Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trip to upstate New York and Vermont

On Monday morning (August 24) we left Cambridge and took I-90 all the way to Albany, NY. For the afternoon we headed up to Saratoga Springs and after eating a quick lunch at a random Mexican restaurant (El Mariachi, pretty good and cheap buffet), we stopped by the Saratoga Spa State Park. We were looking to do some hiking and site seeing. Before paying to enter the park we asked the attendant what we should do as we only had a couple hours to hike. She suggested we *not* pay, drive up to the next entrance, and take the nature trails from there. Great!

This is a pretty small park with short trails. What we weren't expecting, though, was the natural springs there. We saw Island Spouter and Geyser.

Island Spouter
After a quick session at the playground, we decided to head to our hotel in Albany to get checked in so we could head downtown to eat dinner. After checking in, Nolan and I went for a quick dip in the pool so he could splash around and use up some energy.

We then headed downtown Albany for site seeing and dinner. You would not guess that this was the capital except for that there are a couple tall buildings. We got downtown around 5:30 and it had already pretty much shut down. We searched for a place to eat dinner and happened across Katrinella's Bistro. It was decent (and priced far better than the other two Italian restaurants near by). We talked with the gal that owns the place with her husband; they opened the place earlier this year and have been doing ok so far. I got Ziti Genovese (pesto with marinara sauce added). It was different but good.

Tuesday morning we woke up to head up to Lake George in the Adirondacks. I had previously written down a couple possible hikes, but I wanted, as always, to stop at the Visitors Center and ask the locals. We were directed to drive up Prospect Mountain and then hike Buck Mountain. I also asked for a sandwich recommendation and was told to visit the Sandwich Works. Since Nolan was sleeping, we decided to drive up Prospect Mountain first. As we entered the area I noticed many signs "selling" this drive which I thought strange, we are already on the road to drive to the top. That is when I assumed "Oh, they are going to charge me to drive up". I was right. For $8/car, you drive up ~4 miles with three scenic overlooks along the way. Nolan woke up as we entered the first lookout, so we let him out to run around some. At the top parking lot they have a shuttle you can take to the very top or you can just walk up (not far at all). We walked up, not getting our $8 worth, but it was a nice, quick, steep climb. The weather was good Tuesday so we could see probably almost to Albany.

View from Prospect Mountain looking toward Lake George Village

We headed back in to the village to get sandwiches and get moving to our hike. The sandwiches were not too bad and the price was reasonable considering this is a little tourist town. We drove on to the Buck Mountain trail head near Pilot Knob, about 10-15 minutes north of the village on the east side of the lake. We drove up, ate in the parking lot, and then thought about the climb. We had 3.3 miles up, 2000' ascent, and it was about 1:30. We also realized we didn't fill up all the water bottles. We decided to drive back and stop at the first place that looked like we could get water. Kacey noticed the Post Office and she figured she could get water there, and it worked. So by 2pm, we started a climb up the mountain. The first mile of the trail was easy so I wanted to make good time as I assumed it would get harder. We did the first mile in about 20 minutes but then the grade picked up. This was not a difficult trail (except for maybe the last 5% at the top), but a steady, steep grade. As the forest thinned, I knew we were close. About 90 minutes in to the climb was the last push, a pretty daunting rock face; especially since I am carrying about 30 pounds on my back! My legs were burning on the rocks, but with the end in sight I forced my legs to lift us up. The best map I could find to show the summit is this. This is the Bing Bird's Eye View of the summit rock. There are almost two lookouts here. The first one we sat at for 10 minutes or so while Nolan ran around because it was a great view looking south, and it felt like the top. I knew it wasn't, and another couple on their way down told us it was not much farther to the summit. We decided to ascend and made it to a north and west looking view.

I couldn't resist using this photo of the summit!

It was around 4pm and I was not looking forward to the pain of using unused muscles climbing down with 30 pounds on my back, but I knew we had to get going. We rationed out some water and headed down. We stopped maybe half way to share an apple and that was the only food we really ate on the hike. It took us about 100 minutes to get up and about 80 minutes to get down. I thought this was a very successful hike! Luckily it is almost all shaded until the summit which made it much easier. There are a few creeks to cross so old shoes with good grip should be worn. There are two rock climbing sections toward the top, but they are definitely doable without any rock climbing experience if you take your time.

