Sunday, June 30, 2013

I met an ESA this weekend!

It was a road trip weekend! My mom and I headed to Minneapolis to see Tom Petty in concert, and unfortunately Charlie had to stay home with a dog-sitter. I hate to be separated from her for any amount of time, but luckily this would only be for 24 hours.

Minneapolis is REALLY big compared to our small town of Wausau and while I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere - diverse people-watching, tons of food options, beautiful cityscapes - I know I couldn't live in a city that size; it's too much constant input and not enough nature. But I did happen to find some "rocks" in this metropolis - even if they were man-made!

We had a great dinner at Mason's Restaurant consisting of burgers and homemade potato chips (that were AWESOME!) - and beverages served in mason jars, of course. So cool. I had my very first mojito and I can tell you I'll definitely be enjoying more of them this summer.

The concert had it's good and bad, but we made the best of it. I had gotten seats that were definitely "nose bleed" seats - we were in the 5th row down from the very top. I had never been to the Target Center before and was not prepared for how "vertical" the seating was. It was borderline dangerous, in my opinion. And I had forgotten how seriously afraid of heights my mom is.

We got there early and were adjusting to the seating, but neither of us were comfortable. The seats were extremely small and close together, there was no leg room and each row seemed to be stacked on top of the other. As the lights went down and the backup band started to play, Mom started to have an anxiety attack - the height combined with the darkness was making the whole arena sway and she was afraid she'd fall forward and tumble all the way down. I helped steer her out of our row and down the stairs, one at a time. I quickly realized that we were not going to be able to go back to our seats and was afraid we were going to have to leave. Mom was having none of that. So we hung out in the concession area while the backup band played and when Tom Petty started, we stood against the stairways just inside the arena doorways on our mezzanine. Unfortunately the "ticket helpers" were determined to get everyone in their seats and keep the entrances clear, which I completely understand - it's a fire code safety thing. But because I wasn't going to make her go back to our seats and risk her safety, we played this "cat-and-mouse" game and retreated to the concession area or bathroom every time they came through to clear people out of the area.

We grew tired of the game after awhile since the ticket helpers were getting more direct with their enforcement, so we left early. Even though we didn't get to see the whole show, we had fun and enjoyed the time we were there. It was only 10pm when we left and the city was alive with sights and sounds. The air was warm and breezy so we took a leisurely stroll back to the hotel, people-watching the entire time. Along the way, we came across a street musician with a dog. I'm a sucker for dogs - everywhere I go I'm constantly pointing out dogs and asking if I can pet them. So, of course, I asked if I could pet his dog... and as I did so, the dog got up and came towards me as if it knew what I had asked. I crouched down to pet the dog and talked to his owner.

I asked the usual questions - how old is he, what's his name, etc. So when he told me the dog's name was "Deathrow" and I gave him this look that I'm sure he's seen a million times before when people learn his dog's name, he showed me the rectangular ID card on the dog's collar that identified him as a Service Dog, Name: Deathrow, Type: ESA. I had just learned about Emotional Support Animals (ESA's) last week through a favorite blogger of mine, Gigi Griffis. Her dog, Luna, is an ESA. Also I had heard a radio program on NPR last week about airlines using ESA's to comfort passengers waiting for flights in airports. How fitting that I got to meet one this weekend!

When I asked what kind of dog Deathrow was, the man replied, "he's part Cowardly Lion and part Luckdragon." I told him that I could totally see both those traits! I wondered how many people would know what a Luckdragon is. We put our donation in his guitar case and received a song in return, but the real reward was being comforted by this ESA while being separated from my own dog.

Sometimes you just need to hug a dog.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sociable Charlie

Charlie and I headed down to the 400 Block in Wausau last night to enjoy some live music. (Note: the 400 Block is our city's name for the grassy square with entertainment stage and tables located downtown - a real gem for our small city). Throughout the summer months, Wednesday night Concerts on the Square are hosted by Wausau Area Events. The turnout for these concerts is HUGE. And also, dogs are not allowed on the square during those events.

