Monday, October 31, 2011

Hike 7--Halloween Hike

Today is Halloween so Mommy took the day off. She always does that because she knows that if I had to spend the afternoon having strangers knocking on the door and not being able to open it she'd find a big mess when she got home. She could take a half day off, but she figures it is better to take the whole day and have fun. So, today we took our 7th, or 11th, hike. It was a 2.9 mile hike so it counted as two.

We've never gone to this preserve because it is relatively new. It is a glacial lake surrounded by wetlands, prairie and a small oak forest. It used to be a farm so the wetlands were all tiled and drained and cultivated and the county has been bringing it back to its natural state. We didn't know what to expect from this forest preserve but it was very nice. Mommy said we should have done it two weeks ago because it would have been spectacular during color when the fall wildflowers were still in bloom. As it is, we seem to have done the hike just a few days after half of the prairie was mowed.

That is the sad thing with the newer preserves. In order to get the right plants growing they have to plow the ground up a whole bunch, then they seed and plant new trees and stuff and then, for a few years after planting they have to mow the prairie in mid-summer and fall. This kills off a bunch of the invasive plants, and lets the replanted natives grow better, but it means that there are some very ugly times of year for awhile. After the native plants are established and most of the invasives are gone the county burns the prairies occaasionally to help the plants. Mommy likes walking after the burns because you can see how all the plants send up new shoots through the soot. I prefer mowing because the small animals don't all run away for a few weeks like they do during the burns and I can sniff for a lot of mice and voles and stuff.

The lake in the center of the preserve is still being fixed up so you can't go down to it, but you could see it from a bunch of spots and it is very nice. Also, where they hadn't mowed the prairie, Mommy enjoyed "the ghosts of wildflowers past". That is what she calls it when the plants all go to seed and instead of having an expanse of purple and yellow and red and orange flowers you have an expanse of seeds still clinging to where the flowers were so you see white and black and brown ghosts of flowers. This was very fitting for a Halloween hike if you ask me. The best part about the hike was that we saw two trumpeter swans flying overhead AND, by one of the woodsy areas, I scared a coyote!

Mowed prairie

Unmowed prairie
(they always mow down about 4 feet on either side of the trails because a lot of people are stupid and complain when things come out of the prairie straight onto the trails in front of their bikes, or if they pick up ticks on the trail.)

Mommy heading towards the oak woods in the distance. You can see a little red and yellow.
Imagine what that would look like during color!

Heading home.
(Mommy liked when she accidentally got some shots of me so she is leaving the camera on on our rides home now.)

Aaaah! I picked up a tick on my hike!
Just kidding. That is me in my Halloween costume.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hike Six

Or is it nine? Mommy and I took the longest hike on the county challenge today. It was 3.9 miles long and counted for two hikes. This means we have done six actual hikes, but have credit for doing 9 hikes now. Mommy chose to do this hike today because it was cool and overcast with a little breeze. We have done this hike when it was warm out and I get very overheated and we have also done it when it is cold out and Mommy has nearly frozen because of the wind that hits the trail. Today seemed like the perfect day. The hike goes through sedge meadows and by oak forests and up and down moraines. Unfortunately on one side of a large chunk of the hike is some ugly "more money than common sense" mcmansions with big expanses of lawn and no trees. This is why the wind whips onto the trail, there is nothing to slow it down when it goes through the ugly houses.

Mommy and I don't understand why people would want to have nothing around their house except sod. If they were out playing croquet or polo or golf on their lawns it might make sense, but they never are. Mommy said if she had to live in a place like that that had all that bare space and no trees she would dig up 1/4 of her lawn for a veggie garden and then put in a great big pond in the middle of what was left and surround it with wild and domestic flowers and grasses with a little flagstone sitting area by the water. She says the neighbors would hate her.

Anyway, Mommy was right and it was the perfect weather to hike this trail and I got to hike the last 1/2 mile without my boot on. It felt kind of weird at first and I kept looking down at my foot to see what was biting me, but after awhile I got used to it, and when Mommy checked my foot afterwards there were no sore spots! Mommy says I can try 3/4 of a mile barefoot next weekend if we hike. It was a fun hike and we saw lots of birds and squirrels and I found a chipmunk hole and I saw two deer! I was perfect and quietly watched when it was one deer, but when the second came out of the woods I lost it and started jumping around and barking. It was waaaay too exciting. I also saw two CATS being walked on leashes at the trailhead! That was very strange. Unfortunately when we got back to the trailhead we saw the cats' mom walking around with empty leashes. She said the cats had both managed to slip their leads and vanished when she got distracted by a neighbor and wasn't paying attention to them. Mommy asked me where the kitties were, and I looked around and sniffed and stuff, but didn't find them. We hope she finds them before dusk because one thing we saw an awful lot of on the trail was coyote poop.

