Beth and I spent the holiday weekend on a backpacking trip along a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The original plan was for us to leave the house Friday morning and start the hike. Then turn around early Saturday afternoon and head back, arriving back where we started on Sunday. Unfortunately, Hurricane Arthur had some input on that plan (it poured all day Friday), so we shortened the hike and left on Saturday morning instead.

This was a trail Beth chose, as she hiked it last fall during Outdoor School. Only then, it poured the whole time. Her teacher said it was the worst he had ever seen it during a backpacking trip, and he has many, many of those under his belt. She was miserable during that entire trip, and wanted to give it another shot during better weather.

Well, the weather was better, and according to Beth, the trail was in much better condition. But it was, I think, the muddiest trail I have ever hiked on.

The trail was a tad damp.

The trail was a tad damp.

When Beth did this last fall, very little of the trail was above water, which was mostly “six inches deep” (according to her). Maybe it was!

Parts of the trail were pretty steep:

And steep in places

And steep in places

This was about the only place there was a “view” (though all of the trail was beautiful). It never came above the treeline.

It never emerged from the treeline

It never emerged from the treeline

There was a huge colony of some kind of liverwort growing on this pine tree.




At one point, she thought she recognized the Little Swift River Pond campground, and we diverged from the trail. Only it was not the Little Swift. It was South Pond. Beth remembered these boats:

At South Pond

At South Pond

Only it wasn’t “these” boats, it was some other boats. Then, since we had unknowingly taken a side trail, we had difficulty finding the trail again. Beth consulted the map (as did I), until we concluded that we were at South Pond, not at Little Swift. We backtracked until we found blaze markings again, and continued on. This shows the importance of not pressing on when you’ve lost the trail. It’s better to go back until you find the markings!

I just have to show more photos of muddy trail. An awful lot of the trail looked like this.

The mud was deep

The mud was deep

And a lot of the parts that didn’t, looked more like this:

And so was the water

And so was the water

In spite of the slogging, there were rewards. I saw some “Common” wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), which is not nearly as common as “regular” wood sorrel (O. stricta).

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

I think the only time I ever see this purple-veined sorrel is on backpacking trips! I suppose the “montana” part of its binomial name suggests a reason.

It was pretty common to see moose scat on the trail in the places that were not too muddy (or under water), so we were hoping to see a moose or two. This bog was an excellent place to find one, but we didn’t.

A nice bog

A nice bog

They probably saw us though.

Here’s one that grows on my property, but which rarely blooms there:

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

You can Kalmia angustifolia, just don’t call me late for dinner!

This one was perhaps the highlight of the trip for me:

A white "pink" lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)

A white “pink” lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba)

This is a pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule var. alba), even though it’s white. I had never seen one. There are white lady’s slippers that are pretty rare, and belonging to a different species, and I have never seen any of those either. But this one can be identified as a member of the “pink” species, because it has a slit running down the front of the flower. The other species in the genus have little round openings at the top of the flower – more like a slipper vs a shoe without its laces.

Here’s a shot of the pair where I tried to get the entire plant(s) in the shot:

The whole plant

The whole plant


We stopped for “lunch” around 3:00pm, or maybe later. It was chilly outside, and once we quit moving, Beth was getting chilly. I had my sleeping bag stuffed (very snugly) into my backpack, making it nearly impossible to get anything else out of it without removing the bag. So I tossed it to her while I prepared some pasta.

It was chilly!

It was chilly!

Neither one of us remembered to bring a spoon or a fork, which made eating the pasta something of a challenge. Not as hard as eating the soup would be later that evening! So as the sun was setting, I started carving a make-shift spoon out of a small sapling someone had cut (and conveniently for me, left 12″ or so sticking up out of the ground). It soon grew too dark for knife work though, so I laid it aside until morning. But once the sun came up, I made quick work of it, and we were able to eat our oatmeal with relative ease.

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

Beth models my hand-carved spoon

I think the most abundant plant along the trail was bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). When we started the hike I noticed that most of them had already dropped their sepals (which most people understandably mistake for petals). I suggested to Beth that if we had been there two weeks earlier, we would have been treated to a carpet of bunchberry blooms. But later in the hike, we transitioned into an area where they still held onto their sepals:

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

We stopped at “the view” again on the way back and rested up a bit. There was only a little more than a mile to go by then. I was admiring the mud stains on my pant legs:

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!