For dinner Kacey had found a restaurant online and we wanted to try it, but our appetites were off after the strenuous hike with probably not enough water. We walked around the village a bit and decided to go for it. The Taste of Poland restaurant is not to be missed if you enjoy this type of food ($4 off for mentioning the web site)! The homemade pierogies were fantastic (on par with the Fetcho Christmas celebration) and the homemade polish kielbasa was great! We asked the waitress what technique they use for making their pierogies. She said the family makes about 1000 per week on the weekends using the assembly line method the Fetchos use; and I thought 350 were a lot! They also sell frozen pierogies by the dozen to take home. We then walked around just a little more, long enough to find some ice cream at Nina's Sweet Shoppe‎. It was good!

Wednesday we woke up to start the hour drive to Bennington, VT. I had a couple ideas for trails in the Green Mountains National Forest, but we stopped at the Visitor's Center to ask for their opinion. We picked one hike I had found online - Harmon Hill. We decided to first check out the large war memorial seen driving in to town, get lunch, and then go hike.

Bennington Battle Monument
Bennington Battle Monument was neat. It is the second tallest monument in the country, is the tallest structure in Vermont, is only $2 to ride the elevator up, and has some great views! We then drove in to town to get sandwiches at Izabella's Eatery. I got the Figgie Sandwich; while good it just isn't a lot of food. Kacey's sandwich was so-so. I think other options in town may satisfy better than this place.

We then headed down the road a few miles to the trail head. The trail description indicated that the ascent is immediate, steep, and rocky.

Trying to show the severity of this climb
This is very true. This was daunting, especially with 30 pounds on my back and weak legs from the day before. Part of the way up we heard rain hitting the canopy (this trail is also heavily wooded) and decided to find a weather report before continuing on as rain was supposed to hit later in the day. After reaching Mr. Fetcho (thanks Eric!) for a weather report, we felt it was safe to resume as we had about 3 hours until storms. Once the ascent is finished, the trail is a nice winding and partially muddy walk through the forest.

We made it!
The lookout here is about 45° looking toward Bennington. It was still a nice hike and we got a move on to beat the rain getting out of the forest. Unfortunately along the way, our efforts to keep the Nikon dry resulted in the loss of my beloved lens cap. Luckily the Hoya UV filter is really the lens protector, not the cap. Any suggestions on good, cheap 72mm lens caps?

Once we returned to the car, we changed out of wet clothes and started our drive toward the interstate in Brattleboro. Kacey wanted to go ahead and eat here, so we drove around a bit and happened across the Flat Street Brew Pub and Tap Room. This place, along with several others in Vermont, includes all taxes in the price of items. I personally love this, which is why I mention it. The prices looked very fair and selection adequate. I got the Texas in Vermont burger which had chili and Vermont cheddar cheese; over cooked but good. They sell Berkshire Brewing Company beer at a pretty good rate so I enjoyed a BBC River Ale. I definitely recommend this place if you are passing through!

My last thoughts on this trip are simple. I am glad I got to spend some time in Vermont, and I have now been to every state east of the Mississippi. I still have 8 states left to do and 4-5 I hope to do all in one trip to the northwest some day. The Adirondacks are touristy due to the skiing aspect of the region, but a good time can definitely be had. The rest of the pictures should be up very soon on our web site. Pictures are here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Break Time!

Kacey has finished her summer semester of LGO. During her week and a half break, I want to catch up on a few things. Like computer backups, system updates, hard drive cleaning, new car battery, taking some photos, apartment cleanup, reviewing the budget, cleaning the car, things like that.

I also decided I want to back up my blog. Blogger provides an export to xml; this is a good start, but I want more. I would like hyperlinks and photos too (or links to photos at least). Anyone out there know how to do this? I looked around some and didn't see an easy answer. Doc or pdf would be great.