Walking by the oaks

Mommy is pretty sure this picture was taken
when I was jumping around and barking at the deer

Mommy liked this shot

Back to the car

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hike Five

Mommy and I did our fifth county hike. Since two were long and counted double that means I have earned my badge. That doesn't mean we don't plan on doing all the other hikes on the list though if we can. Mommy has been sick all weekend. She didn't feel good on Thursday night and worse on Friday and then, because she was running a fever, we spent all day Saturday in bed except when she went to the grocery store and did a load of laundry and picked some late tomatoes and raspberries. Today she still wasn't feeling great so all she did was go back to the grocery store because, "Shopping when you have a fever means you forget to get the stuff you went to the store for, like toilet paper." and she also made some spaghetti sauce out of some of the tomatoes. I was such a good boy about not getting any walks yesterday that Mommy felt I really deserved a hike today, but because she still didn't feel great she chose the shortest hike for today. Also, that hike is all mowed trail again so I didn't have to wear my boot. It was only one mile long.

We don't go to this preserve except when it is on the hiking challenge because it isn't the nicest place. Before it was a forest preserve it was a gravel pit and it must have been in really bad shape when the county got it because the trees are very small and the prairie is just starting to get some real plants in it. The trail on one side runs down the right-of-way for a long stretch of high voltage power lines so you are walking under the giant buzzing pylons. Another side runs right next to the interstate highway. Mommy says when we walk there she always hopes nobody loses control of their car because we'd be in trouble if they did. What was the gravel pit is now a nice little lake that you can hike around though and Mommy says the preserve serves its purpose because it is built in the area of the county which is mostly multifamily housing developments and malls. Mommy says if she had to live in one of those housing developments or work all day in one of those malls she would probably spend a lot of time at the preserve just to keep her sanity.

Anyway, the hike didn't take long, although Mommy did want to sit down around the 3/4 mark so we did and I ate a lot of treats out of her bag and looked to see if there were fish in the lake. If there were, they weren't by the shore. There must be some because there were fishermen on the shoreline and one of them had a bell on his pole that kept ringing. It was a nice little walk for a dog who is such a good nurse for his sick Mommy.

The lake

Mommy and the mowed trail and recovering prairie

High voltage lines

Some of the little trees

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another Hike!

Mommy had the day off today so we took another hike. This time Mommy chose the second shortest hike in the challenge. This one was only 1.2 miles and it had mowed trails instead of crushed gravel so Mommy said I didn't have to wear my boot! It is so much nicer hiking barefoot. We had been warned by a friend who also does the hiking challenge that when she did this hike on a Saturday there had been a whole lot of very bad off-leash dogs with rude owners. It is illegal to be off leash in the regular county forest preserves because of all the threatened species that live there. There are FOUR preserves, each at least 40 acres and totally fenced in, that are made just for dogs to run free in so there is no reason to break the rules, but some humans are very stupid. Anyway, Mommy wanted to do this preserve on a weekday to lessen the chance of me meeting up with an unruly off-leash dog so this seemed like a great day to do it. Would you believe we saw 3 off leash dogs anyway?! Bad humans like that make it so that us dogs with good humans get banned from the forest preserves. GRRRRR. Mommy and I don't see why people don't understand that.

Despite the bad humans and their dogs Mommy and I had a good hike. There was one spot on the hike where there wasn't a grass trail but an old asphalt access road (this preserve used to be a YMCA campground). That road was a little rough on my toe, but I don't seem to have done any damage to it. There was a nice lake, but it was way down a very steep hill and I declined when Mommy offered to help me try to get down to it, my back legs have been acting up a bit today so I decided to be the smart one and just look at the lake. I didn't get any pictures of the lake though because there were so many things to smell, what with all the dogs that run around there, that all my photos but one were of the ground. Mommy laughed when she saw them.