Mud-stained pant legs & boots!

Luckily, those pant legs zip off, so I was sure to do that before going into the tent.

One plant I was looking for was the Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispudula), which belongs to the often-featured-on-this-blog, Wintergreen (G. procumbens).

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)

Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)

I first saw this on a backpacking trip a couple of years ago, but didn’t know what it was then (I identified it from the photos I took when I got back). So this was the first time I was able to look at it and know what I was seeing.

As we descended the trail towards the car for that last mile, I decided to try my hand at dead reckoning. I would look ahead for a land mark, estimate the distance to it, and add that to the distance covered already as we approached it. Then find the next landmark and do the same. Eventually, I switched to estimating where the next 100-feet would be, because I was pretty tired, and that made the arithmetic easier. I was pleased that by the time I figured we had another 500 feet, we could hear the stream near the parking lot, and we could also hear the occasional car. I stopped dead reckoning at T-minus 200 feet, and we were pretty close to 200 feet from the parking lot then. This was my first attempt at that, and I rather liked the results!

We got to the car around 1:00pm and drove south to Dixfield. We stopped at a diner and had lunch, and then drove home (about three more hours).

I have to say I’m pretty sore now, but I think I’ll know a lot more about that tomorrow!

I spent yesterday and a good portion of today backpacking with some of the Pathfinders in my club. Last month I taught a class on backpacking during Honors Week, but no one can get the patch until they have actually gone backpacking. We checked that box today.

When we got to the trailhead, we noticed that Google was there.

One of Google's Street View vehicles

One of Google’s Street View vehicles

I had never seen one of these before, and frankly, I was never expecting to. While we were still getting our backpacks out of the cars and paying the use fees to the US Park Service, the Google guys popped out of the forest. They gave some of the kids a partial can of Pringles. I think they were just as excited about having gotten something from the Google guys as they were about getting Pringles.

We set out a little after that, and not far up the trail, I found a neat little spot where the trail comes close to the river. We cooked our lunch there, and the kids all seemed to enjoy the stream. David found a perch in the middle of it, and none of the kids could figure out how he got there. Hint – he can jump farther than they can.

David relaxing in the middle of the stream.

David relaxing in the middle of the stream.

Perhaps two hundred yards upstream from there, the trail crossed the river. We forded it with no issues. David crossed it expertly, but some of the kids were a tad nervous.
Fording the stream

Fording the stream

We hiked up, and up, and up. I guess we went in about 2.5 miles which doesn’t seem like much, but with seven kids in tow (plus four adults), and all of them carrying more gear than they should have, it took a while. My plan was to hike all the way to East Pond. I have been there before, but by approaching it from the south. We were coming in from the north. All the while, I was looking for a suitable place to pitch our tents and spend the night, and that was a tough job.

The forest there is loaded with deadfall, and we were hard-pressed to find a place big enough to pitch a tent without it landing on a log. I looked at several places, and then pressed through some really thick hemlock and found a flat, mossy place. It was nice – but I suppose we would have to classify it as a bog. But bog is better than log, so we found the driest places available, pitched our tents, and stowed our sleeping bags in them.

I found some winter berry (Gaultheria hispadula), which I had never seen before. I knew it was in one of my books, but couldn’t recall the name until I looked it up at home.

Winter berry (Gaultheria hispadula)

Winter berry (Gaultheria hispadula)

This is in the same genus as wintergreen, and like wintergreen, it is edible. Most white berries are not, and since I didn’t know this plant, I did not sample it. I will next time though. The books say it tastes just like its close cousin.

I also found this bright red mushroom.

Mario's mushroom

Mario’s mushroom

I have no idea what kind of mushroom it is, and I haven’t looked it up yet. I think it looks like one from any Mario Brother’s video games, so I’m just going to go with that for now.

While pitching the tents we met one minor disaster. One of our tent poles broke. I effected a repair with some duct tape from my pack, and some “available material.”

