Camping 101

7 and 8 June 2015

IMG_0552I’ve wanted to go camping since I was 10, or maybe even younger. It would be more accurate to say I’ve wanted to go ever since I devoured stories of the Famous Five and their camping adventures.  The last two years have seen the husband put it off saying, let it get warmer, then it’s too hot now! and then we’ll freeze at night. Now no more! We’ve gathered our friends, and picked a fine spring day. Unfortunately, when the D – day comes, L has a toothache and the skies are overcast. We push it out by 2 weeks, only to have overcast skies and a twenty percent chance of precipitation on the planned weekend. We push it out by another week. Weather forecasts look bleak, but suddenly it all changes and forecasts say we are going to have a great time.

DSC_0563While I dream of setting up our tent on soft springy heather and sleeping under the stars, the husband insists on carrying bedding and a comforter.  He reasons that since we are going car camping, we may as well carry all that we need to be comfortable. I see no point in arguing. All I want is for us to go, if it means our bedroom goes with us so be it! If we got our bedroom along, F1 and F2 have brought with them their kitchen. Between the four of us, we are all set to put up a house! Our tiny two person tent perfectly sleeps two. There is not much spare space. We leave our stuff in the car, which is parked right outside our tents. In comparison their 4 person tent is cavernous. While we completely recommend a four person tent for two, especially if you are tall since this has more headroom and will allow you to sit up comfortably, a larger tent means more cold air. It’s going to be less cosy.

DSC_0560We pick a campsite right by the Delaware River. It’s a pretty spot. The Five would have loved it! We cannot cool our food by putting it on a rocky shelf in the water or drink straight from the river, but we have coolers filled with ice for just that. Ginger beer is replaced with, well BEER. Both tents are fairly simply to set up. Our next task is to get the fire going for food. We are going to be grilling tonight. I have my veggies, and there’s plenty of meat for everyone else. We start with corn on the cob – *masala maar ke; Bombay style. There are no barbeques grills here. We have improvised the fire pit by putting a metal grill over it. The veggies are grilled in a foil basket. Not wanting the smoky flavour wood imparts to food, we grill over coal.  To avoid using as much coal and still give it the required elevation, we build a stack of stones at the bottom and then set the coal over it.

The adjoining sites are empty. We borrow another fire pit ring from one of them and soon have a wood fire going for marshmallows. Famous Five come to America. Turns out, toasting marshmallows is one of the husband’s hidden talents. We all want him to toast marshmallows for our s’mores. Could s’more be a contraction of some more? It sure is hard to stop at one.

DSC_0571We are having the perfect night. Slowly the stars start to show up. At first a sprinkling on the inky blackness, steadily growing in numbers and then boldly taking over the skies. Just when we thought it could not get prettier, the moon starts to make an appearance.  I manage to stumble over one of the fire pits and narrow escape falling into the other. I scrap my knee but it’s still better than burning my butt.

F2 who had retired for the night long before, steps out of the tent to say she’s freezing. Suddenly the comforter seems rather comforting. As the fires die out, F1 and F2 head into Milford to buy a blanket. God bless 24 x 7 Walmarts! We crawl into our tents.Since we have our mattress topper doubled over, pillows and comforter, it makes no sense taking the sleeping bags out.The night is cold, but in the morning it starts to get stifling inside the tent. In retrospect,  we should have tried out the sleeping bags. If they didn’t meet our needs, we could return them.

DSC_0585The campsite is fully equipped with toilets and showers. After performing our morning ablutions we all sit down to breakfast. We’ve used up all the wood we bought, so we forage for wood to grill veggie skewers and some wieners. Seeing us gathering firewood, our neighbours very sweetly offered us theirs. They were leaving and had no use for the excess wood. The husband decides to forego meat.  Looks like, he wants to give his tummy a break. We wind up our camp and set forth for our activity for the day –river kayaking.