We are also thinking of taking a quick trip during this break. We are considering the Adirondacks. Anyone been there and have suggestions? We would want to do some hikes and see some sites and plan to stay to the south near Lake George.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nolan and More Biking

I won't be doing the monthly update as usual, but I will be posting updates on him occasionally. Nolan got in two more bottom teeth! He cut them right around his 13 month birthday which brings the total up to 8. He has been running around a lot too, and also we have been playing kick ball in the apartment! It is fun! He can point to my ears, nose and mouth when I ask him to do so. He is recognizing a few toys too. If I ask him to get his ball, penguin, or boat, he can go get them. This skill came on in about a week, it was amazing watching him learn!

Yesterday and today he is sick. He probably caught something at the Stone Zoo on Friday. We were only there for maybe 90 minutes and I cleaned his hands a couple times, but oh well. He is being a trooper about it even though he is hot and can't breathe that well due to snot. I wonder who will get sick next...

The Stone Zoo was not that interesting. While we did go when many of the animals were asleep, it just isn't that big or exciting. No pictures of him there, but he did see some antelope-looking animals, wolves, monkeys, birds, llamas, and goats. He also petted a large skink!

Yesterday I biked the Charles River Bike Trail. This trail runs both sides of the river from the Charles River Dam to Watertown. It is a nice ride with good stops on the Boston side, so take the Cambridge side first. It is a shared use trail, so there are runners, walkers, and skaters along the way, and in most places it is wide enough for 2 bikes to easily pass. The trail total is around 17 miles.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quick Music Review

I haven't done this in a while, but I also haven't purchased much new music lately. Shinedown's latest album, The Sound of Madness, came out in June 2008; I didn't pick it up until earlier this year. I think I missed the release due to other things going on at the time, but I am glad I didn't forget about it. This is really a great album! I have still been listening to it quite a bit. It has a great mix of rock, lyrics, and harmonies. Favorite songs of mine include Second Chance, What A Shame (a truly beautiful song), and Sound of Madness. Give them a listen!

Red is a great Christian band who knows how to rock; and I love that. Their sophomore album, Innocence & Instinct, doesn't disappoint. It's nice to know there are guys out there that are not afraid to rock yet give all the glory to Him. There is a nice cover of Ordinary World by Duran Duran on this album. In my opinion, this album sounds a lot like their previous work and builds very little on End of Silence. I was hoping to see more growth out of Red in this album.

Heard anything lately you think I may like? Let me know!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Biking and Pizza

Two unrelated topics, but both on my mind.

Today I biked about 13 miles. This is roughly what I did. I walked around Pleasure Bay aka Castle Island. There is a small beach here, the Fort, and lots of playground area and pick nick tables. I also rode by Cheers, which is an easy to miss tourist trap. I then headed to the Boston Esplanade. I rode around a bit and headed north up the Charles River to the Charlesbank Playground. There is a good size playground as well as a wading pool. I think I may take Nolan there this week. I then headed over the Charles River Dam and came back home. I have been wanting to bike more, but I don't get to do it much with Nolan as he is too small to come with.

There is a lot of good food in Cambridge. We don't go out to eat that often, especially now, but occasionally we like to get pizza. I am on a quest to find the best pizza around. That means trying many places (of the 189 places that deliver to our apartment, 42 have pizza)! We have already determined that we are ordering pizza tonight, but I am trying to figure out which place to try next. One of these days I may write about the pizza places we have tried, but we have not tried enough places yet. If you are reading and know of a good pie in Cambridge, drop a comment!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Cambridge Parks

I thought I would post my thoughts so far on a few parks we have visited in and around Cambridge, MA.

Costa Playground
@ Charles St & Lopez Ave
Good sized, well shaded grassy area and decent size jungle gym. There is a community garden here that if I trusted the area more, maybe I would have tried to use it. This is on our way to the mall, which means I don't go that far too often. There are a few metal seats and a water fountain as well.

