Friday, October 25, 2013

A Clock During a Thunderstorm

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened,
but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace,
like a clock during a thunderstorm."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

I love the visual of "a clock during a thunderstorm." It really makes me feel like everything will be just fine. Time marches on despite what may be going on around you. You can't rewind time and you can't fast-forward. Just one minute at a time, ticking away.

It's a calming thought.

So even though there may be a thunderstorm brewing in my head right now, I will work on "quieting" my mind to minimize the perplexity or fear of my current circumstance. I will ride out the storm and in the end there will be a rainbow.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pizza Thief!

Last night, as I was cleaning up the kitchen for the night, I tossed two slices of uneaten pizza into the trash can (which was admittedly quite full) and finished up the dishes. Charlie was lounging on the floor watching me and patiently waiting until we could play some more games. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and a few minutes later I heard weird licking noises coming from the other room.

I peeked around the corner into the kitchen and found Charlie standing next to the garbage can, licking her lips. There was only one piece of pizza in the trash can now. She had stolen the other piece and eaten it in like 30 seconds!

This is the first time in Charlie's three years of life that she has EVER stolen anything out of the garbage! I was shocked. I slammed the lid down on the trash can and told her sternly, "Naughty GIRL!"

She seemed quite pleased with herself although possibly a little perplexed at why she was "naughty." I don't hit my dog when she's naughty, so instead I gave her the cold-shoulder treatment. I completely ignored her for the rest of the night.

Wow, does that ever work! She kept her distance but continued to follow me around for the night, occasionally looking up at me with this quizzical look saying, "Are we good yet?" Even when I got into bed, there were no snuggles, no kisses, no "I wuv you's." I just turned out the light and went to sleep.

Sometime around 1am, she woke me up to go potty. I don't know if she needed to puke up her stolen pizza or just go pee, but I let her out... still giving her no verbal responses or physical attention. Back in bed, she seemed concerned about my behavior.

By this morning, though, the time for punishment was over. Silent treatment had to end because enough time had passed that she would have no idea why I was still acting like this. I gave her snuggles and kisses and she seemed extremely relieved to have her mommy back to normal.

Lesson learned:  now that she knows she can take things out of the garbage, the lid will remain closed at all times.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Playing Hooky

Yesterday we had our first "snow" of the season. Yep. Snow. It's still too early for it to stick to the ground, but it was definitely falling and splatting on the sidewalk, grass and leaves. The sky was swirling with millions of these snow-puffs that looked more like dryer-lint than snow.

So yeah, the seasons are definitely changing.

Today Charlie and I had a day off work for no reason at all... just to play hooky and have a day all to ourselves. I wanted to do some long-distance hiking, but we got off to a late start and I had a mid-afternoon appointment for coffee with a friend, so we settled on a quick mid-day hike at a nearby state park. Unfortunately I forgot my backpack - and my camera inside said backpack.

The dark gray clouds looked like they would burst open with a huge snowstorm at any minute. Even though the temperature was a chilly 32 degrees, with the wind it felt more like 22. The trail I chose followed along the Wisconsin River where the wind whipped across the steel-gray water, making white caps and screamed through the pine trees above. Tiny snow pellets stung my cheeks and the wind blew right through my jeans, instantly freezing my legs. Apparently my layers of turtleneck, fleece sweatshirt and fleece vest were not going to be enough today. Even my warm, snuggly hat wasn't enough to buffer the stiff winds.

Charlie had a blast despite the weather. She romped on the beach, collected sticks and raced through the woods... she even went swimming! When we arrived at the playground, I took a moment to relive my childhood on the swingset and Charlie went down the slide! It would have been even more fun if it had been warm enough to stay longer.

It may be time to bust out the serious winter gear; to start wearing extra layers and filling my pockets with kleenex. Shit got real today.  Our warm fall days have abruptly changed over. The "crisp" mornings that I've enjoyed the last few weeks are now too cold to enjoy without bundling up.

