Take a picture, Dada!

… and we’re back for more infrequent blog posts!   

Mr. C loves our smartphones, with all their features, apps, and games.  One thing he likes to do is direct me in how and when to use the camera. My camera’s memory is filled with pictures he wanted to take. He especially likes to take pictures of clouds and sunsets. Here’s a few.  These were taken in Vermont, New Hampshire, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico.

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.

Scout’s Journey Home – Part 2


Here is the long awaited conclusion of our trip back from New Mexico with our new dog,  the added bonus for this post is that it comes with blurry photos taken from a moving car!

On our first day, we travelled from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Joplin, Missouri, a total of 780 miles.  A bit short of the lower end of our goal of driving 800 to 1,000 miles on the first day, so we’ll have to try to drive further on our second day.

We left our hotel in Joplin as early as we possibly could. It was probably about 6:30 am, and it was still dark out.  We had the added incentive that it was not a very clean hotel room, and the staff were all very surly.  A name brand hotel does not guarantee you will have a pleasant stay, apparently.  It had started to rain when we left and I was hoping to get in as many miles as possible before the rain turned into snow.

After a couple of stops to let Scout run around for awhile, we stopped in St. Louis for lunch at the Blue City Deli. Yesterday’s stop at ‘The Big Texan’ was the highlight of the trip for Mr. C, today’s stop at the Blue City Deli was the highlight of the trip for me.  If we’re ever in St. Louis , we’ll have to stop here again.  Sorry I don’t have pictures of our food, just an interior shot of the restaurant.  Friendly staff, fresh ingredients and some of the best sandwiches I’ve had.  We try to find local places when we’re traveling and this was a great find.  The iPhone helped us out more than once with directions and advice on where to eat. Later in the day, I also found out that you can ask Google to find you a ‘coffee shop near Route 465 in Indiana’ and will receive several results.



We had told Mr. C that something we would see along the way was the Gateway Arch in St.Louis.  So he was excited to finally arrive in St.Louis to see it.  If there was time, we were going to take a tour of the Arch too.  Once we arrived though it really started to rain and the fog moved in, we also found out that the Arch was closed for renovation work.

It was non-stop rain from the time we left the Deli until we arrived home. Here’s the Mississippi River, and the Arch can be seen on the other side of that bridge.  Mr. C was not too thrilled with our view of the Arch.

The rain and fog continued all day.  We drove through Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio on the second day, and unfortunately didn’t see much beyond the rain and fog.

This could be Illinois, or maybe Indiana.

Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Springfield, Columbus.  We drove through so many towns and cities on the second day, but saw nothing but fog.

Endless driving from 6:30 am to 11:30pm, exhausted, we arrived in Akron Ohio. A total of 825 miles.  Scout was great in the car, sleeping for most of the trip, but once we arrived at our hotel in Akron, he was filled with energy from sleeping all day.  I had to toss a ball for him from one side of the hotel room to the other for about two hours before he was tired out and could get to sleep.  While Mr. C was sleeping, the dog was running in circles around the room.  It was about 2:00 am before I was able to get to sleep myself.

Day three started early again, 6:30am, and the rain was falling even harder than yesterday. We had to travel through the northern part of Pennsylvania and then through New York today and I was hoping to not get caught in a snow storm.

Northern Pennsylvania looks like it would be a beautiful area, rolling green hills and small historic towns, but unfortunately we didn’t see any of it.  On the third day, we drove from Akron, Ohio through Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and then into New Hampshire, a total of 655 miles.

We were very lucky that the temperature didn’t drop any further, and the rain did not turn to snow on that third day in the car.  The one and only time we hit any traffic on the entire 2,345 mile trip was in Massachusetts, on the Mass Turnpike.  The rain was coming down so hard I could barely see beyond the windshield, and the traffic was moving at a crawl.  Luckily I know a lot of back roads through the state so we got off the Pike and finally ended up home at about 11:30pm.  Once again, Scout was completely wound up from being stuck in the car so we had to throw a ball from one side of our kitchen to the other for two hours until he was tired out again.

For years I had wanted to drive across the country, it was unfortunate that the weather was not better than it was though. I went through a lot of states that I had never visited before; Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri.  I had been to parts of Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but not the areas we drove through. I feel like we missed a lot having to drive at night for long portions of the trip, but at least it wasn’t snowing and now we have some places to visit if we’re ever in theses areas again.

Welcome to sunny New Hampshire, Scout!

New Hampshire?   You took me to New Hampshire?

Scout’s Journey Home – Part 1

It took us a couple of days, and we went through about two thousand alternatives, finally coming up with ‘Scout’ as the name for Mr. Friendly Dog.  There is a state park in Taos, New Mexico, near the shelter where we got him, named after famous western scout, Kit Carson.  The name also seemed to fit his personality as he is a very quite dog, barely barking at all.

