Friday, August 21, 2009

Hiking Bear Island

My eldest son (ES) and I have spent two days this week hiking Bear Island on Lake Winnipesaukee in search of the three geocaches on the island. Both hikes were very enjoyable and premium quality time with ES.

Tuesday, we drove the boat across the lake and tied up to the St. John's Church dock on the southern end of the island.

My son has a lot better eyesight than I do. He was able to read the sign in the picture above and tell me this was the dock for St. John's.

After we disembarked, he read the sign and asked me what "non-denominational" meant. This started our dialogue for the remainder of the day hiking around the island. I love these opportunities when we get to talk like this. We talked about what denominations are in order to understand what "non-denominational" meant. Then we talked about how some denominations are organized and follow a state or national or international council or group of leaders or the Pope. Then we talked about the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. It was a great conversation.

First glimpse of St. John's church through the trees.

Blunoz self portrait in front of St. John's church

We ate a picnic lunch on the park bench by the church and then found the geocache there. It was a little challenging because there were a couple of decoy hides. Usually a pile of sticks or stones or bark is an obvious indicator of a geocache hide, but in this case there were a couple that of piles like that with nothing hidden underneath. We had to use the hints on the geocache listing to find it.

ES gesturing with feigned surprise,
"I WONDER what could be in heeeeere..."
Actually, there was nothing in there.
This was one of the two decoy hides we found.

Next, we headed off in across the island eastbound to search for the other geocache at this end of the island. The trail was well defined and marked by a yellow splotch of spray paint on the trees.

I have to admit. One of the reasons I pushed to do this hike on this particular day was because I got sun burned the day before out swimming in the lake, so I wanted to stay out of the sun. Hiking on the island was almost entirely under a fairly dense tree cover and made for a nice day's hike in the shade.

Because of the shade, most of the ground was covered with dirt or dry dead leaves or pine needles, so the prevailing color of the landscape was shades of brown. Because of this, the few isolated items we encountered along the way with a splash of color in them really caught my eye.

We passed a grove of birch trees. I love the light green leaves and white tree trunks. It always reminds me of going to the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction, Colorado with my Grandpa (okay, so those are aspen trees, but it's the white tree trunks).

We spotted two of these small (< 1 ft) black snakes with yellow stripes.

We saw some very bright orange fungus.

We found a brilliant blue feather and some antique farm equipment.

We found the second geocache on the abandoned farm without too much trouble. Inside the cache, ES found some Venezuelan money, so that diverted our father-son conversation onto where Venezuela is, who Hugo Chavez is, and the state of relations between the U.S., Venezuela, and Russia.

We hiked back to the boat and headed home for the day so we could go to my wife's aunt and uncle's place and paddle around Newfound Lake that night.

The next day, we decided to return to Bear Island to get the third geocache at the northern end of the island. This time, we tied the boat up at the Bear Island Post Office.

Previously during the week, we had seen the mail boat going back and forth across the lake and pointed it out to the boys. "Look boys, there goes the mail boat." When ES and I arrived at the dock and he saw the post office, he said, "THAT'S why they call it the mail boat!"

ES pointing at the Bear Island Post Office sign.

Are there really that many people on Bear Island?

From the Bear Island Post Office dock, it's only about 1/3 mile walk up a well-defined trail with red trail marks spray-painted on the trees.

ES on the trail.

We passed Lover's Lane along the way (dated 1858).

We saw a ladybug laying her eggs.

I took a picture of what I thought were some pretty flowers, only to find out later these are the dreaded stinging nettles. Luckily, I didn't touch them!

We found the geocache without much difficulty. This one is hidden in the ruins of an old hotel that burned down in 1934.

Inside the geocache, there is a photo of what the hotel used to look like.

Overall, both hikes were a great time for ES and I to have some father-son bonding time and good conversation, and we saw some cool things along the way. We found all three geocaches and did some trading in each. (Aside: If you take something like a toy out of a geocache, then you're supposed to leave something there to replace it. I keep a stash of inexpensive toys in my backpack to trade with in the geocaches when the boys find something they want to keep.)

On the way out there and back, I did some helmsman training with ES and let him start driving the boat. He's a quick learner. I noticed improvement in his driving ability from the first day to the second day.

He'll be ready for that boater's license before I know it.


Hilary said...

Sounds like a perfect father and son day. I've always thought geocaching was a great idea. Great photos. Your son is adorable.

Kat said...

Reading your blog all week has brought back such good memories of growing up in NH. Looks like everyone is having a great time.

Loping Squid said...

Our stinging nettle here is much more serrated than what you have pictured there...probably the extra strong German version.