Saturday, July 4, 2015

Stop 7: Loon Mt., New Hampshire

My kids are badasses.

This is not motherly bias.
It is fact.
And I don't mean sorta-brave, tough little boys.
I mean full-fledged, no-fear badasses. 
If I had better wi-fi, I'd upload a couple of videos here instead of pictures to truly prove it, but unfortunately, I am dealing with campground/on-the-road/in-between-mountains kinda internet service. I'll be lucky if I can get this post completed at all.

We went to Loon Mountain Adventure Park in Lincoln, New Hampshire. And I admit I thought perhaps this side trip to NH was a little unnecessary since we were no longer going to continue on to Canada, and really, how good could this park be that we are going to spend nearly $300 to climb some trees and swing from some ziplines? Well, once again, Hubby proves that he is The Man when it comes to research and planning, because it was one of our best days of the trip. The park is a ski resort in the winter and is converted to an adventure park in the summer. It has activities like mountain biking, rock climbing walls, a log maze, bouncing bungees, and gondola rides up to the summit where you can explore caves. But the main attractions are the Aerial Forest, where you climb and traverse along ropes and bridges suspended anywhere from 9 to 40 feet in the air; and the Ziplines, where you zip 750 feet across the Pemigewasset River.

We arrived when it opened and did not leave until closing time. Four of the hours were spent in the air and in the trees in the Aerial Forest. There were various levels, but I was pretty shocked by some of the stuff on the two easiest courses. When we first got there, we were most apprehensive that Aidan Kai, our 6-year-old, was going to freak out and we would have spent all that money for this ticket for nothing. He kept saying that his heart was “beeping” really hard in his chest. Once we were taught how the safety harnesses worked and how to clip in and out of the different ropes along each platform, we were set free to play on our own. (There were employees on the ground that you could call for help, but once you started, you were on your own.) Both Ben and Kai got the hang of it faster than I did, in spite of the fact that I had done some ropes stuff in the past. And as for Kai’s “beeping heart”….that kid did not hesitate once. I will admit that there were two times I was so intimidated, I wanted to cry (literally), and probably would have chickened out if the boys had not been there. At one point, I stood on this platform that was who knows how many feet up in the air, trusting that these two harnesses were going to stop my fall if I messed up, and faced a trapeze-like swing, which was the only way to get across and onto the other platform. I was terrified. But what could I do? If I chickened out first, the boys would never try it after me. If I let the boys go first, I’d be scared for them and wouldn’t be able to let go of the fact that I couldn’t do something my 6-year-old could. So I did it. And it was way more fun and less scary than it had looked.
One of the platforms in between the ropes

Badass Ben

Badass Kai on the trapeze thing

The original badass

After the ropes course, we went over to the infamous Zipline. I had done ziplining before while on vacation in Hawaii, so I knew what to expect. What I had not realized, however, was that when you are a mom and you are placing your children’s lives in the hands of some mechanisms and people you don’t know, it is very, very scary. Those two little ones climbed the steps of those towers, stepped onto the platform, looked down at the river, and ran off and jumped without a second’s hesitation. And rather than hold on (for a false sense of security, really) to the yellow lanyard attached to the harness (which I did—with a death grip--on my first zip), Aidan Kai waved at us and arched backwards, arms and legs extended, and Ben flapped like a bird and then flipped himself upside down. I have always loved this sort of stuff, and never gave it much thought when traveling back in the Before Kids Days, but it is a whole new level of stress when you have your kids doing these things.
A portion of the zipline over the river

The first shorter tower where we jumped off of for the zipline

After the stressfully thrilling first half of the day, we spent the rest of it bouncing and climbing and riding up to the summit, playing in the glacial caves at top, and beating the kids in a "friendly" maze race.

It was an awesome day, and worth every penny and drop of (my) terror-induced sweat. This was the sort of stuff that we would talk about when they were babies: doing fun things with them as a family as they got older and could do more. Watching the boys (especially Kai, who has historically been the one to panic at the last minute with activities) go out there and have fun, learn how to do scary things safely and correctly, jump off those platforms and soar…it was just awesome. This was definitely a family day filled with adventure.

My family is badass.
New Hampshire, check!

Next stop: Charlottesville, Virginia.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stop 6: Acadia National Park, Maine

Ok, you all know how I said that Cape Cod was straight off a postcard?
Forget that.


Maine is a postcard.
Maine is an entire issue of "Coastal Living Magazine."

Maine is breathtaking.

So breathtaking, in fact, that I did not even complain about the cold. (It was in the 50s a couple of the nights! Can someone please tell that state that is summer!?!)

Everyone who knows me knows that Hawaii is my #1 place ever. In terms of beauty, I gotta say that Maine was right there. (I kept telling the boys: "Now imagine all this beauty, these cliffs, the blue ocean...and add palm trees, warmth, and a beach lifestyle. That's Hawaii.")

