Saturday, April 30, 2016

Charlie's Choice

Unexpected results present themselves when you allow your dog to make the choice of where you walk. Sometimes, to shake up the routine of our weekday walks, I let Charlie choose our direction. Oftentimes, she takes us to Thom Field, a local high school athletic field, where she has the uncanny ability to find lacrosse balls in the woods and marshy area along one side of the field. We play some fetch with the found ball and then she gets to bring her "treasure" home with her. Because of her skilled nose, we have quite the collection of lacrosse balls at home now.

But earlier this week, we took one of these "Charlie's Choice" walks and ended up at Whitewater Park in downtown Wausau, where Charlie got to play with sticks and swim in the calm pools before the rapids. It was a beautifully unexpected walk and the "treasure" of this day was watching Charlie romp and play with such joy and me feeling like the luckiest dog-mom in the world.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rib Mountain State Park

This post has been a long time coming. Rib Mountain State Park is practically in my backyard and Charlie and I have hiked there several times, but for some reason I just never get a post done on it.

So Saturday morning we were invited to join some new Facebook friends on a hike and I took the opportunity to finally capture some photos of a few of the trails we hiked.

Rib Mountain is the second highest point in Wisconsin (Timm's Hill is the highest) and there are some spectacular views from the multitude of trails to choose from. Plus the billion-year-old rock formations are pretty awesome! Did I mention that there's a popular downhill ski hill here too?

Today's hike featured plenty of white birch along the Quarry Trail, Turkey Vulture Trail and Homestead Trail, and the snow melt from Granite Peak Ski Area had tiny streams running down the hillside creating a lullaby of trickling water.

If you're into historical sites, there are plenty of educational markers on some trails including the remains of a building that used to hold dynamite for the quarry and the old foundation of one of the first homesteads in the area.

We didn't have time to check out everything, but we'll be back to spend more time learning about the history of this hill, enjoying the quiet peacefulness of the woods and taking in the wildlife, like the circling turkey vultures gliding on warm air currents along the quarry walls.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

East Lake Segment - Ice Age Trail

Charlie and I took a road trip last weekend to scout out the area around Rib Lake for an upcoming project that I'll tell you more about later.  We ended up hiking part of the East Lake Segment and I totally forgot to write a post about it!

Last Saturday was one of those unusually warm sunny days that we don't get too often in April... temps reaching the low 80's!

The trees don't have any leaves yet this time of year, so there was no shade or relief from the sun and we quickly got too warm. Unfortunately I dressed for normal April weather and was sweating pretty good within our first mile.

Luckily there were plenty of watering holes for Charlie to cool off in during the hike!

The trail consisted of a lot of ups and downs, but it seemed we were doing a slow ascent which turned quite steep at one point. Upon reaching the top of the "hill," I found a sign that said Moose Mountain!

We took a long break at the top to play some fetch and then made our way back down to the trailhead since I was running low on water.

VIDEO (view from the top):

I typically get pretty grumpy in hot weather... 60's are my favorite temperature. There were times during the hike where I just wanted to quit and go back to the car, but I kept telling myself "we drove all the way here, the least we can do is get some hiking in."

Funny thing is though, once I started getting my body moving and we achieved a good rhythm, I stopped my internal whining and just enjoyed the ride. There were sweet moments when a cool breeze circled my body or a butterfly landed on a piece of birch bark or we stopped to listen to frogs in a pond, where the noisy chatter in my head ceased and all that was there was nature.

VIDEO (frogs in pond):

Busy jobs, errands that need to be run, relationship problems and family strife end up cluttering our brains with too many thoughts bouncing around... where you just can't stop the thoughts from eating away at you. But spending a couple of hours out in nature with your body moving is the best cure for this condition. By the time we got back to the car, I felt at ease and refreshed from the accumulation of brain-garbage throughout the week.

Spending time in nature really is the cure.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Snow Dog

Meteorologists warned about a severe winter storm hitting our area for days now. Since I have a long commute to work, I told my boss on Tuesday that I wasn't going to plan on coming in today due to the weather. So knowing that I had the day off, we slept in a little this morning and had leisure time to sip coffee on our window seat overlooking the snowy city streets below. FYI... on the picture above, that "gray area" at the bottom of the windowsill is snow. Yep, we got about a foot of snow overnight.

When I let Charlie outside to go potty this morning, she turned to look at me and her face lit up! She couldn't believe that the backyard was covered in snow!

This is the most snow we've gotten all at one time this entire season, so this was really special for Charlie. The winter has been pretty boring to her in regards to playing in snow. And with the early spring, I kinda figured we were done with snow. I guess Mother Nature had other plans, and honestly I'm happy about it. Not only do I get a "free" day to play with Charlie but Charlie finally gets to have her fun in the snow.

And Charlie is definitely a snow dog. She was born in late fall and her very first memories are of December and January - cold and snow. She absolutely LOVES snow.

She immediately dug up her frisbee and ball out of the deep snow and demanded to play a game of fetch. I couldn't help but smile and laugh at her antics.

In reality, she spends most of the time playing by herself. "Losing" the ball in the snow and then digging it up over and over. I typically just stand there watching her and am available to throw the ball if she so chooses to bring it to me. But she seems quite content to just play by herself.


However, the minute I get bored and decide to go back inside, she loses all interest in playing and wants to come in with me. It's almost like she needs me out there to keep her company, even if I'm not actively participating in her games.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Equinox

Normally I remember important dates like the first day of spring. I mark my calendar and make kind of a big deal out of those events. But my mind was so wrapped up in celebrating my younger sister's 40th birthday on Saturday that I totally forgot about the first day of spring, until my smart phone reminded me! So after a leisurely morning sipping coffee and watching the sun rise, Charlie and I finally headed out to our hiking destination on this very special day.

Although the sun was shining brightly and the sky was a brilliant shade of blue, the temps and windy conditions did not feel like spring today. Despite the chill, Charlie and I spent a large portion of our afternoon hiking and exploring at one of our favorite parks.

Birds and squirrels were as abundant as the sunshine today, but we haven't seen any deer in quite a while. The ice sheet across the lake is almost completely gone now and the trickling snow-melt streams running down the hillsides were more pronounced today than last week.

The angle of the sun in the sky during the spring equinox produces such a beautiful and dazzling shade of blue only seen during the months of March and September. I often refer to this color as "September Blue" although it could just as easily be called "March Blue."

Since the landscape is still a sea of browns, my eyes were constantly drawn to the sky to take in this fleeting color and revel in the newness of the season.

Trees are beginning to bud and ferns that had been preserved under snow have turned a stunning shade of green. Moisture from snow melt combined with sunshine have regenerated mosses and the forest floor is beginning to come alive again.

Charlie was running at full speed chasing squirrels and leaping over logs as she careened about the woods, her happiness radiating all around. We both had smiles pasted on our faces as we breathed in the cool, crisp air and stretched our legs on a long hike.

Afterwards, we stopped at the local ice cream place to celebrate the first day of spring and get Charlie her first Pup Cone of the season. It was a good day.