Tent Splint

Tent Splint

This repair was incredibly effective, and I was rather pleased with myself for having made it. I will have to address it on a more permanent basis soon though.

With our tents pitched and bags stowed, we continued up the trail unladen (for the most part).

We didn’t make it all the way to East Pond as I had hoped. Before we got there, turn-around time arrived, so I turned us around and we went back to camp to begin cooking supper while we still had light.

We beat the sun back to our tents and began supper prep. I boiled up a bit of penne pasta with some broccoli, mushrooms, and garlic that I had dehydrated late last week (just in time). Then I tossed in some olive oil. It was very good if I do say so myself.

Mmmm... this was good.

Mmmm… this was good.

The penny stoves performed pretty well. I did learn of one drawback to using isopropyl alcohol vs denatured alcohol – isopropyl leaves a lot more soot. Everyone (me included) had black all over themselves by the time they were finished handling their pots. It scrubs off the pots easily enough, but I’ve still got it around my fingernails and in my fingerprints. But I think the visible flame (denatured burns with an invisible flame) was well worth the sooty downside.

We didn’t build a campfire. That was partly because there was no good place to sit in the bog without getting wet bottoms, and partly because we were trying to engage in “leave no trace” camping. I don’t think we left a trace either, and I’m pretty pleased about that.

We turned in around 9:00pm, and I got up around 6:30. I ran into some regular wintergreen in bloom – it quit more than a month ago at my house, but I guess the higher altitude made it bloom later here.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Sorry for the darkness of that shot. It was handheld, and I was in a hurry (nature was calling). I would have gotten a better shot if I had taken the time to set up the tripod and lengthen the exposure time, but… I had to go!

When all the kids were up, I had them strike the tents and load up again. The plan was to hike back down to where he had eaten lunch the previous day. The bog was nice (really! no bugs, and not nearly as wet as one might imagine) but I wanted to eat in a slightly drier spot. That exercise took about two hours. The tent that I repaired has a somewhat porous floor, so Beth’s “pillow” got wet. She stuffed all her clothing in a pillow case, and that meant that all the clothes she had other than her PJ’s were very damp. So she hiked out in her jams.

The stream was just as nice for breakfast as it had been for dinner. I had pancakes (as did several of the kids). Others had oatmeal, and some had dry cereal. We loaded up again at 11:30 (it was a late breakfast) and in thirty more minutes found ourselves at the cars.

Now I have the tents pitched in the back yard to dry the bog off of them. With any luck, I’ll be able to take them down tomorrow, and consider repair strategies for the broken one.

Today was my firstborn’s last day at work, and my lastborn’s first day of sixth grade. We’ll start with Beth, because that happened in the morning.

Beth's First Day of Sixth Grade

Beth’s First Day of Sixth Grade

And then we’ll move along to Jonathan’s going-away lunch at work today.



These two events happening on the same day caused some logistical difficulties. Jonathan now has an apartment near UNH, and is ready to move in. The apartment was originally a dormitory, but UNH sold it to a commercial interest some time ago, and now they call it an “apartment.” But it is a dorm as far as I’m concerned. Apartments don’t have common bathrooms for everyone on the floor – dorms do.

It was not furnished though, so in that regard it is a bit more apartment-like than I’d like it to be. We’ve been scrambling trying to get stuff together for him. He needs a bed for the next two years. I had been intending to build a bed for Beth, so when she outgrew her crib, we got her a cheapo particle board and contact paper bed until I’d have time to make a nice one. But I never found the time. Rather than buy a bed intended to last only two years, we decided to have Jonathan use her old cheap one. It’s not a girly bed or anything like that – just not a very high quality one.

So we bought Beth a nicer new one, and I put that together a couple of nights ago. We wanted to load it into my car (it fits if the back seat is folded down), but since it was the first day of school for Beth, we needed the back seat for her.

We ended up stuffing it in Va’s trunk. She came to Concord after lunch (Jonathan’s going away lunch), and we moved it to my car. We could have just had him drive her car to UNH, but… he can’t drive a manual transmission. I have failed my fatherly duty. 😦

He and David went to UNH to wait for the cable guy to come and install his new Internets and to shuffle stuff from the car to his room. They were not able to get the furniture together (the bed plus a desk). I will go there tomorrow evening and make that happen. Second failure.

