Hiking in the Hills

No lazy morning for us today. We got up, had breakfast, and were on the road before nine!

We spend the morning at the Blue Hills Reservation, which has (according to the website) 125 miles of trails. We only hiked about 3 miles of them. You can really see how rugged and rocky the terrain in Massachusetts is on this hike; it’s a miracle early colonists managed to do any farming around here considering how many rocks they must have had to move. No wonder there are stone walls!

Our hike lasted about two and a half hours, with a lot of up and down throughout. It was nothing compared to Mount Jefferson in toughness, but I still felt the strain in my legs and lungs with every ascent. Andy is apparently part mountain goat when it comes to going down over rocks and roots, but I had to be more careful as I picked my way down. Unfortunately, the observation tower was closed, but we did get some great views along the Skyline Loop.

Once we made it back to the parking lot, it was definitely time for lunch, so we headed to another one of my “must dos” when I’m visiting Andy: Cabot’s! As Andy said, we’re adults, so we’re allowed to have ice cream for lunch if we want. And of course, we had to get Danielle’s Choice. If you’re a chocolate and peanut butter person like I am, there’s no other possibility on the menu.

After lunch, we headed back to the apartment for some rest (me) and work (Andy). In the evening we walked to The Independent in Somerville to meet Andy’s friends for #geobeers. Andy and I split some food and it was absolutely delicious, especially the arancini. As always I enjoyed spending time with Andy’s friends.

Tomorrow I return to the real world. It’s been a great trip!

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Fun with Family

I had another lazy morning, but Andy did make us a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and oatmeal. And I made up for spending hours just reading with a fun filled afternoon.

After lunch, Andy and I drove over to Woburn to spend the afternoon and evening with our cousins. We arrived about an hour after the kids got out of school, so they had time to get homework out of the way before we played.

We met their foster kitty, a tiny thing with the outsized name Alexandria. Then the kids picked out some games for us to play. We started with Pit, which I managed to win most of the time (what really counts is that Andy didn’t win, ever!). Then we played The Oregon Trail card game. I survived until one river before we reached Oregon, when starvation took me.

After a short walk around the neighborhood and over to the middle school, we came back to throw around a football before eating a delicious home cooked meal (thank you, Carol!). After dinner we played a few more games (Rapidoodle, where I beat Andy again, and Bananagrams, where Andy handily beat the rest of us most of the time).

Tomorrow we have plans for some more hiking. I’m hoping it helps loosen up my leg muscles. Hard to believe I only have one more full day left in this trip.

Noshing in Newton

After yesterday’s exertion, I felt I deserved a lazy day and that’s (mostly) what I got.

Andy spent the morning working so I spent the morning reading. We broke for a lunch of leftovers before returning to our individual activities. (Okay, I might have also thrown a little nap in as well.)

In the late afternoon, Andy decided it was time for a real break from work, so we took a 3+ mile walk to the Millers River Potato Monument, recently made famous in a tweet from Andy that went viral (see here!). I took my obligatory pictures, then we hopped on the T to go to Newton.

We met my high school friend Amanda at the Deluxe Station Diner, which she aptly described as the Steampunk Diner. It’s in the old station at Newton Centre and the decor is very much Steampunk in nature. As a bonus, the food is good too! It was great to catch up with her and find out all the things we (still) have in common—including our hair color preference! Her purple is a bit more subdued than mine but with more variation.

We had a wait for the train home and then a 20 minute walk on top of it, but I’m telling myself that all that walking means the residual stiffness from yesterday’s hike will pass all that much faster.

Jaunt up Jefferson

We had the best intentions for an early morning, waking up before 6:00 so we could eat, pack up, and leave by 6:30. We were only 35 minutes late.

On the drive up into New Hampshire Katie taught me a new game: (I’m Thinking of Something and It’s) Not French Toast. I’m not very good at it but I can see how it’s a great car game. I’ll need to improve my lateral thinking if I want to play it well.

We arrived at Mount Jefferson a bit after 10. I was fooled (Katie and Andy were not) by the small flat stretch at the start. It only took minutes for the uphill to start, then we went up for the next 2.5 miles. At first we had shade and trees with lots of rocks, but after a while hiking and a stop for a snack we left the trees behind.

