On The Trail

Homeschool Hiking

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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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Oh My Goodness! She is 11!

I am a bit late…well, maybe a month late with this post! Fall is always a very busy time at our house. Its our favorite time of year! Fall also means Maddie’s birthday followed closely by our anniversary. This year I suggested to Maddie that we do some special things with just one friend. Maddie was willing, her friend was able so that’s exactly what we did! We started off by heading to the Saratoga Battlefield to visit Maddie’s favorite Park Rangers and visit the encampment. We stopped at the visitor center for a while then headed off down the tour road to the American Camp. The girls were able to participate in a lesson in drilling with the drum! We also had a special scavenger hunt to complete so we were busy looking for clues.















Its hard to believe that she is 11! She was having a wonderful time with her new camera from Poppa Bill.


After that we moved on to the British Camp. Here we saw another Ranger friend and met with some interesting people!!





We saw black squirrels 2 times near the visitor center. I managed to catch this one but only just!

The next day we spent having cake and ice cream with all Maddie’s grandparents! On Monday, the actual birthday day, we went to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Unlike Maddie’s real birth day it was wet, cold and rainy! We didn’t let it stop us and had a good time checking out the different buildings and displays. We were very happy however to discover they had soup in the cafeteria to go along with our sandwiches from home!

This was taken at 11:30 when Maddie was officially 11! Apparently Momma needs to let those pants down again…we have a lot of sock showing!


The view from the fire tower



Maddie and Smokey!



I can’t help myself, I have to keep taking pictures of her holding that big camera! It looks so big her hands and she does a beautiful job with it.

An Exhibit on camping equipment through the years!

A packbasket picture for Poppa Bill!

Camping by the rich long ago…today we would call it “Glamping”
Flower press in the “Glamping” exhibit. Some of the things they used to take along on these “camping” trips astounded us! There was a pictures of Henry Ford with 2 other famous men. They went camping with something like 40 cars along to carry all the equipment! Phew!





Private Railway Car



We had a great weekend and lots of fun!! I’ll be posting Maddie’s photos in a separate post.

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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!

Momma’s photos


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.
Momma’s photos






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.
Maddie’s photos



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!

Momma’s photos






Maddie’s photos








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.
Maddie’s photos





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!

Momma’s photos









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!!


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Maddie & Baldwin Visit FDR & Eleanor

After Maddie spent a day with the Rangers at The Saratoga Battlefield she wanted to go to another National Park. Brian and I gave her a list of close by National Historic Sites and Parks, told Maddie to pick one and research how much it would cost to get in, how much the gas would cost (Brian helped her out!), find a close by campsite and print out directions. Her eyes lit up and she was off to work!! She decided she would like to visit the home of FDR and Val-Kill the home of Eleanor Roosevelt.
She found a New York Campsite nearby called Mills-Norrie Campground. So we were off on Friday night for the adventure!

Unfortunately we do not have much good to say about the Mills-Norrie campground. There was a lot of 20-somethings creating a loud ruckus until well into Saturday morning without any supervision or oversight by the rangers/DEC staff like there has been in other campsites we’ve stayed. In fact it was so bad that we packed up Saturday when we got up and left the campsite. However Maddie and Baldwin had a good time for a while in the morning playing around with the camera and other things.





Brian had made a coffee run and saw some deer on his way out of the campsite. So when we left we did try to check out the Environmental Center where we saw some cool things like a snapping turtle in the window! The bird on a log is a cormorant. I honestly do not know what those plants were growing out of the mud but they were very cool. Don’t they look like something dinosaurs would eat?





Maddie’s photos!!


Then Brian drove the road a bit hoping to see the deer again and we were rewarded! First we saw the momma deer eating along the right side of the road. We were so concentrated on watching her we never looked left.


Maddie’s photos (from the backseat, through the windshield….)



We thought Momma was going to cross the road but instead she was calling her baby over! Imagine our surprise when suddenly a little baby was running across the road to get a drink of milk from Momma!!

Photos by Maddie…she got better shots than me!


photo by Momma this time…

Then it was on to the Home of FDR and his presidential library. This was interesting because it was the first presidential library ever created. FDR was born in this house and lived here until his death. He passed away while in office so much of what is in the home relates in some way to the presidency.
We took the tour of the house led by a National Park Ranger then did the self led tour of the library. Here we are walking up to FDR’s home.
From the porch we looked into FDR’s study where he gave some of his “Fireside Chats” and is also where the some of the Manhattan Project meetings were held. Unfortunately we looked through a window so pictures were not going to come out good and we were trying our best to keep up with the ranger! Once inside the home we were able to look around downstairs and see some of the many collections there. Our 2 favorite rooms were “the snuggery” and the library. I think I will start calling the living room the snuggery! Its such an excellent name. The library was filled with small chairs for children, board games, one of FDR’s wheelchairs (we discovered he purposely had them made from wooden dining chairs so no one would pay attention to it) and many books. One of the books, to Maddie’s delight, was The Burgess Bird Book for Children. I read from this book to the kids at snacktime quite often.

