Quebec City 2023

We had reached a point in our lives where we didn’t need any more physical possessions, and if we did, we purchased the things we wanted or needed with our own resources. In other words, we didn’t need to exchange gifts during the significant occasions that occurred during the course of a year. Besides, I have always found it difficult to figure out what to give to members of my immediate family. So, I was delighted this year when my youngest suggested that instead of exchanging gifts we should all take a trip together.

We asked if she had some place in mind, and she responded that she had been thinking of Quebec City. Knowing a few friends who had visited the area in winter, we suggested visiting during Winter Carnival. Everyone seemed responsive to the idea, so after a few group chat sessions we had a date and hotel rooms booked.

Traveling by car during the winter always had the potential to be problematic in the state of Maine, but both travel days proved uneventful. I was not sure how the contingent that lived 2 hours south of us did it, but they left later and arrived at the hotel at the same time. Perhaps, they packed a lunch and didn’t stop for an hour to locate food. Then there was also the “quick” stop at the quilt store that I made along the way.

We had chosen a hotel in the middle of the old town, so everything we wanted to see was about a 10 or 15 minute walk from our home base. There was a nice sitting area near the lobby where we spent a lot of time enjoying each other’s company, or planning any group activities we might want to share.  For the most part, the individual parties explored on their own and joined up for meals.

During our first full day, we tried to pick up our entry tickets to the Carnival itself, but alas, the ticket booth did not open until noon during the work-week. My husband and I decided to explore more of the old town until we could obtain the tickets. As we wandered around, we admired the ice sculptures located throughout town. We had no particular destination in mind, and just walked until we reached the toboggan run located near the Hotel Frontenac. From there, we walked along the top of the fortifications towards the Plains of Abraham. There were a number of stairs that were covered in icy snow and most people traversed these steps with both hands on the handrail.

Once we arrived at the Plains of Abraham, we made our way towards the now open ticket booth to get our tickets. Most of our group, explored the Carnival grounds during the afternoon. There were two venues for this festival. At the primary location, we inspected the ice palace, which was beautiful. From there, we made our way to the second venue, which had an ice mountain that one of my daughters decided to climb, and a few other activities. Perhaps because this was the first post-COVID Carnival, we found the festival to be disappointing. None of the activities discovered during our research were available; no sleigh rides, dog sledding, axe throwing, etc. I didn’t even enjoy the parade that much. It was the exploration of the city itself that was enjoyable.

The next day brought snow, so we bundled up and set out to discover different parts of the old town during the snowfall. It was pretty impressive watching the work crew clear snow off the roofs. They certainly knew how to clear snow. During this exploration, we found some more ice sculptures. I even found the 2 murals that I had been hoping to find when I planned my trip.

Overall, I think everyone had fun. They must have had fun, since the “kids” were already planning where we would go next year. Someone brought up scuba diving. My husband and I suggested there should be something else around that the old people could explore. In any case, it seems we have started a new family tradition.


Wintery Day

One of the nice things about being retired is that you don’t have to worry about the weather. There is no rush to get out and clear the driveway and no worries about driving on slippery roads. It is not necessary to be anywhere, so errands can wait. It is much better to enjoy that second cup of coffee and watch the world turn into a winter wonderland.

It has also been a weird winter here. One day it seems like spring. The next day winter returns. Just before Christmas and the entire first week of the New Year the temperature is near 50 or higher. Christmas Day is a high of 23. Mid-January we finally get some decent snow for outdoor activities, then back to near 40 for the end of January.

On January 31st, the temperature drops again, and we wake up to another snowfall. It is a great morning to watch the gentle snowfall while we finish our morning coffee. It looks like it is a fluffy snow, easy to clear but not suitable for building a snowman.

After breakfast, we make our way outside. I find the snow-covered world magical, so while my husband clears the driveway, I grab my camera to catch some winter landscapes. The snow is still falling and there is very little contrast, so my first shot looks almost like a black and white photo.

Pretty soon, the sky begins to clear a little bit and the sunlight is reflecting on the trees. I enjoy that early morning sunlight as it illuminates the treetops and works its way down the trees. I hope to capture that magical light, but I am not sure I have succeeded.

I have been outside for about 40 minutes. My hands are hurting and I am feeling cold. It seems like a good time to go back inside for another hot cup of tea.

Scrappy Trails -Part II

Now that the subassembly of my latest quilt project is done, it is time to assemble the two blocks that will make up the quilt. The first block is pretty easy. It is a variation of a square, known as “Churn Dash”.

For this block, I assemble three rows. The top and bottom rows consists of 2 half-square triangle units and the rectangle with 2 squares unit. The middle row has the 4 patch in the center and 2 more rectangle units. I sew the three rows together and everything goes without a glitch. The 10 units are completed pretty quickly.

Now on to the next block. First I must assemble the half-square triangle units into a square-within-a-square unit. This will be the center of the block. Again I assemble three rows to make up the square. This one has a square in each corner surrounding the Flying Geese units.