It has been over a week since I have posted anything, and that’s because I have been utterly exhausted every night for the week and a half. Work has been mentally draining, and on top of that, we had our annual Honors Week last week.

Honors Week is how I kick off the Pathfinder year. We teach one honor per evening for five days. That way people can come and check out the club to see if it’s the kind of thing they think they might enjoy, and new members get the chance to earn five patches for their otherwise blank sashes.

This year we taught backpacking, chess, candle making, wool and spinning, and Bible marking. Chess and spinning are new honors that have not yet been submitted to the national organization. Honors have to be piloted by three clubs before they are submitted, so we piloted two of them. Unfortunately, that means any new kids could earn only three patches for their sashes this year. Oh well – them’s the breaks.

On Sunday I ran a backpacking stove building clinic. We made a dozen penny alcohol stoves. I’ve been using one of these for about five years, and I love mine. I used to use denatured alcohol for fuel, but it burns with a nearly invisible flame, especially in full daylight. We found that 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol works just as well (70% does not though), but it burns with a yellow flame that is easy to see even in full sunlight. That should be a lot more safe.

Penny Alcohol Stove with Isopropyl Alcohol for Fuel

Penny Alcohol Stove with Isopropyl Alcohol for Fuel

What I love about backpacking is that it is one of the few times when I can eat whatever I want without having to think about what other people like. Everyone will pack their own food. I will pack food for no one except myself. And I am going to have penne pasta with garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli cooked in olive oil. Mmmmm. I can’t wait.

Actually, I won’t wait either. I intend to make some at home before I go to try it out under low-risk conditions. If it fails, I can work out the problems or choose something else. Maybe tomorrow.

I have a million things to do before we go to Oshkosh in less than two weeks. I did a couple of them tonight. Our Union T-shirts came in, and I sorted through those and tagged them with names. I wrote a rough draft of the packing list too, but I want Va to turn that into a nice-looking checklist. We’re going to have a packing drill on the Thursday evening before we leave, and the teens in the club will be responsible for making checkmarks on the checklists.

I still need to find out what I was thinking when I ordered the Union pins. I have them, but I have not counted them, and I don’t remember how many we’re supposed to have. Also, I don’t know who needs what. Luckily all that info is tucked away in various emails, so I should be able to sort it out. It’s just gonna take some time and effort.

I ordered to new tents for the club tonight. We bought two 3-man tents, and they were not cheap. We used to pay about half what I spent on each of these for an 8-man tent, but over the past five years of camping with Pathfinders, I have learned that cheap tents are kind of expensive. They fail. They leak. They have to be replaced.

I talked with my staff about what kind of tents to get, and we weighed the pros and cons of various options. The 3-man tents seem to be the best compromise. I intend to replace all our 8-man tents with these over the next couple of years.

A three man tent can be divided into three piles: poles, canopy, and fly. Each of these piles can be stuffed into a kid’s backpack, and the kid should still be able to carry it three miles.

When we aren’t backpacking, we can put two kids in each tent and they will have more room. They will also have more ownership in pitching it, and these are a lot easier to pitch than an 8-man tent. The “ownership” aspect teaches responsibility.

Sometimes we break camp in the rain. Sometimes we break camp when there is still dew on the tents because it won’t evaporate off before it’s time to go. If you store a tent wet, it will mold and mildew, and then… the tent can no longer be used. So when we break camp with wet tents, I end up taking them home and pitching them either in the yard if it’s not raining, or in the garage if it is. I leave them up until they are bone dry.

Drying them out in the garage is always lot’s of fun, because then we can’t park in the garage when we most want to – on a rainy day. Maybe with smaller tents, I can send them home with provably responsible individuals and they can find a corner in their house to dry them out. Or… I could pitch a couple in the basement. It’s just more flexible for stuff like that.

Sometimes we camp in the woods and it’s difficult to find a large enough patch of ground to pitch a big tent (those cursed trees!). I think it will be easier to pitch several smaller ones (just like when we dry them out).

So – that’s my rationale.