GroundMore groundThis ground has some little flowers of some kind
It is fall, can you see the leaves on the ground?And Mommy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My First Post-Amputation Hike

Today was an exciting day because I got to go on my first hike since losing my toe, or rather having it taken by the vet, it isn't like I misplaced it or anything. My foot still doesn't have enough callous on it to allow me to walk barefoot on the crushed gravel trails so Mommy ordered me a hiking boot from Ruff Wear. That way I could hike and not have to worry about the gravel cutting into the scar tissue. Mommy had trouble at first getting my rather weird-shaped paw into the boot because the cuff part is quite tight to keep it from sliding off. I kept managing to get two toes in and the stump caught on the cuff leaving one toe out. So she put a thin sock on my paw first and my foot then slid right in.

Me modeling my boot

Mommy was charging up the Merlin Cam which was taking FOREVER since we hadn't used it for a month, and she had finished packing up all our other stuff, water, treats etc. and I got impatient because I knew we were going hiking so I started to whine. Mommy said, "Don't whine at me, Argentina." which is her weird way of saying "Stop it." so I started barking at her instead. After 2 hours of waiting she gave up on the Merlin Cam and unplugged it and we took it off with an incomplete charge. Mommy thought it might stop half way through the hike so she took her camera along too, but the Merlin Cam made it through the whole hike and beyond.

We chose the third shortest hike on the County Hiking Challenge. It was only 1.7 miles, but Mommy didn't want me to overdo it the first time out. By the way, some of you have asked what the County Hiking Challenge is. What it is is the county we live in picks 12 trails in 12 different forest preserves in the county and it marks them with little signs. They range from 1 mile to almost 4 mile hikes and you have three months to hike 7 of the trails. Trails that are over 2 1/2 miles count as 2 hikes and usually Mommy and I do all of the hikes (except the bad ones that don't allow dogs on them). In the past we would do them in quadrants. We would divide the county into four parts and then do all the hikes in one quarter in one go, but, because of my back and now my toe, this year we are only doing one trail at a time. Pre-toe I did two of the longer hikes so I'm up to 5 hikes now because of the double hike bonus. If you do 7 or more hikes you earn a metal badge that you are supposed to nail to a hiking stick. Mommy has sewn all of mine on my backpack, even though I haven't been able to wear the pack since I broke those vertebrae a few years back. It is a fun program and a good way to see trails you may have missed.

Well back to today. We chose the 1.7 mile hike and off we went. I started out being very excited and pulling Mommy along, but about half way through I realized I was getting a little tired and my paw was hurting a bit. So I slowed down and walked with Mommy the rest of the way.

Me out in the lead and very happy to be on the trail again

This preserve has a combination of woods and prairie and lawns where people can picnic and even a playground for kids to play on. Mommy objects to lawns and playgrounds in forest preserves because she thinks kids should be hiking the trails and climbing trees and jumping off stumps and stuff if they are in a forest preserve and not sliding down plastic slides or sitting on sod. They can do that in their city parks, but I guess other humans don't think that way. Anyway here are some Merlin Cam shots of the hike:

WoodsPrairie turning into lawn

I saw lots of squirrels and chipmunks on this hike and two [Auntie Naomi, turn away] snakes. One of the snakes was right in the middle of the trail and Mommy tried to get a picture of it, but I decided to take the oportunity that arose when she was trying to get her camera out of her hip bag to knock her hand aside so I could grab some treats out of the treat bag. She wasn't very happy about that. She did take a picture of me trying to find the first snake after it slithered into the grass to hide.

Me looking for the animal Auntie Naomi doesn't like

[Okay Auntie Naomi, you can start reading again.] At one point I recognized a branch of the trail as being one that leads off to one of my favorite hiking spots that we only do on cool spring and fall days because there is no shade there. There IS a lake with fish which I love and usually ducks and geese and sometimes swans and often horses. I wanted to turn off to go that way, but Mommy said no, we needed to stick with the marked shaded trail because she didn't want me to overdo it by hiking too far AND it was 80 degrees out so it was too hot to hike in direct sun. She also said I was too smart for my own good since I normally see that branch going the other way when we are coming back from taking a woods side hike while doing the lake hike. I hate to admit it, but Mommy was right to not let me take the longer hike. I was VERY tired by the end of the little hike we did and was more than a little happy to see the car. Mommy hung the Merlin Cam on the back of the passenger seat like she usually does after our hikes, but she forgot to turn it off, so I accidentally got a self portrait of me on the trip home.

You can see how happy I was to be back on the trails!