It’s been a long five days. I went backpacking with my not-so-little-anymore brother, made him hike 25+ miles in 2.5 days and I think he might want to kill me now. Pictures to come when my dad gets around to sending them to me.
Following those three days, I packed my life up (again) and flew across the country (again) to what my housemate/best friend/also-just-acquired-an-official-government-badge-Amelia calls “nuclear camp.” Aka six weeks, twelve undergrads, five professors, one national laboratory, and a lot of equations. Thus far, we’ve been given a nuclear chemistry textbook written by a Nobel Prize-winning chemist (he discovered ten elements, but that’s not what the Nobel was for), biked around Brookhaven National Lab’s campus, found the pool, and covered in under three hours what my Physics professor took a month and two homework assignments to teach last fall. (The semi-empirical mass formula, if anyone’s curious.)
The people here are really great, and it has been fun to nerd out about chemistry. Eleven of the twelve are majoring in Chemistry (Guess who’s the odd man out? You’re right! Me!) and every single one of us has a periodic table poster. Two brought theirs with them, three people have already worn chemistry-based shirts, everyone laughed about my Avogadro’s Number shirt, and one girl has a blanket with the periodic table on it. We all have similar tastes in books – sci-fi is an unsurprisingly popular genre, but so are the classics and eclectic books like When It’s a Jar and House of Leaves. A good number of us like watching sports, so I’ll have plenty of people to watch soccer with over the next 6 weeks, and we’ve all got distinctly different backgrounds, so we’ll have lots of cool discussions about all sorts of things over the next six weeks. It’s not unlike freshman year orientation all over again.
I passed my Rad Worker I test, which means I now know the difference between Radiation and High Radiation Areas (between 5 and 100 mrem/hr and >100 mrem/hr of radiation exposure) and I’m allowed to enter both types of area unescorted. Who knows how long the training lasts, but for now at least my friends can say they’re CPR-certified and I can say I’m certified by the US government to handle radioactive materials. Tomorrow we have a Benchtop Dispersibles class, which means… well… none of us know what that means. Check in again in fifteen hours; we’ll have updates.
In other news, we get to meet five different nuclear and radiochemistry professors from around the country, will be touring a nuclear power plant in a couple weeks, and generally expect to stuff our brains with lots of science. Then I’ll be back in Boston for a month before I start my very last semester (my very last class, really) of undergrad. Then I might post pictures from graduation here on this blog. But probably not, let’s be real.
Over a month ago – really, almost two months ago at this point – I took a weekend trip to Acadia National Park up in Maine. It was the last weekend before school started, the last weekend free of homework and commitments and general stress. It was the last weekend to not feel bad about reading a book just to read a book (as opposed to for some sort of homework) and the last weekend to go camping. (I proved that wrong though, didn’t I?)
Regardless, the trip to Acadia was wonderful and beautiful and actually one of the more gorgeous places I’ve ever been. And it all started with StumbleUpon; it was here that Liz and Elizabeth and I found the “26 Best Places to Camp in the US” and we (jokingly) decided to hit one spot a year. One year, one spot. Aaaaannnnndddd…. it just so happens that Acadia was #1 on the list. Is it alphabetical? Maybe…but no.
The decision to start our list with Acadia was primarily a result of the fact that Acadia is near Boston but not near Boston. And by that, I mean that it is driving distance but not easy driving distance; it takes about five hours to get there, and thus needs more than a normal weekend to see it right. So Liz and I drove up for Labor Day – three days, three nights. Two tents, one hike, and a partridge in a pear tree.
No partridges, but we did see a wide variety of beautiful flora and fauna. I couldn’t catch most of it, but I brought my camera up and got a few awesome shots. It’s amazing how much more observant you can be with a camera around your neck. It was a determination to look for things that allowed me to find these little buggers:
But you don’t have to be that observant to find some other fabulous animals:
And we easily spotted a beautiful heron, about a million snails (here’s one!), and these ducks in the sunset:
Anywayyyyys… the fauna was beautiful. So was the flora. The trees were amazing. The flowers were amazing. The sunsets were amazing. The sunrises were amazing. And the rocks were amazing.
One thing I love about camping is the way it resets your clock. The way you have no excuse to stay up late – especially without a campfire – and no excuse to sleep in late. The way you can see the sunrise and the sunset every day, and it doesn’t even feel that early. I love getting a full night’s sleep and getting back to the ancient understanding with night. We used to go to bed with the sun and get up with the sun, and when we woke up in the middle of the night, we just enjoyed the night – thinking and talking and admiring the stars. I love the stars. Especially when you can actually see them.
I particularly enjoyed the company with this crazy cray:
And we somehow managed a few selfies, even with my giant camera (and its self-timer.)
We hiked up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, and were two of the first people in the country to see the sunrise.
And then we wandered around the island, saw some of the beautiful sights to be seen from around the park.
And ended the evening with dinner on the rocks overlooking the sunset.