The rest of the hike was a steep rock scramble. We wedged our feet in tiny cracks, braced our arms, pulled ourselves up along a jagged ridge line for miles. (There was some walking too, of course). By the end, my leg muscles were screaming at me and shaking. I guess that’s because in our 2.5 mile hike we gained about 2700 feet in elevation.

The summit was a windy pile of large rocks with great views of the rest of the mountains. We were high enough that my lungs protested the atmosphere; Katie tells me that the summit is at a higher elevation than Denver, so I guess my lungs weren’t just being whiners. I found a sheltered flat rock to lie on my back for a while, but eventually we had to head back down.

Down went a lot faster than up, but really strained my knees and ankles. I ended up sliding on my butt at times and have nice big holes in my new pants as a result. Several times I looked behind me and thought, “How the hell did I get up there?” I couldn’t understand the physical accomplishment and certainly not the mental one given my fear of heights.

We finally got back to the car around 6:00, and we chowed down Doritos as a reward for our efforts. Poor Andy had to drive the 3 hours back to Boston to cap off a long and tiring day. He did get a break when we picked up some Chinese food to eat on the way home. After I ate, I did what I do best in cars—slept.

Now we’re back at Andy’s apartment, unpacking and unwinding. Tomorrow I have big plans…to be lazy.

Spares in the Suburbs

The rain woke all of us this morning. It passed eventually, but not before we all got a little bit of a soaking.

The three of us (Andy, Katie, and me) went to Friendly Toast for breakfast. They both got savory egg dishes, while I opted for the über-sweet and delicious King Cakes—two banana and chocolate chip pancakes with a layer of peanut butter in between, covered in whipped cream and served with bacon. It was delicious, but even I, with my limitless tolerance for sweets, couldn’t finish it.

Katie had a family matter to attend to in the afternoon, so Andy and I dropped her off at her apartment before heading to the Wakefield Bowladrome for candlepin bowling. The internet told us they were open, so even though the parking lot was empty, we tried the doors. It turned out we were there 15 minutes before opening time, but the guy gave us a lane and shoes anyway. I was absolutely terrible at first, but in our second game both Andy and I got spares! I’ve decided I really like candlepin bowling because even when you get gutter balls, you still have a chance of knocking down a few pins. Perfect for someone like me.

There’s another reason I enjoyed candlepin bowling—physics fun! I had a lot of fun watching the ball return act as a sort of Newton’s cradle, with one ball hitting a line of them and sending the far ball into the next line, sending that far ball forward. Andy and I both found it interesting enough to choose our next ball based on how it would allow the effect to play out when the previous one returned.

The rain had completely stopped by then, although the day stayed overcast. Andy and I headed back to his apartment for a rest before we set off on a long walk to Target in Watertown (I almost titled this post “Walking to Watertown” since it was more than 5 miles round trip). I needed some leggings for our hike tomorrow.

Back at the apartment, we made dinner (again, note that “we” here should be translated as “Andy”). Andy and I had spaghetti with meat sauce but Katie had vegetarian Cincinnati chili—always good to spread the specialties from home around the world! We had to have a specialty from this area, too, so we paired our spaghetti with Downeaster Cider.

We watched TV while eating dinner, but now we have to make a relatively early night of it in preparation for our hike tomorrow.

Baseball in Boston

Yes, I’m back on the east coast to visit Andy. I flew out of Dayton early this morning with a connection through Philadelphia.

Side note: apparently boxed macaroni and cheese looks dangerous in an X-ray.

The flight from Philadelphia to Boston gave me some great views of New York and Providence, which look like toys from up in the sky. I felt like I should be able to pick up skyscrapers and capitol buildings and rearrange them. Given my lack of spatial skills, it’s probably a good thing I can’t.

Andy picked me up from the airport and we set out to buy some lunch at Whole Foods. I must have grown up a little bit when it comes to eating my vegetables; while we were shopping I cried out, “Ooh, Brussels sprouts! I love Brussels sprouts!” After dropping enough money to feed a family of four, we took our salads back to his apartment.

