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Nescopeck State Park

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Last weekend, mom drove our car up from Indiana and stayed for a couple of days. This was huge, as it meant I didn’t have to tow the car behind the U-Haul. She also helped unpack and clean. I was going to work on Monday, but I ended up taking the day off so I could spend it with her. After all, I no longer live just a few minutes away from her, and this was the last chance to spend time with her before she flew back to Indiana.

After a very productive morning, we decided to check out a state park in the afternoon. We chose to go down to Nescopeck State Park, which is a bit south of Wilkes-Barre. The drive there was beautiful, taking us on 309, up the mountain to Mountain Top, and back down the other side. Around here, I actually have to use the low gears in my car.

We went to the park office first, which was a much more impressive building than I expected. We got a trail map and some information about other parks in the area. Then we decided to go down to see Lake Frances, and planned a hike of probably around two miles. The folks at the forest office even gave us a couple of bright orange vests, as it’s hunting season.

Our hike started by traveling along one side of the lake. The trail we were on goes all the way around, I believe, but we only went along one side before turning onto a different trail. I was hoping for some vistas or mountain views but this particular park is in a valley; we did get some views of surrounding mountains, but I’ll have to explore other parks to find the epic vistas I crave.

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Lake Frances

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Lake Frances again

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A small pier

We got on the Nescopeck Trail, and I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the trail itself. It was more like a fire road than a trail, really. It was very wide and smooth, and flat, and even had slight tire ruts. It was overgrown with grass, but it was well-maintained. It was pleasant, but it was more of a walk through the woods than a hike. Still, it was a beautiful day and I was happy just to be out.

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The trail is wide, but it’s hard to complain with scenery like this

We passed a pond or small lake and looked for an access point, but couldn’t find one. We hiked on and found a very quiet, peaceful spot by Nescopeck Creek. It was off a small side trail and it’d be easy to miss it. We explored the creek a little and rested before heading out.

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Nescopeck Creek

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Mom, resting on a very large rock

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The trail leading back up to the main trail

We continued on our way, and the trail followed the creek on and off. Before long we reached another lake, this one arguably more beautiful than Lake Frances. The afternoon autumn light, the blue sky, the clouds, the foliage, and the reflections in the water all made for quite an impressive scene.

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Lake

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Another shot of the lake

We got on the Woodland Way trail and this one was narrower, more rugged,  and more interesting. The trail surface had a lot of rocks, and thick moss on one side. It meandered along the lake shore.

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Moss by the trail

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Rocky trail

This was another stunningly peaceful place. We stopped every few steps to admire it, and did not speak much. It required a certain quiet reverence.

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The Lake, with Mount Yeager in the distance

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Rocks and leaves

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Trail surface

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Another lake shot

Within a few minutes, we were back at Lake Frances. From there, it was only a short walk back to the car.

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Lake Frances

All in all, I enjoyed the park. The hiking was easy, but the scenery was quite beautiful. I’ll have to try some of the other trails there and see if most of them are interesting like the Woodland Way trail, or more like the easier Nescopeck Trail. There are a whole bunch of other parks I want to check out before going back here, though.

Hitched, without a hitch

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Our wedding went absolutely perfectly. I’ll get to the details of the wedding in a minute, but let me start at the beginning. First, a little background. We got married at Yellowwood State Forest, not far from Bloomington, Indiana, where we live. We rented a shelter by the lake. We have done quite a bit of hiking, camping, and biking at Yellowwood, so it’s a place that means a lot to us. Since we wanted to get married outdoors, it wasn’t hard to decide that we should do it at Yellowwood. Note: I am only posting a few photos now. I’ll post many more later. Most of the photos are not mine.

Friday

Friday was a day off work spent making preparations and hoping the rain would stop. It rained most of the day and was really quite disgusting outside. We even bought a bunch of candles and some oil lamps so it wouldn’t be too dark in the tent/shelter, if we had to have our ceremony under them. Friday evening, our families finally met for the first time over Italian food. Good times and good food were had by all, and everyone got along very well.

Friday night

Friday night we had planned to get a campsite, and invited everyone to make s’mores around a campfire. Since it had rained all day, we instead opted to use a fireplace in the shelter where we were getting married, in case it started raining again. We showed up late (this would later become a theme, and I felt terrible about it each time). We weren’t sure anyone would show up. Who would be crazy enough to drive out to the middle of nowhere, after a day of nothing but rain, in the dark, through dense fog, to sit around a fire?

