Monday, May 30, 2016

Saratoga Battlefield on Memorial Day

Today we visited the Saratoga National Historic Park again. We noticed that their bear mascot had on a special Jr.Ranger pin made of wood and labeled with the centennial. Maddie asked and was told that yes, she could earn one just like it. So we did the Jr.Ranger program again...the 3rd time this park. When we got back to the visitor center they even swore Maddie was a ranger we didn't know so she was unaware who we were! I asked and was told that the wood the badge is made from does indeed come from the park itself. Yay!! Maddie is thrilled to add this one to her collection.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller also is made from wood from the park!
Follow this link to see Maddie being sworn in! 

We also brought along our new to us DSLR camera so Momma could give it a whirl. I did manage some good shots but I obviously need more practice and perhaps a trip to the optometrist!

small blue butterfly

Maddie capturing the blue butterfly!

We think this is an Eastern Kingbird

Thats all from here! Happy Memorial Day!!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Quechee Gorge, Vermont...National Park, State Park, Calvin Coolidge and Owls!!

Well, as you can see Baldwin and Maddie were more than ready to hit the road! We left last Thursday for the Quechee Gorge in Vermont. It was one of the few trips we have taken that has not been planned down to the millisecond! We ended up fitting everything in and even had a lovely surprise on our last night.

The first night we spent in a cabin at the KOA campground. The state campgrounds didn't open until Friday(I did mention this was not planned as well as normal, right?). It was a very nice cabin with a very hard mattress. Phew. We ended up being very glad it was only one night! They had a nature trail so we hit that up first.

See that swing...I sat on it once with Maddie and got motion sickness. I got the folding chair out of the car after that! 

Little did we know this was going to be a theme this trip...ferns and trilliums!

We did try to go to Neverland but it ended in swamp...perhaps, sadly, we are all too old now!

On Friday we got up and had breakfast at the King Arthur Flour factory store and cafe. It was yummy and I completely forgot the camera in the car but who wants to see our breakfast any way, right? Don't will get a chance later!

After breakfast we headed to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park. The main theme of this park is managed forests and forestry. Maddie wanted to go there last summer but we just never made it. We wanted to make sure we got there this year! The bad news was they were not officially open for the season yet so we couldn't tour the mansion, the good news was we could walk the trails any way, and the best news was they would be open on Saturday for BioBlitz! A ranger opened the door to the visitor center for us and offered to let us look around which was really nice of her. I have to say that we have met a lot of rangers and (as far as I can remember) not met anyone who was cranky or grumpy. We looked in at the Billings Farm across the street from the National Park but honestly, we have visited a lot of working historic farms and we just weren't interested this time. It happens! 

The ranger gave us an idea of the trail that sounded good so we went back to the car and drove to the other side of the park where the trailhead was located. This was a forest trail and included part of a carriage road that was used by the Rockefellers (I think..remember we didn't get the full intro!) to show off the land to visitors. Stands of trees were indicated on the trail map. Maddie was busy identifying them along the way as well. We also saw more trilliums and ferns! Plus some we just couldn't identify...yet!

3 trilliums in a row

Maddie and I thought this was an excellent fairy house spot!

A man made pond called The Pough. It was made to bring water to the farm.

After this we had lunch! We brought much of it with us but we purchased the lovely loaf of bread from the King Arthur store. If we had only waited a bit we could've had some really truly excellent cheese to go with it! Who knew? 

After lunch we headed to the Calvin Cooldidge State Historic Site. This was the place Calvin Coolidge was born and raised and returned to for summers during his presidency. Sadly this was closed too but we were able to walk the grounds and see the buildings and the burial site. It was such a change of pace from a year ago when we visited Monticello and Mount Vernon. We all agreed how nice it was in the quiet and by ourselves. Ah...and here we visited the Plymouth Cheese factory store. This was started by Calvin Coolidge's father then reopened by his son in the 60s. We got some hunters sharp cheddar which we ate for lunch the next went right out the window!

Maddie got this grin on her face when she realized that this was not only the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge but also his summer presidency spot. Brian said "He might've sat right there and had a glass of iced tea, who knows?".

Inside the cheese facotry

Such a lovely quiet and respectful spot. 

Then it was on to our campsite in the Quechee Gorge State Campground. It was the first day and we were almost the first people there. The workers were practically tripping over themselves to say hello and help us out. We opted to have a lean to and were glad we did. It made setting up and breaking down camp a lot less stressful (no tent to deal with) and we had a slight shower on Saturday night. Maddie quickly made it home as she does any spot in the woods and had the lay of the land a lot faster than Brian and me! 

Saturday morning we got up, had breakfast and headed back out to the National Park. Today was Bioblitz day! We arrived in time for the wildflower walk. The rangers also told Maddie she could do the Jr.Ranger book and earn a badge. Before we started on the wildflower walk Ranger Kyle, head of park resources and Brian, a naturalist for the State of Vermont, told us about iNaturalist and how it works. They also said that in the National Mall in Washington DC there was a jumbotron set up running live to show all the things everyone was finding in all the National Parks. A nature geek's dream come true! After that we were off looking for wildflowers. We learned a lot! There was an older couple who were very good with wildflowers and in a few spots lots of consulting was going on between all of them to figure out a difficult flower! Brian (our own Brian!!) found a nodding trillium something the state naturalist had not seen before! We also felt a whole lot better about our own walks because it took us a long time to get not too far because we all kept stopping to look at things. At one point the naturalist Brian said he forgot his pocket scope and 5 of us (Westervelts included) said "Oh! I have one!". I thought to myself "We are in the right spot here!". 

jack in the pulpit


I love these fields of ferns we kept seeing.

yellow violet

Maddie earned her junior ranger badge. The very neat thing about this one? Its made of wood. Not just any wood but wood harvested from the park! 

Earlier in the day Maddie had earned the Jr.Ranger patch from the state park as well! 

There were other hikes going on for the Bioblitz but we decided to head back to our campsite and hike to the Quechee Gorge. We were able to go on a trail right from our campsite. We will admit that we decided to do a loop and not come back that way after a difficult downhill to the bottom of the gorge! It was beautiful though and very worth the effort.

We came all the way down that....

then we walked all the way back up to the bridge

from the bridge looking down into the gorge

We went back "home" and took a breather with some books and knitting and rock collecting! 

After dinner we decided to go get some ice cream...I did mention that we ditched the diet for the weekend, right? It was a lucky thing we did go! As we were crossing the bridge in the car we noticed hot air balloons right over the gorge! It took about a second for Maddie and I to remember we had cameras in the car so we pulled into the pull off just over the bridge and went back. We were in time to catch them!

On Sunday Maddie created some land art while waiting on parents to get dressed and pack the car.

and found a flower we need to identify!

Our last morning I woke up to the sound of little feet scurrying and sat straight up. I think (no glasses!) I scared a chipmunk and inadvertently set off the Quechee State Park Chimpunk and Red Squirrel Emergency Broadcast System! Both Maddie and Brian were up after that. On our way out of town we visited VINS . Here we were able to see rehabilitated song birds and raptors. We sat and watched a show where the educator showed off some of the raptors and answered questions. And, very exciting, we were at the observation window of the hospital when a hurt barred owl (Maddie's favorite) was brought in for treatment. Maddie "ooooed" and "ahhhhhed" and "poor babied" the owl who couldn't hear a word of what any of us said. The owl was certainly hurt but not terribly so I think. He kept trying to gnaw on their hands while they were trying to clean his eyes and generally check him out.

And that was the end of an excellent 4 days with some nice surprises thrown in and lots of outdoor time! Tomorrow its back to the reality of work and school!