Tonight I made an aluminum-air battery. It’s pretty cool and dead simple. If you’re not interested yet, you prolly ought to not read any of the rest of this.

I took a sheet of aluminum foil and spread it out flat on the table. This is the cathode. Then I took a paper towel and dipped it in a super-saturated solution of salt water. Then I carefully unfolded it and laid it down on top of the aluminum foil.

The next step was to get some powdered carbon and cover the paper towel with it. Va had just changed our Brita filter out the other day, and it was chock-full-o-carbon, so I used that. Graphite powder would have worked better (or so I have read) because it is even finer.

That was it. The carbon powder was the anode. I was getting just over a volt out of this thing. I don’t have an ammeter, so I couldn’t measure the current, but from what I’ve read, this thing should be good for about 100mA.

The really cool thing about this is that I can imagine myself out in the woods making one of these. The reaction is between the aluminum and atmospheric oxygen. The salt-water-paper-towel combo is just to make an electrolyte, so pretty much any conducting liquid ought to do the trick. In the wilderness, I guess I’d use… urine? Maybe boil it down to concentrate the electrolytes? OK, gross, but how else am I going the get my cell phone to work again so I can call someone for help?

I’d hafta find some aluminum, but maybe I could find some foil in my pack, or better yet, find a discarded aluminum can. Then I could tear off a piece of my shirt, soak it in my electrolyte (maybe sweat would be effective enough – and though still gross, not AS gross). Carbon would be made from charcoal. Just gotta grind it into a powder, wrap it in the ewww-soaked shirt, and stuff that into the aluminum can. Bingo. Now all I need is some wire to hook this to my cell phone!

Oh. And one volt isn’t enough to run a cell phone, so I’d need an entire six-pack of these wired (somehow!) in series.

Hello, McGyver?

A couple days ago I wrote that the neighbor’s sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) had bloomed. Well today mine did. A little.

Kalmia angustifolia

Kalmia angustifolia

This plant is in the same genus as the famed mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), but that plant grows pretty much only on mountains, so I don’t see it that often. No mountains in my yard or within walking distance of the office.

According to Wikipedia, Mountain laurel grows from 3-9 meters tall. Sheep laurel doesn’t even come close to that height. The biggest ones I’ve ever seen are less than one meter tall. In spite of K. latifolia’s stature and fame, I think I like K. angustifloia better. In my opinion, the flowers are prettier. Also, it grows in my own woods, and that’s got to count for something.

The tricky part about taking this photo was that neither of my tripods are adequate for the job. I have a tiny little tripod that will raise the camera anywhere from four to maybe 8 inches off the ground, and I have a “standard” tripod that will put it at 30 to 72 inches. And of course these blossoms were about 12 inches off the ground. Too high for the tiny tripod, and too low for the big one. I ended up grabbing a rock out of one of the piles I dug up on Friday and lugging it over. Then I set the little tripod on that and was able to get the photo. A tripod was absolutely necessary in this case, because I set the exposure time to .3 seconds. That’s a long time to be absolutely still.

In other news, Va and I spent some time this evening laying out the Investiture program for Adventurers and Pathfinders. I think it’s going to go pretty well.

Also, I bought a couple of used external frame backpacks from someone who posted them on Craigslist last night. I think they were a steal. I only had a little bit of trouble finding the place. Tomtom was right on (which seems increasingly unusual) this time. The problem was that the one-way street where these were was closed due to construction. I circled around, found a parking lot within a hundred yards of the guy’s house, and hiked the last part. I figure if you can’t hike a hundred yards, you prolly shouldn’t be buying a backpack.

Last time I wrote, I posted details of my planned backpacking trip, so now it’s time to report the events. The forecast was dismal: start raining Saturday at 2:00pm (heavy at times), short break at 8:00pm, resume at 9:00 and pour until 8:00am. That’s not exactly how it went, but it was not too far off.

With that forecast, Jonathan decided to forego the trip. I also got to thinking about having a wet dog in my one-man tent and decided to leave Penny behind. We hit the trailhead at about 2:00pm. There were nine of us (including me and David). We got to the camp site, pitched then tents, gathered firewood, and set up a tarp near the fire pit before it started to rain. That was very good. That’s about when David’s rain pants gave up the ghost, splitting from calf to crotch to the other calf. What junk. I will return those, plus the unopened ones I bought for Jonathan to Walmart at the next opportunity. I put them together again with duct tape, but David decided he didn’t need them.

