Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hike 10 or Hike 15 or 16...The Last Hike

Up until a couple of years ago Mommy and I had the Thanksgiving tradition of taking an all day hike and then stopping by a friend's great big Thanksgiving gathering for pie on the way home. (Her friend is the oldest of 11 kids, which is an awful big litter for humans, and with all the spouses and kids and in-laws and leftovers like Mommy they rent a church hall for the gathering and the church isn't far from our house). It was fun taking those hikes because hardly anyone is on the trails on Thanksgiving Day and we'd get to see a lot of wildlife, but then a couple years ago Mommy's oldest brother stopped inviting Grandma and Grandpa to come to his house in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. When that happened Grandma and Grandpa decided they wanted Mommy and me to come to their house for dinner along with some old friends of theirs. So no more Thanksgiving Day hike.

So, we started a new tradition and now take a day before Thanksgiving Day hike. Mommy's work has a 1/2 day the day before Thanksgiving Day and Mommy doesn't do 1/2 days so that gave us the day for a hike. Today we took the last hike on the county hiking challenge. It was a wildcard hike which meant that we got to pick our own place to go so we went to the savanna that is not too far from our house. Mommy had to do some laundry first and I was VERY impatient to get going, but we got out around 1 p.m. The preserve wasn't empty like on Thanksgiving Day, but there were no bikes and no screaming kids and only one person who thinks that hiking means you talk loud on your cellphone so we got to see a lot of wildlife after all. Shortly after we started our hike we spotted two cooper's hawks circling over the savanna and then a third one came swooping out of the trees by the wetlands and flew so low over our heads that Mommy actually flinched! It flew off to join the other two and they all circled and swooped around the prairie. When we got to the wetlands we were suddenly mooned by a good two dozen ducks all at the same time. That seemed a bit rude to me, but Mommy laughed and said something yummy must be in the water. A little further along the hike we saw a flock of Canada geese hanging out debating about continuing south or staying at the savanna for the winter and then we spotted two sandhill cranes hunting mice in a burn area. I watched them quietly with Mommy for quite awhile, but then I couldn't take it anymore and I had to bark at them. Mommy made me move along at that point. After hiking a bit more we came to the wildlife watching area and we spotted a great egret! We see snowy egrets a lot, but we've never seen a great egret. He must have been a migration straggler. Then four more sandhill cranes flew overhead. I think they were going to go visit the ones we saw hunting mice. Maybe they were going to have Thanksgiving together. Finally, just as we were about to finish our hike three deer came bouncing out of a small clump of trees and ran right alongside us!! This was WAAAAAY too much for me and I dragged Mommy along behind me as I totally forgot my hiking manners and chased them. When they disappeared into another clump of trees I barked and hopped around trying to get them to come back out and run some more, but they didn't.

The wildcard hike was listed as counting as one hike, but, since we did a 3.6 mile hike for our wildcard Mommy isn't sure if it would officially count as two hikes so that is why we aren't sure if we are at 15 or 16 for the official count. Doesn't matter though since we only needed to do 7 hikes to earn our badge. I was very tired by the end of the hike, probably because of the deer chase, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to hop in the car, but I did manage to climb in and I fell asleep as soon as the car started up. Mommy ran a couple errands with me in the car, including picking up my hiking badge, and I gave her the stink eye each time she came back to the car and woke me up.

Despite all the critters we saw I didn't get a single picture of one. Here are some of my shots I thought you might like though:

looking across the savanna

there wasn't a cloud in the sky

stopping for a drink

Doesn't this one look creepy?
Mommy liked the way you only see the guy's feet and shadow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hike 9 or Hike 14

Mommy had the day off today. So, after doing the yard work that she skipped doing on Saturday so she could take me on Hike 8, we headed out for Hike 9. Mommy put this hike off for last because the last couple times we had been to this trail about two years ago we had not been impressed. We knew the preserve was being restored, but we didn't hold much hope for it. Before the county bought it the area we were hiking in had been a farm and a long vacant campground. When we had been to the preserve before the "trail" had been rotten asphalt roads which led through weedy farmland down to a little lake with a destroyed shoreline. There had been biting flies, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes in such number that we spent most of the hikes either running or swatting and we got totally eaten up. And, to make matters worse, both times lounging on the picnic tables by the parking lot were male prostitutes in hot pants! Middle aged men were practically waiting in line for their turn. It kind of takes the enjoyment out of one's hike having to pass that on the way to and from the trail. So, Mommy decided that if we didn't get to this trail this year it would be no great loss. Also, she figured if we waited until a cold day after a frost the bugs might not be there and the prostitutes might be wearing more clothes.

Well, we have to say that this preserve won the "Most Improved" award! First of all, there was only one middle aged man sitting in a truck in the lot and he may have just been there to eat lunch, because there were no prostitutes to be seen. There were also no bugs. The asphalt had all been removed and gravel trails had been put in as well as a couple of mowed trails through beautifully restored grassland. The weedy farmland is now a very nice savanna and the grasses were waving and making a "shhhhhhh" sound with the wind for our whole hike. There was also a very nice little patch of aspens which had to have been there last time, but we sure don't remember seeing. When we got down to the lake the shoreline had been restored and a couple of fishing piers had been erected. We are told there is another hike you can take on the other side of the lake and Mommy says we will probably go there some time soon to see what it is like. All in all it was a very enjoyable 1.8 mile hike. Mommy didn't know it, but she had ended up saving the best hike for last.

