Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hey, folks - long time no is busy with two two-year-olds and every day is full of excitement. You may be asking yourself what Sydney and Abigail have on their heads in the pictures above...yes, they are too-small diapers being used for their baby dolls. The girls wanted to use them as hats, so Rebekah obliged. Their imaginations have taken off, and anything can be used as a toy these days. And the last picture - yes, we finally bought another swing so that we can more easily keep everyone happy. Both Sydney and Abigail love to..."1, 2, 3, SWING!!!"

Another item of interest - we let you know a few months ago that the girls were beginning to open doors inside the house...well, this morning was a first - at 6:00am they let themselves out of their room, banged on the guest room door (where Rebekah's sister Miranda was sleeping), walked right down the hall, easily opened the master bedroom door, and waltzed right in! Probably nothing new to you other parents of young kids, but this morning we were surprised to be awaken by our beautiful daughters in our room - "Mama, Daddy, See-ya'll (Cereal), See-ya'll (Cereal)!!!" And, thus, we begin a new stage of independence that will change our lives forever.

Friday, July 13, 2007

After backpacking half of the Appalachian Trail in 1997, the thru-hiker company thinned out, and I searched for goals each day to keep me motivated. I trudged through Pennsylvania and before I knew it, I had landed in the Delaware Water Gap hostel with The Paper Boy and BDC. But, I set out from Delaware Water Gap and through New Jersey alone and anticipating the New England States – the Kittatinny Mountains of New Jersey, the Hudson River in New York, Mt. Greylock in Mass., the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains and Presidential Range in New Hampshire, and Maine. On June 10, 1997, I took my time resupplying and packing up, and I finally left the hostel in Delaware Water Gap at 10:30. I only planned to hike 6 miles for the day since the first day out of town with a heavy pack and a full belly were always difficult. Located six miles into New Jersey is an idyllic place called Sunfish Pond. This crystal clear glacial lake is a hot spot for animal sightings and is a favorite of Jersey residents. I knew that there would be crowds and the camping spaces would be taken by the locals, so I decided to stealth-camp. Stealth-camping is a not-so-legal form of creating your own campsite for the night eventhough signage around the trailheads and state managed areas indicate that camping is prohibited outside of the marked campgrounds. I picked a very private area to the west of the pond and far, far away from the loud locals. A two-foot high, forest undergrowth shielded my campsite from view of the AT.