David’s tent was something of a disappointment, or perhaps I should say, we did not put it to optimal use. It has a mesh top, and I suppose that would be pretty good at keeping the black flies at bay, but not so good at repelling water. But of course, we knew that. We stretched a tarp over it. We were not able to make it cover the two ends though (shaped something like gables). We should have tried a little harder though. I think I may try to custom fit a fly for it using some of the dozens of internal tent partitions I have in the basement.

I went to bed at around 9:00pm, as did everyone else who didn’t turn in earlier. The rain came down in buckets. Then the wind picked up and was screaming a gale, blowing the rain straight into David’s open gables. By 3:30am, the wetness penetrated his sleeping bag, so he crawled out, stumbled around in the dark looking for for my tent (no flashlight, no moon, and no stars!) and asked if I had any dry floor space. I invited him in. He left his soaking wet bag in his “tent.” I opened my sleeping bag up so he wouldn’t hafta lay on the ground. Then we wrapped ourselves in my extra shirts and jacket. That took care of most of the cold. I guess. There were plenty of gaps in my insulation. We got up at around 6:30.

The fire was quite dead by then, having had buckets and buckets of rain unleashed over it from the sky. We gathered some sticks anyhow, and I shaved the bark off them with my pocket knife. I spent about the first hour of the morning doing that, and as other people woke up, they joined me. The rain stopped at about 7:00am, and that was very welcome. We eventually had a pretty nice pile of shaved, dry-ish sticks, so I laid them in my favorite fire-starting formation, stuffed a bit of dryer lint beneath it (I keep some in a ziplock bag in my backpack for just such an emergency), and touched it off with a match. Then I added some birch that I had split with the hatchet. Soon we had a cheery little fire going, and I was very pleased with myself. I don’t know how many people could have gotten a fire started under those conditions. Maybe that’s why I like to camp so much. Even when the weather is terrible.

After the fire was going pretty well, I went down to the river. It had risen about 3 feet during the night (judging by the rocks that it covered). My mission: filter some water for cooking breakfast. That took about 30 minutes I guess, as I filtered enough water for everyone in the group. When I got back to the camp, the fire had gone out. Oh well. If I had stayed there to tend it, I’m sure I could have kept it going. Luckily, it wasn’t cold outside – a little chilly perhaps, but certainly well into the 40’s (maybe 50). Everyone was appropriately dressed for it, and I didn’t hear any complaints about the temperature (which is unusual).

Then I turned my attention to pancakes. We had stuffed a large skillet into Jonathan’s backpack and had forgotten about it when he canceled. So we had to use my tiny little one. I can make pancakes in that one too, but they don’t turn out as well. There’s just not enough room to get a spatula beneath the pancake, so they come out a bit on the scrambled side. I called them “scram cakes.”

David ate a couple scram cakes and then decided to cook up some mashed potatoes for himself. Yes, for breakfast. He didn’t like the way they turned out, but I thought they were fine. I ate them. I also ate several pancakes. Then we washed our dishes and started to break camp. I spent another 30 minutes filtering water for the hike out, and we set out for the cars at about noon. The weather by then was spectacular. There was fog on the mountains, the air was crisp and clean, and the scenery was gorgeous. I guess that’s another reason I like to camp.

The hike out took an hour and five minutes, 25 minutes faster than the hike in. I don’t know why it was so much quicker, but there you go. Maybe getting back to civilization is a greater incentive than getting to a camp site? Even when the weather is threatening? Dunno!

I turned my cell phone back on when we got to the parking lot, and as David and I drove off, it rang. I had a voicemail from Dean. His message? “Call me.” So I called. His wife is pregnant again (yay!)

Then Va called and we got caught up and made plans for the rest of the day. When I got home, I hopped in the shower, then hopped back in the car to meet Va at the church to help her run the President’s Fitness Challenge for the Adventurer club (she had left before I got home). But man… I was tired. I timed the kids in their endurance run, timed them in the shuttle run, demonstrated proper sit-ups and push-ups, and coached them through those. After that, I hung around with Beth as she took in another Amazing Adventure presentation. We drove home, arriving around 7:30. I put her to bed at 8:00 and went to bed myself at about 10:00, exhausted. Go figure.

