Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Circus

After a full day of geocaching, we hung out at home for a few hours and then went out to the Circus for their 7pm show...

It's not the big top, not a 3-ring circus, but it was fun...

It was held in the gym of the Saranac Lake High School, and travels all over the North Country...Ben and I knew a bunch of the kids and grownups in attendance, and some of them site on the floor in front of the ring...



The show opened with a unicycle act involving a couple, and eventually their 6 year old son...they slalomed, juggled, and did acrobatics on their unicycles...


Another great act was the hula-hoop woman, she could (and did) make hula-hoops gyrate on every part of her body...she ended up adding hula-hoops to her torso until she was working 21 of them...


We were in the front row, about 20 feet from the ring...Ben and the rest of the audience was enthralled by the action so close...I think that this is what the circus used to be...a small group of performers of various abilities that worked bringing up close and personal entertainment to small groups of people in a different town every night...


At the intermission, kids were invited to pose with...wait for it...SPIDERMAN!!!

Ben was so excited that he almost burst while we were waiting in line...after the picture, we walked around for the rest of the intermission, talking to people we knew, and alternating between showing off Ben's picture and admiring (almost identical) pictures of other kids posing with Spiderman...


The first act after the intermission was an aerialist, or trapeze-lady...she did some cooled turns and acrobatics, made cooler by the fact that she was working without a net or pads beneath her...


The final act of the night was a trick rider on a BMX bike...he did all sorts of neat tricks...again, right in front of us...near enough that we could hear him huffing with exertion when he did some of the tricks...

We had a fun time at the circus, and got Ben to bed after 9pm, after a long day...I'm hoping that he'll sleep in a bit tomorrow...

Geocaching Event

Ben and I went down to Long Lake this morning to a geocaching event being held by our friends, Shane and Doree...we found 7 caches and attended a great lunch at the Adirondack Hotel with lots of geocaching friends...we even won a pair of fabulous door-prizes...


Ben and I ran into our friend Lefty while heading into the woods to look for the first cache, and we ended up finding our first four together...


Ben started out the day charging through the snow, but the deep snow burned through lots of his (and my) energy...I ended up carrying him on my shoulders for the return trips on about 1/2 of our cache-hikes today...


It was a prefect day, about 20 degrees, blue sky, very little wind...a delight for geocaching with a 5 year old...


Ben loved the stuffed bear and moose-head at the Adirondack Hotel, where the meeting and lunch portion of the event was held...


Doree's awesome dog, Odin, attended the event and was the highlight of the day for Ben...


After lunch, we headed out with Doree and Odin to find a geocache hidden on nearby Pine Island on Long Lake...we walked across the ice to the island...the ice is thick enough to support the pick-up trucks of a number of idiots fishermen, who didn't want to bother with walking out to their fishing shacks...


After we were all done with geocaching for the day, we headed over to Ben's favorite part of Long Lake...the playground...he rallied and ran around in the snow for a while, and then climbed and slid and played in the playground for a bit before heading back to Lake Clear...


Based on the snow coverage of the playground, Ben was the first person in a while to enjoy the playground...he had a surprise when he got to the bottom of the various slides...


I did a run-around picture of us after we got all sweated-up running through the deep snow and playing "hurl the boy into the snowbank"...I won...


On the way out of town, a jerk came up behind us, impatient to get going...honking and flashing at us (even though we were driving at the speed limit and were in a no passing zone)...he zoomed by us on the way up a hill and cut us off a bit when an oncoming car made an appearance from around a turn...afterwards, I reminded Ben that the horn should only be used as a warning, and that lots of times people use bad words when they're scared like Daddy was...

I was almost too happy when we passed the jerk getting a ticket on our way into Tupper Lake...

We had a great day!!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Winter Camping Fun!!!

I went camping last weekend (from Friday morning to Sunday noon) with some friends who were crazy enough to make the drive (2 from D.C.) and brave the intense cold...Ben's not old enough or experienced for winter camping yet, and Gail is too smart, so I was the sole representative of the Gibson/Sheffield clan...


We camped on beautiful Polliwog Pond...the picture above show the fire-pit under about 1-2 feet of snow...