IMG_0553We have signed up for a two and a half our trip. We expect to do an hour or an hour and a half. River kayaking, however does not work that way. Unlike kayaking in a lake, where you row to your heart’s content and then simply return to the starting point to return your rentals, here you start at a pre-determined point and end at another. You cannot just pull up anywhere in between.This is F1 and F2’s first kayaking adventure and they are nervous. We decide we will stick together and they will follow us. The husband is an excellent rower. When he rows, the boat just goes.  Every now and then I am tempted to kick back and simply enjoy the ride, but am soon overcome with guilt for not pulling my weight. As we cruise along the river, we keep an eye for F2 and F1. We pull under our first landmark, a bridge over the river. F2 and F1 are well in sight. Right after the bridge, we encounter a class 1 rapid.  The current picks up and takes us around the bend. We stop here and wait for F2 and F1. Ten minutes later, there is still no sign of them. Anxious to make sure that they didn’t topple over in the rapids, I suggest we try rowing upstream a little. The husband assures me, the rapids are not that strong, plus they can’t exactly drown in three feet of water. We wait; another ten minutes pass.The husband, bored of waiting,concedes that it might not be such a bad idea to back up a little, but no matter how hard we row we seem to be making very little progress. After ten minutes or so of rowing the husband agrees to call the emergency number listed on the back of our life jackets. We would have called F2 and F1 but they don’t have a cell phone on them.The conversation went something like this –

the husband :  We are on the 2.5 hour kayaking trip. It’s been 30 mins and there’s no sign of our friends.

Emergency : Could you give me your location?

the husband :  We last saw them before the first bridge. We are approaching the second bridge.

Emergency : There is no second bridge on your route.

the husband :  Yes there is, and we are approaching it.

(skipping ahead a little)

EmergencyThe best thing for you to do would be to continue to the finish line and wait.

the husband :  What about my friends?

EmergencyThey have until 5:30 (p.m.) to get there.

(skip skip)

the husband :  Will you send someone to look for them?

EmergencyIf they don’t get to the finish by 7:30 (p.m.) we’ll send someone.

Luckily at this point we see F2 and F1 coming valiantly around the corner. Turns out they got stuck on the rocks just before the first bridge. After making futile efforts to paddle their way out, N finally got out of the boat and pushed it out, only to find themselves in the same situation after the bridge. Added woes, F2 had injured her foot two days ago and injured it again earlier this morning. The poor girl was in quite a predicament – to step off and wet her bandaged toe or stay in and risk being carried away by the current while F1 yelled and waved helplessly or even worse toppled the kayak as he tried to jump in. All is well. We continue our river expedition.Since the husband is putting too much distance between the kayaks, I ask him to soak some sun while I row. He takes over only in the slow parts. As we pull up at the finish, F1 and F2 conclude their adventure by learning to paddle in reverse.

*masala maar ke; Bombay style. – corn on the cob, roasted over coal and seasoned with chili powder, salt and lime juice

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Bushkill Falls, PA

Bushkill Falls, PA

The Falls

The Falls

On Sunday we drove down to the Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania. The Bushkill falls are a series of 8 waterfalls. These falls can be easily accessed through well maintained trails. There are 4 trails, colour coded based on length and difficulty level.  We took the Red. This is the longest and is supposed to be the hardest. If you are even reasonable fit, this trail is not hard to do. Just make sure you have good shoes on your feet.

The Husband

The Husband

We saw young children, families with babies strapped on and even pets on this trail, so it is definitely doable.  There isn’t much water in the falls right now, and there are boards all along the way warning you of this. The woods however, are lovely; dark and deep, and the walk to the falls, despite the crowds, is quiet and enjoyable.

The Trail

The Trail

It is a pity they don’t allow dipping in the waters here, probably a blessing too in terms of safety and cleanliness. I am not sure about the water quality of the creeks, so it would be wise to carry your own water on the trails.

The Poser

The Poser (photos courtesy Ganesh Sankaran aka the husband)

I liked the path we took as it builds up well. We started with a view from the top of the Main falls, went on to see the Bridal Veil falls, Bridesmaids falls and Lower Gorge falls, and ended with a view from the bottom of the Main falls.  Had we done it the other way round it may not have been as exciting. We skipped the part of the trail leading to the Pennel falls.

How can you NOT fall in love!!

How can you NOT fall in love!!

They say the Red trail is for avid hikers, but it more of a long walk through woods and stairs really. Word of warning, there are plenty of steps/stairs.

