Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What A Difference Two Weeks Makes...

Just a little over two weeks ago we spent a warm Saturday afternoon at one of our favorite beaches... yesterday we returned and found fall colors surrounding us! Hiking along the shoreline trail was quiet on this week day ~ a vacation day from work for me ~ and we enjoyed the solitude.

Fallen leaves crunched under my shoes while the strong wind showered us with pine needles and colorful leaves. The wind caused waves to lap along the shore and shook the dry leaves in the treetops into a loud chorus. Charlie was happy to be blissfully off-leash today ~ my carefully-made decision due to the lack of people here on a week day. Luckily we never met another soul on this hike and had the park all to ourselves.

Charlie leaped over logs, raced through the underbrush and chased squirrels and chipmunks up tree trunks, barking gleefully at this fun game. She'd run ahead up the trail and then turn around to come back to check on me, constantly trying to figure out what was taking me so long.

When we got to the point in the trail with easy access to the water, Charlie was in heaven. She zipped down the side trail and sprinted to the shore, where she scurried around looking for pieces of driftwood for me to throw for her. The first few pieces she brought me were duds - sinking immediately under the water's surface, nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of snorkeling for lost sticks, we moved on to some drier pieces that would still float.

Charlie never tires of playing fetch. She agilely dodges the field of rocks on the beach (and in the water) and reliably retrieves every throw. Sometimes I get lost in thought as I gaze out over the landscape and am suddenly jolted back to reality by a loud bark from Charlie to let me know she's brought the stick back, it's lying at my feet, and I need to pay attention!

As we strolled along the beach, enjoying the sunshine and warm breeze, I wondered if it would be possible to walk all the way back along the shoreline due to the low water level. Giving it a shot, we made our way around the crop of reeds and started heading back, only to find that the somewhat soft sand of the "beachy" area gave way to slurpy muck that threatened to remove my shoes with each step. I quickly turned back before I started sinking into a mud pit, never to escape.

Charlie brought her stick along as we made our way back to the forest trail, just in case I changed my mind and decided to throw it for her again. The woods were alive with the strong breeze, branches rubbing together and leaves rustling. Canopy colors changed with the passing of a cloud; dappled sunlight faded and disappeared, only to reappear brightly as the cloud scuttled past. Each colored tree tinted the light in its own shade as I passed underneath - yellow, then red, then dark green of a pine tree. As the foliage slowly gives in to the changing season, more light filters through the forest and everything seems brighter, more vivid.

At the trail head, we walked out to another beach area to swim and play fetch some more. I let the wind blow my hair as I breathed in the new smells of fall - sweet leaf decay, rich pine needles, and the faint fishy smell of the water. Charlie couldn't get enough of playing fetch in the surf of the lake and I indulged her longer than normal, in no hurry to be anywhere. When I started feeling tired and ready to head home, I'd turn around and walk away from the water's edge, only to see this sad face staring back at me when I looked back:

How can you say "no" to that face? I tried leaving three times and each time she looked at me with those sad brown eyes and I couldn't tear her away from the fun we were having. Finally, as the sun got lower in the sky, we headed back to the parking lot. Charlie was like a kid at the beach - having too much fun to leave, but bone tired.

Frolicking in the sun and sand on the first day of October is a special treat that we were both grateful for. These fleeting last days of nice weather won't last long. We stopped at Briq's Soft Serve on the way home for Charlie's "pup cone" and a raspberry milkshake for me; the proverbial cherry on top of a perfect day.