Here are some photos I took:

The savanna

A little pond down a hill. The brown around it is the dried prairie grasses which were going "shhhhhh"

The fishing pier

The restored lake with more savanna on the other side

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hike 8 or Hike 13

Mommy was working in the yard and was about to start digging more leaves into the vegetable garden when she looked at me and said, "You know what? Today is too nice a day to not go hiking. Especially since they say it might rain tomorrow." So she put down her shovel and off we went on our 8th hike for the county challenge. This hike was 2.6 miles long so it counted for 2 hikes which brings our total up to 13. We haven't been to this preserve for about three years and boy has it changed! It used to be a hike through great big old trees, but now it is a hike through great big stumps and windfalls. Remember earlier this year when we had the really big wind that made Mommy go crazy and decide we were going to live like pioneer dogs with no lights even though it was scary dark out and also that caused her to take me on the Dumbest Vacation Ever where we drove all our food to Grandma and Grandpa's houses? Well, Mommy thinks that that is why there are a lot of big stumps and windfalls. She thinks that nasty wind took down a bunch of the old trees and they knocked down a lot of the smaller younger trees too. There was also a gigantic pile of dead trees in one part of the hike. It was almost as big as our house! We aren't sure why they were there. Maybe they were invasive species being piled up for burning or maybe (we hope not) they had gotten emerald ash borers in them and were waiting to be hauled away. It was a very sad looking preserve.

There were still a lot of younger trees and the river that the hike runs along was still there, although there were some big trees tipped over into it too. There were enough trees that I got to see a big bunny, or deer as Mommy insists on calling them. He was hopping through the scrub and I barked at him to tell him to stop hopping. I also saw a great big V of geese heading to their winter home and a great blue heron flying to the river. Maybe he was related to the one who hangs out by the lake. We veered off the official hike at one point so we could hike down one of the mowed prairie trails and it was flooded. I walked through it with my boot on and then was not happy about having to wear a soaking wet hiking boot for the rest of the hike. I don't understand why Mommy wears shoes on hikes, they are a pain in the neck. I wore my camera but I got only two shots that weren't blurry pictures of my chin and neither showed the trees or the river. Here they are anyway:

Here is a shot that was taken as Mommy and I were putting on my hiking boot because I had walked my bootless limit of 1 1/2 miles:

We aren't real sure where this one was taken. It may be by the gigantic pile of dead trees that we passed. If it is, then the lumpy/hilly shape on the right would be the far edge of the pile:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Monthly Diary for October, 2011

Well, this month, to make up for me being on limited exercise in September because of my toe amputation, Mommy and I did A LOT of hiking and walking. I did a post for each hike so you can skim down and read them. I am very, very happy to be back on the trails even if I do still have to wear a boot if I'm walking on crushed gravel for more than a mile. I will have to wear that boot until I get enough callous on my stub. The big thing that happened this month was that Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred came into town to see me. You may remember that we were supposed to go on vacation with them in September, but Mommy had to cancel because of my toe. Auntie Naomi and I were both very sad about that because she had already bought me a present and because we had to cancel the vacation, I couldn't get it. This would make anyone sad. So, Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred made a special trip down to see me and give me my present. Mommy says that isn't true and Auntie Naomi had come down to see a doctor and they stopped by to see us on their way home, but I know the whole doctor thing was just an excuse.

Mommy changed her work schedule so she could have the morning off when Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred came to give me my present. It was an Empty Nesters Canada goose, which is kind of like the Skinneez skunk that I have and love. I like the toys without stuffing because the squeakers are easier to squeak and they can easily be used as tug toys too. I thought that maybe, since we had missed the previous visit, Auntie Naomi would have two presents for me, but she didn't. I kept checking her bag until Mommy got me a big dog milkbone, which was sort of like a second present. After we had fun and I played with my toy, Mommy and Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred left so they could go eat breakfast at a dog-unfriendly restaurant. They came back afterwards though so I could see them again and then they went home. A short time after they left Mommy went to work. Well, that night I forgot that Mommy had changed her work schedule so Auntie Naomi and Uncle Fred could visit me, so when Mommy didn't come home at her usual time I got worried. Being worried gives me a tummy ache so I threw up, and then I peed on the plant stand and I pooped in the back room just to cover all the bases. Mommy was not happy when she got home that night. The throw up and the poop weren't the problem because she knows when my gut goes bad, it goes bad, but it was peeing on the plant stand that got her mad. I think that the plant stand seemed like a perfectly logical place to pee. When I'm outside I pee on plants and Mommy hadn't watered the inside plants for almost a week so I did it for her. She did not agree and I got told, "Shame on you!" when she discovered what I had done. I hate hearing, "Shame on you!"

Anyway, my tummy stayed upset for almost a week, and I had to take Pepcid and eat oatmeal and eggs until my gut calmed down, but I didn't throw up or pee or poop in the house again. Mommy thinks that maybe part of it was that I was drinking out of the dirty birdbath in the backyard, so she took it down. I've had some tummy troubles on and off since then, but Mommy is used to that. She knows it can take me a good month to get everything back to normal, plus I'm still licking my toe sometimes and excessive licking gives me a tummy ache too. Mommy says I am a delicate hothouse flower.

Finally, we had Halloween at the end of the month again and I dressed up like I was being eaten by a big orange spider. (You can see a picture of that in my previous post) Mommy wasn't sure I was going to wear a costume this year since having to wear the Comfy Cone for a month ruined what little fun there was to be had in wearing things on my head. I have to admit after an hour of wearing my costume to greet the kids I told Mommy I wasn't wearing it anymore. That meant that I didn't get any treats after I greeted the kids, but it was worth it. Then for the last hour I went to bed and refused to say hi to the trick-or-treaters. Mommy says I'm getting to be an old fart. I do fart a lot, but I don't think I'm THAT old.