On The Trail

Homeschool Hiking

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We almost had a large crisis on our hands. Maddie complained yesterday morning that her throat was hurting. I took a look and it was only pink and swollen. However in the afternoon she complained again and it looked much worse so we headed off to urgent care. It turned out she had strep throat! Camp drop off was the following day at 2:30. The physician’s assistant at urgent care told us to give her a double dose of medicine last night and that she would be OK to go to camp. So that’s what we did. Fortunately she was feeling a bit better this morning, her throat was looking better too and by the time she hit the mountain air it worked like an elixir and she was all set to go! Then her friend Norah met up with us at camp and she found out she was in the Eagle cabin and the grin was permanently fixed to her face and any soreness forgotten! Phew…thank goodness!! We know she will have so much fun this week!!

While waiting in line we watched a baby robin try to decide if he was going to take his first flight or not. I think he finally decided not due to the number of people below! He (she?) kept creeping into the corner further and further!

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Knitting in the woods

IMG_0999We had so much fun last week in Virginia! You can read all about our visits to Monticello, Appomattox Court House, The Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount Vernon here. One of the fun parts of our stay was the cabin we rented at Bear Creek Lake State Park. It was so lovely! My favorite part was the wrap around porch which is where I went with my knitting whenever I had a minute! Mostly that was in the early morning before Brian and Maddie were up. I worked on another hexipuff and got quite a lot done on my shawl (in the picture above). We also did a lot of nature journaling, especially with trees since we had just been to forestry camp! The leaf is from a tulip tree. I was reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes in addition to all the field guides! Our last day we added to the Cabin Journal. We had so much fun reading everyone’s comments and reasons for being there. So many good stories! Now we are back at work although Maddie is done with school and enjoying more free time! What have you been reading or knitting?

Joining Small Things for the Knit A Long

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Thomas, George, Grant & Lee plus the Blue Ridge Parkway

Last week we headed off to visit Virginia. Last summer Maddie asked if we could visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Brian did a lot of research and found a cabin for us at Bear Creek Lake State Park in Virginia. It was located in a central spot so we could also visit Appomattox Court House and the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as being a beautiful spot itself. The cabin had a great room, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a lovely wrap around porch.

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This was the view from the porch the first morning we were there. Isn’t it beautiful? The birds were making quite a racket! The night before we had taken a small walk down the path to the lake. We saw a pileated woodpecker, song sparrows and a Great Blue Heron catching a fish for his dinner!

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Monday morning we took a small hike around the lake. We were trying to identify trees and had fun checking out the other plants. We also saw a butterfly and several other insects.

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We used our field guides to identify the butterfly as a red spotted purple. It was really cool…..more on those later! Maddie was very busy with her camera throughout the week. We will put her photos in a post of her own!

In the afternoon we headed to Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. Here we learned, contrary to every class any of us ever took regarding the Civil War (including the history major!) that the surrender didn’t take place in a courthouse but in a private home. Court House in this case is 2 words and means the county seat not a building. We were struck here by the obvious respect Grant accorded Lee. He was given the larger desk and more comfortable chair. Maddie worked very hard on the Junior Ranger booklet. This was easily one of the hardest ones we’ve ever done but she did get it done! Her reward was a special junior ranger badge for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, some cards with photos of the buildings on the site and a printing made on the old printing press that is a copy of the parole the Southern soldiers received.

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On Tuesday we spent the day at Monticello. We had a special behind the scenes tour. The tour lasted 2 hours and was very enjoyable. The guide was knowledgeable, cheerful and loved Maddie’s story of her first memory of Thomas Jefferson. We told her about it on the way to the kitchen. It was a book called Thomas Jefferson’s Feast and explained how much he enjoyed cooking and that he introduced macaroni and cheese to America. Of course, the more she learned about him the better she liked him until he became her favorite founding father. Our tour took us through the house everyone gets to see plus the upper floors where most people do not get to go. We couldn’t take photos in the house but we were able to take photos on the grounds. Maddie loved every minute of that and was very busy trying to get photos of the house without people around and got her macros lens out when we went around the garden. It was very hot that day…almost 90! We really enjoyed the house and grounds despite the heat. While we didn’t learn anything astounding and new, we did learn little bits that made Jefferson seem a little more real.

