If my life were a movie, this would be the song for the opening credits.
Doesn’t Camp Misty Mount sound like the title of a feel-good children’s movie? I’m thinking the Parent Trap meets a coming-of-age teen romance. There would be s’mores, and life lessons, and at least one incident in which someone falls into a lake fully clothed.
In September, feeling adventurous, I rented a cabin with a few friends in Maryland for a weekend of glamor-camping fun. Actually, I take that back. It wasn’t glamor camping. Camping is inherently not glamorous. Camping is all about tying stuff together with a piece of rope you had in your trunk and eating stuff that fell on the ground and cooking as much bacon as possible. All of the bacon. More bacon than is reasonable for any four (fine, two- Katelyn and I did most of the bacon eating while the rest of the group was still asleep) people to consume in one morning.
Camp Misty Mount is kind cool because it was built during the Great Depression as a public works project, which means its a little dated and mostly used for scout groups these days. The cabins themselves were in great shape, but there are just SO MANY BUGS ON THE EAST COAST. It is horrifying. I’m not a squeamish person, but I still get the heebie jeebies around here when I find some of the bigger bugs. They are all such creepy crawlies! One pleasant new experience for me on this trip was ACTUAL COCKROACHES trying to snag bites of the food we set out on our picnic table while we were cooking. Nothing like checking your handful of pretzels for a cockroach under your headlamp before chowing down. Given the bug situation, I think I’d actually rather sleep in a tent that provides full on anti-bug netting than get the “perk” of sleeping on a cot in a cabin. After I got back to DC, I was telling a friend about our experiences and she proceeded to tell me about two times that she stayed in similar digs- one during which a raccoon came out from under the beds while the group was asleep, and another during which a LIVE SNAKE FELL ON HER FACE FROM THE CEILING. I will take a tent for all future camping trips, please and thank you.
Other topics of note for this trip: I scored big time before we left and got an awesome vintage two burner propane stove at goodwill for $7. It worked great! We also went on a hike the day we left at the nearby state park that was fine- not hard at all, but at least it was good to get outside. That’s pretty much my measurement of hiking around here now- are you outside? If the answer is yes, it’s a good hike for the East Coast. Our big activity while we were staying at Misty Mount was visiting Gettysburg, which turned into an epic day of history nerdiness. Stay tuned for another post on that.
Pardon my major garden update delay- the damn thing started producing so many tomatoes that blogging about it, much like managing the amount of fruit coming at us, seemed like a futile endeavor. I’ve just returned to the DC after a month away, and the garden has held up fairly well even with the beginning of cold weather. The photos above are from the end of August.
Tomatoes– The tomatoes I planted all did pretty well, but the winners by a mile were the Cherokee Purples, both those that I bought at the Arboretum plant sale and the ones I grew from seed. Once they started ripening they just couldn’t stop- we had massive tomatoes and massive amounts of them. In my over-zealous planting extravaganza last spring, I also put a few tomato plants in 10 gallon buckets. This ended up being a terrible idea once the novelty wore off and the watering schedule set in- things planted in buckets require water, like, all the time. This every-other-day watering got old fast, the plants didn’t grow nearly as fast as those we had in the ground, and the few times we had big storms they got blown over and nearly knocked out of the pots. Next year I am going to skip the buckets and only use our garden bed.
Basil– The basil we grew was amazing and lasted all summer as long as I kept pinching back the flowers. We barely used any of it at our house (sadly- how did I skip making caprese salad even one time this summer?!) but it was a great thing to be able to give to people in great big bunches. I think I will plant some again just for that purpose.
Beans– I planted some scarlet runner bean seeds as an experiment alongside another bean plant I bought as a sprout at a nursery. The scarlet runner beans were nutrient-deprived (as was much else in the garden, more on that in a minute) and could barely compete with the other bean plant for much of the summer, although once the larger green bean plant started to die off the scarlet runners were still holding up pretty well. The beans all looked pretty good, but again, I never ate them. Wah-wahhhh.
Kale and Lettuce– I pulled up the lettuce about half-way through the summer, but we ate a lot of it when it was doing well and I would certainly plant it again. The kale never really took off as I expected, but I did make kale chips a couple times. I think I need to restrain myself and plant it later in the year next time.
Jalapeños and Bell Peppers– these were both awesome to have around. We used a surprising number of jalapeños for pizzas, salsa, pico, and more. The bush of them that I planted grew really well and produced a surprising amount of fruit consistently throughout the summer. My only beef with these things is that whenever I would cut them up my hands would burn for hours afterwards- and they weren’t even that spicy! It was weird. The one bell pepper plant we did produced some tasty peppers but only a total of about 6 over the summer. Next year I’m going to quadruple our bell pepper plants and cut way back on the tomato situation. I also planted a small salsa pepper (I think that’s verbatim what the label said) and one very hot pepper plant, both of which were productive but neither of which saw much action on the dinner table.
Dahlias– These were my favorite thing I grew this year. I bought two bushes at the Arboretum plant sale in April, and for whatever reason one of them took off like a bat out of hell, growing to 10x its original size and producing endless small purple flowers. I cut them to take to work, to give to friends, for my room, and for our dining room table. It was great!
