1585 Trip Miles

We just got back from a trip upstate to see family and friends. It was over a week, a double trip split between Western NY and the Adirondack mountains. It was a very nice time, relaxing and invigorating.

First stop was to visit my parents. We drove up Friday and spent Saturday relaxing. My brother and his fiancé came over for a barbeque, with their dog Loki. Did a bit of fishing and took the girls on a hike along the creek in the park near their house. Sunday we went up to Canada for a family reunion. Good to see all the cousins and uncles. Martin blogged about it too and put up some pictures here.

My grandmother told I should take a trip to Hungary. This is something I’ve been considering doing in a few years, when the girls are old enough to handle a big international trip. There is an origami conference each year in Budapest, and it might be a cool thing to check it out. I had already talked to my mother about the possibility of coming along, as she is fluent in the language, and she likes the idea. So one step closer to reality and added to the list of destinations. With luck the next few years will be a good for traveling with the family.

On Tuesday we went out with my Mum and Dad to my Dad’s woodlot. It’s a piece of land he has out in the countryside with a meadow and a creek and a forest. He goes deer hunting there in the fall. It’s a beautiful place and it was a perfect sunny day. We had a picnic there with bacon cooked over the fire, then went for a hike in the woods and let the girls splash in the creek and try and catch minnows in cups.

Wednesday we went out to Victor, NY to visit Jeannie’s brother and their family. Carrie was delighted to have Michelle over and they played together. But the big news is they just had a baby! Little Anna, only a few days old, and as tiny and cute as can be. A very peaceful baby.

Then it was on the Saranac Lake, NY, in the very heart of the high peaks country of the Adirondacks. We stayed with our friends Mark and Kelly. It was great to catch up. They had just bought a new house and have been busy fixing it up: drywall, paint, a pretty big amount of work. Alot of it was done but the place was not yet ready to move into.

On Thursday we went for a hike up nearby Mount Baker. It’s about a mile up the hill and then again back down, and the kids complained a bit because whenever we stopped the mosquitoes came at us something fierce. But the view was great and it was worth it for the character-building. Later that day we went to a place called the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, a sort of natural history museum of the region. They had had a big hall of exhibits with native plants and animals including frogs and turtles and salamanders and fish and even an otter. They also had some (taxidermically) stuffed fauna including a loon. I must admit I’ve never seen a live loon, and when I made my origami loon it was based on pictures from Google image search. So I kind of have this thing about loons now, trying to get to know them. The bird was a good deal larger than I expected (almost 2 feet long), and wider. I think I did a pretty good job at capturing its essence.

Went to a great restaurant in Placid called The Caribbean Cowboy that night. They had all kinds of good stuff I had some seared tuna over a bed of jambalaya.

Mark works at the Olympic center in Lake Placid, and Friday we took a tour. There was a triathlon in town that weekend so the roads were all full of cyclists, and the town it itself was pretty packed with people. First we went up the car road to the top of Mt. Whiteface. We had to drive around to the far side of the mountain and put up with the kids clamoring to stop at Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY along the way. And when we got to the toll we were told the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds and visibility was zero. So we turned back. This might be a good time to mention that we used to come up to the Adirondacks alot in the days before we had kids, and in three trips on three different winters I went up with the intention of skiing Whiteface and the mountain was closed because of extreme cold, extreme wind or a combination of the two. So this really came as no surprise.

So we spent the morning at a place called High Falls Gorge on the north fork of the Ausable river. It’s a neat little canyon with some falls and rapids and some nice hiking trails including some bridges and catwalks that let you get in close to the action.

By the time we were done there, the weather was clearing so we thought we’d get up Whiteface while we had our chance. Rather than motor all the way back to the north face, we decided to take the gondola, which was nearby. The ride up was pleasant and soon we arrived at the top of Little Whiteface (elevation 3900 ft), which was just as well, as Big Whiteface (elevation 4700 ft) was still obscured by clouds. After hanging out in Tahoe and the Sierras for a few years these peaks don’t sound that high, but it’s about as tall as it gets on the east coast! The view was great, of the surrounding peaks and lakes and the sky was properly dramatic.