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On Wednesday we headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We spent time on a short section ending at Peaks of Otter Visitor Center. It was another beautiful day with temperatures in the 70s. We had great visibility at the overlooks and saw more butterflies than we could keep track of! Most of them were red spotted purples and tiger swallowtails. Maddie had her aquascope to check out some of the creeks. Maddie completed the Junior Ranger sheet for the James River visitor center earning a badge for the Blue Ridge Parkway and had a great conversation with the supervisor of rangers at the Peaks of Otter Visitor center. He told Maddie that he became a ranger because he couldn’t sit still in school and this let him be outside all the time. Maddie responded with “I know exactly what you mean!”. Maddie also told Brian and I later on how much she appreciates it when the rangers really check her work on the junior ranger book.

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Thursday we checked out of our cabin. When I made the last walk through I noticed a piece of paper on the desk in Maddie’s room and had to take a picture. I hope whoever checked our cabin and took the laundry enjoyed their note!


After checking out we headed to Mount Vernon.  The house was really neat and the farm had a unique 16 sided barn of George Washington’s own design. We also enjoyed the museum. They did not live up to Monticello however! The staff was not as cheerful and it was so much more crowded it was hard to think!

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We had a great time! Planning may be starting for next year’s trip, once again centered around a national park.On the way home we saw this group headed to Washington DC. Maddie and I particularly enjoyed seeing the one lady in riding her motorcycle in the middle of the men! Happy Memorial Day!



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Winter Camp for Everyone!

Maddie has been waiting (not patiently I might add!) for at least 2 years to be old enough for winter camp. Finally this year she was able to attend!! We dropped her off on Sunday night at Camp Fowler with snowshoes, snowpants, 3 pairs of mittens and 2 hats. She couldn’t say good-bye fast enough so she could get to the fun! And fun she had. Lots of games, snowshoeing, playing around the camp and on the lake a bit. After much back and forth debate she took her first little camera which doesn’t take the best pictures. She did get a couple though!!

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playing with a snake…better her than me!                         snuggling up with Baldwin

After Brian and I left her we continued on to The Shamrock Motel and Cottages in Long Lake for our own winter camp! They asked if we would stay in a cottage rather than the efficiency unit because they wanted it to have some heat and water running(irony of that is we came home to frozen pipes in our downstairs bathroom!). We agreed to that plan at the same price we were going to pay to begin with! It was a lovely little cottage, warm and snug which was a good thing considering the temperature! We got up on Monday morning to a chilly -10 degrees without the wind chill.


Thoughts of snowshoeing were put off until the afternoon!! Here is the view around our cabin.

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We went into town to check out Hoss’ Country Corner and had lunch at the diner. This week is “Winter Fest” for the area. There were several ice sculptures around the town. I am not sure if it was specifically for Winter Fest or just for winter in general they were fun though!


In front of our hotel, of course!

This one is a bear with a fish in his mouth. It didn’t translate too well to the photo!

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View from the town beach.

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After lunch we headed back to our cottage and got on our snowshoes. Brrrr….we didn’t stay out too long but had fun tramping down the hill and about the edge of the lake a bit!

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Our cabin from the beach

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That’s our first and maybe last “selfie”!

We checked out at 10 on Tuesday and headed south to pick up Maddie. We didn’t need to be there until 12:00 so, not wanting to be early and getting a lecture from Maddie, we made a stop at the Adirondack Museum. They were open for the Frost Fest. We poked around the building that houses the carriages and sleighs.

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The snow roller made me smile. Thank goodness for modern snowplows!

After about an hour there we felt we could safely head for camp. I loved all the snoweshoes everywhere when we pulled in. Kids were definitely in residence!


We took a picture of Maddie’s room and a couple of all the kids together. Then we had lunch and headed for home!

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Despite the frozen pipes surprise waiting for us at home we had a great time! Maddie insists she needs to go back now but I think she will have to wait.

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3 National Parks, 1 House of John James Audubon and 1 Chocolate World in 3 days!

Our beginning of vacation plan was to take Maddie to Valley Forge. What actually happened was a 3 day whirlwind camping trip where we took in Valley Forge plus 2 other National Parks, the home of John James Audubon then came home via Hershey, PA! We had a lot of fun, got “turned around” numerous times and came home with lots of Junior Ranger experience, pins and other things!

We decided to stop at Morristown National Historic Park on our way to our campsite at French Creek State Park in PA to break up the trip. This turned out to be a HUGE National Park and one we will need to visit again soon. Maddie was able to complete the Junior Ranger program at the site despite our short time there. We were really impressed with the way she paid attention to the signage at this park as she worked on the packet. This park is actually a couple of places that string out in Morristown so once you stop at one place you need to get in your car and drive over regular highways to get to the next place. The Revolutionary Army camped here during the winter on more than one occasion. There was a lot about Washington, his officers and the regular army soldiers.