But sometimes live music is provided during the 400 Block's Market Place Thursdays during the noon hour and continue again at 6pm. Those are the nights we choose to go listen to the music since the crowds are considerably smaller, and dogs are allowed.

I hooked Charlie up to her Ruffwear Roamer leash and found an open table where we had a good spot to people-watch and listen to the band. I set up Charlie's portable canvas water dish and played some food games with the baggie of dog-kibble I brought to keep her occupied, running through her repertoire of tricks and voice commands and then just letting her chase the kibble as it bounced across the sidewalk.

We had gotten rain earlier in the day but this night there were only distant clouds rolling around in pretty shapes and shades of grays and whites. Even though the temperature readout on the Grand Theater's rolling graphic display said it was 83 degrees, the northerly wind on the shady side of the block felt much cooler; simply divine after the heat and humidity we'd dealt with throughout the past week. It was a beautiful evening.

And Charlie behaved like the sweet little lady she is. She greeted every person that passed by with tail-wags and kisses, if they let her. She played with children in the grass, although I think her true motive was to try and steal their ice cream, and she brought smiles to everyone she met. She wasn't afraid of the people in wheelchairs that approached her for some love, instead she climbed right up into their laps so as to reach them better for kisses. You have no idea how proud I was of her. Absolutely glowing.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Just Me Being Me.

I used to be a blog-hater. Back in the day, before blogs were all the rage and when I was just learning to use the Internet, I thought bloggers were ridiculous exhibitionists just looking for attention. Who in the world would post such intimate details for everyone to look at?! This was also the era when Facebook was just gaining popularity so the idea of posting personal information and photos on the Internet was still fairly new to most of us.

Fast forward to today, and I am now a blogger. Who would have guessed. Certainly not me. And to be completely honest, it kind of happened by accident. You see, I was doing my personal-end-of-year analysis (that would be the accountant in me - always analyzing) and going over what I had accomplished that year and making plans for the new year, and as I clicked through all the photos I'd taken throughout 2012, I was shocked to realize how many adventures I'd had with my dog. I was really proud of how active we'd been and what a great life I was providing her. All of a sudden I wanted to document our adventures in a more organized way (again, the accountant in me) and also have a way of sharing with others.

In the past few years, as I've become increasingly disenchanted with my daily work-life, I've taken solace in reading blogs. I've enjoyed the uplifting stories, found inspiration in the actions of others and camaraderie in knowing that I'm not the only one who feels like this. Some blogs, like Sunny Rising Leather and Enjoying The Small Things, are written by wordsmiths who weave together the most beautiful phrases - sometimes making me jealous of their talent but always grateful for their message. Others, like The Last Wilderness and A Whole Bunch of Ing's, help me escape to beautiful parts of the world that I'd love to see someday. Some are just for fun (1,000 Awesome Things, Bah Humpug) and some are truly thought-provoking (Raptitude, The Art of Non-Conformity).

And then there are the blogs that just plain inspire me and feel like visiting an old friend - Gigi's The Ramble, Sally's Unbrave Girl, Sarah's Yes And Yes, Priya's Obsession (cheese), and many more. Recently, Unbrave Girls' Sally posted a "No Body-Snark Diet" with a full-body photo challenge, which I immediately submitted a picture to. Over the past few years I've become very comfortable with myself and accepting "the real me." I'm no longer trying to live up to someone else's standards or conforming to another's beliefs. I'm just me, being me. My physical attributes were generously provided by my parents - something totally out of my control; I have my mother's face, but my father's eyes; I have my father's skin, but my mother's shape. These are things I've come to accept -- and also to love.

Interestingly, Sally's blog post has stirred up a lot of attention. Apparently I'm not alone in learning to love myself just the way I am. And along the lines of accepting our full-length body, there are a number of other "things" about each of us that we should probably stop snarking about. A year and a half ago, I decided to stop dying my hair. I'd been dying it at home since my mid-20's; a constant struggle to cover up the stubborn gray streak right at the top of my forehead. The placement of this "streak" is situated so that my roots would be visible within 10 days of each dye-job. I finally got fed up with damaging my hair and just quit one day. Now I have this super-awesome silver streak that I get tons of compliments on. Who knew?! All that time spent worrying and covering something that was actually awesome. No more. I accept me, as me. The good, the bad and the ugly - it all makes me who I am and I refuse to make excuses or apologize anymore.