About 20 people, as it turned out. In fact, a few people were already there waiting by the time we arrived. It was extremely muggy, but everyone enjoyed themselves nonetheless. I built a fire, which went a lot smoother than I expected (it’s hard to build a fire with people watching). We made a lot of s’mores, had both cold and hot apple cider (with optional rum) and spent about 2 hours catching up with friends. There were a number of people there who I hadn’t seen in years, and it was great to talk to them.

Once things were winding down, Sarah and I took a minute to go down by the water just the two of us. The fog was extremely dense and the glow of the moon made it possible to see the lake slightly. It was truly beautiful and I was glad we got a few moments to ourselves.

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Yellowwood Lake in the fog, at night

After that, Sarah and I parted ways, not to see each other again until the wedding. I went back to the cabin we rented with my groomsmen, Michael and Josh, my best friends from when I went to Northwestern University, and Michael’s wife, Laurel. We stayed up late hanging out at the cabin.

Saturday

Preparations

We had been worried it’d rain, as it did in the days leading up to the wedding, but we had a gorgeous sunny day. It was a bit warm, in the upper 80s, and quite humid, but that sure beat rain, and the wind kept everyone a little cooler and added a certain dreamy atmosphere to the proceedings.

The groomsmen and I were running a little behind schedule. Josh and Laurel and I went to set up signs directing people to the wedding. At one stop I started driving before Josh was all the way in the car — he ended up hopping alongside the car as I drove off, yelling at me to stop. I stopped just a few feet later, and felt really bad I’d done that. He wasn’t hurt.

We got to the wedding site a little late and did a few photos before the ceremony, but we weren’t able to do as many as we’d hoped. I talked to the minister to make sure everything was in order, and asked him about 50 different questions about how the ceremony was supposed to go. I was nervous, not about getting married, but about being up in front of everyone.

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Yellowwood Lake

The Wedding Ceremony

Before I knew it, things were under way. Everything was perfect. The chairs were set up in the best possible place near the lake, the musicians sounded amazing, the wind made the leaves rustle in the trees. I escorted mom down the aisle and to her seat, and went to stand at the front. My groomsmen were close behind. I looked up and could see Sarah and Sammy, the flower girl walking together. They were still fairly far away, but their gradual approach made me anticipate Sarah drawing near even more.

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Me, with mom

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Anticipation

Sammy, who is four, was being very shy and holding Sarah’s hand. She dropped all of the flower petals in one spot, rather than dropping a few as she walked. I swear, she is the cutest kid ever, and while dropping all the flower petals in a pile wasn’t exactly what we had in mind, she was performing her #1 task of being adorable.

As Sarah approached, I was just stunned by her beauty. She looked incredible. Her dress had several layers of sheer fabric, and while her veil hid her face slightly, it just made me want to see more. I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to pull her veil back, and she had to remind me. A smooth move on my part.

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Sarah approaches

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Getting started

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Bridesmaids and flower girl

The minister gave an introduction, after which my sister delivered a touching speech about what love is, and how we embody that, and how both of us looked to our grandparents (who are no longer with us) as a source of inspiration of the ideal marriages. It was a little difficult, as we really wished our grandparents could have been there, but it was the best way to honor their memory.

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My sister after her speech

Next, my mom played a piece on the cello with one of the musicians, who she taught to play. I was glad they played something a little upbeat, as it might’ve been too much to handle otherwise.

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Mom playing the cello

The rest of the ceremony itself is a blur. I had the various parts of the ceremony compartmentalized in my head (sermon, vows, rings, presentation, benediction, etc) but it all flowed together very nicely. I was glad it was so coherent, but it was a bit dizzying how quickly we went from one thing to the next.

All this time I could do little other than gaze at my bride. She’s always gorgeous, but I’ve never seen her looking this beautiful. Her veil blew in the wind, at times getting in the way, but seeing the long fabric flow was very pretty. And the sun reflected off her veil, illuminating her face with a soft glow. She was breathtaking.

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Sarah looked beautiful. Apparently, she couldn’t keep her eyes off me, either.

Soon we got to the vows, and at first my voice was very shaky. I had to make a conscious effort to regain my composure and to my surprise, it worked. I stood up as straight as I could (which was more difficult than you’d think, as we were on the side of a hill) and delivered my vows with more confidence. I looked at Sarah and listened to her delivering her vows. She was crying as she did so. I’m not sure if she realized how close to tears I was.

