Sunday, August 16, 2015

Steamy Sunday Morning Hike

Today is the last day of the run of recent "steamy" summer weather we've had. Charlie and I have been hanging out in the cool shade of the backyard lately and not doing too much hiking because of the hot weather, but I decided to go hiking really early this morning before the heat of the day got too bad.

We hadn't been back to this trail since our "Mother's Day Mishap" with all the ticks, so I was hoping that by this time of year they'd be gone. Luckily, we didn't find any ticks at all.

We hit the trail at 8:00 am and quickly immersed ourselves into the tropical feeling of the forest.

It was blissfully still and quiet with wafts of foggy steam floating through the tree canopy. The only sound was the alternating 'squish' or 'thud' of my boots on the varying terrain of mud and rocks. I hop-skipped along the rocks and roots protruding from the trail and started getting into a good hiking rhythm, enjoying our quick pace but still absorbing the beautiful landscape.

Foliage was dense and overgrown on some parts of the trail; dew-drenched fern fronds soaked my bare shins and provided cooling relief to the scratches received from raspberry bushes that were taking over the trail. The warm-moist heat released intoxicating scents of late-summer flowers and grasses, while the high keening sound of cicadas signaled the beginning of the end of summer.

We took several short breaks to throw sticks and splash in the stream, and while we didn't cover a lot of distance, we spent a good hour and half romping in the woods. As we back-tracked to our starting point, a delicious breeze picked up and swirled around me, rustling leaves in the treetop above.

Refreshed, invigorated but also tired, Charlie napped on the front seat on the drive home. We had a great time enjoying the outdoors early before the heat of the day took over, and now we can "veg" out and relax for the afternoon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Forest Critters

Charlie and I got out in the woods last weekend, visiting one of our favorite hiking trails. There were several horse trailers in the parking lot, so I kept Charlie on-leash today. Luckily, we didn't run into any horseback riders during our hike... just several piles of manure that were so tempting for Charlie to eat! Yuck.

In my alertness to the possibility of other people/dogs/horses using the trail, I happened to see several deer slipping quietly through the trees while Charlie was completely oblivious, too busy enjoying her hike. I also happened to see a bald eagle take off from a nearby tree and watched several cranes standing like statues in the shallows of the lake watching for their next meal.

As we neared the halfway point of the trail, I decided to take a quick break at the ramshackle picnic shelter with the rotting picnic table that no one ever uses, except me. It's on a little side trail toward the water's edge, so I let Charlie off-leash to go swimming while I sat down for a minute.

I took a look at the picnic table and found a spot on the bench that looked like it would hold my weight (as I said, it's rotting). I started to take off my backpack to get my water bottle out, when I heard a rustling of leaves in the back corner. Thinking it was probably just a mouse, I almost didn't turn to look.

Luckily, my curiosity got the best of me and I turned around.

My eyes took in a small mammal, black and white fur, pointy face and beady eyes staring at me. It took a minute for my brain to put all the pieces together, but suddenly I was like, "HOLY SHIT! SKUNK!"

Yeah, I got up pretty quickly and called Charlie back to the main trail, hoping she wouldn't catch its scent and go investigate. We hiked on for a ways down the trail, letting my heartbeat return to normal, and found a sunny spot on the beach to let Charlie swim again.

You never know what you're going to run into when you're out in the wilderness! It always pays to be alert and watch your surroundings... this was a lesson to not let my guard down even in places that I'm familiar with!