Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hunter's Opening Weekend + Finding Safe Hikes

I almost opted NOT to hike this weekend since many of our favorite trails are within public hunting grounds and this weekend was opening weekend for gun-deer season.

But then I remembered the Eau Claire River Trail is off-limits to hunting and we haven't been there in forever! Off we went. Charlie was pretty excited. Luckily the Packer game was on at the same time we were there and we only ran into two other people using the trail. That allowed me to have Charlie off-leash for most of the time chasing her chuck-it ball.

I'm ready! Throw the ball!

I said throw the darn ball!
I'm ready again! Come on, throw it!

I can't get enough of this... throw it again?
I like playing fetch. Happy dog.

The sun made its second appearance for the day while we were out, peeking out below the clouds that flurried on us for most of the morning and early afternoon. It was blissfully quiet and peaceful along the trail. Interestingly, the slush/snow/ice mixture that had just begun to form along the shores of the river was floating downstream making a swooshing sound as they ran into each other and bumped along the logs and trees on the shore.

Soon the river will be frozen and silent. Winter is almost upon us.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Cycle of Life (warning: graphic images)

About a year ago, Charlie flushed out a beautiful red fox at one of our favorite hiking spots and chased after it for a bit. I was mesmerized by this beautiful creature as it cruised past me without a second glance. It was a graceful and magical creature and I couldn't believe I was seeing it run by so close to me. It was a moment I'll never forget and will always cherish.

Those are the really great things about hiking. Setting off on a trail on any given day and never knowing what you'll see or experience. Magic.

But then there are days like today, where at the very same park in almost the very same spot where we saw that red fox a year ago, we came across the water-logged body of another small red fox.

For all I know, it could be the very same one we saw last year. Charlie and Peanut took a moment to explore this strange creature and then moved on to frolic in the sand and surf and beg for sticks to be thrown.

It was a beautiful sunny blue-sky day, warm enough to only be dressed in a sweater and jeans. So unusual for November. I wanted to soak it all in and save the memory of the warm wind and sun on my cheeks, to be brought out again to re-live on some cold January day in a couple of months when it'll be hard to imagine walking along a beach in the sun.

But the image of that beautiful fox won't leave my mind and I'm afraid it will remain a part of the memory of this beautiful day.

And maybe that's okay. Because that's the cycle of life. That's nature. There's good and bad. Yin and yang. Shadow and light.

That's life.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Friend, Charlie + Feeling Grateful

Car selfie while waiting for our lunch in the drive-thru at Culver's.

It was a pretty chilly day today, only reaching about 40 degrees, so I decided our best hiking spot would be in the woods at Plover River Segment of the Ice Age Trail. While the leaves are pretty much stripped from the tree branches at this point in the season, the thick woods lining the valley of the Plover River would give us good protection from the wind, and the sparse branches would still let through enough sunlight for a little warmth. 

I always love the part of the trail with the hand-hewn boardwalk. It's so quaint and rustic! Charlie has gotten pretty good at balancing on the boards and rarely falls off now.

She was alert to all the smells of the forest today... taking her time and walking slowly while sniffing along the ground. There must be tons of activity this time of year with the smaller mammals gathering food for winter preparation for hibernation and the deer trying to lay low from the hunter's filling these woods. I acknowledged 2 pickup trucks in the parking lot today (usually there are no other cars in the parking lot) and Charlie seemed pretty skittish around them (she probably smelled blood from deer carcasses - she gets that way around blood and dead things).

I found an interesting "burial" of some kind of skull inside a woodpecker-hollowed hole in a tree with a large feather stuck next to it. I couldn't tell what kind of animal skull it was, but someone thought to honor it in this way. I'm always amazed at the things you'll find while hiking!

The only green remaining in the woods are moss-covered logs and tree trunks along with the occasional fern frond. Otherwise the ground is covered with brown crunchy leaves and sodden mud.

But the wind still whispers through the pine trees and the river continues to babble over glacial rocks and boulders. Charlie perpetually finds joy in chewing up sticks while splashing through the shallow river and stirring up the sandy bottom as she explores the riverbank.

And I'll never get enough of watching her enjoy this peaceful wilderness. People always tell me how lucky Charlie is to have me. And I always agree. But I'm just as lucky to have her. I never would have reached out to explore new areas and find these mystical places without her need for adventure pushing me along. I'll be forever grateful to Charlie for igniting my passion for hiking and enjoying nature. We're very lucky to have each other. Love you girl.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beach Combing

There's nothing better than a bright sunny blue-sky October day! Charlie and I basked in the sun's rays at Big Eau Pleine today while combing the beach for hidden treasures.

The reservoir is low this time of year, revealing a vast shoreline of giant sparkling quartz rocks and driftwood sculptures.

Charlie chewing on driftwood sticks.

Charlie splashed in the crystal clear water while I watched fish jump in the lake. Cranes, geese and eagles surrounded us and the light breeze rustled the dry cattails.

Charlie in the cattails.

Charlie photobomb streak.

Walking the beach in October is such a different and delightful experience. We had such a good time that Charlie didn't want to leave... I practically had to drag her back to the car (notice the sideways harness in the photo below as I'm pulling her along). Poor kiddo.

Leaving sucks. Do we have to go?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Meet Sally...

A couple of weeks ago, Charlie and I came back from a walk around our neighborhood and found a stray kitten sitting on our front porch. We had seen other kittens of similar size/age in the neighborhood recently and concluded that someone either let them all go when they got to a certain age and couldn't find homes for them or they were just born outside and venturing away from their mama for the first time.

This little black and white kitten walked up to Charlie and wrapped her tail around Charlie's legs and they instantly became friends. So I scooped her up and brought her inside.

I gave her a little bit of softened dog food with milk and she ate ravenously. Obviously starving. Just a tiny little stick figure.

Rain was forecast for that night so we decided that the kitten would stay inside until a decision was made to either let her back out or keep her. We had some leftover cat litter in the garage for oil spills and set up a makeshift cat box for the night.

The kitten snuggled into the space between my chin and my chest and stayed there all night while we slept. She was so content to be warm and fed.

But she obviously had a respiratory infection (kitty cold) since she sneezed and wheezed all night. She couldn't even purr because she was so congested.

The next morning I decided it was a bad idea to keep her and told my mom to let her out during the day after the grass dried from the rain. When I got home at lunch, the kitten was gone.

But 10 minutes later she was sitting on the chair on our front porch looking in the window with her paw on the glass. Charlie ran over and barked at her and this kitten just sat there like, "aren't you going to let me back in now?"

My heart melted.

I opened the door and she ran back in. She won't go back outside now. She knows she's got it good.

So we needed a name. I posted up a picture on my FB page and friends started offering suggestions. I really felt she needed a name from a Tim Burton movie because she looked like one of the character's from A Nightmare Before Christmas plus it's October, the month of Halloween. Finally the name that had been on the tip of my tongue came through.... Sally.

The name fits her perfectly. Petite and dainty with a bit of Halloween mischief. Charlie loves her. Peanut is getting warmed up to the idea of having her. And I'm content with the decision.

And another FB post from a friend informed me that when a stray cat shows up on your doorstep, they were drawn there to protect you. Further research also points out that a stray black cat showing up on your doorstep brings you luck and prosperity. I don't know if that is true, but I think it's pretty cool anyway.

Either way, I'm happy she's here and hopefully she really is a good luck charm!

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Sally yawns:

Charlie yawns:

Both show disinterest toward their photographer: