We all know about the high profile places to go and things to do during the Capital Region’s all-too-brief summer season
Lake George, Great Escape, SPAC, Cape Cod, the Adirondacks, and the wide array of lakes and beaches that beckon us. But maybe, in these belt-tightening times, we might want to consider adding some road-less-traveled summertime alternatives. Listening to the beat of a different drummer – or, maybe a forgotten drummer from days gone by – just might, in the words of Thoreau, “simplify, simplify” our lives. Most of these are great with kids, but if you don’t have kids, that’s okay, too. Just release that “inner child” and turn up your silliness level.
Pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep out with the kids. Unless it’s an absolute necessity, leave your cell phone and all other electronic gizmos in the house. Tell ghost stories, real stories of your life as a kid or adventure stories. Don’t have a tent? How about a tarp? It doesn’t need to be fancy; when I was a GI grunt, two grown men often slept in a tent made of two ponchos (or “shelter halves” as the Army liked to call them.) Be careful though, there’s a distinct danger of getting to know your kids and each other.
The fabulous night sky. Go to a park or ball field or some other open space with low ambient light. Learn the constellations of summer. Seek out the International Space Station as it sweeps through its orbit (NASA’s website lists when and where to look). Locate Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus. All are easily visible to the naked eye and even more fun to see with binoculars or a telescope. Watch the Persieds meteor shower on August 12. Look for the brightest summer stars – Altair, Arcturus, Antares, Deneb and Vega – and imagine navigating a pirate ship, WWII airplane or spacecraft by using the stars.
Catch fireflies. If the skies are too cloudy for stargazing, run around and catch “starflies” or lightning bugs and put ’em in a jar. You’ll have your own temporary Smucker’s or Hellman’s Constellation. Now try to figure out how they work and why.
Take a hike at Five Rivers Environmental Center or the Indian Ladder Trail. Although New York State is feeling the financial pinch these days, these two wonderful state-operated places remain nearby, are open to the public and are a treat for kids and adults equally. The Indian Ladder Trail ranks as one of the highlights of Thacher Park, and Five Rivers, located a few miles west of Delmar, offers a variety of fascinating trails of different lengths and difficulty.
Make sun tea. On a hot, sunny day, fill up a big glass jar with cold water and tea bags to make the mildest, smoothest, tastiest iced tea this side of paradise.
Go fly a kite. It doesn’t matter how old or young a person is, everyone enjoys watching a colorful kite dancing to the rhythms of the wind high in the sky. If you don’t believe me, try it. Everyone who walks by will look up and watch the kite performing its magic in the invisible currents of the air.
Have a squirt gun fight. Buy a bunch of cheap squirt guns for everyone in the family, fill up a bucket for a water reservoir, and turn everyone loose. If laughter doesn’t result, I’ll eat my hat. And for the more adventurous among you, have a water balloon war. Buy a flock of small ballons, fill ’em up with water, allocate the same number of water balloons to each person and let ‘er rip. The kids will remember either of these wacky activities as among the “funnest” of their lives.
Take a drive to nowhere. Hop in the car. Turn off the GPS. Leave the road maps in the glove box. Now, drive until you find a secondary road that you’ve never been on. Ignore all directional road signs, and just keep going until you’re totally lost. Now keep going. Play alphabet with signs. Feel free to stop in any little towns that tickle your fancy-visit little shops, a farm stand or two, a diner or an ice cream stand. Pull over and explore at all the scenic overlooks. Turn off the radio or CD player and sing songs as you drive. It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember all the words.
If you have some money to spend. Plant a tree and give it a name. Build something for the kids with the kids. Take sailing lessons. Buy an ice cream maker and make homemade ice cream. Throw a block party. Rent a canoe. Go tubing. Pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches, pears or apples at Capital Region orchards.
Ed. Lange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.