After completing this block, something does not look right. It seems like there is too many bright colors in this square. As soon as I put in next to the Churn Dash block I see it right away. I have inverted the Flying Geese units so they are facing the wrong way. It is amazing that inverting one thing makes such a huge difference in the design of the block! Thank goodness, I only sewed one block and do not have to rip out the stitching for 10 squares.

Now that I have all the blocks sewn together correctly, I lay the quilt out on the floor in preparation for assembly.

Cameron Mountain 2023

By January 21st, we finally had some significant snow. It was time to get the snowshoes out and play in the snow. We called some friends of ours and agreed to meet at the Multiuse Trail early the next morning. The goal was to enjoy the trail before the snow was packed down by others.

We arrived at the trailhead by 8:30, and while we weren’t the first people out, there was still plenty of the white stuff for snowshoes to be useful. Although, we had mentioned heading up Cameron Mountain, we had not made any specific plans for this adventure. Since snowshoeing can be hard work, we just figured we would keep going until someone decided they wanted to turn around.

It was a great time to be out, not only for the activity, but for the beauty of the snow and the sun just hitting the tree tops. The four of us stopped a few times to take in the beauty of the winter wonderland. During our stops, I managed to photograph the sun lighting up the trees, as well as one with the sun flaring behind a tree.

During our uphill walk on the Multiuse trail, we stopped a few times to rest. This road is a bit hard without snow on the ground, never mind snowshoes. Eventually, we reached a point where the sun had come up enough to light up the whole area. I felt that it was the perfect spot to get some people in my pictures. Normally, I don’t like to have my picture taken, but I used the backdrop of the sun and the snow and convinced our friends to take our picture. I was pleased with the results.

Once we reached the Cameron trailhead, we decided to see how far towards Cameron Mountain we could go. This trail was wide enough to be considered a road, so there was no maneuvering along narrow paths. It was also relatively flat, except for one steep hill near the Cameron Mountain Spur.

As we walked along, we heard another party behind us. They were pretty far back, but we found it odd that they seemed to stop whenever we stopped. At some point, we stopped for a longer rest along the side of the trail and the party behind us caught up to and continued past us. As the passed us they thanked us for breaking the trail. So, that was the reason! We had been making it easier for them!

We continued our journey at a casual pace over the last hill before the turn off to the summit. Now, for the final push. That last steep walk up Cameron. When we reached the summit, we found the party who had thanked us for trail breaking. I thanked them for returning the favor. We enjoyed a snack and conversation with the other party before they continued on their journey. We stayed for a few more minutes before heading back down the trail.  

Darling Marine Center

Knowing that I was always looking for someplace new to explore, a close friend of ours told us about the trails at the Darling Marine Center near Bristol. This institution was part of the University of Maine system, dedicated to research and education in the marine sciences. He was taking some courses there and discovered the network of trails on the property. When my hiking buddy suggested that the day after New Year’s we should get out of dodge, I knew exactly where we would go. So, on January 2nd, we headed down to Walpole and the Darling Marine Center.

Once we parked at the center, we went into the administration building to sign in (which the website requested all visitors to do). There was no one around but a sign informed us we could sign in online, which I began to do. After about the 10th irrelevant question, I gave up, picked up a trail map and headed outside. From the parking area, we could see two trail kiosks on either side of the road. After studying the map, we laid out a plan to start on the Watershed Trail and make a loop that would end at the kiosk across the road.

To cover the most ground, we left the Watershed trail at the intersection with the North Ridge Trail which would eventually meet back up with the Watershed. Based on the cones alongside the path, I would say that most of the trees were spruce. The tree cover was pretty thick and there were sections of the forest that were pretty dark for mid-morning. From the storms over the holidays, there were a lot of small branches down, covered with various types of lichen.

The trails were well marked and we gave a lot of credit to the creativity of the trail blazer. Instead of the typical mark of two lines indicating a turn, this person actually painted an arrow curved towards the direction of travel. Even I was able to stay on track!

At 40 degrees there was no snow to enhance the beauty of the forest, but we did find a few partially frozen puddles. One frozen pond was illuminated by the sun, and displayed a wonderful reflection of the surrounding trees. We paused here for a minute just taking in the view.

At some point, the North Ridge Trail joined the Watershed trail and took a downward direction alongside a stream. It was steep enough to display a series of small waterfalls all the way to the Damariscotta River. Unfortunately, it was one of those sights where pictures did not do it justice. You really needed to experience it yourself.

Once we reached the Damariscotta River, the Watershed trail turned on to the River Bluff Trail. This path followed the river for quite a ways. When we found an access point to the beach, we discovered some sitting rocks where we could have lunch while enjoying the views.

After lunch, we continued along the River Bluff Trail until we reached the lower campus. From here, we found the Coveside Trail which would take us back to our starting point. The path followed Lowe’s Cove for most of our journey. We enjoyed the views of the cove, which was so different than the river-views. Near the end of our adventure, at the top of the cove, we had to make a difficult stream crossing; that consisted of an immediate climb up a bank after navigating the slippery rocks. After making it safely across, it wasn’t long before we were back at our starting point.