On The Trail

Homeschool Hiking

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Rangers, Owls and Shakespeare! What we’ve been up to!

Maddie finished her PASS test on Saturday morning. As a reward for completing it we headed up to the Saratoga National Historic Park to see a program with a wildlife rehabilitator. She brought raptors for everyone to see! Maddie was delighted and took many photos. They were so neat and some of the information the rehabilitator shared was so interesting. Did you know that the barred owl’s hearing is so good that he could hear everyone’s heart beating in the room? I couldn’t imagine the noise inside that poor owls head…the room was packed!

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screech owl                                                falcon


Maddie and the barred owl-her favorite!


Snowy owl named Oz. He immediately coughed up an owl pellet much to Maddie’s delight and several groans and “EEEEEUUUU”s from the audience.                                     .


Harry Potter display! Snowy Owl on the right and a European Eagle Owl on the left.


European Eagle Owl which is Draco Malfoy’s owl in the Harry Potter movies! Maddie got shots of him flying across the room to his perch!






Then we headed out to check out a used bookstore and have some dinner at The Farmer’s Daughter. I couldn’t resist this shot!


After that it was back to the park for a walk with the park naturalist. We were supposed to be seeing woodcocks but unfortunately we only heard them. Our big news of the night was spotting a Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree then flying across the field. We were thrilled. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get a good shot of the owl as it was too far away. We did try but really it looks like a blob in the tree! We did see a lot of other birds, heard a symphony of wood frogs and saw 3 deer.

Here are Maddie and Brian before the walk!


Here are some of Maddie’s photos. We were out in the park until 9pm so we got to watch the sun go down while waiting hopefully for a woodcock to “dance”.


Proof that Momma was indeed there!


Can you spy the bird in the tree? It was a yellow bellied sapsucker.


Maddie loves shots of trail or roads leading around the bend. At least they seem to show up often in her photos!


It was a beautiful night. We could see all the way to Vermont!

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The photos above were all taken by Maddie at the Barber’s Wheat Field stop while waiting patiently for the woodcocks to put in an appearance!

We got home late, very tired but happy despite the woodcocks staying hidden!

Tonight we celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday (well, maybe…a best guess is April 23 but we haven’t had time until now). Maddie made some signs to hang up for Daddy when he got home.

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I made shepard’s pie which was the closest thing I could think of that would be easy on a weeknight to make for the time period. It may not have been exactly the right thing but meat pie was at least in the area! I used my new favorite recipe for shepard’s pie from The How Can It Be Gluten Free? cookbook. We also read some questions about Shakespeare’s life and some quotes from the plays to determine what the meaning might be. So many of our phrases and words today come from his plays. We had fun with that! Especially since many of them had some very silly incorrect answers.


I also made cupcakes for dessert. The activity pack I purchased had the cards with questions, the poster and these cupcake wrappers among some other things.

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After dinner Maddie used her finger puppet theater to do parts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for us. That was a lot of fun to watch!


(yup, I know she spelled his name wrong! We need to work on that I think!)

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I am quite please with how the Shakespeare unit turned out! Maddie is picking up the book by Charles and Mary Lamb to read the stories on her own now. She has read 2 of the plays using No Fear Shakespeare and liked them too. She is asking to read more of the plays so we will keep right on going! Brian was researching some of the plays that were made into movies so we can watch some too.

That has been our busy week! We are looking into more busy fun ahead!


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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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How is school going??

I just sent in our second quarter report to the school district. I really must say I hate writing those things! They sneak up on me even though I set the dates for the reports. The good part is that it makes Brian and I pause and take stock of where we are in the school year and where we wanted to go! We are always very ambitious in August then the reality of toddlers racing about sort of sets in and we end up scaling things back a bit.

Maddie has transitioned into sixth grade work very well. She is coming along with math, always a difficult subject! Brian is working with her on Life of Fred decimals and we are doing some extra work on word problems. I have also been giving her my change from the grocery store to count. If she counts it correctly she gets to keep it, if not then it stays with Momma. So far she has been getting it right! Its been the best way to practice counting up coins that we’ve come up with so far. Writing with Skill is moving along easier this year as well. Maddie has started viewing the writing assignments as challenges to tackle. We just finished reading some poetry and both of us agree that we love to discuss the meaning of the poem itself but please do not ask us about meter or how many “feet” a line has. Its not our thing at all!! We finished astronomy and started working on Earth Science. Maddie and Brian did a fun experiment with a slinky and a jump rope last week to learn about different types of earthquake waves. History, as always, rolls along with no problems at all. It is, after all, a story of the world and who we all are and Maddie is a girl who loves a good story. We will be doing a unit on the Civil War over the next semester. Maddie loves Spanish quite a bit more than Latin but is doing well with both languages. Logic is another favorite subject. During the election this fall she kept pointing out “red herrings” when politicians came to the front door! Its hard to believe we are half way through the year! Today I sat down to write plans for the week and check some work from Friday. I found this note and have to wonder why on earth I would give this up to someone else.