We made camp at French Creek State Park which was a wonderful spot. It was quiet, pretty and clean. Maddie discovered a trail off the back of our campsite obviously made by other kids and probably adults since it ended in a small clearing with a fire pit not made by rangers. Maddie loved that spot. It was a perfect place for playing Narnia or King Arthur which she did with abandon while we set up the tent and worked on dinner. Here are some of her photos with her new big hand me down camera from Poppa Bill of the campsite.



The next morning we were up and on our way to Valley Forge! Sort of….the directions were a bit muddled and combined with bad road signs (as in no road signs!) it took a bit of work to get us there but we did indeed make it!



Baldwin was along for the ride so he could report back to the rangers at the Saratoga National Park! We had some fun in the visitors center first and visited the gift shop to get an audio CD tour of the encampment and, of course, some junior ranger pins! There was a Junior Ranger program here as well. Maddie and I sat down in some benches to check what she would need to complete when we overheard a man next to us. He was in wonder that the revolution started before 1776. Maddie looked at me with big round eyes and said “What??” meaning she couldn’t believe an adult wouldn’t know that fact. Later, when we were out of earshot, Brian and I explained that we felt it was a failure of his education (meaning both parents and school) and that we are glad the National Parks are there to help him fill in the missing information. He was reading and paying attention so there isn’t much more we could ask of him! She agreed but was still amazed that someone who appeared to be not much older than her own parents was missing some vital historical facts. After the visitor center we set out on the tour road. The first stop was at the re-created soldier huts. There was an interpretive ranger working there dressed as a soldier. We talked to him about the huts and soldier’s life then asked about his job since I overheard the him tell the people ahead of us that he had been a ranger for 25 years! He talked to Maddie a bit about the job and how it would be hard but not impossible to get a position. He finished up by telling her he hoped she would make it because they need her!

Momma’s photos:



This photo is about 2 steps in from the one up top with Maddie taking her first photo of the day. Notice who is now carrying the bag and tripod! Lucky girl to have an attentive Daddy to help her out!




Maddie’s photos:






Then we went to the Washington Memorial Arch. Such good shots here!

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Maddie’s photos





Washington’s Headquarters’s was the next stop. This was the house where he lived with Martha while planning strategy with his officers. Hamilton and Lafayette were here as well. We went into the train station first which gave some background about the house and the huts out back. Washington’s bodyguard, an elite force, stayed in these huts.
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Maddie’s photos




We had a little bird watching there too! Can you find the goldfinches?



We also made a stop at the artillery park before moving on to the Washington Memorial Chapel.
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The chapel is beautiful. The stained glass is gorgeous and symbolism is everywhere. Maddie was enthralled with the entire thing! She was having some trouble focusing on her photography skills while trying to take it all in. The chapel is still an active church. I looked down the aisle and told Brian it was hard enough to walk down the aisle at our own church to get married…I can’t imagine walking down that one! Maddie thinks she could do it in a heartbeat…Brian and I told her to win the lottery if she wants that to happen!

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Looking out from the courtyard next to the chapel with the Washington Monument and flag in the distance


After that stop we went back to the visitor center to turn in Maddie’s Junior Ranger packet and get her badge. We learned a valuable lesson here as well! Usually they just check the packet, tell Maddie she did a great job and hand the badge over. This time a volunteer checked Maddie’s packet (an adorable grandmotherly type woman) and she asked one of the rangers to swear Maddie in as a Junior Ranger. Did Momma have her camera? No. Was Daddy with us? No, he was parked in front of the visitor center wondering what was taking us so long. So from now on, no matter how far away the darn parking lot is or how little time we think we have, we are parking the car and bringing the camera! Major fail on the parentals there… But Maddie loved it and I am thinking it will happen again at another spot. I hope!

We then went around the block and up the road (Pennsylvania has odd traffic patterns I have to say!) to the John James Audubon Home. On the way we passed Freedom’s Foundation and stopped for some pictures of the giant flag and flagpole and statues.
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Unfortunately the home of Audubon itself was not open on mondays but we were able to walk the grounds. It was very neat because we suddenly remembered we were in the same place he used to walk and enjoy the outdoors! Bird houses and feeders were everywhere. We heard many but only saw a few plus a woodchuck/groundhog and some deer. There were large black statues of birds as we entered too!

