Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lemons Into Lemonade

Waking up to a blanket of freshly fallen snow, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning! I absolutely could not wait to get to a quiet hiking trail and take in the transformation of forest to fairy tale!

Unfortunately... waiting is exactly what I had to. I had to wait for the snow to stop falling and the snow plows to catch up with getting the roads cleaned up.

And then after almost 45 minutes of white-knuckle driving to our favorite Ice Age Trail segment, the parking area wasn't plowed out.

Figuring I could just pull off as far as possible and road-park, I got stuck. While in the process of getting myself unstuck, a nice man pulled up in his pickup truck (extremely handsome and snacking on an apple - how adorable?!) and offered to give me a push while I rocked my transmission and got out of the hole I had dug myself. Luckily I got myself out without needing a tow truck and thanked the nice man for stopping to help.

After all that heart-racing activity, I didn't even feel like hiking anymore. Charlie had given up on us doing anything fun and was napping in the backseat and all I wanted to do was go home and take a nap.

But since I was all bundled up and had already promised Charlie a hike, we headed back into town where I was sure we could find an urban trail with a plowed-out parking area, or at the very least, safe roadside parking.

Someone decorated this tree with ornaments!

At Fern Island in downtown Wausau, we were rewarded with the idyllic scenery I was looking forward to, unfortunately it came with a "city-sounds" backdrop. Throughout our walk, we were surrounded by the sounds of traffic, sirens, beeping of snowplows backing up, kids playing with snowboards across the river and the maddening sound of steel snowplow blades dropping and grating along cement.

Charlie ended up getting spooked by all the sounds and bolted back toward the parking lot, with me still attached to her.

Still, we enjoyed the distinct beauty of a new snowfall and some fresh air. All is good. Lemons into lemonade.

**Thank you to the guy who kindly stopped to help me... and to all of you out there who take the time to offer help to a stranger.**

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day Footprints

Some cute little footprints were left by my garage door Christmas Day. Just adorable.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Peanut Goes Hiking

Charlie's buddy, Peanut (a Chihuahua-mix), joined us for a foggy hike on Sunday. Unfortunately her tiny legs got too cold and she ended up hitching a ride in my tiny pink backpack!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Blaze Orange

Charlie wasn't the only one wearing blaze orange during our hike yesterday. I'm not that aware of what hunting seasons are going on at any given time, but I don't take chances with Charlie's safety in the woods; every year I purchase a blaze orange neck warmer in the hunting supply aisle of our local farm supply store and Charlie wears it every time we hike.

Part of the reason for this is because Charlie looks amazingly like a small deer when she bounds through the woods and leaps over logs. My heart would be broken if someone shot her mistakenly. Also, while she stays relatively close to me when she's off-leash on trails, it helps me see her better.

So yesterday, taking advantage of warmer-than-usual weather and enjoying the veil of fog swirling around us as we traversed a snow-covered landscape, I was not surprised to be following large boot prints alongside old splotches of blood in the snow. The segment of trail we were on is also public hunting and fishing grounds. Charlie put her tracking sense into gear and sniffed along the trail actively seeking out the source of blood and trying to pull me off-course to follow deer trails crossing our path.

Shortly, we came upon a man dressed in blaze orange sitting on a tree stump about 30 feet off the trail. He completely ignored us as we passed by as silently as possible so as not to disturb any wildlife that he might have been tracking.

After a while the large boot prints ended and the trail was all ours.

We enjoyed the serene beauty of the river as I carefully felt my way through the snow along the riverbank, trying not to trip on rocks and tree roots beneath the snow cover. Charlie learned what it felt like to stand on thin ice shelves along the shallow river before they broke beneath her, leaving her standing in ankle-deep water.

We listened to snow melting and dripping from the pine canopy above, the trickling water of the river flowing around tiny islands and breathed in the moist and mild air swirling around us. It was magical.


On the return trip back to the parking lot, we passed the hunter again, and this time he was standing up, rifle in hand. I was a bit startled to see such a high-powered weapon, as I had assumed it was only bow-hunting season. He once again ignored us as we passed by, but Charlie was alarmed and lunged and growled in his direction as we made our way past. I practically had to drag her behind me as we ascended a ridge because she wasn't going to let this "menacing" man out of her sight.

It's funny when I go into the wilderness that it's not wildlife or the elements that scare me, it's other people. I'm absolutely positive that this man meant no harm to anyone, he was just a hunter doing his thing, but seeing a gun can instill such a feeling of fear... even in a dog that has never seen a gun before.

Interesting, isn't it?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Nature's Sunday Service

Can you find Charlie in this photo?

The woods were blissfully quiet and peaceful on our Sunday morning hike today. We spent a total of 3 hours hiking this weekend at two different parks. Charlie sniffed out a furry raccoon tucked into a rotted out tree that I've passed by dozens of times before, snuggled in for the winter perhaps? And snow sparkles glittered all around from the late winter slant of warm sunshine. Here are a few of the other treasures we encountered this past weekend...

A miniature snowman along the trail.

Animal tracks in the snow revealing a tiny highway of activity.

Tree mushrooms illuminated by shafts of sunlight.

Tree branches dancing in the river's current. (+ VIDEO)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Keep The Journey Going

Life is like a road trip... for me anyway. Sometimes you take off in the car with no idea where you are going, but just want to feel the wind in your hair and the miles slipping by. Usually there are maps to help when you get lost, but more often than not, the "getting lost" part is the best part of the trip.

Some places will become so familiar and bring so much joy, you might decide to stay for a while. Other places will be disappointing and you'll just get in your car and move on.

I like the idea of being open to all the possibilities that come my way and flexible enough that I'm willing to take a chance on a new place, a new person or a new experience.

My favorite part of a road trip is finding a sign for something intriguing up ahead and the exhilarating feeling of making the turn and seeing something new.

That was how I found several of my favorite hiking places - just taking a chance on a sign.

So let's do that this next year. Let's be open to the unknown and allow new adventures to make us better people. Don't wait for someone to tell you where to go or what to see. Get in your car and just go. Take a chance on a sign.