Halloween always marks the beginning of the holiday seasons and since that is just a little more than a week away, it's time to accept this reality. Time marches on... with or without us.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Faux Tennis Balls

A couple of weeks ago, when Charlie and I arrived at my dad's house for a visit, she hopped out of the car and entered what she thought was Tennis Ball Heaven. She raced around trying to decide which of these bright green orbs to pick up first! I began unloading the car and realized she was having a difficult time picking one up; every time she had one in her mouth, she dropped it like it was hurting her. My dad started laughing as her mouth foamed up and she became frustrated with bringing us one of these "balls" to throw.

My dad's yard is filled with black walnut trees and the "balls" she was trying to play with were the green, leathery pods protecting the walnuts inside them. The day we arrived, the trees had practically dropped all their "fruit" and the lawn was littered with these faux tennis balls. Apparently they are very bitter tasting, explaining why Charlie was having trouble picking them up!

Charlie eventually gave up trying to play with them, the taste was too terrible, but they teased her constantly with their tempting tennis-ball shape and color. When I unpacked her real tennis ball, she had a hard time differentiating the ball from the walnut-fruit, making for a fun game of hide-and-seek!

When I got home from our visit, I decided to Google the walnut fruit to learn more about them. It turns out they can be highly toxic to dogs and horses! Wow. Good thing Charlie decided to avoid them for the weekend rather than making herself sick. She has enough digestive issues as it is!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting Active +

I think it's pretty obvious by now that I heartily support getting active with your dog! Charlie has been the driving force behind getting me (a previously low-energy person) to become a high-energy person; I guess you could say she trained me to become the type of owner she needed. People often tell me how lucky Charlie is that she ended up with me since I'm so aware of her exercise demands and willing to change my life to fulfill her needs, but I could just as easily say that I'm the lucky one. This dog has changed my life for the better and I love her so much.

Earlier this month, I signed us up on and received my free "Move Your Mutt" inspiration band. was founded by, the creators of the SlimDoggy app for tracking canine fitness and food, Dr. Katy Nelson, host of The Pet Show and health and fitness reporter for WJLA and Krista Wickens, CEO of PetZen Products, creator of DogTread Canine Fitness equipment and the soon to be released virtual canine personal trainer Canine Gym. These people care deeply about the growing pet obesity problem and are creating unique and easy ways to help dogs get (and stay) fit. They have created dog exercise equipment and FREE apps to help you track exercise and calories. It's basically like having the Weight Watchers app, only for dogs!

You can learn more about how and why they started by clicking on this LINK to read their article published on for Pet Obesity Awareness Day (October 9th), or visit to get signed up today.

I don't get paid for promoting or, but I believe in what they're doing and want to spread the word so more dogs can have active and healthy lifestyles, hopefully extending their already-too-short lifespans.

There's still time to get your own "Move Your Mutt" inspiration band at! Get out and play with your dog!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Harvest Fest Parade

Charlie attended her first parade last weekend! The family took a scenic drive up to Viroqua to check out the farmer's market, shop the stores and watch the Harvest Fest Parade.

She was well-behaved at the farmer's market as we strolled up and down the walkways. When I waited in line to purchase things, Charlie sat patiently next to me, watching all the activity around her. And she fell in love with the scent of alpaca-fur which turned out to be her favorite part of the day (I practically had to drag her away from that booth!).

There were several dogs about as people lined the street to watch the parade but Charlie remained very calm, just taking in the atmosphere and enjoying being around people. As the parade began to make its way down the street, we saw stilt-walkers, children dressed in costume, bicycles and heard the beat of... drums.


As the drumming got closer, Charlie began to shake. The costumes were scary enough, but the drums were more than she could handle. I quickly excused myself and made a bee-line for the end of the street so we could cut back up a side road to the park where the parade would end. Once on the side road with the drums behind us, Charlie relaxed and turned her attention to the squirrels busily gathering nuts in the park.

Everything was good again.

