Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rolling in Poop

The long drive leading into our favorite county park was almost impassable with deep slush and icy ruts that threatened to pull me off the road. Since we were already here, though, I made it in as far as the first parking area and compromised by hiking a different trail.

Sometimes it's nice to have new experiences rather than hiking the same trail all the time. But on today's hike, the different terrain just proved that I really love our "regular" trail. The new landscape was peaceful and quiet, but not quite as interesting or appealing to the eye as our other trails.

In any case, it was a beautifully mild day and we enjoyed the exercise. It's interesting how mid-30 degree temps in March can feel so much warmer than the same temp in January.

The air was more humid from the snowmelt, which somehow makes it feel warmer than the dry cold air of deep winter. I unzipped my coat during parts of the hike and even enjoyed the sensation of the occasional breeze flowing up my shirttails and onto my back. It was refreshing, not bone-chilling.

But the melting snow is unearthing treasures that have been locked in the layers of snow and ice... poop.

Charlie loves these treasures and apparently endeavors to *wear* these smells. I caught her rolling in four different piles of poop during our hike and she was so far off in the woods that by the time I caught up to her (yelling the whole time to "STOP!"), it was too late.

Ahh... the smell of spring.

Charlie in center behind tree... rolling in poop.

Poopy harness.

Luckily, the Ruffwear Webmaster Harness is machine washable and has held up great over the many years of use (and washings).

We often take breaks to play fetch on our hikes since it's Charlie's favorite! She's always carrying a stick around with her and trying to place it in front of me so I'll throw it. Sometimes I challenge her a bit by *pretending* to throw it one way but really throwing it somewhere else, and then we play "go find it." She LOVES doing nose-work and the challenge of finding something.



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Review - Author Tim Fox

Author, Tim Fox, uses my favorite part of Wisconsin as the setting in his books - the driftless area. His first book, "Journeys: An Ice Age Adventure," took place at Natural Bridge State Park near Baraboo. His newest book, "A Place for You," incorporates the same beautiful scenery from this part of the state.

Tim's books are perfect for young adult readers. He weaves a story that is easy to follow, uses language that is both familiar to that age group but also incorporates advanced vocabulary to incite further learning and better reading skills.

His recent book, "A Place for You," follows a young girl who has recently moved in with her aunt due to difficult family situations with her mom. She learns the value of hard work on a small farm - doing chores, respecting her elders and learning about nature. She quickly befriends a sick cat that she eventually adopts as her own and nurses back to health. Her new kitty encourages the young girl to take adventures in the woods and they develop a strong bond.

I have to admit, I'm not much of a "cat person" and although it seems hard to believe that a cat would go on these types of adventures, it's an endearing story and one that I think a lot of young adults could relate to and possibly even find a kind of healing in reading the story if they've gone through their own family struggles.

There are positive role models in this book who provide valuable lessons to the young girl along the way and the entire message of the book is one of hope and healing.

With spring break coming soon, it might be a good time to check out some of Tim Fox's books to give your kids something to do while on "vacation." Reading is such an important, and often overlooked, skill for young adults, so it's great to find books that make reading enjoyable and might even inspire adventures of their own!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In Like a Lamb

This time of year, there is a tiny sliver of time between when I get home from work and when the sun goes down. On these days when the temps get above freezing during the day, the snowbanks along the sidewalks melt. And it seems that the puddles and wet spots turn to ice the minute the sun goes down. Not ideal for walking.

Charlie and I have attempted walks after work almost every night this week and within a block I know I'm risking falling if I continue on. So, regrettably, I pull Charlie back home. I avoid her quizzical looks of "why are we going home already" because I have no way to explain to her just how dangerous the icy sidewalks are to me.

I loathe this time of year when it finally gets warm enough to walk but the icy sidewalks are just not worth the risk. It's such a tease.

In any case, I rushed home after work tonight to *hopefully* get a walk in before the sidewalks iced up.

And we got lucky! It worked. We had a beautiful walk while watching the end of the sunset and were surprised with a beautiful full rising moon!

It felt great to finally get some good walking in without the tense stiffness that I usually have after walking on ice.