As I cooked dinner that night, I experienced white tailed deer sightings and a 4-foot long timber rattlesnake in my campsite, and I had one of those “I am happy to be alive” feelings that night. I put all of my “smellables” (things that smell like food to hungry varmints, bears, etc.) in a bag, hung everything in a nearby tree, and looked forward to a peaceful night’s sleep without snorers, funny noises from the water heater in my room at the hostel, or loud noises from the inebriated locals. Here is an excerpt from what I remember happening next: “6.1.97 I got a great nights sleep until five am – I heard a large rustle nearby and I shot up in my tent. I awoke to find my backpack gone and everything in it, too. My waking startled him – A BEAR! – and he ran a few feet with all of my stuff. I got out to retrieve what I could, but the bear would not go away. With my trusty hiking stick in hand, I picked up rocks and threw them at him, whistled, yelled, and just watched him go through my pack (rainsuit, cookset, fuel bottle, extras bag, water bottle and boots!). After about 30 minutes, the large black bear (he had to be 6 feet long from nose to tail) wandered off, and I was able to do some damage assessment. The most important stuff was still in tact – interestingly enough he opened the pack with the zipper and didn’t hurt the pack at all. He ripped my [fabric] AT patch off of the back (I don’t know why), bit holes in my fuel bottle and water bottle. But everything else was okay. I had to go back into town…” The extra miles back to Delaware Water Gap went very quickly since I had the adrenaline pumping, and I hung my entire pack sans a water bottle and wallet for faster hiking. The folks at the pack shop and the thru-hikers at the hostel loved the story and snapped a few pictures of my “holey” fuel bottle. When I take backpacking trips today, I still use the pots and pans that probably attracted the bear in the first place. Hygiene and KP is not a major concern for thru-hikers – usually after a meal, the only food stuff left is a bit of remnant sauce or cheese – and many thru-hikers will use river gravel, leaves, sand, or dirt to clean out pots. The natural “lava soap-type” materials are free and can be disposed of easily and the next meal will most likely be boiled. In theory, the boiling kills the unwanted bacteria and parasites. So, the night before the bear encounter, I did just that – step 1: grab fallen leaves from under nearby tree, step 2: rub out pots, step 3: rinse pots and throw leaves and rinse water at least 200 feet from campsite and water source. No problem, right? Well, the only problem is that my pots most likely smelled like a fresh tuna or mac-n-cheese to the bear. I didn’t think to put my pots in my “smellables” bag – but now I do. The pots still have the bear’s teeth marks in them that remind me of that morning. I’ve never thought of New Jersey as a very wildlife friendly state and did not expect so many animal sightings “6.1.97 Bears, bears, and more bears. Yesterday morning, last night, and now at the shelter…we have seen three bears in about an hour. Great day for wildlife again – grouse hen and 6 chicks, turkey hen and 3 chicks, doe and spotted fawn…also saw a snake in the Brink Road Shelter. Three-foot long chicken snake and a couple of other snakes on the trail.” The company was sparse in New Jersey as well: “6.13.97 This is the fourth day that I haven’t seen a thru-hiker, but I have had some good company [day hikers/weekenders]…the man and one of the dogs thru-hiked in ’93. They were interesting to talk to, and they were gone from the shelter at 6am! I caught them at about 9:30, so they weren’t going very fast. I hope they show up here – I am in a shelter all alone…Empty shelter – it would be a first…6.13.97 Nope – it wasn’t even close to empty. Ramblin’ Soldier, Scooter, Wild Bore, and Shiner (formerly known as Snail) came in last night!...It is great to be back with a group.” It seemed like everything about my trip was better when with other thru-hikers that I enjoyed. Although the scenery was outstanding and the trail magic was great, the relationships with people made my trip.

Rebekah and I will be traveling up to Maine in a few weeks to see some of those people that I have a special memories of – we will be hiking the last 5 miles of the AT in Maine – Mount Katahdin. Whispering Pine has set up this “reunion” for the class of 1997, and I couldn’t pass up the trip. More to come on the reminiscing – I will attempt to be more regular about my posts since only a few weeks and a few states remain until my goal of Katahdin – coming up: hot days in NY, Naked Hiking Day, bad mosquitoes, Upper Goose Pond Cabin, sleeping in frat houses (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute [RPI] and Dartmouth), and more…

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More pictures of today's lunch stop - the Bicentennial Mall - on flickr. How can it be that the girls wouldn't dare touch the water this year and last year jumped right in (eventhough they were just learning to walk)?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Just a few months before my gramma Gin passed away last year, she made coverlets/quilts for Sydney and Abigail. So, after months of having fabric that matched the quilts, I have finished my first sewing project (all by myself, I might add.) I set a goal for myself at the end of May to make bedskirts, top sheets, and pillowcases by the girls' birthday party at the end of June. I met that goal (almost) by finishing 2 top sheets, 2 pillowcases and one bedskirt. Last week I finished the second bedskirt. Now, most of you are aware that I only post once in a blue moon (Brad seems better suited for the typical posts), but I really felt the need to brag on myself. Everyday I am so excited to be able to look at the beautiful quilts my gramma made for the girls.
Abigail's bed

Sydney's bed

While I'm doting on myself, I might as well add a picture of the cake I made for Sydney and Abigail's birthday party. They sing all the time, so I thought it would be fun to incorporate the 3 songs they sing most (Twinkle Twinkle, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and ABC's--all with the same tune) into their cake. We had a great celebration with our families and the girls seemed to have a blast. More pictures from the party are on flikr.

Lastly, my sweet Brad finished a project for the girls' room which we had been wanting to do for some time now. He had the idea of hanging pictures of each of our family members on either wall above Sydney's and Abigail's beds. From our immediate families to each of our grandparents, every picture is special to us. We hope our girls will enjoy looking at these pictures for years to come and know how much they are loved.