Off the leash

One of the things I didn’t really think about when we got Scout was that we would have to take him out for some exercise every day. Every day.  Even in the middle of February.

Luckily, we’ve been having a fairly mild winter so far here in New Hampshire, but there have been days that I would never think of going outside much less going on a hike. We found out about a park in the nearby town of Amherst that encourages owners to let their dogs off the leash.  So off we went on a hike, in February, a few days after we had received about a foot of snow.

Turns out that Scout loves to run in the snow.

While he is getting bigger, he is often confronted with new experiences, like footbridges over mountain streams. He refused to cross this bridge at first, preferring to try to wade through the stream.  It took a few minutes of persuading him that it is actually not a good idea to try swimming through icy water in February, and wouldn’t he prefer to be up here with us on the dry bridge ?

He did finally pick up on the idea that footbridges are a good idea. However, he was then confronted with this bridge that had a stairway since the far side of the stream had a higher elevation.  I had to carry him up the stairs. He did manage to go down the stairs on his own though, so he’s learning fast. Which is good since he weighs close to forty pounds now.

Here’s an old stone wall in the forest. You see these all over the New England area. Scout jumped over the wall, landing in a huge pile of snow. I had to go over the wall to pick him up and carry him back over the wall.

This dog is determined to get me to loose weight, wether he forces me to get out of the house, or carry him up scary wooden staircase, or wade through a foot of snow.  At least it was a sunny day.






Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

During our visit to New Mexico earlier this month, we visited Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  The western U.S. seems to have hundreds of places like this; state parks, town parks, monuments, wilderness areas, Bureau of Land Management sites.  These small parks don’t get much attention since the more well known parks like the Grand Canyon can be so overwhelmingly beautiful, but they’re still very worthwhile for a visit.

Kasha-Katuwe is known for its tent shaped rock formations, eroded lava cones, and ancient Native American cave dwellings.  Layers of hard rock alternate with softer rock, so as the softer rock erodes large chunks of hard rock are left on top of pyramid shaped towers. Cones of older eroded lava are also seen at the base of the mesa below.  

Here’s a close up of our the photo above, showing some of the towers with rocks balanced on top. 

A boulder balanced on a narrow column of rock.

There are some caves in this slot canyon that were used as dwellings long ago. 

Here’s a close up of one of the cave dwellings.

 Here’s what the people who lived in the cave would see in the evening.  It’s a sheltered ‘U’ shaped mesa, so I’m guessing the area was a good choice since it would be easy to see anyone approaching from the one opening. Mr. C loved imaging what it was like to live here, coming up with all sorts of stories about what it could have been like.

The sun seems to set quickly out West, it was soon too dark for photography.

Andres Institute of Art

You’d think that after living in New Hampshire for fifteen years we would have seen all of the local sites, but no, we’re always finding something new.

Combining two of our favorite things, hiking and art, The Andres Institute of Art made for a perfect late Fall outing.  Andres is the largest outdoor sculpture park in New England. Located in Brookline, New Hampshire, it is  on the site of a former ski run. Each year, the institute invites sculptors from around the world to stay at the site and provide a sculpture which is then placed on one of the hiking trails that lead up the mountain.

Mr. C loved running around the trail, looking for the next sculpture, as if it were a scavenger hunt.  There are about 80 sculptures at the park, here are some of our favorites.

Each sculpture has a small plaque placed on a nearby tree with information on the piece, and where the sculptor is from.  The sculptors come from all over the world, not just the United States, including; Germany, Switzerland, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Armenia, Georgia, Spain, Columbia, England, and lots of others.  I wonder what the sculptors from countries like Bangladesh or Armenia thought of rural New Hampshire ?

Since the location was a former ski run, the trails were sometimes a bit steep, but not too bad.  The forest looks like it’s still recovering from being used for skiing, as most of the trees are still small and scrubby.  The ski run closed more than twenty years ago, it’ll be awhile until the trees reach their full maturity.

There is a small quarry nearby, I think some of the stone used is from there. Most of the sculptures are stone, but not all, there are some metal works as well. Andres offers demonstrations on the various techniques throughout the year.

This one below is of a hickory nut.

I think these are supposed to be the planets of the solar system, so the solar flare in the photo is appropriate!

Another solar flare.

This one below is not a sculpture, it’s the rusty remains of part of chair from one of the ski lifts.

I remember that the sculptor of this one is from Nigeria, it might be evident from the carvings on the rocks.