I took off work early today. I’m leading a group of Pathfinders on a backpacking trip tomorrow after church, and I needed a few supplies. My sons will be joining us, and the forecast is for rain. So I bought them each a rain suit. I also bought a little food for either the trip or for the pantry at home: Spanish rice, instant mashed potatoes, etc. I let the boys pick out what they wanted to eat on the trip, then I picked something out for myself. I repackaged mine into ziplock bags (food packaging is designed to catch the eye at the grocery store, not fit nicely in a backpack). I also bought some pancake mix – the kind that comes in a jug (just add water, shake, and pour). I still have a spatula in my backpack, and I also packed BUTTER this time (unlike when Beth and I went in August).

I’m also planning to take Penny, so I packed some dog food in my pack as well. The boys will be sharing a tent, and I’ll see if I can get Penny to come into mine to keep ME warm(er).

We’re going to hike three miles from the parking lot to a tent site, setup camp, cook some dinner, spend the night, cook some breakfast (pancakes!) and then depending on the weather, either take a hike or head back home.

So after I bought the rain suits and food, I went on home. I helped clean the house, ate some supper, and then took Beth and David to the Amazing Adventure evangelism series. At the end, Brian handed out some commitment cards and pencils. Beth checked all three boxes: I want to give my life to Jesus, I want to be baptized, and I want to talk to the pastor about being baptized. Then she filled in her name, address, and phone number. I think she’s still a little too young to be baptized, but my mind could possibly be changed. Jonathan was nine years old when he was baptized,and Beth will be seven in a little more than two months. David still hasn’t been baptized, and I haven’t asked him if he checked any boxes on his card.

I missed the beginning of the program tonight though, because I was busy changing over the Cradle Roll Sabbath School room (Cradle Roll is for the 0-3 year-old crowd). Yes, I set them up for the Christmas program. Usually, we do a different program each quarter, but we always start the fourth quarter a month late. Early October is just too early for Christmas! Sean helped me take down the backdrop and haul out the moose (we have a life-sized model of a moose!) Last quarter’s program was about the forest, so the moose made a decent prop. Once the moose was out, I set up the manger and put up the Christmas backdrop.

Va and I painted that backdrop a couple of years ago. It depicts shepherds watching their flocks by night under the stars. I installed a string of white Christmas lights on it by cutting tiny holes in the canvas, poking the bulbs through, and then duct taping the cord down securely to the back of the canvas. I tested it, and all the lights still work. Hooray!

Yesterday I was wiped out when I got home, so I didn’t post anything. I had a Pathfinder staff meeting at 3:00, and it was pretty productive. Then we cooked up some spaghetti and our regular Pathfinder meeting started at 5:00. We had to share the facility with the Cardiac Health Improvement Program (aka CHIP), so I rearranged the order of our meeting to accommodate.

During honor time, I split the club into two groups: those who will go backpacking with us this weekend, and those who will not. I took the backpackers and taught them… the Backpacking honor. David already has that one, so he taught the Reptiles honor to everyone else. He had volunteered to teach it for Honors Week, but somehow between him saying it and me writing it down, it became the Spiders honor instead. So he taught Spiders then.

They didn’t get through all of Reptiles, and I didn’t get through all of Backpacking, so we may resume those in November.

Today after work I was planning to do a little more network wiring at the church. There was a board meeting at 6:00, and I got off at 4:00, so I figured two hours would be plenty of time to get something done. Only it wasn’t. I stopped and talked to Cliff for several minutes, and the dragged out the ladder and made a few measurements. Then Va called, so I put everything away and met her and Beth at Wendy’s for supper. After we ate we returned to the church for the board meeting. We got there at 5:30, so I still had 30 minutes to do a little work on my networking project. All I managed to do though was cut a hole in the wall in the AV room. I’ll plug it with an Ethernet jack next time I’m there.

