Monday, April 28, 2014

Rusty Chair and Dead Things

I'm so glad Charlie and I enjoyed a long hike and leisurely day at our favorite park/trail/beach on Saturday since it turned out to be the one nice day this weekend; the weather is turning colder and cloudier for the next week.

Charlie sniffed out, located and rolled in so many dead things and scat piles she earned herself a lavender bath on Sunday; I just couldn't stand the smell of her any longer!

I experimented with different settings on my fancy camera and am finally becoming more comfortable with this expensive piece of equipment. I'm so proud of myself!

Also, because we took our leisurely time exploring the woods, I found some neat treasures... including a very rusty chair that almost blended right into the scenery. Seriously, I was chasing Charlie away from a dead fish carcass when I almost tripped over the thing!

Here's a photo/video montage of our Saturday... enjoy!

And the dead raccoon we found at the base of a tree:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Photo Story: Fetch!

We could go on and on and on like this all day... Charlie LIVES to fetch!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sojos - Part 2

A rainbow of all-natural goodness!

When the awesome people at Sojos heard how much Charlie loves their food, they offered to send me some more of their products to try! How cool is that?

Charlie was pretty impressed with the box of goodies! There were a few bags of freeze-dried dog food mix (Original Recipe, Fruit & Veggie, Raw Turkey) and an assortment of biscuits. I opened the box of Apple Dumpling biscuits first and the delicious aroma prompted me to pop one of these adorable mini-biscuits into my own mouth.

Yep - I ate a dog biscuit.

Once you read the ingredient list on the box, you might be tempted to eat one too because they are made with really awesome ingredients!

After having tried all the treats and dog food mixes, here are the top five things I love about Sojos:

1.  EASY TO MAKE! The freeze dried dog food mixes are so easy to make. I like to give the food plenty of time to rehydrate, so before bed I scoop out 1 cup of food mix into a container, add about 1+ cup of water, stir and refrigerate overnight. In the morning I scoop a serving into a bowl for Charlie and stir in her Omega-3 fish oil supplement. I don't have to get my hands dirty or use a lot of dishes; it's just one step and you're done!

2.  WHOLE INGREDIENTS! I'm so impressed with the ingredients used in the treats and food mixes and totally feel confident that I'm feeding my dog something healthy. As an example, here are the ingredients in a few of the packages:
Apple Dumpling Treats:  Oat flour, rolled oats, apples, canola oil, cinnamon, vanilla, eggs, honey.
Lamb/Sweet Potato Treats (grain free): Bean flour, lamb, sweet potatoes, canola oil, eggs.
Fruit & Veggie Dog Food Mix (add your own meat): sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, celery, apples, whole egg, cranberries, tricalcium phosphate, flax seed meal, parsley leaf, carob powder, dried kelp, alfalfa, ginger root, garlic, sunflower oil, vitamin D3 supplement.

3.  WHEAT-FREE AND GRAIN-FREE OPTIONS! If you've done any research on dog food nutrition, you probably know that wheat isn't good for your dog. All of the Sojos food is Wheat-Free and Corn-Free or completely Grain-Free.

4.  FREE TREATS! Every bag of freeze-dried dog food mix comes with a free treat sample inside. It's like finding a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks!

5.  VARIETY OF TREAT SIZES/FLAVORS! I love that the treats come in different sizes. Our box contained 3 different sized treats: BIG DOG in Beef Stew flavor, Regular gourmet biscuits in Bacon Cheddar and Lamb/Sweet Potato flavor and the tiniest little biscuits in Apple Dumpling flavor. These tiny biscuits are perfect for little dogs to prevent over-treating and my mom's Chihuahua-mix, Peanut, loved them! Additionally, if you like to bake your dog "special occasion" dog-cakes or pupcakes, these tiny bone-shaped biscuits make fun decorations!

Photo courtesy of Katzenbarkers Natural Pet Food & Supplies (

I'm really happy to have healthy raw food options for Charlie, including Sojos. The raw food diet is still pretty new to me and Charlie and we're slowly becoming more adventurous. I've had fun experimenting adding my own fresh raw meat to the fruit & veggie pre-mix, but on the days when I don't have fresh meat handy (or forgot to thaw some from the freezer) I can opt to use the beef or turkey pre-mixes. Charlie has been excited to broaden her dietary horizons and Sojos is making it easier to provide her with a healthy raw diet. Thank you Sojos!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Roadtrip Saturday to Rib Falls

We drove north on Saturday toward the Harrison Hills Segment of the Ice Age Trail, enjoying a beautiful warm and sunny day with the sunroof open and fresh spring air swirling around us, looking forward to a long hike in the woods. Unfortunately I forgot that northern Wisconsin received 10+ inches of snow this past week. Upon arriving at the parking area off County Highway B, I realized our plans were going to have to change:  the parking lot and trail were snow-covered and I hadn't worn the proper footwear for these conditions.