Each blog is as individual and unique as the blogger themselves. There is only one you, and you probably have some unique talent, ability or knowledge to give to the world. Don't be afraid to let it all hang out and just be you, being you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ice Age Trail: Hartman Creek Segment

We didn't hike this entire segment since the temperatures were hot and humid and I wasn't sure how long Charlie could go yet. I think we did a total of 3.5 miles of the middle part of this segment between Stratton Lake Rd. and Hartman Creek State Park.

This part of the trail consisted of nice wide paths through rolling woods. The terrain didn't seem terribly challenging but the heat and humidity combined to create a steamy-sauna feel. We took off down the trail with the adrenaline of adventure pumping through our veins, jogging up and down the roller-coaster-like hills through the woods; Charlie happily leading the way.

Charlie started wilting about halfway through our hike. She drank water out of her portable water bowl for the first mile, but then she didn't seem interested in drinking anymore. Instead of wasting the water in the canvas bowl, I poured it over her neck and back to hopefully cool her off a little.

Unlike the Plover River Segment, there was nowhere along this part of the trail for her to go swimming and cool off - only woods. She was going to have to wait until we reached the state park to go for a dip.

There was a nice information board when we reached the savanna and I was hoping we'd be able to see the endangered Karner blue butterfly that frequents the dense patches of wild lupine, but we may have been too late in the season since the lupine were mostly done blooming. The grassy trail was mowed and easy to follow. Charlie acquired a few ticks in these grassy areas, but they were easy to pick off and there weren't as many as the Plover River Segment.

You can see the happy, although tired, grin Charlie has. She really enjoys the outdoors so much! These adventures are healthy and nurturing for both of us - mind and body. We get to see and smell new places while getting in a good workout. The next day we were both feeling a bit sore from the strenuous workout, but out on the trail we hardly noticed. That is the best kind of exercise - when you don't even know you're getting it!

We met a couple people heading in the opposite direction as we exited the savanna and headed back into the woods. Charlie was charming, of course. But only a short ways into the woods, Charlie started lagging behind me. We stopped to take a 10-minute break to catch our breath and cool off in the shade. Charlie wasn't interested in taking a break though, she wanted to turn around and go back. Oh sweetie. It's so hard to tell a dog that the shortest way out is to keep going.

The trail eventually became grassier and wider and we started to intersect some of the state park trails. At one point a white-tailed-deer startled only a few feet off the trail and bolted into the woods. This got Charlie's heart pumping and she was ready to take the lead again.

And then a really cool thing happened! I paused to take a picture of Charlie in the open grassy area and right on the edge of the trail I saw a turkey in the tall grass laying as close to the ground as it possibly could. It was watching me. In a second it burst up into the air and flew away from us - startling me and Charlie! You can even see Charlie's ear flipping upward as she snapped her head in the turkey's direction.

Curiously, the turkey began to flop around like it had a broken wing and even charged back toward us for a second before retreating again. Immediately I recognized this behavior and realized there must be a nest or young babies nearby. Just as I was turning back to the spot where it had been lying in the grass, two baby birds burst out of the grass - barely old enough to fly.


I wished I had gotten better pictures of the whole event, but it was so unexpected and happened so quickly. Charlie was really revved up by now and I was ever-so-grateful that she was on her Ruffwear Roamer leash! No harm was done to any wildlife and Charlie was safe too.

Elderon Moraine
We finally reached the parking area with a view of the Elderon Moraine. There was another great informational signboard at the parking lot which I studied while waiting for my ride then hopped in the car and drove around Hartman Creek State Park to learn about the amenities available for future camping trips, etc. Soon we found a great little spot for Charlie to go swimming and get cooled off.