The campsite had an outhouse, which was a mixed blessing...nice not to have to be completely hardcore in our camping, but the seat was cold and the door couldn't close (nice view though)...


I got to the camp about 10am on Friday (no school due to Prez-weekend), and the rest arrived starting shortly thereafter into the early afternoon.

It took a while to prep the camp to make it habitable...we had to dig down through lots of snow to make places for our tents, and dig paths through the campsite, so that we wouldn't get soaked or trip in the deep snow while navigating the campsite, especially after dark...


We also gathered massive quantities of firewood to help us stay warm through the evening...everyone brought lots of food and stuff to drink, and we tended to group-cook throughout the weekend, which worked out well...it was in the 20s during the day on Friday, and the temperature really started dropping once the Sun went down...


It was barbarically cold overnight, both the camp and the Lake Clear Airport thermometers agreed on -17 degrees...

I actually had some trouble getting going in the morning: I stayed in my sleeping bag until after 7am because it was unthinkable to disturb the minimal comfort that I had achieved, I had trouble getting my fingers to manage the fine-motor control necessary to work the zippers onn my tent and my parka...


We all got up, got the fire going, and got some hot food/drink into our systems as it approached, and eventually broke the zero-degree barrier...we had a fun day Saturday, and then started to prepare for the return of COLD as the sun dipped behind the trees on the West end of Polliwog...


Staying warm Saturday night was hard work, as the temperature initially dropped even quicker than it had on Friday night...one member of our party, while trying to dry off her socks, melted them...


The hero of the weekend, in my opinion, was my workhorse of a camping stove, which melted and warmed lots of snow and ice for the warm food and drinks which kept us alive...

It was a fun time, everyone left with the same number of finger and toes as they came with, and it is nice to stretch yourself every once in a while, but I wouldn't want to do this kind of camping very often...

I'm looking forward to our next outing...maybe in the Spring or Summer...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ben's Winter Carnival

Today was the end of the Winter Carnival season, and to celebrate, Lake Clear Elementary School spent the afternoon playing games outside in the snow, followed by snacks for everyone inside...


Ben's class is only 14 kids, so they were able to play all of the games as a unit...the first one was sort of a snowbound version of musical chairs, but with gym-balls...


The next game involved breaking the kids into 2 lines that raced to see who could pass the ball back over their heads...


and then forwards between their legs...Ben's team won...


The next few games were relay races, with the kids all running and slipping and falling and screaming and giggling...nobody is sure who won...


Then there was the time-honored running-in-a-zigzag-carrying-a-frisbee race...


Ben had such a fun time that he kept running even after the game was done...he wasn't the only one...



Next the kids played a tag game in wheel-shaped area, only able to run on the rim and the spokes...they ran and ran and ran, and then all collapsed in the snow...


The final event was a sled race in which teams of 3 had to rotate through pulling, pushing, and riding...here you can see Cullen riding while Tara pulls and Ben pushes (the extra person is Cullen's sister, who wanted to help)...


In this picture, you can see Ben riding and Tara pulling while Cullen pushes (Tara liked to pull)...Cullen mostly pushed Ben down, so they weren't very fast through this rotation...

Everyone had a great time, ate sugary snacks afterwards, and Ben's going to sleep like a log tonight...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Snowday!!!

I got the call at about 5:15 am this morning, and did the traditional "snowday dance" for an audience of one (Cedar followed me out to the phone, in the hope of getting his breakfast early)...we got about a foot of snow...


Ben and I spent a mellow early morning inside waiting for the snow and wind to stop...we went out to play in the snow mid-morning and spent some time exploring and jumping off of the mountains made by our plow-king this morning...


The game we finally settled on, which has daddy feeling a bit stiff tonight, was trying to see how far I could throw him from the driveway and into the virgin snow...above you can see launch #47, which was a pretty good one...about 10-12 horizontal feet (you can see the virgin snow between him and the driveway...

He had a great time with this as you can see by the numerous impact craters behind him...he shrieked with delight in the air, woofed in a cloud of snow on landing, and then rolled around liked a flipped turtle for a while before being able to right himself and crawl out of the (for him) waist-deep snow...