People gathered at the park to continue the harvest celebration and we took a seat on the hill to watch the festivities while sipping coffee and sampling our baked goods purchased earlier at the farmer's market. Charlie was content to play with sticks and acorns and watch all the other dogs and people around us. Children playing hula-hoop and frisbee caught her attention and she desperately wanted to play with them, but this was not a good time or place to be off-leash!

I was really proud of how well she handled herself in a busy crowd with tons of new stimuli. And even though some things spooked her, it was a good experience overall. She's such a good girl!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

IAT: John Muir Segment (Treasure Hunt Ends)

After a fun-filled and relaxing weekend spent with family, Charlie and I headed back home last Sunday afternoon. Driving through Madison was stressful and nerve-wracking, leaving me short of breath at times and gripping the steering wheel tightly. Traffic was unusually dense for a weekend and I was almost side-swiped by a vehicle changing lanes. Just out of town and back on the Interstate, I witnessed the tire of a semi truck blow up and shred off its rim right in front of me; a cloud of dust and pieces of rubber flew everywhere. I slammed on the brakes and swerved, narrowly missing a long strip of rubber in the middle of my lane. Having recently just got my car fixed from the vandalism incident, I was starting to feel like I was doomed for another repair.

In order to calm myself and be able to continue on our journey home, I decided to pull off the highway and go hiking. Going into the woods always makes everything better. Plus it was a gorgeous sunny day with crisp temps in the 60's and I wanted to enjoy some fresh air instead of spending all day driving in my car. We headed for a segment of the Ice Age Trail where the treasure hunt for the Our Wisconsin magazine had just ended - John Muir Memorial Park in the Town of Buffalo.

At first glance this park doesn't look like much. There's a tiny picnic shelter, a sign kiosk near the trail head for the IAT segment and pit toilets with no doors on the stalls (seriously, anyone could walk in and see your lady-bits hanging out!). A very nice boat launch is available for non-motorized boats and there's a small baseball field, but otherwise it's pretty simple with very few amenities. However, if you do a little research prior to arriving, you'll find that this is a very special park indeed!

The lake itself is a 30-acre kettle lake, and on this particular day it was vibrant blue, full of sun sparkles and reflecting the colors of the season along its shore. Upon further Google research (later in the day), I found a really nice piece written up by Kara Silva for the Chicago Tribune back in April of this year. She fully researched the historical importance of this area and captured the feeling of hiking the trail in late winter. I highly recommend reading her article, Where 'Green' Began.

The trail begins in a prairie, filled with tall grasses, glowing gold in the late-day light of October. A soft and sandy trail winds its way into oak groves as it follows the curve of the lake. The dwindling canopy reveals intermittent views of the cobalt blue lake and marsh birds flitting about in the reeds. Large oak limbs, like arms, reach out over the trail with branches tapering into fingertips, pointing toward the lake as if beckoning you to enjoy the view.

Learning about the significance that John Muir had in the creation of America's National Parks and his connection with Wisconsin will give you shivers as you explore this park and realize that you are standing on the same earth that this man grew up on. It's quite an experience.

And then there is the car.

This car has been like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow dangling in front of me for months as I searched parks all across the state for the hidden key. I had a feeling all along that I wouldn't be the one to find the key. Most events in my life are tainted by Murphy's Law; I am not a lucky person. But I offer my congratulations to the winners and hope they enjoy driving their new car; it really is a great vehicle.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Weekend Tree Project

Charlie and I road-tripped down to Platteville this weekend to visit family and attend the 'That Tree' gallery opening by Mark Hirsch in Dubuque. Friday night was magical as my dad and I strolled through Gallery C admiring Mark Hirsch's photos and discussing topics ranging from the photo compositions and old memories to my own current project - writing and photographing for this blog.

My dad is so proud of me. Maybe you can imagine how profound that feels.

Gallery C was the perfect space for this exhibit:  original brick and stone walls, exposed wooden beams and polished wood floors. The entire space oozed with history of its former life as a warehouse and factory but also felt earthy, warm and inviting. New elements of wood and metal were complimentary to all of the old historical elements and the walls themselves felt like works of art.