We missed out on some of the trail highlights like the boardwalk over the marsh and swampy areas in the Emmons Creek area, the footbridge that crosses spring-fed Emmons Creek and the high point called Presentation Area (elevation 1,030 ft) offering views of distant glacial hills. But factoring in the heat and humidity, I knew we wouldn't be able to do the entire segment.

I have a feeling we'll be back for camping and more day-hikes in the future though! This was a really pretty area and the hike was a lot of fun.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dear Dudley

Follow the weekly pen-pal letters between Charlie and Dudley as they discuss life as dogs. Dudley lives in Massachusetts with his owner, Sarah Kilgallon, who leads dogs on wilderness trail hikes through pristine conservation land. You can view her blog at:

Dudley's letter:

Dear Dudley,
So glad to hear from you again buddy! Sorry that you have been busy and left at home while your mom walks. I hate it when I get left home! That is a huge bummer that you don't get to go on Vacation. What are you going to do? Do you get to have a Sleep-Over at a friend's house? My mom left for 2 whole days once and I cried the whole time. I bet you are going to be really sad too. But I am sure your mom will give you lots of treats when Vacation is over!

We have had tons of rain too! That is crazy that we live so far apart and we BOTH got lots of rain. Weird. I love your picture of swimming on the trail - it looks fun! Mom doesn't like all the rain because it makes the trails muddy and there are lots of mosquitoes. I haven't had to SWIM on a trail yet though - that is pretty cool! I love swimming.

We started our Big Hiking Project last weekend and I got to see some really cool Wilderness! But I also had ticks crawling ALL over me! Mom was really freaked out and worked very hard to get them all off. I held really still because I did not like the creepy-crawly feeling of them. It took a long time to get them off and I had to take a bath too. Yuck.

This weekend we went on a new trail and there were less ticks. Mom and me were both glad. I got VERY tired on this trail though because it was HOT out! Mom says I need to do some "conditioning" to get ready for longer hikes. I don't know what "conditioning" is but I hope it doesn't have anything to do with baths. I hate baths.

I'll give you some tips on how to stay cool if you are too hot: go out in the backyard and dig a small hole, then lay down in the wet dirt. When the hole gets too warm, move to a different spot and dig another hole. This works great but sometimes Mom puts me in the bathtub afterwards. I hate baths.

Love & Kisses,

p.s.  Another fun thing to keep yourself cool is to chew on the garden hose when Mom is trying to water the garden or fill the bird bath. It is a Fun Game because Mom chases me around while I run away with the hose in my mouth, plus I get to have fun with the water! You should definitely try this. Or dig holes.

Here is a picture of me swimming. I get to wear a Float Coat so I can swim as long as I want without getting tired!

Friday, June 21, 2013

2013 Midpoint: First Day of Summer

Half the year has gone by already. That is truly hard to believe. Where has the time gone? I know I've been busy and have accomplished a lot already this year, but this annual milestone kind of snuck up on me. I've been so busy making plans and grinding away at everyday life and now I feel the need to sit down and let it sink in for awhile. I'm ready for a sleeping-in-and-lazy-coffee-drinking-Saturday-morning.

This week has been crazy-busy --- like so many other weeks. I've been baking non-stop since last weekend to catch up on dog treat orders before the heat and humidity move in this weekend. Baking in the summer seems as silly to me as the Polar Plunge in winter... you have to be crazy to want to do that! However, when you own a dog treat bakery business, baking in the summer is inevitable. But air-conditioning was installed yesterday and I'm ready to rock in the kitchen! When we're not hiking, Charlie happily patrols the bakery to clean up crumbs and taste-test the treats -- one of the luckiest dogs ever!

I've also been busy at my full-time job... you know, the one that pays the bills. The one that surrounds me with cubicle walls, stale air-conditioning, elevator music and endless clock-watching until the minute hand descends enough to allow me to leave. It's a place-holder, a paycheck, a someday-I'm-going-to-be-self-employed-and-quit-this-job type of job. It's not terrible and it's not wonderful, it's just a job. But sometimes I resent that this Monday-Friday 8-5 job prevents me from doing the things I love - baking and hiking. It may be time to cut back on my full-time hours to make time for doing the fun things in life. Carpe Diem, right?

