more difficult tasks than I would have imagined. Eventually we got them close enough to where they needed to be and nailed them up. Add a bunch of blocking, cross braces, and decking and there you go–a genuine rickety footbridge in the woods. As long as no one decides the bounce in the middle makes for a nice trampoline, I think it will serve its purpose for a few years anyway. Time will tell, but that’s okay with me.

While I plunked away at the details of the footbridge, Chris and Aidan got to painting our new picnic table–classic red. It took a couple of days to prime and get three or four coats of paint on it, but it looks great now, and offers us the comfort of a home–a place to break bread together by the camp fire, to talk about our adventures, and to listen to the serenade of the ever-present creek.

We worked hard this week, but accomplished a lot and had the joy of working hard with our bodies outside in nature to meet some fundamental needs. When one strips away the complexities of life that we seem so eager at times to layer on, when we have to deal with attending to fundamental needs, using our hands and simple tools, things seem to make much more sense. There’s more work to do on our little spot in the woods. We’ll return soon to stoke another campfire and get back to the elemental aspects of our lives.

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