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Exchanging vows

Somewhere in here we exchanged rings, and this went smoothly also. The minister said some other stuff, but to be honest I wasn’t really paying much attention anymore. I had said at several points leading up to the wedding that the kissing the bride part was really the part I was looking forward to, and the minister alluded to this, saying “NOW, you may kiss the bride.” As I kissed my wife for the first time, I was completely overwhelmed. This moment had finally come. It was fantastic.

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Kissing the bride

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Walking out

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Groomsmen, and another new wife of about a month


We walked out down the aisle, in hindsight we probably just about ran out of there. We were moving at a good clip, I think. We set ourselves up for a receiving line but were still reeling from the whole experience. We greeted everyone, and then spent some time taking photos.

Photos

We did a few with the wedding party and our families at the wedding location, and a few with just the two of us in a couple of other places closer to the lake, at the cabin we rented, and by a silo, cornfield, fence, and a bridge.

Food and Toasts

We returned after being gone too long taking photos. Kids were playing by the lake, finding geodes, catching bugs, and throwing rocks in the lake. My nephew (who was the usher) pretty well destroyed his tux — it was great.

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Kids playing by the lake

The heat was getting to me, and I was not feeling very well. The food was cold by the time we returned. Fortunately everyone had done as we asked and went ahead and ate while we were gone. We were starving, but I had a hard time eating. It was just too hot. We spent some more time talking to our guests, and soon it was time for a toast — but not before I managed to spill champagne all over my sleeve while opening an overzealous bottle.

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Opening more champagne

I gave a brief toast thanking our mothers, the rest of our family, the wedding party, our guests, and above all, Sarah. It was a little generic, perhaps, but I really did want to thank everyone for everything they’d done. Josh, one of my groomsmen, had been working on a toast all day (literally) and while I liked it, a few people thought it was a little mean. He did talk about some low times in our lives, but I think the point was that Sarah and I are strong enough together to overcome just about anything. He may have missed the mark on a couple of points, but overall I thought it was very good — and he put a lot of thought into it. It meant a lot to me. Sarah’s sister (and bridesmaid) said a few words as well, which was very sweet.

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Sarah

Hiking

After the toasts, we split up to prepare for a hike. We had been planning a hike after the wedding, but people needed to go back to town to change and get ready for it. I was hoping to get a little rest first, but there wasn’t much time for that.

Most people didn’t return for the hike, and I can’t say I blame them. It was hot, and everyone was very tired. In fact, the humidity was even worse in the woods. I was still not feeling well, but I still enjoyed the hike. We hiked the Jackson Creek trail, which is a little over a mile. After that, we did have a little time to rest, after which I felt much better.

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The forest

Evening

We met the wedding party and some other friends at Lennie’s, a restaurant in Bloomington that’s attached to the Bloomington Brewing Company. The food and beer were great, and by this time I felt Sarah’s friends and my friends were interacting well as one group. At first the groups had mostly talked separately, but we had some great conversation at dinner as one larger group.

After that, we headed back to the cabin to celebrate with drinks and a bad action movie. We spent the time much how we normally do when we hang out with our friends, and it was great. We need someone else to get married so we have another excuse to get together.

Sunday

We stayed up late and celebrated. We all went out for breakfast and spent some time just talking more at our apartment. We looked at some photos that Mike, one of Sarah’s friends, had taken. He did a great job, and I hope I can post them somewhere soon.

After everyone left, we went to take down the wedding signs and return the cabin keys. It was an extremely windy day (thanks, Ike!) and as we drove around town there were branches and debris blowing everywhere.

We headed out toward where the wedding was, and I was thinking how amazed I was that everything had gone so well. I almost expected something to go wrong, and well … it did. As we were driving down State Road 46 and around 45 mph, the wind blew a tree over. It fell onto the road right in front of us. I hit the brakes, but couldn’t stop in time. We rolled right over it, but got a flat tire in the process.

Sarah was visibly shaken. I was a little bit too but I quickly got out the jack and spare tire and went to work. Unfortunately, we were on an incline, and as soon as I got the wheel off the ground, the car rolled forward down the hill, crushing the jack beneath it. The car only moved 6-12 inches, but the jack is only designed to handle downward pressure. It didn’t make it.

We ended up having to have the car towed, and later we’d find we did about $400 in damage to the car. Still, I’ll take that over a problem with the actual wedding any day.

I’m still stunned at how well the wedding went. Married life is excellent so far — I feel closer to Sarah than ever. It’s truely been an amazing experience.