Speaking of fun things... I've begun mapping out weekends for Ice Age Trail hiking trips! I'm a little stumped as to where I want to go next because I'd totally like to avoid the "tick situation" we dealt with last weekend but I want to continue making progress on the segment hikes. So many of the trails have "prairie" or "grassy" areas which I'm positive will result in another tick infestation so I'd like to stick to the rocky or forested areas near waterways that will inevitably be full of mosquitoes, but hey, that's better than ticks! The weather doesn't look like it'll be cooperating much this weekend either. Today started off with thunderstorms and torrential downpours and the scattered/isolated thunderstorms are projected to continue through the weekend, combined with high temperatures and humidity - not exactly ideal hiking weather. However, weather is not going to deter my hiking schedule - it'll just add to the adventure!

This morning I received the following quote in my inbox from Gretchen Rubin's Moment of Happiness and it pretty much sums up what I'm talking about:

"There is something in living close to the great elemental forces of nature that causes people to rise above small annoyances and discomforts."
- Laura Ingalls Wilder, essay, February 1917

Small annoyances and discomforts aside, the hike will continue! It's the first day of summer, people, get out and enjoy it while it lasts!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ice Age Trail: Plover River Segment

On Saturday, June 15th we tackled the Plover River Segment! Charlie and I practically RAN through the trails on this hike in order to escape the mosquitoes! They were very dense and unforgiving. Most of my pictures are blurry because we had to keep moving. I also had to wear my pink rain jacket with the hood up over my hat to keep them from buzzing my head. It had been raining the night before and through the early morning so everything was wet. And even though it was a mild 68 degrees when we started hiking, it was 100% humidity, making it feel like a tropical rain forest.

Everything was so green in the woods that it seemed to glow green everywhere. The new plant growth was beautiful but we barely had a chance to stop and enjoy it because of the mosquitoes. We started out at the Highland Rd. entrance because I wasn't sure if the segment to Hwy 52 was finished. Apparently it was finished because we came to a fork in the path and I wasn't sure which way to go. It seemed like I chose the right direction (and honestly, if I'd looked at the sign post more closely I would have known otherwise) but after hiking for 20 minutes, we emerged onto Hwy 52. We turned around and backtracked to the other trail and that's when I noticed the sign post had arrows with street names pointing down the paths. Duh. That was okay though since we got to see the new trail.

Charlie was doing a great job staying ahead of me a little ways so I wasn't tripping over her and not pulling too hard to cause me to fall. She listened great when I told her "this way" or "wait for Mom" and we really seemed to be in sync!

We got a little lost when we reached the Plover River because I didn't realize the boulders in the water were the continuation of the trail. I stumbled around in circles for about 5 minutes before it became clear that we were going to have to go over the boulders - which looked harder than it was. Honestly, it was kinda fun! The humidity was so high that there was steam over the river, giving the illusion of a tropical rain forest even more. I almost had to pinch myself to believe the beauty I was seeing.

The trail is a bit muddy from the marshy terrain along the river, but there were always rocks or tree roots to step on in the mucky spots and these cool little wood plank bridges in the really wet spots. Charlie wasn't very graceful on these planks and her feet would slip off occasionally, but she regained her balance and continued on with no problems.

The river is absolutely crystal clear and lightly babbles over the moss-covered rocks; the landscape can only be described as LUSH. It seemed shallow enough that you could walk across it at any point and only be knee-deep. If the mosquitoes hadn't been so ruthless, I might have actually dipped a toe in to see how nice the water would feel.

The trail began to lead up and away from the river and I started noticing some of the glacial formations that I read about in my Companion Guide. It's so cool to actually know what you're seeing while out on a hike... they're not just hills, valleys and rocks - these are here because of glaciers!