In other news Maddie had a lot of fun at a friend’s birthday sleepover. They did a “paint and sip” and made butterfly paintings.


She also made a fort to read in on one of the icy days here and I loved looking over and seeing her toes peek out!


This weekend was a full one! On Saturday we traveled up to Saratoga National Historic Park for the Frost Faire. We saw a cannon demonstration, Maddie did a colonial craft and we took a walk/hike which ended up being more of an exercise in staying upright on the ice!

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musket demonstration

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sledding next to the musket demonstration!


The fields were beautiful! The chickadees and tufted titmouse were everywhere! They moved too fast for photos though.

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Maddie’s photos

Something fun happened this time while Maddie was taking pictures of the cannon demonstration. A young woman also taking photos with a similar camera accidentally stepped in front of Maddie to get a shot. She heard Maddie’s camera click and was instantly apologetic, making sure that she didn’t get in the way of the shot. Maddie assured her it was fine but I could see the glow that came from an adult recognizing for once that Maddie was working too! That was wonderful. Maddie said “Usually adults look at me like “what are you doing with that camera kid?” so it was nice!”. Our thanks to whomever that was!!




smoke after the cannon was fired!










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Christman Sanctuary

We kept hearing about the Christman Sanctuary from different people as a great place for an easy afternoon hike especially for our 4H kids. We decided to check it out for ourselves this weekend and discovered that no one was steering us in the wrong direction! It was a very easy hike through a field and woods to end near a stream that included waterfalls. Dramatic waterfalls! There was a small “lean to” near the largest waterfall. It was not my kind of lean to because it didn’t have a floor to get you up out of the muck! However it would keep the rain off your head! It did have a table someone had made so I spread out the picnic blanket and our “snacky” lunch and we ate while watching the waterfall. Maddie had her large camera along but was disappointed with many of her photos. She needs some more lessons and practice with low lighting. Some of the ones she took of the waterfall were beautiful though!

Checking in

Checking in


In pursuit....

In pursuit….

Of Mr.Chipmunk!

Of Mr.Chipmunk!

Something was eating a lot of bark. We kept finding stumps and bottoms of trees like this one.

Something was eating a lot of bark. We kept finding stumps and bottoms of trees like this one.

Follow the walkway...

Follow the walkway…

And discover this!!

And discover this!!


The lean to

The lean to



Going back up the walkway

Going back up the walkway


The spot where Maddie realized that her parents do not follow nearly as well as the day care kids!

The spot where Maddie realized that her parents do not follow nearly as well as the day care kids!


Maddie’s Photos





All of the sudden Maddie said "I know! Hey Momma! I change the shutter speed and now the water looks better." As I was looking through her photos I suspect this is the spot where she did that.

All of the sudden Maddie said “I know! Hey Momma! I change the shutter speed and now the water looks better.” As I was looking through her photos I suspect this is the spot where she did that.



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Maddie’s Birthday Photos

Here are some of the photos Maddie took on her birthday weekend! We thought she took some really good shots. Enjoy!
Saratoga National Historic Park






























Adirondack Museum–as you can see it was a rainy, misty and cold day! We couldn’t take many inside the buildings due to the lighting and signs asking us not to use flash photography. We ended up just enjoying our time inside and warming up!!






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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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To the Fair We Go!

This morning Maddie put the finishing touches on her projects and we carefully delivered them to the fair. She entered a photo story using her robin’s nest pictures, her achievement book and a birdhouse made from a coffee can and 45 record.


First Maddie spoke with the judge about her birdhouse. This went under “recycling”.

Maddie had a good time speaking with the judge about her photos. They spoke for a long time! The judge for the nature section even jumped in with some questions!





Then Maddie spoke with the judge about her achievement book.
All her projects won blue ribbons!

Then we met up with Maddie’s friend Norah and her family to work on our 2 club exhibits. One was about making pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer and the other was about the jumping jack a thon to raise food for the SICM food pantry.







While we were working they brought in Maddie’s photo and Brian snuck over to take a picture!

Now we wait a week then go back to work in the snack shop. Strawberry Shortcake anyone??