On our way back south, we made a quick stop at the Prairie River Overlook and then drove through Merrill ending up at Council Grounds State Park where we were greeted with a chorus of frogs! Patches of snow remained in the shady spots, but the day was warm and pleasant. Charlie enjoyed a short hike along the Wisconsin River and we played a game of fetch at the sandy shore above the roaring dam.

Charlie waiting to play fetch!
(Only in Wisconsin:  the sign on the beach says - Snowmobiles Prohibited In This Area)

After a quick lunch, we hit the road again and drove west and then south toward Rib Falls. I wanted to see if the Big Rib River flooding had receded enough to allow us access to the beautiful rocky shoreline. We were in luck!

Charlie finding sticks.

Charlie found an abundance of sticks to play with while I explored tiny pools of water for tadpoles and small fish. We sat on the warm rocks and "zenned" out to the rush of water surrounding us.

Soaking up sun, breathing in fresh air and relaxing to the sounds of nature left us completely exhausted by the time we got home, where we immediately slumped into a late-afternoon nap.

Perfect day.

"Tide" pools at Big Rib River.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Charlie's Easter Basket

As a child, I always thought Easter was about candy... kind of like Halloween. Living in a non-religious family, I didn't learn about the true meaning of Easter until I was an adult and even though I know more now than I did when I was a kid, Easter still = candy!

So we're going to have a little fun this year and Charlie's going to get her own Easter basket with the kind of "candy" that she likes! Since she's on a 1/2 raw diet, I've begun incorporating dehydrated organs and animal parts into her treat routine... and she absolutely LOVES them.

Lamb lung, duck feet and chicken hearts.

And since some animals are associated with Easter, I've included LAMB, DUCK and CHICKEN in her basket, as well as some new Kanine Kitchen treats... DOGGIE BISCOTTI!

In case you were wondering, Kanine Kitchen DOGGIE BISCOTTI is wheat-free and made with oat flour, peanut butter, bananas, apples and eggs. It's a big hit with my test doggies and is available on the website now (

Charlie and I will be soaking up sunshine, breathing fresh air and stretching our limbs on a long hike this weekend. I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend, and even if you're not religious (like me) get out and rejoice in nature's beauty!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wanna Talk About Doggie First Aid?

The following morning after my last post, Mother Nature gifted us with 2.5" of wet snow. I woke up listening to the traffic below my bedroom window thinking the pavement sounded wet and assumed it was raining, however when I let Charlie outside to go potty I realized it was snow instead.


Anyway, we're making the best of it and trying to stay on our daily walking schedule regardless. Today we ventured down to the Eau Claire River Trail to see how the spring flooding is progressing.

By the time we arrived in late afternoon, we had the trail to ourselves and I let Charlie run off some energy off-leash. She had a major case of the "zoomies" and raced about. The receded flood water had washed up enormous amounts of sticks; Charlie was so happy!

Plus she seems extra-excited this time of year because the previously ice-covered waterways are now open and labs LOVE water! Her particular excitement always brings to mind the term "twitterpated" from the Disney movie, Bambi.

I realize this word is usually meant to describe "falling in love" or "being enamored with someone" but to me this word always makes me think how spring brings out a rejuvenated spirit in living things. Charlie was definitely twitterpated today.

With April being Pet First Aid Awareness Month and my reference of "twitterpated" (which also makes me think of Twitter), I hope you'll join our conversation on Twitter on Wednesday, 4/16/14 at 7:00pm (CST) to learn more about dog first aid at #AdventureDogChat, and while you're there follow me on Twitter at @HikingHeather. I'll be co-hosting the chat with Jessica from (@YDWWYW).

See you there!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Has Arrived!

Gray skies met gray waters at the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir today, but the mild 40-degree temperatures were energizing and inspiring!