We stopped to take a quick break to rehydrate. Charlie was definitely panting quite a bit from keeping up with my quick pace and I had sweat dripping down my arms as a result of wearing my rain jacket. I definitely would have liked to have taken it off, but didn't think the trade-off of countless mosquito bites was worth it. Even though I had put bug spray on at the beginning of the trail, most of it had either sweated off or was washed away from the wet foliage.

I couldn't help but think of how many people drive by on the roads surrounding this area and never know what magical landscape lies within. It's crazy to think this trail is in my own "backyard" and I can come here whenever I want.

The natural beauty and peaceful quiet is so intoxicating... or maybe that's just all the oxygen going to my head from getting a good workout while surrounded by lush trees and plants. Who cares - it's absolutely exhilarating! The adventure of seeing something new and not knowing what to expect, of pushing on even when conditions aren't ideal and believing in myself - priceless.

We finally emerged from the woods onto a wide open prairie. The trail markers were now painted on rocks along the path rather than the trees, so it's still easy to see the trail. The glacial landscape is still evident here and we ran across a few of the glacial rock deposits too.

It was at this point, however, that I realized Charlie was covered head to toe with HUNDREDS of ticks! I started picking them off of her as fast as I could and quickly realized this was going to be an impossible task since they were just crawling right back on. We had escaped the mosquitoes, but continued to run through the last of the trail to get to the parking lot where my ride would be waiting so I could de-tick my dog more effectively.

I spent 30 minutes in the parking lot removing ticks from Charlie with the plastic tweezers from my first aid kit, getting most of them off. My passenger and her dog were also de-ticking since they had picked up quite a few just by sitting in the gravel parking lot. We finally gave up and piled in the car for the drive home. Once home, both dogs were put in the bathtub and the de-ticking process continued. All clothes, towels, leashes and collars were thrown in the washing machine. Ticks continued to be removed from all of us (humans too) throughout the evening. By the following night, we found only a few more on the dogs and they appeared to be dead (from the tick medicine applied monthly). However, when I got in my car to run a quick errand, I ended up picking up a tick that was still in the car from the day before, which I found embedded in my thigh an hour later. I guess I'm going to head out and proceed to remove ticks from the car now. I truly hope that we don't continue to run into this tick problem on other area trails or this will really put a damper on our hiking plans this summer.

Be careful out there.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Tribute To My Father

My mom and dad were both instrumental in encouraging an appreciation of The Great Outdoors in me, each in their own way. And even though they divorced when I was two years old, I credit them equally for my love of nature.

Mom was famous for our weekend camping trips to Lake Kegonsa State Park, which was conveniently located just a mile down the road from our house. That park became a second home for me and my sisters. Mom would pack up the car with all the camping gear and head to a campsite to set up while my sisters and I followed behind, riding our bikes. The bikes took us back and forth between the beach and the campground where we made a lot of new friends who would later become pen pals after they returned to wherever they had traveled from. We took countless road trips to Parfrey's Glen, Devil's Lake State Park, and many more. That annual state park sticker was an affordable way for our family to get out and do things within our budget.

On the other hand, my dad would pick us up for his weekend visits and always wanted to take us on some nature trail somewhere. And even though we would have rather gone to the movies or rollerskating or some other activity that Mom could never afford to do with us, we obliged and went along with him. I may have resisted the walk at first, but as soon as I entered the woods, I inevitably became absorbed with the scenery around me. This is how I've always been - resistant at first and then happily surprised when I came to enjoy whatever it was I resisted in the first place. I guess you could call it stubbornness. My dad was always patient with us and never got angry when we were sullen or quiet with him. Instead he would point out bird species or types of trees and try to get us involved in our surroundings.

About six weeks ago my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He's 63 years old. This was a huge wake-up call for me and got me thinking about how short life really is. How can you live your whole life in pursuit of retirement and never actually get to enjoy it? I don't want to wait until I'm ready to retire to start enjoying life - my time is now.