Our route, follow the Red trail and the big black arrows

Our route, follow the Red trail and the big black arrows

Longwood Gardens

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hmmmnnnhmmnnnhmnnnhmnn

If you are around Philadelphia, the Longwood gardens is great place to spend the day. We went in summer. It was way past tulip season, but the roses and other flowers were still in bloom. Well marked, naturally shaded paths made walking around easy. The hot sun added to the charm of the fountains and water gardens. I am also impressed with the sustainability initiatives.

ImageFor the holiday season, they have 2 special attractions – A Longwood Christmas and the Garden Railway.

Fall Madness

Back home, we have only 3 seasons – Summer, Monsoon(lovingly known as Rainy) and Winter. Fall/Autumn is something I have never seen. I am naturally excited about my first fall. Since we live in one of the northeast states, we will experience the wonderful colours of fall. Delaware, however, is the one of the lowest of the northeast states and Fall is taking her time coming here. Northern Vermont is past peak and the colours are just beginning to peek in Delaware.

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Birdeye view of Big Pocono State Park

Afraid that by the time fall peaks in Delaware, we would have moved northwards, where it would be past peak, I badgered the Husband into a ‘fall colours trip’. Since Vermont is just too far to drive down to, we settled on Litchfield Hills in New England, and going as far as The Berkshires, Mass. if we have the time. We  ended up doing a scenic drive to the Big Pocono State Park in Central PA.

At the Poconos we saw Fall in all her glory. The colours were so striking. Red,yellow, orange, green and even purple…I have never anything like this!! On weekends, a cable car runs through the park, letting you experience the foliage in a whole new way. We went on a Friday. How sad!

We drove down to Lake Pocono to take in the  autumn splendor reflected on water. Lake Pocono turned out to be private property and trespassing is prohibited. There was a board which said so at the entry. There was also another one  which said ‘Turn Here’. Not willing to give up we drove across to Lake Naomi. The foliage on our side of the lake was still green, but on the opposite side, and on the island in between, was Fall putting on a little show.

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Tandoor Palace Indian Restaurant

If you are visiting the Poconos, I suggest you plan for lunch at the Tandoor Palace Indian Restaurant. Every dish on the buffet, from the starters to the desserts was highly satisfactory. (I won’t use meeting or exceeding expectations because that would depend on how high your expectations are, and frankly MY expectations from *desi restaurants outside of des is very low. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure someone else’s expectations of say Mexican food outside Mexico may be just as poor.)

By the time we got home, we knew the day had been well spent. Our bellies were full and our eyes were saturated with the splendor of fall.

* desi – Indian; des- India

** Scroll over photos

For Freedom and Liberty, Ring!Ring!!Ring!!!

ImagePhiladelphia’s most photographed tourist attraction is probable the Liberty Bell. The bell has long been a symbol for liberties gained and liberties denied.

The first time we were supposed to view it was as a part of our East Coast tour with the in-laws. Sadly, due to some gaps in communication with the tour group, we missed it. The next time the Husband and I went, the viewing hours were over. We did get a peek though the glass though. Third time we were lucky. We made it into the Liberty Bell Center. The line to see the Liberty bell snakes all the way around the center. As with most US attractions that have long queues, there are pictures, facts, trivia and memorabilia along the way. Please note, touching the bell is prohibited. I wasn’t aware, and leaned in and touched it. The guard there promptly and politely shook his head.

ImageA  2.1 scale replica of the bell was cast as Bicentennial gift from the American Legion. This bell is placed opposite the Union Station in Washington.

Board-games and Cakes

If you love art, Philly is the place for you. The city has plenty of open to public art installations. Starting at the airport, it’s there’s a visual surprise at every turn. The crochet cakes by Melissa Maddonni Haims are the funnest bit of art I’ve come across. Whether you are dashing across the airport to make it to your flight, or simply waiting at the terminal for your flight to be announced, these cakes are bound to turn heads.ImageNext door to the popular Love Fountain, is ‘Your Move’.  This installation  scatters super-sized board game pieces all across the Municipal Services Building plaza. Although you cannot move the pieces around, it is still fun to pose with them. Image