My third overnight in one week (read about #1 and #2) was a trip to Napa, aka California’s drunkest county. A friend of mine, Nichole, has an amazing relative, Tori, who owns a fantastic winery, Frog’s Leap. She was kind enough to invite us (Nichole, myself, and four other friends) to the annual Frog’s Leap Peach Festival, which is essentially their harvest kick-off celebration. For the price of your ticket, you get to eat as much food and drink as much wine (and peach-flavored beer) as you want. The light breeze was warm, and there were kids running around, and quaint little chalkboards with all the options at each tent listed. There was the tent where you could get corn with peach butter and ribs, the tent that had two different types of salad, each with peach vinaigrette, the tent with the three sliders (salmon, pulled pork, and roasted pepper; each with a peach sauce, of course.) And then there was the dessert tents: peach ice cream, peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream, deep fried peaches with cream. Let’s just say the food was fantastic. And then there were the wines…
Over the course of three hours, I tried all seven wines, and the peach beer. And I had four glasses of water. (Don’t worry, I was drunk, but actually not that badly. I guess all that drinking in Prague served me well.)
I started with the Sauvignon Blanc, which was probably my favorite of them all. It was light and refreshing and honestly felt more like I was quenching my thirst than I was drinking alcohol. I absolutely loved it. I ended up buying a bottle on our way out, and my dad said it was the best Sauvignon Blanc he’s ever had. He doesn’t drink all that much wine, so I don’t know if that carries any weight, but I loved and he loved it and it was totally worth it. So yeah.
I moved on to the Zinfandel, which was also great. One of my favorite two reds. I swear, these were not my favorites because they were first. I never got that drunk. The Zin went really well with the corn that I was having, and with the deep fried peach I had next. I bought a couple bottles of this one too to bring home, and it went well with the BBQ chicken, bell peppers, and pasta we had with it. I’d say it’s safe to say this Zinfandel pairs well with most any summer dinner.
Then came the Cabernet Sauvignon. It was good, but I’ve had better. Perhaps it was just overshadowed by the absolutely amazing sliders I was having at the time. Pulled pork with peach sauce on the right (amazing), smoked salmon with peach glaze in the middle (amazing), and pepper and mushroom with a peach truffle sauce not really pictured (absolutely amazing). But the wine was good too.
The Heritage Blend. This one was just okay. It tasted basically just like red wine without any distinct flavors, which makes sense, seeing as it is a mix of grapes. I didn’t like it that much, and was glad I was distracted by the scavenger hunt that we completed. It took us all over the main property, and we theoretically learned some stuff about the winery, but really we just used it as an excuse to get up and walk around. Plus, we were gunning for the basket of wines. We didn’t win, but that was okay, because it was actually a lot of fun.
And the Merlot. The Merlot was goooood. I like Merlots in general, and this one was better than a lot of Merlots that I’ve had. It pretty much tied the Zinfandel for my favorite of all the reds, although I bought Zinfandel and not Merlot to bring home because a Merlot seemed too heavy for outdoor barbecue. At least, this one did. But when I go to a restaurant and see this on the menu, I’ll definitely be getting a glass or two. By this point, we had tasted all the food, completed the scavenger hunt, and moved on to the photo booth. We had to wait in line. The above selfie happened.
Followed by the Petite Sirah. We were chilling out, chatting, and eating some more peach ice cream, which was the perfect blend of peach flavor and ice cream creaminess and generally tasty. The wine was good too. It was berry-y and full of flavor, but I think it would have been better if it had aged for a few years, or maybe a decade. You can see Elizabeth’s glass of peach iced tea, which was also tasty (I just had a sip.)
Finally, I finished off the wine selections with a glass of Chardonnay. It was sweet and smooth, like a Chardonnay should be. I didn’t like the Chardonnay as much as the Sauvignon Blanc, but I tend to not like Chardonnays as much as Sauvignon Blancs, so that doesn’t surprise me. But it was definitely a nice wine to finish the afternoon with, and it was nice to get Nichole into a photo, not like I had to ask…
Okay, not finally. And not really finished either. I grabbed a glass of the peach beer too on our way out. The party was over, but ours wasn’t… The beer was good, if not fantastic. (I’m spoiled. Thanks, Prague.) But it was good. I liked the peach flavor, and it went well with the peach ice cream I was finishing when I got the beer. It also went well with the burrito, which I got when I was finishing the beer. It seems to go well with most things.
When we walked in, Tori made us promise to be Frog’s Leap fans forever, and after this fantastic afternoon, I can certainly do that! We finished the evening on a small meadow on Frog’s Leap property, after driving past vineyards. We had a few more beers, a burrito, some s’mores, and slept under the stars. Or would have, had there been stars – it was cloudy. But the trip as a whole was AMAZING.
For the second year in a row, I went with Feelosopher’s Path on their Summer Camp Overnight. And for the second year in a row, it was awesome! This year’s overnight was on Angel Island, which meant we took trains, light rail, ferries, and our feet to get to and from our destination. Clearly it was worth it, though:
I mean, look at that view!