Earlier this year I accidentally learned about the Ice Age Trail when I was looking at my Wisconsin Gazetteer for a new place to take my dog hiking. We ended up on the Grandfather Falls Segment in Lincoln County. I immediately fell in love with this segment and began to research more segments of the Ice Age Trail. And even though I was exhilarated at finding such beauty so close to home, I was also really pissed off at myself for not finding this place sooner. I began to question how many other natural beauties surrounded me that I had never seen.

Last month I purchased the Ice Age Trail Atlas containing maps to every segment of the trail and the Companion Guide which details the terrain and mileage of each segment. And since my dad is gradually weakening and not able to enjoy trail hiking like he used to, I've decided to hike the Ice Age Trail segments in his honor, with the help of my mom who will drop me off at the beginning of each segment head and pick me up at the other end. Each weekend my dog, Charlie, and I will head out to a different segment. I have no idea how long this will take. I know we will not accomplish hiking every segment since dogs are not allowed on some areas. What I do know is that we will do this.

Some people say the hardest thing is to start doing and I would agree with that. Charlie and I have hiked the Grandfather Falls and Dells of the Eau Claire segments, but yesterday we actually started something - we hiked the Plover River Segment as the true beginning of this project. It was challenging and adventurous and had both good and bad things about it, but we did it. And it felt great to actually start something. This project will be a great bonding experience for me and my dog, my mom will feel a special purpose in being able to help, and my dad will be able to live vicariously through my adventures. I hope my faithful readers will also enjoy the journey. It's never too late to start DOING.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ice Age Trail: Dells of Eau Claire Segment

So Charlie and I hiked this section on June 1st for National Trails Day... but I forgot to write a post about it! Life gets crazy sometimes... but then you get caught up! June 1st was also my birthday so even though I've hiked parts of the Eau Claire Dells Segment several times, I wanted to finally finish hiking this section all the way to the end. The weather was a combination of intermittent sun with ominous dark clouds and we were supposed to have isolated thunderstorms. I wasn't going to let a little rain keep me away from hiking for the whole day so we headed out anyway. The good thing about bad weather is that the trails were pretty deserted and we only ran across a few people - surprising for this popular park!

About 1/4 of the way down the trail, it started sprinkling a little bit. It was a very peaceful, light rain and I barely noticed it under the canopy of trees. The leaves were dancing with each rain drop and I felt like I was in a tropical forest. The mosquitoes flew away to their hiding spots to avoid the rain and the rest of the hikers disappeared. Charlie and I continued on.

There has been quite a bit of rainfall lately and the forest was getting lush. There were tiny rainwater pools on rocks and along the trail - perfect breeding ground for more mosquitoes, and the Eau Claire River was roaring. I think a lot of people turn back to Dells of the Eau Claire Park when they reach the "actual" beginning of the Ice Age Trail segment. The terrain gets a little steep along the riverbank here, but the views are really pretty. At this point, the rain was getting a little heavier and I could hear distant thunder. Charlie and I continued on.

The rain was really coming down now and I was wishing I had a hat and rain jacket. I realized I was not properly prepared for this weather, but we were already all the way out there and now had to hike back. Thank goodness the mosquitoes were hiding because all my bug spray got rained off. The thunder got closer (and louder) and I was glad that I had Charlie on her Roamer leash because every time she heard a loud crack she tucked her butt and rain forward like she was about to bolt into the woods. Even though we were getting soaked, the woods were still magical and I absolutely love the uneven terrain filled with moss-covered boulders and intertwined tree roots.

We hiked back as fast as we could; I knew Charlie was getting miserable - she hates to be wet, unless she's swimming. My hair and clothes were soaked and my boots were covered in mud, leaf debris and pine needles. We crossed over some cool little rock bridges with rain water washing down the hillsides.

Charlie paused long enough for me to snap a picture of her next to a giant tree sitting on top of ancient rocks overlooking Sandberg Island before I had to put my camera away to prevent water damage.

We emerged from the woods looking like two wet dogs - soaked from head to toe - and as we approached the parking lot, the clouds cleared and the sun peaked out. On the drive home we even saw a rainbow. Pretty perfect birthday hike.