This is after patting himself "clean" between launches...


Another view of another landing...this one was closer to 15 feet out!


After getting the biggest chunks of snow out of his boots and gloves, we headed into town to play at the Ice Castle...this time I went through the "Mole Hole"...a tunnel through the heart of the ice-block structure...I took this picture from about halfway through...


Even after some damage due to rain and thawing and being buried under a foot of new snow, the castle is still impressive...


Ben and I walked around the Ice Castle, looking for fishes and plants frozen into the huge blocks of ice...after that we went for a drive-thru lunch at McD's...


We went home to eat, changed the wet parts of our winter outfits for drier stuff, and then headed over to Mt. Pisgah for a couple of hours of skiing...he did a great job today, learning from mistakes and getting better control of his skis and turns...he is still hesitant/nervous about getting up after he falls, but I think that the biggest part of this is getting me to be a bit more of a hardass than I currently am...


We had a great time at Pisgah, and a great day...I'm thinking about a hot shower to fix my back up a bit after Ben-hurling, and am working my way through the world's biggest veggie platter (we got it for a party at Ben's school that was supposed to happen today...yes, we're those parents...) as I type this...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Winter Carnival 2008, 2nd Installment

After a "Lake Clear General Store" pizza for supper, we headed into Saranac Lake for the lighting of the Ice Castle by the Winter Carnival Royalty...the town also hosts a fun fireworks show, and Ben had never been to see fireworks before...

It was about 20 degrees out and mixed snow and sleet was falling (and then freezing) on everything and everyone out to enjoy the fun and festivities...


There's quite a crowd for the lighting of the Ice Castle, so Ben enjoyed sitting on my shoulders, both to get a better view and to avoid the slippery crush at ground level...

Once the Ice Castle was lit, the fireworks began, it was a great show that lasted for about 20 minutes...


video

Some of the fireworks exploded so low to ground that we worried that they might blow off the back of the ice castle...

video

Some of them exploded hundred of feet above us, and with so much power that the blasts had our ears ringing and actually blew our coats around...

video

it was a great show, and once it got started Ben got down off of my shoulders and was talking and shouting and laughing his way through the whole thing, leaning further and further back into me or Gail to watch the spectacle overhead...


After the fireworks, we walked around the Ice Castle to inspect the lights and look at/for the hidden treasures within...this year, there is a "Mole Hole", a tunnel going under the thickest part of the Ice Castle, about 20-30 feet long...there are also fish and aquatic plants frozen into the ice blocks (they're about 15"X15"X40", and must weigh hundreds of pounds each)...

We were looking for royalty, Ben likes to be photographed with Winter Carnival royals and characters (wait for next weekend, or look at past years' blogs), and found a "Prince" who was eager to help us out...


We also ran into this chilly looking little dog, whose owner seemed more interested in chatting than noting her dog's shivering...Gail gave and received kisses and little nips and softened by one more degree towards my eventual goal of owning a silly little dog, completely unsuited to the North Country...


The lighting of the Ice Castle from between the blocks fascinated Ben, and in this picture you can see him getting up close and personal with the ice...close enough that we cautioned him not to taste it...


And now for something completely different...



This is a picture of a Chinese giant salamander (Andrias Davidianus), it is the largest salamander in the world, reaching a length of 5 1/2 feet. Native to China, it is considered a critically endangered species.

It has a big head, small eyes and dark and wrinkly skin. It lives among the cold water streams in the mountains, where it feeds on insects, frogs and fish. The giant salamander has very poor eyesight, so it depends on special sensory nodes on its forehead to detect even the slightest movement in the water. It prefers to live in caves.


These amphibians are among the most endangered creatures on Earth, and although I will likely never travel to China to see one, I think that the world will be a generally less interesting place when there aren't anymore 5 foot long orange salamanders skulking in cold mountain streams and caves...Ben deserves a world with beasties like this one in it!

The EDGE website has a cool page on these, and other, remarkable animals...they focus on Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (hence EDGE) animals, and actually have a plan in place to try and save the Chinese giant salamander from extinction...once the tax refund comes in, they'll be getting a gift from us...in Ben's name...I urge everyone reading this to do the same...