I also think I know where to drill the hole in the basement ceiling that will hopefully connect to the hole in the wall in the AV room upstairs. Ya never know though, until the hole comes out in the wrong place! I will measure again before I drill.

While I was doing all that measuring and moving ceiling tiles, I managed to knock a speck of ceiling tile into my left eye. Eye yi yi! I don’t know if I still have that speck in there or if it scratched me eyeball before departing. But I do know that it hurts! I’ll be sure to bring safety goggles for when I do the drilling. Maybe Wednesday, because that’s when Ken and I will take a second (third? fourth?) crack at the basketball goal. He’s having one of his students fashion a backboard from 3/4″ plywood. The one we had a) didn’t look so good, and b) didn’t fit the post. This one should address both problems.

Beth and I drove to Lincoln, NH yesterday and backpacked into the Pemigewasset Wilderness for an overnight stay. She did pretty good too. We had to ford a couple of creeks which included a bit of rock hopping, and she performed swimmingly (look it up – it doesn’t mean she swam!)

We did not make it all the way to the Lincoln Trail as I had wanted, but it wasn’t because she was tired. The Franconia Brook Trail forked, and the way to the Lincoln Trail was really boggy looking. The other fork looked much better, and after following it for a quarter of a mile, we came to a nice looking stream. So we found a place to pitch the tent and made camp.

As soon as the tent was pitched, I set up the Penny Alcohol Backpacking Stove I built about two years ago and set some water to boil. Rather than waiting for it to boil, I went ahead and added two packs of Ramen noodles and promptly turned the pot and the stove over. Doh! Luckily, most of the noodles stayed in the pot, and the ones that slipped out were still raw and dry – so I chucked them back in and finished cooking them.

Naturally, this was the first thing Beth told Va about when we got home.

We washed our dishes and I hung my backpack in a tree (hopefully) out of the reach of any bears or raccoons. Either that worked, or they didn’t notice, because everything was quite intact when we got up in the morning. We went to bed around 8:00, and Beth nodded off almost immediately. I know I slept a couple of times because I remembered some of my dreams – they were both involved human visitors to our camp, but I have forgotten them both by now.

My little one man tent that I bought for Father’s Day was a little too cramped for the two of us, but we managed. I was kinda stiff in the morning though. The sun started to come up around 5:30, but we didn’t roll out of bed until 7:00. I started breakfast immediately after getting my backpack out of the tree. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring any oil, cooking spray, or butter, so the pancakes were doomed from the get-go. I made my best attempt, and it would be charitable to call the result scrambled pancakes. We drizzled syrup over them and ate them anyhow, and I told Beth we’d stop in Lincoln on the way out and get some better pancakes. I was thinking McDonalds, but after a while it became pretty obvious that we wouldn’t get to the car before noon, and I expect Mickey D quits serving breakfast long before then. Luckily, I also remembered seeing a Pancake House on the way in, so we set our sights on that instead.

Naturally, this was the second thing Beth told Va when we got home.

We hiked back down to the 3-mile point and hung out at the edge of the Pemi for a bit. Beth had collected several rocks the previous evening and lined them up on a boulder. To my surprise, they were all still there:

Beth on the Pemi in Lincoln

Beth on the Pemi in Lincoln

We decided to hike another quarter mile or so up another trail to see Franconia Falls. Beth insisted we go, but once she caught her first glimpse of them, she had had enough. I’m sure there was a better view farther down the trail, but I didn’t want to press her. I knew she was tired, and I wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it back to the car without having me carry her pack.

And I was correct. The bargain was for a three-mile backpacking trip, and I had taken her at least four before we added the half-mile detour to see the falls. So I took my pack off and hung hers on the back of it (the shoulder straps fit nicely over the tent I had strapped to the top). The funny things is that my pack didn’t really seem any heavier with hers on it as well. Perhaps that’s a testament to the lightness of her pack, or more likely, to my inability to judge weight.

We got back to the trail head at 12:05pm. Beth took a potty break, and then we drove into Lincoln and stopped at the pancake place. Beth ordered three pancakes and I ordered a vegetable omelet. It was a good omelet, but I was not able to eat all of it. Beth didn’t even come close – the pancakes were huge! we paid up and then drove home.