As people milled about sipping wine, snacking on cheese and crackers and admiring the photos, the sweet sound of Mark's son, Tristan, singing songs and strumming his guitar filled the gallery. I even heard him do a rendition of 'Flightless Bird' from the Twilight movie soundtrack! I stood in line and waited to have my book autographed and had a chance to chat with Mark for a few minutes. It turns out that he and my dad knew several of the same people. Small world.

It was a special evening spending time with my dad while honoring a fellow artist, congratulating his success and enjoying the fruits of his artistic gift. It is truly amazing. I found myself getting a little bit emotional while looking at some of the photos as I imagined the amount of time and thought that went into each composition as well as the dedication it took to stand by a single subject for an entire year. I was surrounded by so much imagination and talent and at the same time, my dad continued to praise my own photography; it was a bit overwhelming, but in a good way.

The next morning, my dad and I woke early and walked the dogs around his property. There is a particular giant oak tree - possibly the largest in the county - residing on his land that he wanted to show me. I took it upon myself to do my own little 'That Tree' project of my dad's tree. I have to be up front here and say that I am not copying Mark's project; this is a one time thing. I am simply honoring a beautiful weekend spent with my dad by incorporating an event that we shared together with something that resonates with him personally. Some people say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some people are offended when their ideas are copied, I hope you enjoy it and take it for what it is... a daughter's love for her dad and their shared love of the outdoors.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Road Trip to see That Tree

We're heading down to Platteville this weekend to visit family and attend the gallery opening of...

I'm totally excited at the prospect of meeting this photographer! If you haven't already seen the creative photos he's taken, make sure to visit

Mark Hirsch was even featured on the CBS Sunday Morning program (one of my favorite shows!):

Given that Charlie and I spend so much time amidst the trees, I completely understand how one tree could capture your imagination for a year, and perhaps forever. If you're interested in learning more about Friday's gallery opening, here's the link:  Gallery C

Also, The Driftless Area Land Conservancy is holding a 'That Tree' event on Sunday:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Errand Hikes Return!

Now that cooler weather has returned, I can start bringing Charlie along when I run errands since she won't get overheated in the car. I leave all four windows down halfway and the sunroof open so she gets plenty of fresh air and keep her water bowl filled in the backseat. I love seeing her silly butt in the driver's seat every time I return to the car!

Today we had three quick stops to make, pick up some dinner at Rocky Rococo Pizzeria and head over to Bluegill Bay Park for a picnic dinner, a hike around the bay and some fetch. Charlie was overjoyed as we approached the park ~ she could smell the water. Unfortunately, I had just applied her monthly tick medicine this morning (which is highly toxic to fish - hence the instructions to keep dogs out of water for 48 hours) so I was going to have to keep a close eye on her near the water's edge.

Luckily, 6-year-old Caleb and his parents were playing nearby and I chatted them up to see if Caleb would be interested in playing a round of Pine-Cone-Fetch with Charlie. Before I could even finish asking permission, Charlie and Caleb were off and playing! Charlie loves kids and we were all laughing while watching them romp through leaves, playing with pine cones and sticks like only little boys and playful dogs can do. So sweet.

Back in March, when I blogged about this park HERE, I mentioned that it was a great place for bird-watching and also listed on the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail website - NOW is the time to visit this park if you're into birds! The marshlands along the bay are alive with sounds of migrating birds.

Get out and get active with your dog!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

IAT: Grandfather Falls, October Edition

Earlier this summer when I met my new Ice-Age-Trail-friend, Rachel, we were talking about our favorite segments and I told her my absolute favorite was Grandfather Falls. She laughed and said that I hadn't hiked enough segments to know which one was my favorite yet. She was right about that! I have so many favorites now that I can't pick just one, but Grandfather Falls was the first segment I ever hiked on the Ice Age Trail and was my inspiration to continue hiking the other segments.