All pictures by Maddie!! You can see Baldwin was having quite a bit of fun..








We also went upstairs but didn’t take a lot of pictures. What was interesting is that Eleanor let the children have a couple things each from the house but otherwise left it as is for the National Park Service to take over so there are clothes in the closet that FDR wore himself and the direct line phone from his bedside to the White House is also still there. Eleanor moved her own things to Val-Kill and lived there until her death.

Maddie asked about the Junior Ranger program which turned out to actually be a Junior Secret Service Agent program! FDR liked to give the Secret Service quite a run for the money apparently. Eleanor would invite anyone she liked to come visit even people they just met! And FDR had a car specially outfitted so he could drive it with hand controls. We saw the car in the library along with some funny quotes by people like Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum) about riding in the car. Queen Elizabeth said it was rather terrifying and a relief to arrive at the picnic and most of the quotes were along that line! FDR would try to outrun the Secret Service in his car and since he was driving on his own property he could do it more often than not. So a lot of the questions in the book were about how to keep up with the president and keep him safe when everyone in the world was coming to dinner.
Maddie, Brian and Baldwin working on the booklet
We took a lot of pictures of Maddie and Baldwin by the signs!

On our way back to the library we stopped to see the gravesite in the garden.

There was a very interesting statue called “Break Free” in a small space called “Freedom Court”. This was given to the library from the artist and another was given to the Winston Churchill Library in Iowa(of all places…Iowa? doesn’t matter its now on Brian’s to do list!). The cause both men lead their countries to defend in World War II was overshadowed by the “Iron Curtain” (Churchill coined that phrase) coming down. The artist felt that people breaking free of that was a cause to celebrate in both places honoring these men. The statues are made from the Berlin Wall and I was so interested to see it. We had a long discussion with Maddie again about the Berlin Wall, Communism, The Cold War and Ronald Regan. I was surprised by how thick it was. I thought it was very slim all this time because I recall the people knocking it down with whatever they could get their hands on. It just seemed to me that it was probably much slimmer than it actually was!

Statue of Churchill…the sun was just too bright!

Then it was into the library. At the start there are letters from people to FDR when he was president and they included not only “Attaboy” letters (that in fact is all one said…Attaboy!) but also ones from people who were obviously not happy with FDR and his policies (I voted for you and I will always be ashamed of that vote considering what you have done. said one letter). My favorite one however was from a boy 8 years old who wrote to let the president know he was named for FDR and asking for a birthday present! It made me wonder if FDR sent something and what the boy’s parents thought if he did.
As we walked through the library told the story of FDR’s childhood and young adult years, explained a bit about polio and then took us through the Depression and World War II. In several spots there were places to listen to parts of the fireside chat set up like the kitchen or dining room of the time. FDR’s dog Fala was very important to him and he was all over the library as well. Madam President Madeline Grace gave her acceptance speech along with Baldwin.



photo by Maddie!

At the end was a set up of the map room in the White House during World War II. The table actually had interactive activities and when you picked up the phone FDR was talking.


On our way out we got some pictures of Maddie and Baldwin with FDR and Eleanor!

After that we had some lunch and headed out to Val-Kill.

This was a home Eleanor built as her own place. It was comfortable and simple which is what she wanted. There were bookshelves and photos everywhere so it rather felt like our house! Many famous people visited here as well as the FDR home. In fact those terrifying rides to the picnic often ended here at Val Kill. There were a lot of home movies to see and photos of some of those people there. Eleanor didn’t feel there was a lot of historic significance to the home despite all of this so there was nothing in her will to preserve the home. In the end 2 or 3 groups were able to save the building from being made into apartments and handed it over to the National Park Service in 1977. They are still working on locating items that were in the home and putting things back into place so sometimes there was an odd spot obviously crying out for a picture to be on the wall. They have records of what it looked like because the librarian at the FDR library sent a photographer to photo the home when Eleanor passed away. The best part of this home for me was the knitting….
I asked and was told that it is Eleanor’s knitting and her knitting bag. How it managed to stay like this all this time I cannot imagine. How neat to be able to see it though! I just wish I could’ve gotten closer…was it a sweater for a grandchild? And I couldn’t really read the crewelwork on the bag. Ah well…

Once done there we headed for home and, thankfully, a good night’s sleep! This morning Brian made camp breakfast of spam and eggs outside for Maddie.


Now its back to the real world of groceries and house cleaning!!!