Last year, I wrote a post with a lot of pictures and a lot of things the kids taught me. This year, I don’t think I tried as hard to be the perfect role model. I let conversations come with the kids when they wanted it, and I sat quietly with them when they didn’t. That doesn’t mean we didn’t search for our feelosophy.
We went down to the beach after we set up camp, and played in the sand. Before we left the beach behind, I got to lead an activity in which we wrote a message in a bottle. This week’s theme was all about being an explorer, so we wrote down a list of all the things we do that make us explorers. We encouraged whoever reads the message to contact Feelosopher’s Path, and then the kids signed the note, closed it up tight, and sent it on its way. It will be lots of fun to see if it ever comes back!
The next morning, after a sunrise hike stifled by fog on all sides, I led another – somewhat impromptu – activity while other leaders set up lunch. Down the hill a bit from our campsite was this crazy ruin. The kids went down and had fifteen minutes to explore and come up with a story as to how it got there. I’ll admit that I was hoping ofr some crazy alien and dinosaur stories, but their ideas were remarkably plausible. Maybe the flat level cement blocks were the base of a house or a stage, maybe the big circle was a well, maybe the grooves were for channeling water. I’ll admit, I was pretty stumped too.
I’ve since done a lot of research online and come up with almost nothing. One of the kids saw ‘1919’ carved into the cement, which leads me to believe that was the year it was completed. Although records indicate Angel Island was an active military base during WWI (and an active immigration station preceding WWII), that date still seems strange to me. When looking at it via google maps, I discovered both shapes are round. Google says it is a “military ruin.” Seems logical to me…perhaps an artillery station of some sort? But then, why is it overlooking the inside of the Bay and not the outside? I think it might be the remains of the water tank that burned down in the 2008 Angel Island fire. But then why are there two structures?
I’ll probably leave it alone unless somebody gives me an answer. (I’ve spent two hours on it now, and I should be asleep…) So for now, it remains a mystery to explore. Or maybe its just a s’more.
Mom and I took a day to go camping over the weekend. Which basically means we threw a bunch of stuff in the car, drove off, played, and came home.
For starters, proof we went camping:
My trusty umbrella came along for the ride, and was almost, but fortunately not actually, necessary. As evening fell, the kids next door were being suuuuper loud and yelling at each other, so I distracted them with a collective assignment: what’s the coolest picture we can take with my camera and your glow sticks? I particularly liked the heart:
As the weekend progressed, Mom and I went on a couple short hikes, along paths with poison oak taller than me on both sides, but beautiful destinations. We ended up at a beach, where we watched Brown Pelicans dive bombing for fish, and dolphins frolicking.
We continued driving northward, and stopped at Pt. Lobos, where we discovered a brand new but fantastic tidepooling, with tons of crabs. If anyone can explain to me the clicking noise crabs make with their mouths, I’d really appreciate it. (I’m not talking about the clicking of their claws opening and closing, or of them skittering across rocks – little bubbles coming from their mouth accompanied by sounds that resemble very very very tiny pieces of glass being crushed.)
Finally, if anyone remembers this post from last week, the photo was of a dead jellyfish being eaten by a crab:
Sometimes we need a teacher to tell us what matters.
Sometimes we need an adventure to reveal us to ourselves.
But sometimes we just need a child to remind us what’s most important.
All kids know a bit of well-timed silliness never hurt anyone.
I only spent 36 hours with these guys, but the camping trip with the Feelosopher’s Path “Best Summer Camp Ever Camp” was absolutely phenomenal. A single night and a five mile hike, a few hours in the car, a bedtime story in the tent, two roaring campfires and (of course!) s’mores. Not a huge trip, but one with huge hearts, positive connections, and lots of fun.
So thanks, Erin and Hiroshi, for letting me accompany.
For making me lead some activities and be a ten-year-old’s safety net. For teaching kids the value of working together and of working alone.
For letting me remember the loudness of the silence when you wake up before everyone else to build a campfire. For showing the first-time campers the beauty of the world around us.
For teaching me selflessness a decade ago (!) and for reminding me how great it feels now. For allowing kids to grow at their own pace, but pushing them when they can handle it.
For giving me permission to go on my own adventures. For setting adventure in front of the kids, and holding out a hand that we all know they won’t need.
Sometimes, you make these great plans, like writing three blog posts a week. And then you do fun things, like go camping in gorgeous places like the Russian River:
We went camping with three other families; seventeen people and a dog in four cars and two campsites. Let’s just say it was quite a fun weekend. I’m pretty sure nobody did anything except cook, eat, read, and lounge on the beach. Which, if I had to say, makes for quite a good weekend. Perhaps a bit awkward when you play Cards Against Humanity with your parents, and certainly frustrating when you realize Jet Puffed has changed their marshmallow formula. (more…)