Saturday, February 2, 2013

Beautiful Exertion

It was zero degrees this morning, but we really needed to get outside today. Plus I wanted to take advantage of the early morning light to work on my photography. We opted for a close hiking location since I didn't plan on being outside for any extended periods of time. Nearby are the athletic fields to our local high school. Many pet owners walk their dogs on the black-topped paths around the various fields since they are typically clear of snow. It's a pretty decent place for a good walk and I've never met any unfriendly dogs (or people) up there.

Occasionally you might even run into an unofficial dog-walking group. Dog owners who utilize this space are very good about picking up after their pets and even picking up after dog-owners who were less than responsible. None of us want to lose our priveleges so we do our best at policing each other when needed.

Charlie has a little bit of border collie in her, which means she likes to do activities that make her think ~ especially "puzzle-type" games. I use the fences around the fields to challenge her... throwing a stick or a ball over a fence and then have her figure out how to get in (open gates, etc.). It's so much fun for her to "go find it"... not only exercising her body but also her mind. 
One of the other nice things about this location is that Sylvan Hill Park is adjacent to the athletic fields. There are nice trails connecting the edge of the school property to the woods inside the park. It's very scenic and seldom-used. You'll find many dog owners walking their dogs in the woods ~ and (again) I've never met any person or dog that wasn't friendly!
It's a hill... so be prepared for a good workout. Today was no exception. The walk in to the woods is downhill, and during the winter the path is pretty easy to walk on; it's been packed down from other hikers and the ice has been buried by all the recent snow. (In the summer, it's a whole other story ~ lots of rocks and tree roots that threaten to trip you constantly; much more challenging.)
I was watching Charlie carefully to make sure she wasn't getting too cold. I was perfectly warm everywhere except for my legs (even though I had my thick insulated pants on). My old boots kept my feet toasty warm and my new gloves had my hands sweating.
The icy air was making it hard to catch my breath on the way back up the hill. I had to stop several times to take a break and let my breathing level out. Hiking in the winter is so different... it's much more exerting for your lungs to breathe in the cold air. My eyelashes frosted up and the little bits of hair sticking out from my hat were coated in ice from the condensation of my breath.
 When I'd stop for a break, I could hear the pounding of my heart in my ears and pulsing in my neck. Slowly the pounding would resume to normal levels and I could continue on. I felt so out of shape but at the same time, exhilarated to be out in the woods surrounded by quiet, breathing fresh air, and absorbing the joy of watching Charlie leap over logs and race up the trail ahead of me. She was so happy to be outside and hiking again. It's been a long cold snap. 

We're home now... slowly thawing out. Charlie is curled up on the couch, content from her exertions this morning. Perhaps she'll nap for a good part of the day so I can get some much-needed work done. There are dog-treat orders to bake and new projects to start so I can expand the online store at Kanine Kitchen. Check back for store updates and new treat flavors coming soon.
Happy Hiking!