Zinnias– I bought a packet of zinnias on a whim for a dollar fifty, and they ended up being another nice floral addition to the garden. They grow super fast and multiple as you cut flowers from the plants, so by the end of the summer they were producing a few blooms a week in all different colors.
Watermelon, eggplant, and Mexico midget tomatoes– I don’t think I will plant any of these again next year. The watermelon and eggplant completely failed and the Mexico midget tomatoes did a weird thing where they would grow, produce fruit, die, and then start growing again in weird directions. The garden gets plenty of sunlight but they ended up super spindly anyway.
Next year I’ve got a few changes in mind, namely planting a lot more flowers, cutting back on the plants I put in containers outside of the garden bed, improving the soil quality by purchasing a bunch of dirt (that’s when you know you’re an adult- when you’re psyched about buying dirt), and planting more bell peppers for our culinary enjoyment. T’was a lovely summer of growing things!
On my warp-speed July Colorado trip I tried to get in as much outside time as possible. I decided to branch out a bit and try out the hike to Lost Lake, which is really close to the tiny town of Nederland (just up the canyon from Boulder) and a very popular destination out of the front range. Indeed, the trail was pretty busy when I went up, but the views were amazing and the Indian Peaks Wilderness (one of my favorites) is just stunning. The Fourth of July Trailhead (where this hike, and many other favorites of mine, like Diamond Lake) is always packed, so I took a shuttle from the park’n’ride in Nederland up to the trail.
Ned is a funny place- it’s a hippie haven, but still retains that old west feel. There’s a big fancy German restaurant (a must for a good mountain town) and a bunch of shops selling crystals and all manners of goodness for your inner goddess. Definitely entertaining to check out if you get the chance.
My shuttle bus driver was a great Nederlander example- he was super friendly, and while we were waiting for others to board the bus he realized he had hit a bee on his windshield, which he promptly scraped off and saved to “identify later”. This was all accompanied by joyous whooping and discussion of the different types of wild bees.
In true Ned fashion, another grizzled old mountain man boarded and proceeded to ask his fellow bus riders how long we thought salmon would keep unrefridgerated. The bus consensus was about a week- I’m not sure how accurate that is, but this guy looked like he had probably already eaten a lot of weird old stuff out in the wilderness, so I’m sure he was fine.
The hike is short- maybe 4 miles roundtrip- so I finished the whole trip from Boulder to the lake and back in about 4 hours. Arriving at the lake, I kept with tradition and peeled off my hiking boots and socks to dip my toes in the water. It’s a real treat to get to spend some time gazing out at the mountains on a sunny day, even more so when you don’t get to see ’em all that often. I then set up my hammock at a campsite by the lake for a brief nap, which was glorious. Bringing a hammock hiking is always a good idea.
I’m about to bike to work and will hopefully miss the Pope-pacalyptic traffic that’s due to strike the nation’s capitol today. Happy Wednesday!
Guys, the soundtrack for Paper Towns is amazzzinng. 10/10, would recommend to a friend on the internet.
What will we do now, we’ve lost it to trying…
I went to an absolutely lovely wedding this summer in Boulder. I had a blast revisiting wonderful people and a wonderful city set in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Colorado, you may be getting crowded, but damn. You still got it.
I hiked the 3rd/4th Flatirons during the day before the wedding; the place was packed for a Friday but the sweet peas were blooming and everything was delightfully green. I tromped into the grass to get these photos, following the footsteps of what must have been many a couple taking wedding or engagement photos before me. What a backdrop, eh?
I don’t think I will ever have a better blog post title than that, do you? Katelyn came down for the weekend a few weeks ago and I convinced her to join me on a trip to The Beach at the National Building Museum. Every summer (or at least the two summers that I’ve been in Washington) the museum has a huge interactive exhibit in its main hall. Last summer, it was a giant wooden maze. This summer, it is an all-white “beach”, complete with all-white beach chairs, all-white umbrellas, a concession stand, and…. thousands and thousands and thousands of translucent plastic balls that form the water.
It is, in a word, surreal.
You walk in and think “Oh God. This is going to be awful.” We went at 10 or 11, right when the museum opened on a weekday, and the place was already packed full of kids. It looked like it was going to be awful in the way that crowded things are sometimes awful. But surprisingly, once you made the leap and got in to the ball pit- er, ocean- it actually felt quite serene. Since you- at least as an adult- are pretty stuck once you jump in, even the people who are close to you have almost no chance of invading your personal space.
The best part of the whole experience was the selfie opportunities presented by a giant pit of balls. Perhaps the exhibit was really a commentary on millennial life? Anyway, we got some great shots. And a vine.
The rest of the museum, aside from the interesting model buildings surrounding the upper level of the atrium, was a bit of a bust. Most of the visitors were obviously there for the beach exhibit, and while the gift shop was fantastic, they could probably do a lot more with the topic of buildings than they had.
I think the exhibit is over now, but if you’re ever in DC during the summer (something I do not recommend, in fact) check out what’s happening in the main hall at the National Building Museum.