A trip to Fort Wayne

Monday, August 4th, 2008

We had a very busy weekend. We had to go up to the Indianapolis area and meet with the minister who is officiating at our wedding. But that wasn’t until 3:00, so we went up a little early, went to a bike shop (Indy Cycle Specialist) and I test rode a Surly Long Haul Trucker — what an awesome bike! I talked to Jim there about the bike and he was very helpful. He had the touring mindset and a lot of the same philosophies about riding that I have, and knew his stuff, too. I was tempted to pull the trigger and get it, but I didn’t … yet.

The meeting with the pastor was good; he really challenges us to look at our relationship differently, and to actively seek out ways we can make each other’s lives better. I want to be the best possible husband for Sarah, so I very much appreciate his sage advice. At first I thought these pre-marriage meetings would be a little weird or awkward (especially as someone who isn’t religious), but I think they’re quite helpful and give us more of a sense of purpose.

Sarah’s mom had to have surgery, so after we met with the pastor, we headed up to Fort Wayne to visit her and help however we could. I’m glad Sarah got to see her mom. I left Sarah at the hospital for a while on Saturday, and I think they had a good visit. Saturday was Sarah’s birthday, and it was too bad she didn’t get to spend it doing something fun, but I was glad she could be there for her mom.

Sunday morning, I dropped Sarah off at the hospital and headed out for a ride. I had printed a route I found on bikely.com that looked interesting. I parked the car at a strip mall and started riding.

I’ve ridden in Fort Wayne a couple of times before, and there’s some good riding in the area. It’s quite flat compared to southern Indiana, but there are some hills here and there, and some areas are quite scenic. When I started riding, I was facing a headwind and actually had several hills to climb. It was warm, but not overly hot.

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Flat farmland

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Corn

The roads were pretty quiet. I saw few cars, but mostly had the road to myself. I saw a couple of other cyclists going the other way and waved. The west side of town, where I was riding, is pretty interesting because you go from being in town to rural areas very quickly. It’s kind of like Bloomington in that way.

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Farm

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Railroad tracks

I saw one of few shady spots and stopped to look at my map for a couple of minutes. While I was stopped, another cyclist passed me. I rode on and caught up with him. We introduced ourselves (his name is Jeff) and he asked how long I was looking to ride. I said about 30 miles, and he offered to show me a route, so I ditched the Bikely route and followed his lead.

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Catching up with Jeff

It was really cool to get a tour from a local. I don’t mind following maps and whatnot, but he told me a couple of the roads I had planned on riding on weren’t very good — one has a fresh layer of chipseal and the other is quite busy. The route he took me on was very quiet — we only saw a few cars the whole time and were able to ride side by side most of the time.

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Turn

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Huge power lines

In talking with Jeff, it came up that he knows one of the mechanics at an LBS in Bloomington who has worked on one of my bikes. It sure is a small world. At one point our ride went through the small town of Roanoke, Indiana. It has an interesting and quaint downtown area, and Jeff pointed out Joseph Decuis, a famous restauraunt, and a bed and breakfast there.

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Downtown Roanoke, Indiana

One thing that never ceases to impress me about cycling is how strong many older riders are. Jeff told me he’s 58 … but he rides very well. I guess cycling is a sport that doesn’t beat up your body like a lot of others, and the longer you ride, the stronger you get.

At one point we also passed what is now really just a ditch, but Jeff told me it used to be a part of the Wabash & Eerie Canal. A bit of history I never would’ve known about without someone with local knowledge.

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Riding

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Trees

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Going over a bridge

The ride ended up being 29.5 miles, exactly what I had in mind. I told Jeff to let me know if he’ll be in Bloomington and I can give him a tour.

After my ride I headed back to the hospital to see if Sarah’s mom had been released yet. When I got there I decided to change clothes in the parking lot, using car doors and the car itself for privacy. I had just looked around to make sure nobody was nearby and I thought the coast was clear, thinking “The only way anyone could see me would be from above.” The next thing I know I hear a helicopter coming in for landing. I waited for it to land before changing.

We were hoping we could give Sarah’s mom a ride home, but she hadn’t been released yet and we needed to get going. On our way back I decided I ought to get the Long Haul Trucker. It was good timing. They were selling two other Long Haul Truckers when I was picking mine up … awesome. I don’t have any pictures of it  yet. I’ll probably be selling my road bike (a 2006 Giant OCR2) as I don’t think I’ll be needing it anymore. It’s been a great bike, but the LHT is very versatile and handles a lot better than I expected unloaded, making the road bike seem pretty superfluous.

It sure was a whirlwind of a trip. We’re glad to be home, and I can’t wait to get some rides in on the new bike. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get any longer rides in for a while, since we’re going to Green Bay for a wedding this weekend.

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