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Maddie’s photos











The next day we made our way around the corner (really!) to the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Park. We meant to simply check it out and mark it off for later. The rangers talked us into walking through the village and allowing Maddie to complete the simpler of the 2 Junior Ranger booklets they had available. So we ended up being there for 1 1/2 hours. That is actually record time for our family in any type of National Park, Historical Monument or museum! We would love to go back there another time. It was very interesting! The furnace made iron which was then molded into cannon for the revolutionary war and stayed in operation making many items including the Hopewell Furnance line until the 1900s. Maddie got another badge and we were on our way to Hershey, PA!

We had a fun time in Hershey! Street lamps with hershey kiss tops, candy everywhere…who couldn’t have fun right? We spent some time in the gift shop area then we made our own desserts! This was a lot of fun. Maddie and I chose a cookie while Brian chose a cupcake then we headed over to the toppings bar to load up on frosting and candy to put on top of it. While we waited for the baked goods to arrive we got to play with edible paint. Yum!
All photos in Hershey by Momma!



















We also took the Chocolate Factory Tour which is not actually in the chocolate factory but a simulation. While it would’ve been interesting…there were singing cows. Loud singing cows. They drowned out the more interesting information we were trying to glean from the overview we were getting in our little car taking us through the exhibit so that was a bit disappointing. What was not disappointing however was the trolley tour through Hershey. We had excellent seats right in the front and an even better tour guide who truly loved Milton Hershey’s story and made it come alive. Did you know that Milton Hershey and his wife started a school for orphans and poor children? At the end of his life Milton signed over all his holdings in the Hershey company to the school and it is still active today! Any time you purchase a Hershey product part of the proceeds go to supporting the school and the children living there. A wonderful legacy to leave behind!













After leaving Hershey we headed back home….very late! We were tired but happy!! And we still have more vacation left! Yay!!!

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Picking Up from Camp


We picked Maddie up on Saturday morning! She was cheerful, happy and had a wonderful time. We saw Aunt Deb, her cabin counselor, before we saw Maddie. She made sure we were Maddie’s parents then said “Maddie was just wonderful! She is so sweet and is kind to everyone.”. Music to our ears! And we appreciate Aunt Deb’s care of Maddie over the week more than we can say! As much as Maddie loved camp last year this year went over the top because she enjoyed her cabin mates and Aunt Deb.

After getting things settled in the car, making one final trip to the store and just saying a good-bye to a favorite spot or two we took Maddie down to our favorite state campground at Sacandaga for the night. It was a surprise for Maddie! We had a fun day just enjoying time outside and coming together again as a family. We tested out some new cooking equipment from Mamaw Louise! A popcorn popper and a pie iron! This was a lot of fun but we were in bed early as we were all tired!


Just a little tired and silly!

The walkie talkies were fun too although (to be honest!) Brian and I used them more than Maddie! I don’t think she was quite ready for any sort of civilization yet!

We made pizza in the pie iron using white bread (Udi’s gluten free for Bri!), my homemade pizza sauce, cheese and pepperoni. There are a lot of things we can make in here but that one was everywhere! It seemed like a good first thing to try. It came out GREAT!



We know Maddie had an excellent week and weekend because she came home with only wet shoes! The hiking boots were dry until she took a wrong step down by the river at the campsite. At least only her foot got wet that time!

Now Maddie is looking forward to the fair for the summer and winter camp this winter!!!

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Well, today was the day to drop Maddie at Camp Fowler for the week. She couldn’t wait to go! She told me it was about time “something EPIC” happened this summer which got an eye roll from me and a laugh from her! Maddie insisted that she would not be the last one there this year so we were on the road at 8:00 (check in time is 2:30 so this was a tad early!). We stopped at the Northampton Diner for breakfast. Its one of her favorite breakfast stops!!

On the way there the skies opened up with a downpour complete with thunder and lightning in the distance. But when we came out the skies had cleared and the mist was starting to blow off the mountains.


Then it was on to Charles John’s market in Speculator to pick out a comic book! Unfortunately the selection was a lot more limited this year but Maddie and Brian found a supergirl comic and all was well.

Sign on the way into camp!! I couldn’t resist. Aim high!!!

Then we drove down the road to camp. We arrived at 11:00 (remember check in was at 2:30!). Maddie immediately reacquainted herself with the buildings and grounds and showed us some of her favorite places she missed. We met the chickens and found a song sparrow nest in the tree outside the Lake House much to everyone’s delight.

Nature Center Porch


view off the nature center porch


Lake House


Song Sparrow Nest

Inside the Nature Center


Spider on Fenimore Hall’s porch taken by Maddie!

Here is the schedule for the week…

And we left her in the newly renovated Goose Cabin knowing she will have an excellent week!!