Andy alternated doing some work with researching hiking options for us for Sunday, while I read and did a little writing of my own. We munched on peanut M&Ms for dessert and it’s a good thing my brother has some willpower and closed the bag, or there wouldn’t be any left at the end of this day. I also changed from my comfy but flimsy airplane pants and hoodie to jeans and a thicker hoodie; this hoodie is purple and in the lighting of Andy’s apartment it looks like my hair (which is now purple, in case you missed it) morphs into the hood. It’s a cool effect, if a little disconcerting.

Andy’s girlfriend Katie joined us for dinner, which we turned into an experiment. I gave them a box of Canadian Kraft Dinner (KD), so we prepared it and a box of US Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. By we, of course, I mean Andy. Then all three of us did a “double blind” taste test. Katie and I could tell the difference right away, but Andy needed a few bites.

After dinner we rode bikes over to Fenway Park. Since I neglected to pack my bike in my carry on I used one of the Hubway bikes. It was okay, but nothing like mine.

The game at Fenway was just what I wanted. Almost. The stadium was full, we participated in a wave that wrapped the stadium three and a half times, we sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” and we sang “Sweet Caroline.” It was absolutely perfect except for one thing: Boston lost.

It took forever to get out of the stadium and get the bikes to go home, but I don’t mind. It was a great first day in Boston.

Camino de Santiago (Santiago de Compostela)

The last two days have been pretty lazy, so I decided to write about them together. 

Monday, we slept in and didn’t get breakfast until 9:00, at the cafe where I ate breakfast every day when I was last here. Then we wandered the streets, running into Nina and crew long enough to take a picture in front of the cathedral. At noon, we watched a display of giant head…things dancing in a plaza, then met fellow pilgrim Gail for lunch. After lunch we did a little shopping then went back to the hotel for a siesta (just resting, no sleeping). We watched a protest about Galician independence from our window before going back out for the evening. 

We met Stephanie for dinner, then headed to the plaza to wait for the big visual/pyrotechnic show, which started at 11:30. We got there at 9:00 and it was already packed, and getting more so. We sat on the ground until the police made everyone stand up, then we sat again about an hour later. We passed the time talking with a woman from California who had just learned of the Camino upon arriving in Galicia and a man who had just completed his third one. 

The show itself was spectacular. The fireworks were stunning and the light and picture show was amazing. No 4th of July show could possibly compete.

Today, we slept in somewhat before getting breakfast at the same place as we did Monday. We were at the restaurant before 10:00, and to get there we had to go around the line of people waiting to get into the cathedral for the noon mass. By the time we left breakfast and headed toward our first museum, the line had greatly grown. After leaving, about 15 minutes before the start of mass, the line still stretched down the street. 

First, we visited the Museo das Peregrinacións e de Santiago, which explores the growth of Santiago as a city, the history of the Camino, a bit about the building of the cathedral, and (in a temporary exhibit) a 1400 kilometer pilgrimage in Japan. The museum was free today, although they seem to have forgotten that, so one of the employees had to track me down to refund our entrance fee. 

Next, we headed just outside the old city to the Museo do Pobo Galego, about the Galician people. The museum is a maze of spaces inside an old church. At one point there are three spiral staircases all originating at the same spot and leading to different places! (I did not enjoy those—my heart rate climbed dramatically in my fear.) All the exhibits were described in Gallego, but we were able to follow along with the pictures and dioramas. Entry was also free today. 

After the museums we grabbed lunch (more effort than anticipated since the first few places we tried were full) then rested at the hotel. In the evening we set out to find a cheap bag so we can check our hiking poles at the airport (rumor and the forums have it that most airports are fine with them as carry on—except Santiago). We did a little shopping and joined the line for 7:30 mass at the cathedral, where we met Stephanie again. 

Unfortunately for us, they did not swing the botafumeiro, but the mass itself was nice. We had dinner after with Stephanie, then we said our goodbyes as we all are leaving tomorrow. 

Our flight is tomorrow afternoon, with an overnight in Dublin. I may or may not post a final reflection about this Camino, but if I don’t, thank you for joining the three of us on this long and amazing journey!