Here’s a giant donut.  This sculptor is from Germany.  “Ich bin ein berliner!”

This one is my favorite.  The sculptor is from the Republic of Georgia, it’s the only one that I remember the title of “Conscious”.

We only saw about twenty five of the eighty or so sculptures since we only hiked on one trail, we’ll have to go back again.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Head north of San Francisco…

over the bridge, and then through the tunnel…

 and then on to Point Reyes National Seashore…

Then start hiking along the coast at the national park.  That’s a World War II era pill box , with the Golden Gate Bridge off to the left..

Follow the trail along the cliff to Point Reyes, around the side of the first rock spire…

..and then through the middle of the second rock spire, through this tunnel’s a rough walled tunnel, with a dirt path, and a low ceiling!

Follow the cliff trail a bit further…

and you get to the wood and steel suspension foot bridge..

which spans about 300 feet of Pacific ocean, to a third rock spire..

to  Point Reyes Lighthouse. The windiest and foggiest area on the Pacific coast.  Fog can blanket the area for weeks at a time, and the wind can gust between 75 – 100 miles per hour.  Luckily it was bright and sunny when we were there, though it was windy. 

A Park Service guide stands at one end of the bridge to make sure that there isn’t too many people crossing the bridge at the same time. It’s much windier on the bridge than on the cliff and the bridge sways quite a bit.

Here’s what the view is like…

New Hampshire Mystery Spot

We were hiking recently when we came across a tree that had a big rock stuck between two branches, about ten above ground. 

How did it get there?  Did the tree grow and lift the rock up as it grew?  Did someone put it there?

Mr. C says ‘Take a picture, take a picture!’


A little bit to the left, and you get the top of the roof of a dam mechanical  control building and a parking lot.  A little to the right and you get the river bank with some fairly ugly houses at the top.  A little bit more up and you get power lines.  A little bit down and you get the line of buoys and a warning sign for boaters: ‘warning dam straight ahead’.  

Holding the camera in just the right spot, and after taking twenty or so photos that include one or more of the items noted above, the Nashua river doesn’t look so bad.


More Winter Hiking

After a day of rest, the weather was still warm for January, so once again we ventured out for another Winter hike at nearby Beaver Brook Reservation.

There are many trails that we have never checked out, so we tried one called ‘Otter Pond Overlook’ this time.  It seemed to be about the same length as the previous trail, about three miles. Like our New Year’s Day hike, Mr. C once again packed his backpack with his microscope, binoculars, 50 foot length of nylon rope, water bottle, and favorite toy car.  He suggested that I might want to take a spare pair of pants since I ripped mine on our hike two days ago, I decided against it.

We were surprised to first hear, and then see a small waterfall on this trail.  I think if the weather had not been so warm, and there had been no melting of the recent snow fall,  we would not have seen this waterfall at all at this time of year.

My favorite photo from the day is this one, below.  There’s more evidence of beavers taking trees here.  I came close to falling into the stream here, but luckily stepped back as the slushy ice gave way as I leaned into it.   We made sure to start much earlier than our previous hike, we arrived at least an hour earlier than we did the last time, so we shouldn’t get stuck here once it gets dark.

We were glad we decided to wear our Winter boots since the trail was a bit more slushy than it had been two days previous.  Did I step over this muddy puddle in the foreground ?  No, I didn’t even notice it and stepped right into getting my boots covered in slushy mud.  Mr. C was ahead of me and had stepped around it.  As usual, I am the one to get soaked while Mr. C bounds around all the obstacles like a mountain goat.

It has since cooled off quite a bit and temperatures are now in the mid 20’s instead of mid 40’s, so everything has since iced over.

Evidence of woodpeckers.


Another small waterfall.

Once again, it’s already getting dark at about 4:00pm.

A large puddle starting to ice over as the temperatures start to drop.

A close up of the leaves trapped in the ice.


Here’s the view from the top of the hill on the trail, this is the ‘Otter Pond Overlook’.  Mr. C actually took this photo himself, in between checking out the view with his binoculars.

More woodpeckers.

And now it’s getting dark, but at least we’re back at the start of the trail this time instead of being nowhere near the end.   This was taken with a very long exposure, it was actually quite a bit darker than this at the time.

The energy of a six year old can not be completely exhausted inside the house during the Winter months, so it’s always good to get outside when we can.  However, this is probably it for hiking until the Spring as it is now much colder than it was when we went on this hike just a few days ago.