After one of the snowiest and coldest winters on record, spring is unfolding perfectly. The near-60 degree temps over the past week have melted the remaining snow and the Wisconsin River is completely open now in Wausau. Most snow piles around the area are completely gone, or reduced to tiny islands of white in newly-growing grass.

Charlie and I hiked this trail on this very same day last year when there was still snow covering the forest floor and most of the trail. I wore my winter boots today, not knowing whether we would find snow or slush in the shady forest, but as it turned out, I didn't need them. Next time we're here, I'll be wearing my regular hiking boots and probably one less layer of sweatshirts too!

Ironically, when we hiked this trail last year, Charlie treed a raccoon and this year, she happened upon a dead one at the base of a tree. It had died recently and apparently of natural causes or possibly disease, curled up at the base of a rotting tree trunk.

Dead raccoon.

The return of migrating birds is a welcome sound now that winter has released its icy grip. Bird calls of every kind reverberated through the woods and echoed off the lake. Trilling of cranes, honking geese, the scream of eagles and hawks, hollow thudding of woodpeckers working on trees and the chirp and tweet of every other small bird surrounded us. Although my ears were a little cold, I removed my hat for awhile just to listen.

While some people may have seen today as a gray and ugly day, a day to stay inside and curl up under a blanket, I saw the mild air combined with nature coming alive as a gift! Today was the most beautiful day and Charlie and I enjoyed it to the fullest. We experienced the quiet of the woods, the awakening of the earth and the progression of seasons moving toward new experiences to be had.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hiking and a Playground

Charlie and I had a beautiful hike last Sunday... the warmest day of the year so far - 58 degrees! The Eau Claire River is beginning to thaw and ice chunks were cracking off and floating down the river. Melting snow and ice plopped down on us from the tree branches above like a snowy rain in the brightest sunshine. Such magic.

After our hike, I lingered in the playground and basked in the sun. Charlie ate sticks and dug holes through the snow into the sand below, while I sat on the swings and played on the monkey bars; it was a lovely day.

I even heard an owl hooting nearby...

Listen here:

And another VIDEO of Charlie bugging me to play "fetch" with a twig:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Choose Our Next Hike!

Charlie and I have a fairly aggressive hiking/camping schedule for this year... that is, as soon as it's warm enough for camping and roadtripping around the state to explore a bunch of new areas!

The weather this morning is a chilly 15 degrees with vibrant blue skies and a bronze sunrise sparkling off all the ice-covered branches in our neighborhood. It's beautiful. But it's also April, and I'm ready for the ice and snow to go away.

Shaded hiking trails in the woods are treacherously ice-covered right now and almost impassable when you have a hyper 40-lb. dog strapped to you! Once Charlie gets in the woods, we have one speed: GO! She forgets the other words I've taught her like, "Wait" or "Stay by Mom." And I hate falling, so I'm embarrassed to admit I've been avoiding hiking lately.

But I've been reading some great hiking reports around the state and beyond, and while I'm sometimes jealous of the beauty these people are experiencing, I remember the beauty that is available in my own state and the many people who have found pleasure in perusing my own trail reports.

So I got to wondering, if YOU could choose our next hike, what trail would you choose? If you're so inspired, faithful reader, take a moment to enter your comment below or on Facebook or Twitter and let me know where you would like Charlie and me to hike next! I'd love to hear your suggestions.

And just to say "thanks" for reading my blog and taking the time to comment, if I choose your suggestion, I'll send you a box of Kanine Kitchen dog treats!

I can't wait to see what you come up with...

Can you find the little yellow dog behind me?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

National Walking Day

Today is the American Heart Association's National Walking Day! More and more Americans are struggling with obesity or weight issues but there is wonderful news... walking is the EASIEST and BEST exercise for improving your health.

Start out with just 10 minutes a day and work up to at least 30 minutes a day over time. Once you get into a daily routine, this will become a habit you can easily live with. And it will most likely help you live a longer and healthier life.

If you need motivation to keep on track, find a walking partner, or better yet -- adopt a dog! Dogs make great walking partners and provide a multitude of health benefits.

Check out the American Heart Association's website for more information and tips on staying healthy...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April = Pet First Aid Awareness Month

April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month! Being prepared for a pet-related injury is no joke when you're out hiking... here's a link to an article I wrote last year for our friends at Dog About Town Northwest:
I always carry a small first-aid kit with me when we're out hiking... even if it's just for a couple of hours. You never know what situations you'll run into and I prefer to be prepared.