I will go ahead and give you the disclaimer right now: in spite of the 400+ pictures and videos we took, I could not find one that truly does this place justice. And it wasn't just the sights: it smelled so amazing there (and no, it wasn't just the buttery lobster). I now understand how air can smell "crisp." Ben even said, "I hadn't realized how much air pollution we have back home until now." And when it wasn't just smelling clean, it smelled like Christmas tree. As Floridians, we were so amused by the fact that we were surrounded by "Christmas trees" everywhere we went.

We stayed at Hadley's Point Campground, just outside of Acadia National Park and about 5 miles from the town of Bar Harbor. We were supposed to be there only 3 days, but within a few hours of arriving, we were discussing the possibility of extending this stop.

We started our first day there with Diver's Ed Dive-In Theatre, a local must-do for the kids. He takes you on his boat "The StarFish Enterprise" with Captain Evil (his wife and sidekick), his Newfoundland dog Leviathan, and his diving buddy Mini Ed (a Lego diver), and dives with special camera equipment so the people on the boat stay dry while learning about the underwater creatures. He then brings a bunch up for a hands-on lesson/stand-up comedy act. The kids (and adults) loved it.

They were allowed to pick up and touch all the sea creatures
The flat screen TV on the boat that showed us everything Diver Ed was seeing,
including his diving buddy, Lego Mini Ed (intended to give us perspective
on the size of things as he found them underwater)

My kids didn't think I'd kiss the nasty, slimy sea cucumber...
(no jokes, please...I don't want to have to put my Adults Warning back on my blog)

After the (freezing) boat ride, we went into the town of Bar Harbor, to hike onto Bar Island. It's an actual island right off the harbor that you can walk to only during low tide, when a natural land bridge becomes exposed. It was the coolest thing and hard to wrap your head around the idea that where you were walking would be covered with water in a few short hours. If we hadn't had the kids with us, we would have been tempted to sit at the nearest bar across the island and drink as high tide comes in and watch the people scrambling to make it over in time. (Kinda like when you go on a cruise and it leaves a drunken port like Cancun late at wait on the top deck of the ship and watch the drunk passengers running to make it on board as the ship is getting ready to depart....oh've never done that? You must. It's hilarious. And no, we were not the drunken passengers rushing.)
That whole area is ocean except at low tide!
Aidan was amazed that "technically, we are walking on the bottom of the ocean."

The view of the landbridge from the island, looking over into the town

We did a very easy hike up to the summit of the island for some beautiful views:

Acadia: one of his Bucket List Places!


That hike, however, was "just walking" as Aidan Kai called it. The next couple of days we did some heavy duty hiking in the main area of Acadia National Park. They were all pretty strenuous for a 6-year-old (Aidan Kai was a little bad-ass on the trails) and a 9-year-old, and some parts were even strenuous for a 42 year old with bad knees (I'd like to think I was still a little bad ass too). The views were spectacular everywhere you looked.

Ocean Trail, Acadia

Thunder Hole, Acadia

Hiking down (and then back up!) Cadillac Mountain

Some of those great smelling Christmas Trees!!


Although some of those precipices look dangerous, we were really cautious and made sure everyone was coming home in one piece. But we did have a little fun with photo angles:

One of our favorite hikes was around Jordan Pond, a 3+ mile loop with planks and rocks that started and ended at Jordan House Restaurant, where you we had popovers and drinks. I don't know what was better: the popovers, the beer, or the views.

No matter how many times I've gone through my photos and debated which to add, it is nearly impossible to truly show the beauty of this place. Hubby and I discussed many times that we definitely want to go back sans kids (gasp!) to do some of the more strenuous hikes and kayaking and enjoy the town of Bar Harbor at night, with its romantic Shore Path walk and great little bed and breakfasts.
Mansions along Bar Harbor's Shore Path

Our "We-are-SO-coming-back-here-for-a-getaway!" picture

What'd I tell ya? Coastal Living Magazine!

Loving my rock cliffs Acadia sticker.
Maine, check!
Our next stop is New Hampshire, where we were supposed to spend 2 days doing some more outdoor adventure stuff. But because we extended our stay in Maine by a day (we loved it so much and had some really bad weather kill one of our days there), the next part of our trip was slightly affected. When we sat down to discuss that, we both admitted we were longing for some palm trees and heat and feeling a little road exhaustion. As much as we are loving this adventure, we are all missing home a bit, and looking forward to turning the RV south. The kids, I think, have had enough of sightseeing, and I have had enough of 60s and below weather. So we've scratched Niagara Falls and are cutting back down to Charlottesville right after New Hampshire, and then returning to our beloved OBX for some more bliss before the concert in North Carolina on the 10th. Although we aren't actually going to be home any sooner, we will be heading in that direction and sitting on the beach along the way. The good thing is that everyone in the family wholeheartedly agreed with the decision to head south. I guess the only thing running through this family's veins more than gypsy blood is salt water!