Kennedy School Playground
@ 6th St & Hurley St
There are two playgrounds here; a toddler area and a kid area. The toddler area has some baby swings and a small but sufficient jungle gym. There is a metal-frame car to sit and pretend drive on. This area is fenced with a gate you can close. It is shaded and not too large. The larger kid area has a large jungle gym, swings, and a small water spout. Next door there are also some tennis courts, basketball courts, and a soccer field. As this park is three blocks from us, I usually take Nolan here when I want to let him swing.

Gore Playground
@ 6th St & Gore St
This is on our way to Shaw's, which I don't walk to that often. There is a small water spout, swings, and it is semi-shaded. It is next door to an indoor skating rink and a large baseball diamond. This playground is mostly fenced. There is an area for bigger kids and an area for smaller kids.

Donnelly Field
@ Berkshire St & Marney St
There are a few large baseball diamonds here as well as a kids park and community pool. The fields provide an area in which to run around if desired. The playground is not that big or great, and neither is the water spout. The pool is a 3-9 ft pool with no baby pool, and there is a $0.75 entry fee. Parking is limited.

Veterans Memorial Swimming and Wading Pool
aka Magazine Beach
719 Memorial Dr.
Don't let either name fool you. While it is on the Charles River, there is not a beach. Also, I did not see a wading pool, just one large pool. We did not venture in as I wanted a small pool for Nolan. But if you are at MIT, this is close and free!

Artesani Playground Wading Pool
1255 Soldiers Field Rd.
So technically this is in Brighton, but oh well, it was only across the river down near Harvard. This place came recommended and I also recommend it. Large, free parking lot. Two playground areas (toddlers and kids) and both are fenced. It is right on the Charles River and a popular activity is to feed the ducks and geese. You can rent kayaks near-by if desired. There is also a decent size wading pool with multiple water spouts and lifeguards on duty. There are changing rooms. There are many pick-nick tables and large grassy areas. There is a combination of shaded areas and open areas. And oh yeah, it's free.

We have been to Boston Common, but it's not close and was packed each time we were near.

I hope to head across the river to West End and check out the couple parks near there soon.

Here is a little more information on parks in the area. The park map at the second link is just a pdf, so hard to navigate and read due to it's size.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Home, for A While

The past two weekends we have traveled out of state. Two weekends ago, we traveled to Ocean City, NJ for the annual Fetcho family vacation. We drove down, which should take 5 1/2 hours, except for the fact that we have to drive through MA, NY, and NJ. It took 7 to get there and 6 1/2 to get back. Ugh. And tolls driving from MA, rough trip, were $22. While the stay was short this year, it was still fun to hang out with family (minus Lindsay) and hear about college life, ride a surrey, play in the pool, and eat way too much Mack & Mancos. Nolan loved the baby pool! I now need to find a pool here to take him to.

Last weekend we flew back to Indiana for Sarah and Adam's wedding! It was a long weekend, which started with waking up at 4am on Friday to catch a 7am flight out of Logan. We flew to Indy because we found a good fare there, visited my grandparents for a couple hours, then borrowed their truck to drive to Ft. Wayne for the wedding. There was plenty of grandma time too, so that was fun. The wedding was great and it was nice to spend time with friends not seen in a while. Sunday morning we drove back to Indy to visit with my brothers for lunch, then caught a flight back to Logan. We arrived late to a house with no food, and Kacey needed to get to a group meeting. So, we grabbed some sandwiches and fruit at one of the places open in Kendall on a Sunday night and I took Nolan home while Kacey went straight to campus.

So, we are tired. I am catching up on cleaning, laundry, and replenishing the apartment with food. We are contemplating a trip to Indy and Toledo at some point (can't say when on here), but this will be a long, tiring trip while we should be trying to relax for once.

On another note, we got a call on Friday that a day care spot may have opened up here in Cambridge. You know what that means... Chris has to decide what to do with his life. I have some thoughts, but I am allowing my head to try and negotiate with my heart. I want my heart to win, but we could really use income. I am really torn. Meanwhile, I keep thinking that I am done with corporate America and want to do something else, that is once we move back west. Who knows, only time will tell I suppose.

Ok, I should get off the computer and go play with my boy.