Such a perfect way to start a new month!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Nature's Neutrals

The morning began with dense fog, but soon the sun rose and burned it away, leaving the trees draped in white frozen mist.

The sun continued to strengthen enough that the skies became blue and long shadows of tree trunks darkened stripes of bright white snow.

Charlie found our trail in great shape after last week's ice storm and subsequent inch of snow from the other day.

It was pure bliss to walk free of the fear of falling on ice now that we had something substantial to grip into. Although the light "crust" of ice/snow on the top layer made me keep watch for blood in Charlie's footprints in case her paw pads got too roughed up from cracking through repeatedly.

We enjoyed a good hour of soaking up sun and getting our heart rates up as we kept a fast pace on the empty trail.

But soon, the skies grew cloudy and a brisk cold wind picked up from across the lake. I slowed down to put my hood up and play fetch with Charlie for a bit as we took a break to re-hydrate and have a snack.

I marveled at the change in scenery from bright crisp snow and defined shadow-lines only an hour ago to the now muted neutrals of nature's grays and blues. Even though the snow was still bright, I was able to remove my sunglasses and enjoy an unfiltered view for the remainder of our walk.

The aerators have been turned on in the reservoir to improve oxygen levels in the water for the fish but causing parts of the frozen lake to thin and thaw. This area is now roped off from ice fisherman and snowmobilers for safety, but we were able to get a good view from shore. The noise from the pump house was loud and ugly though, so we trudged on quickly to get away and back to the quiet woods.

Charlie was finally tired out as we drove home for the day. A treat of frozen oxtails picked up from the local meat market thawed out on the backseat while we were out... something for her to look forward to when we get home.

Hopefully with this ice storm behind us and sidewalks melting, we can get back to our much-needed evening walks during the week. Charlie has "invented" another issue recently... she's now chasing and barking at cars driving by the one-way street that lies along our house. She watches from her window seat in the living room and jumps down barking through the apartment to the kitchen window in the back of the house until they pass about another block up, and then she settles down again. Not every car, either. Just some cars. Ugh. It's another one of those "border collie" things... her brain is bored from inactivity so she's making up a job to do... protecting our neighborhood from cars. At least today she got tired out and hopefully we can *cure* her of this invented bad habit before it gets worse.

Ahh... the challenges of a super-smart dog.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


We had a long 3-day weekend this past weekend to celebrate Alan's birthday, but Friday turned out to be too bitterly cold to do anything outdoors. With temps in the low single digits and wind chills of below zero, we ended up playing games with Charlie's toys inside, eating good food and taking naps.

By Saturday morning, the temps had risen to the high teens, so we ventured out to snowshoe the frozen marshy areas around the Mosinee Flowage and explore some areas that we didn't have a chance to check out with the kayaks last summer.

The wind was pretty strong and snow was beginning to fall, so the conditions were still not awesome, but we got a couple of miles of snowshoeing in and Charlie had a great time exploring the shoreline with us. We didn't find any great treasures, but we'll definitely be back to explore more in our kayaks when the water thaws!

I was really wanting to get some good miles of hiking in this weekend, so Charlie and I headed out to Big Eau Pleine Reservoir on Sunday in hopes of enjoying some quiet trail time. As soon as I stepped out of the car though, I realized there would be no "quiet" time today. The winds were fiercely howling across the lake and the trees were groaning as limbs waved and rubbed together. The roar of the wind was almost deafening! And little "snow tornadoes" were zipping through the open fields.

But, since we were already there, I figured we'd make the best of it and see how long we could last. Luckily the temps were in the low 30's, so even with the wind chill, it was pretty decent.

We romped around on our favorite peninsula for a bit until the wind was just too much and then headed back. Unfortunately I'm one of those people who absolutely *hates* wind. It's just so annoying!

VIDEO (Insane Wind! Sound on for full effect):

As we followed the trail back to the parking area, I realized that our footprints were completely erased in just 45 minutes! The wind had blown snow into our tracks and they were nowhere to be found. Crazy.

Kind of makes me wonder if this is a prelude to "March coming in like a lion?" I sure hope so... we're ready for spring!