Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stick? Log? Same Difference.

We took a long evening walk on the River Edge Parkway along the Wisconsin River tonight... all the way down through Whitewater Park, around Fern Island and then back home through downtown Wausau. Roundtrip, this takes us about 2 hours which includes time to play fetch with Charlie and let her go swimming.

She pulls pretty hard on her leash until we get to the water because she can't wait to go swimming. When I told her to "go find a stick," she brought me a small branch/log. Oh well... she always seems to go for the biggest stick she can find.

It reminds me of this time a couple of years ago when Ruffwear ran a pretty funny April Fools Day joke on their Facebook page introducing their newest toy, The Stick. Which was basically a stick. And everyone started chiming in on their dog's favorite style, shape, type, etc. which grew into hilarious tales of dogs that preferred logs over sticks.

Well, that pretty much explains Charlie. The bigger, the better.

She insists on carrying her "treasure" with her for a while after we're done swimming.
We were lucky enough to see a variety of wildlife during our city walk tonight. A few Great Blue Herons were fishing near the shore, always keeping a little ahead of us but close enough to get a good look at them.

Great Blue Heron on log in river off to the right of Charlie.
We also saw a deer on the island across the shore from the riverwalk. I tried pointing it out to Charlie, but she didn't see it.

Deer across river under the tree trunk.

Deer in the middle across the river.

It was pretty cool seeing all this wildlife basically in downtown Wausau! I feel pretty lucky that I live close enough to this trail and the Wisconsin River that I can just walk over any time I like. Life is good.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Day Off To Reconnect With Nature

It's no secret that Americans work too much. I've read several articles stating that we don't get as much vacation as other countries and when we actually do use our vacation, we work through at least some of it. Technology is making it increasingly hard to disconnect from obligations and reconnect with nature.

And I guess I kind of get it. When you have a really great job you want to give 100% as often as possible, especially since really great jobs are hard to find.

I'm lucky enough to have one of those really great jobs right now and it truly is hard to take a day off without thinking about everything that needs to be done.

But these past few weeks I've been feeling a little burned out and I have a couple of busy months ahead of me, so I took a vacation day today... a mental holiday if you will. Just a little extension to the weekend so Charlie and I could have one more day out on the trails enjoying nature.

And it was a lovely day for it! As soon as we drove into Big Eau Pleine County Park, I turned off the radio and rolled down the windows so we could breathe in the cool, sweet air and listen to the birds chirping all around.

Trees are finally budding out and the soft glow of green welcomed us. A strong breeze was blowing today and the trees were alive with the sound of wind. Bird-chirps echoed through the woods and waves crashed along the shore.

Wildflowers were blooming along the forest floor and fern fronds were unfurling. A white pelican floated on the waves just off-shore and a bald eagle flew within 20 feet of us. The park was alive with magic today.

VIDEO (turn up the volume to hear the bird-song):

My mind drifted and daydreamed... not about work and deadlines, but about love and life and enjoying the simple pleasures and beauty surrounding us. Not thinking about what lies ahead tomorrow, but simply being in the moment.

Smiling and laughing as Charlie bounced along the trail searching for the perfect stick and watching her little butt swaying with the waves while she played in the water. Taking a moment to just breathe and be grateful for this wonderful life.

Throwing her stick for another game of fetch!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day @ Grandfather Falls (with Recipe!)

To avoid another Mother's Day Mishap like what happened last year, I decided to take my mom to Grandfather Falls today. I knew I could let her relax along the shore of the Wisconsin River at Camp New Wood County Park while Charlie and I hiked a short section of the Grandfather Falls Segment of the Ice Age Trail, allowing all of us to get a taste of nature in our own preferred settings.

Charlie and I got into a good rhythm along the narrow trail cut into the steep hillside along the Wisconsin River, navigating roots and rocks at a quick pace. The babbling sound of water increased as we neared the rapids of Grandfather Falls and Charlie wanted to stop often to take swimming breaks where I could throw her stick and play fetch for a while.

Once she was tired out enough, we headed back to the county park to play some more fetch and hang out with mom for a bit.

I surprised Mom with her favorite treat when we got home... french crepes! I'm including the recipe below if you want to give them a try...

1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend batter until smooth, about 20 seconds. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup of batter in heated pan and swirl to get a thin even circle. Cook until slightly browned edges, about 40 seconds and then flip over, cook for another 10 seconds or until lightly browned. Makes 9-12 crepes depending on pan size.

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Cool Whip

Beat together cream cheese, milk and sugar until creamy. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread filling onto crepe and roll up. Serve with your choice of toppings: berries, jam, maple syrup, etc.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I Hiked Today...

I hiked today.
I hiked today for all the people who are no longer with us.
I hiked today for all the people who are physically incapable of hiking.
I hiked today for all the people, for whatever reason, are in a place in life where they cannot hike.
I hiked today.
I hiked because I can.

Thoughts of life and death flowed through my mind during our walk today. The way nature gives and takes and how it's all just a balancing act.

The way time can speed up or slow down depending on where you are, who you are with and what you are doing.

How every person that comes into our lives is there for a reason... friend or foe, they are part of our story and helping shape the person we are becoming.

Some are with us for longer than we like and others, well... forever will never be enough time. Some people stand by us no matter what and some people forget about us like we never existed.

But every person has a purpose. Whether to challenge us, to help us, or to make us think.

Cherish everyone.

We are all a part of this universe. Interconnected in ways we'll never understand.

Hiking Friends

Charlie's fear-aggression toward other dogs often leaves her without dog-friends to play with. Fortunately I had the luck of meeting a great neighbor last year who was interested in helping me socialize Charlie with her dog, Ellie. Not only did our dogs become friends, but so did Sara and I. And even though my friend Sara has since moved to another neighborhood, we still find time to walk our dogs together.

Tiny pink wildflowers are emerging from the leaves.

Last weekend Charlie and I were introduced to some new trails on Rib Mt. and this weekend, we revisited those trails and explored further with Sara and Ellie. Ellie is a coon-hound mix about the same age as Charlie and one of the few dogs that I trust Charlie with.

And while Ellie has helped Charlie with her socialization skills, Charlie has in turn helped Ellie learn to love playing in water! They've become great friends, as have Sara and I. It's really great having friends (both dog and human) to hike with.