This past Sunday, Charlie and I had the luxury of having this segment all to ourselves and we completely soaked up the beautiful colors and peaceful vibes. I've hiked Grandfather Falls in all seasons now... so here is the fall photo tour of my "inspiration segment." Enjoy!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

IAT: Plover River Segment, Fall Edition

With the worst of Wisconsin's mosquito-season behind us, I decided it was time to revisit the Plover River Segment of the Ice Age Trail. Armed with the knowledge of this trail earned earlier this summer, I doused myself with bug spray just to be on the safe side although it quickly became clear this would be unnecessary. Instead of sprinting through the woods to evade swarms of mosquitoes, like back in June, this was now a leisurely and peaceful hike. The trail was so different from the lush, green tropical forest that I experienced at the beginning of summer, leaving me with the feeling that I was on a completely new trail, rather than one I knew.

The river was just as clear and beautiful as I remembered it, but this time it was framed by colorful trees. Fallen leaves floated past and river rocks were more visible with the lower water level. It's at once obvious why this is a Class I, high-quality trout stream sustaining wild-trout population - the water is unbelievably crystal clear!

The Ice Age Trail Mobile Skills Crew has done a fantastic job finishing up this segment. Now instead of wandering in circles trying to figure out where the trail was when I reached the river crossing, a newly installed bench across the river beckoned me to hop the river boulders to the other side. I took a break on the bench to sit and contemplate the sound of the water babbling over the rocks as Charlie went off in search of sticks for me to throw. As I sat there, I became aware of a buzzing sound nearby, a swarming buzzing sound. I looked up and saw that bees had made a nest in a knot hole in the pine tree above the bench. Not wanting to take a chance getting stung, we quickly moved on.

The fall colors intensified as we continued on into the forest to the top of the winding ridge of a moraine. We were surrounded by a rainbow of colors in every direction and the dwindling leaf cover allowed for wide open views. Even though the autumn colors aren't as vivid as they typically can be - probably due to drought conditions this summer - there is still a show to be seen.

It's a new feeling walking this trail after having gained so much hiking experience throughout the summer. I'm familiar with how to read my trail maps, estimating distances, understanding how temperatures and weather conditions will affect my hydration needs, and automatically watching for the yellow blazes marking the trail. It's funny how that yellow blaze has become such a familiar beacon; I hardly realize how often my eyes search them out and how much comfort they provide in knowing I am on the right track. The yellow blaze has become a friend of sorts.

As the trail winds its way back to the Plover River, rocks and boulders again protrude from the earth as tree roots twist themselves into fantastic shapes around them. With the loss of leaves and plants on the forest floor, these root sculptures are more easily seen. I began "seeing" shapes in them, just as a child would do with passing clouds in the sky. The tree on the huge boulder in the photo above was completely and unbelievably secured to the top of this rock, looking more like a pterodactyl skull or a giant flamingo head than a tree root.

Tiny islands interspersed throughout the river sustain trees, plants and shrubs, all covered in soft green moss. The river flows through and around these mini-villages, providing habitat for countless fish, amphibians and other forest dwellers. I noticed several small, black frogs near the riverbank and tried my best not to step on any of them.

Without the horrendous mosquitoes that we experienced last time we were here, it was such a relaxing feeling to slow down and have the opportunity to observe the landscape. Numerous and enormous rocks seem to pop up everywhere. The trees are undaunted by their presence and just grow around them. Sometimes I'm amazed that there is a trail to be found in the maze of tree roots and rocks, but then ahead I'll see a yellow blaze and know I'm on the right track.

As we made our way back to the parking lot, I was delighted and amazed to find the same small skull next to the trail that we had seen back in June. In the four months since we were last here, the skull, sticks and debris were completely untouched - just as we had left it. It's admirable that other trail users have respected the "do not disturb" policy of the trail and have left things just as they found them so that others can enjoy the wild beauty too.

Skull - October 2013
Skull - June 2013
It was another awesome hike on a trail that was at once familiar but also new and different. Changing seasons, rotating vegetation and weather can make even the most familiar trail feel like a new adventure!