The problem was that he was growing every day.  Here he is below, on the first day that we met him, about to sniff C’s hand.  Not too big, maybe we could get him on the plane in one of those pet carriers ?

Here he is two weeks later, looking more and more like a ‘dog’ rather than a ‘puppy’.   There was no way he was fitting in a tiny pet carrier and getting stuffed under an airplane seat.  How big is this dog going to be as an adult ?  So, we had to cancel our airline tickets, rent a car and drive the 2,300 miles home.  Luckily we figured this out before we showed up at the airport where we would have been turned away at at the gate.  Though now we had just three days to do get home.

2,300 miles in a car with a puppy that is not yet house trained, a seven year old, two adults, a pile of luggage that includes skis, ski poles and boots, and Christmas gifts. Would we get lost ?  Would the dog ‘go’ in the back seat ?  Would the seven year old loose his mind from boredom ?  Would there be arguments over what direction we should take ? Would we get stuck in a snow storm on the way? Can you tell that I’ve never driven this far before ?

Our journey would take us through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and finally onto New Hampshire and home.  

We picked up our rental car, and spent about an hour stuffing in our bags like an enormous version of Tetris. Fitting in the skis in the back seat through the gap between the two parts of the  fold down back seat, so that the back seat was divided in half by about two feet of skis, dog on one side, seven year old on the other. Most of the luggage fit in the trunk, but two bags had to be stuffed onto the floor of the back seat, though that did make for a larger area for Scout to sit on.

We left sunny New Mexico, sunny, but there were storm clouds on the horizon.

We had to go at least 800 miles each day, but for the first day we thought we might be able to get about 1,000 miles done since there’s little if any traffic in this part of the country. It would also be helpful to get a good chunk of miles over with since the traffic situation would most likely get much worse once we hit the east coast, and the weather would probably be much worse on the east coast too.

Once we left the mountainous areas of New Mexico, around Santa Fe and Taos, we entered the flat areas of the north-east corner of the state,and the pan-handle area of northern Texas.

Driving through the western states, you really get to see how big the U.S. is.  Most of my photos from this part of the trip look like the one above, just more of the same.   Half of the time I was driving so there’s not a lot of photos from a large portion of the trip.  A lot of the towns on the way seem to rely on tourists who are nostalgic for the old Route 66 days. Though a lot of the old motels with the cool old neon signs from the Route 66 era are long closed as the small towns were bypassed once the faster Interstate Route 40 was finished.

After several bathroom stops, some for the dog, some for Mr. C, some for me or Ms. J,  in six hours we had only travelled about 280 miles, just making it to Amarillo Texas.

We were all tired and hungry and since it was New Year’s Day, there were few if any restaurants open.  Through the magic of smart phone internet roaming, I did find that ‘The Big Texan’ was open though.  It’s a huge tourist spot, normally I would avoid a lace like this but we had little choice.

I have to remember that Mr. C is just seven years old and just loves these types of new experiences.  I later asked him what his favorite part of the drive home was and he said ‘The Big Texan, since I got to eat my meal out of a hat!’   Yes, kids are served their meal in a little tray that fits inside a straw hat which they can take with them.  Exactly the type of touristy thing that makes me groan, but the food was actually very good. We saw that the meals were enormous, so J and I split a buffalo burger, while Mr. C had a small piece of steak.  Something this place does is offer a 72 ounce steak, which is free if you can finish the whole thing, so ‘small steak’ is in comparison to the adult sized portions. C was also impressed that it had a ‘Horse Hotel’ where you could stable your horse while you ate. This was not just for the tourists, as there actually were horses inside. It is Texas ranch country after all.

In the Amarillo area is a huge wind farm, with windmills stretching off into the horizon. As it got dark, you can see the red airplane warning light at the top of each windmill light up from one side of the horizon to the other.  It’s a bit blurry, but here’s a shot of the windmills, below.  A lot of my photos were taken while I was off driving duty, in the passenger seat, so they’re going to be a bit blurry as we sped by the sights.

We made yet another bathroom stop later that night, while still in Texas. In the parking lot of the rest area was a huge flat bed truck that was transporting a single windmill blade.