Maybe a bit too dramatic at that. We’d had a good look around and were ready to come down, when all of a sudden up came a fierce wind and pelting rain. A dozen or so people up there all went into the ski patrol cabin to wait it out, as they stopped running the gondola. After a short while the rain stopped, but they were reluctant to start the gondola up again, cuz another storm was on the way. Finally there was a break and they decided to get everyone down at once. The ride up took 18 minutes but the trip down took maybe 5. And not a moment to soon. By the time we got back to our car it was raining again, and minutes later it there was hail and rain so hard I had to pull over.

We went into Placid and got some lunch. By the time we were done the storm had passed so we went to check out the ski jump complex. Boy ever neat. There were guys practicing acrobatic jumps and landing in a pool, which was fun to watch. Then we went to the main tower. It’s amazing how tall that thing is. And it’s built on top of a mountain! You have no idea seeing it on TV; you really have to check it out in person. I don’t think I’d ever have the fortitude to be a ski jumper. In fact when I go to the gate where they start the run I got a but spooked. On the way down –- you have to take a chair lift up the hill to the tower — I noticed it was one of the highest lifts I’d ever been on, and there’s no kind of seatbelt to keep little kids from falling out. But we all landed safe and sound.

The last stop of the day was the ice skating center. They have 2 rinks there, one from the 1932 games and one from 1980. On the older rink was a figure skating show, featuring girls from all over the northeast. A girl who did a Tinkerbell routine won. Michelle, who had taken ice skating lessons last winter, absolutely loved this. She has been thinking of ways to pretend to practice ice skating since we got home, mostly sliding around our wood floors in socks.

There was also a “Virtual Reality Simulation” ride there, which took you down the bobsled run, luge, ski jump and some other events. It was pretty cool except for the heavy, clunky, lo-rez, 15-year-old headmount displays from VPL which didn’t even do any motion tracking. They would have been better off (and I’m saying this now as a former professional VR software and systems developer and designer) with a big screen in the front of the room for everyone to look at. The fans were a nice touch I’ll admit. Also they could’ve used Adirondack chairs. That would’ve been cool.

Saturday was much more mellow. We went swimming in Middle Saranac Lake, at a tranquil little beach accessible only be hiking trail. Twice it started to rain, then rained hard for a minute or two, and then cleared up again. Crazy mountain weather. Later that we took a really nice canoe ride around Lake Flower, and checked out all the cottages. It really reminded me a lot of when we used to go up north in Canada as a kid. Mark’s landlord, also name Mark, was a really nice guy. We struck up a conversation and he offered us the use of his canoe. He also gave us a ride in his powerboat to take the girls for ice cream.

Mark had spent most of the day working on his house and missed all the fun. Saturday was big painting day for him, so I went over there and helped him out for a few hours. He had a They Might Be Giants boxed set on his iPod, which made the whole experience pretty pleasant.

Sunday it was pouring rain from the time we got up. We went to brunch in town, and the place was packed, but the food was good. It was also triathlon day so we decided to take the scenic route home, via Tupper, since the roads would be closed near Placid. Drove a good 100 miles in the rain on the mountain roads. The weather finally cleared as we got on the Northway. Almost as soon as we got past Albany the Thruway slowed to a crawl, so we took an alternate route home.

While we were on the road, my car passed 90,000 miles. Woo-hoo! I put more miles on my car on this trip than I have the whole year before that. While were on the road, I listen to the girls sing songs from Hannah Montana. I now have every song memorized even though I’ve never heard the CD! Also Lizzy and I concluded that an RV that turns into a house boat and then turns into an airplane would be a really cool thing to have. I have it all worked out in my mind. Remind me later and I’ll make some sketches.

Coming soon: Pictures!

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