When we left the restaurant it was already about 6:00pm, and we had about 500 miles to go to get to our goal of 800 miles.  Since it’s January, it was already dark out.  We drove and drove for hours, going through the entire length of Oklahoma in the dark.  So I don’t have much of an impression of that state, besides the various lights of Oklahoma City and Tulsa late at night.    There were so many things to see on the way that we had to put off for another trip, the second largest canyon in the US is near Amarillo, Santa Rosa, New Mexico is the ‘Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest’ (wait, scuba diving in New Mexico ?)  there’s a re-creation of Stonehenge made out of old cars near Amarillo,  Tucumcari looks like it has some neat old buildings on Main Street, and then there’s the entire state of Oklahoma which we missed.  We drove about 500 miles from Amarillo, through Oklahoma, arriving just over the border in Joplin, Missouri at about 1:30 am.  That was day 1.  Mr. C sleep walked into the hotel and fell face first on the bed.  Total miles for the day: 781.  Close to our goal of 800, but there’s a long way to go.

It’s getting colder as we head north, and it’s starting to rain.  After the first day’s  drive, we already miss sunny New Mexico.

Ruff, ruff!

We flew out to New Mexico to visit family for the Christmas holiday. Before we left we made an appointment with an animal shelter to see a puppy they had available for adoption. Mr. C has been asking us to get a dog for years, and this Christmas seemed like a good time to finally get one. 

We had been looking for a small puppy, maybe eight weeks old. The plan being that we would be able to carry it back with us in a small dog carrier on the airplane. Ideally, when it was an adult dog, it would be a mid sized, short haired dog. From the photo and description the shelter had posted, the one we were to visit seemed to be a good match.  However, once we arrived and spent some time with him, it was obvious that this puppy did not care for us. He gave us a couple of sniffs before walking to the far corner of his pen. In the neighboring pen though, were three puppies from the same litter, they all looked similar, but one of them was trying very hard to get our attention.  Jumping up and wagging his tail as fast as he could.

So we asked to see Mr. Friendly Dog. Not at all what we were there to see, he was a three month old, long haired dog. From the size of him, it looked like he was going to be a big dog. 

The manager of the shelter offered to let us take him into a much larger pen, one with a grassy area that they used to exercise each dog individually. C ran around and the dog followed him everywhere, both of them looked so happy. It was immediately apparent that this was a better match. You can’t plan everything in life exactly the way you’d like, of course we this was the dog we got.

The airline had a requirement that dogs had to be smaller than 9″ tall and 13″ long, larger dogs were not allowed on their planes. Ours was 15″ tall and 25″ long.  So how are we going to get back to New Hamshire, which is about 2,300 miles away?

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.

Autumn Hill Orchard

We’re all out of the apples we bought recently, so it’s off to visit another orchard. You’d think that after living in New Hampshire for fifteen years, we would have visited all of the area orchards, but every year we find at least one that is new to us.  This year it’s Autumn Hill Orchard, about fifteen miles away in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts.

Autumn Hill is located on a steep hillside, with a great view of the White Mountains of New Hampshire off to the west.  That’s Mount Monadnock on the horizon below.  I’ll go off on a tangent about my iPhone camera – I’ve found that one of the limitations of this camera is that it isn’t so great for photos with a long distance perspective.  The view is really much more dramatic than it would appear in the photo below, but the iPhone seems to somehow flatten out distances or perhaps it just can’t provide as much detail to a photo at this distance.  It’s really great for portraits and middle distance, but not for long distance.  I really should use my other digital camera more often.


Here you can at least see the curve of the hill the orchard is on.  The soils of New England are so rocky that it’s amazing the early colonists could grow anything.  I think they found out quickly that the rocky hillsides are best used for orchards instead of vegetables.


Years ago, Ms. J visited Ireland and Scotland and had some apples of a variety that we just can not find anywhere in New England anymore.  There’s an orchard in far northern New Hampshire that used to grow it, but a few years ago a hard frost killed all of the trees of this variety.  Autumn Hill Orchards specializes in some of these hard to find varieties so we thought we’d try to find it here.

While we were walking around the orchard, I saw an elderly man walking with a little girl. He looked a bit confused.  We had a map of the orchard listing all of the varieties in the orchard so I asked him if he needed any help finding something.  It turned out that he had emigrated from England many years ago and he was looking for the same apple variety that we were.

Up and down the hill we walked, the owner of the orchard had placed signs in each row identifying the trees.  It would seem that the signs and the map would make if easy to find, but it still took us some time.  C and the girl, who was the man’s granddaughter, ran ahead of us and shouted that they had found it.  Cox Orange Pippin, here it is below.


Of course Ms. J was very happy to now have a source of this variety that’s fairly close to us. Our fellow Cox Orange Pippin searcher was also excited as well, we both quickly filled up our bags.


Here’s their version of the Empire apple.  It’s so dark that I thought it was a plum at first.



Once we had a bag filled with apples we went back to the barn to weigh them.

C was thrilled to use this antique scale to weight the apples.  There’s still time for more apples, I’m sure we’ll be back!






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

..it’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…