Saturday, December 28, 2013

Random Winter Hike

It was a beautiful day today, upper 40s and sunny, so, after Mommy and I took a 3 mile morning walk, we decided that I should take a couple hours nap while Mommy got a few chores done and then we'd go for a hike. Since there is snow on the trails we can't use my stroller now, so it is in storage.  Mommy wasn't sure how far I'd be able to hike in the snow without a stroller break so we went to the preserve that is closest to our house.

 Before we could start I had to check my pee mail

We weren't the only ones who thought a hike sounded like a good idea today. 
The preserve was more crowded than we've seen in a long time.

But even with all the people and dogs we still had times when it seemed like we were the only ones there.
Mommy says that is because we were walking so slowly, but she didn't mind. She watched the birds and looked for deer while I sniffed and peed on everything.

The snow on the trail was kind of hard for me to walk on because it was very uneven and a bit icy from all the people's tracks, so I mostly hiked slightly off the trail. When we got to a short path (not an official trail) that leads to a small neighborhood I said I wanted to go that way. Mommy said we couldn't because she didn't want to have to walk back by way of the streets. She gave me the option to continue walking the regular trail or head back to the car and I chose to head back to the car.  So we went back.  The hike took us one and half hours and we did 1.25 miles which Mommy thought was quite good all things considered.

It is always nice to be able to take the time to stop and smell the coyote urine.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa is On His Way!

Good reindeer can be so hard to find.

Here is hoping everyone has or had a great holiday this year and best wishes for the new year!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Hike

Mommy was trying to remember when we got to do a Thanksgiving hike last. We think it was back in 2009.  See, Thanksgiving hikes used to be our tradition because Grandma and Grandpa would go have Thanksgiving with Mommy's grumpy oldest brother and his family and Missy's family would go to Missy's mommy's family and Mommy and I would be happily left all alone for Thanksgiving.  Since Mommy had a whole day off Mommy would put a turkey in the oven and we would go out to the state park and take an all day 15 mile hike and then we'd swing by Mommy's friend from work's family gathering at dusk and have pie and then we'd go home and eat turkey.  Then Grandma and Grandpa stopped going to Mommy's grumpy oldest brother's house for Thanksgiving and instead had Grandpa's college roommate and his wife over to their house and Mommy and I would go down there for Thanksgiving.  But this summer Grandpa's roommate died and Mommy's grumpy oldest brother and his new wife decided to go to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving and Grandma and Grandpa went up to join them.  So Mommy and I decided to go to the state park for our Thanksgiving hike. Mommy changed the tradition a bit though and, since she had Thanksgiving Eve off work, she made turkey yesterday and we brought a turkey sandwich on our hike.  Also, since it was only 24 degrees when we woke up this morning Mommy and I decided an all day hike wasn't going to happen and instead we opted for a shorter 1/2 day hike and let the temperatures warm up to 30 degrees before we left.

Deer hunting is allowed in the state park, but not on Thanksgiving week. Just to be safe Mommy had me wear a red bandana (she realized she had brought all our blaze orange equipment up to Wisconsin when we stopped our Thanksgiving hikes).  Mommy wore a red hat, red scarf and red gloves, although she said that, what with her pushing a red stroller if anyone shot us because we weren't wearing red or orange they would have to be aiming for us.

Mommy had planned to hike one way which would have been a 6 mile hike, but when we got out of the car I decided I wanted to hike my favorite trail because I had a whole lot of pee mail to catch up on.  Mommy tried hard to get me to go towards the other trail, but I refused, so we did my trail.

There was snow on the trail, but not enough to impede the stroller.  Everywhere there was snow there were these strange markings.  Mommy figures it had to be something pulled by or under a truck, but can't figure out what it could be.

Mommy has always liked this spot. No matter the season, she always wants to stop and take a picture of it. We must have 30 different versions of this picture.

Normally, this is a small lake or large pond. Today it was dry and full of red vegetation. We don't know what that was about. Did it dry up on its own, or did the DNR drain it?

Mommy was shocked to see a house at the 1.5 mile point. There didn't used to be a house there. You could also see a small barn a garage and another large building that may have been another house or may have been some kind of large outbuilding. The house is on state park land, so the only thing Mommy and I can figure is that maybe a ranger lives there full time now.  We can't imagine that some developer had the guts to put up a house on public land, but around here anything can happen.

Around this point Mommy asked me if I wanted to ride in my stroller. I told her I did not.  We kept hiking and around the 2.5 mile point we stopped and ate our turkey sandwich.  Mommy asked me if I wanted to ride, but I said no.  When we got to Lake Defiance we went down the boardwalk (Mommy and her boardwalks) and at the loop back I wanted to go back to the trail and back to the car, but Mommy said no, we were going to do the whole boardwalk because she wanted to see her favorite part of the lake.

 Here it is. All frozen and no ducks or fish to be found

After the lake we got to the ranger station and the temperature suddenly dropped about 5 degrees.  Mommy suggested that since my trail and her trail meet up at the ranger station we should walk down part of her trail, but I refused to walk it with her. I also refused to get in the stroller. Mommy said I was lucky the temperatures had dropped or she would have argued longer. Instead she agreed to head back to the car.  I was very tired and fell asleep almost immediately upon getting in.

You can see I'm about to nod off.

Mommy and I drove to Mommy's friend's Thanksgiving and I was sound asleep when we arrived so Mommy left me in the car.  She ate some food and pie and talked to some folks for about an hour and I slept the whole time. I woke up when she got back in the car and started it up. So I got no pie, but I did get two milkbones when I got home.

Total miles hiked by me 3.6!!!! Total miles riding in stroller: 0!!!!  Mommy says she is predicting total days spent sleeping after this: 3.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

County Hiking Challenge: I Got My Shield

Well, we didn't get to one challenge trail because the weather turned bad with thunderstorms and tornadoes and stuff, but we had hiked far more than the required hikes so Mommy went and got my shield. I also got a dog tag/zipper pull and Mommy decided that it needed to be put on one of the zippers on my stroller since it hiked all the hikes too.  Here is the shield:

The tag has the same design only it is round. Our friend who also does the challenge tells us that that dragonfly is called a Halloween Pennant.  We looked it up and she sure seems right!

Mommy is going to sew the shield on my backpack tonight even though I don't wear it anymore.  It will be the 12th shield on my pack. I have done the challenge with Mommy every fall since she got me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Not a Challenge Hike

Yesterday I took Mommy for a three mile morning walk.  We haven't done that walk in a long time, but I really wanted to do it so Mommy said okay.  Then, after the walk I stayed outside with Mommy supervising while she raked leaves and dug in the garden for winter. I had to make sure that the squirrels stayed in the trees and the feral cats stayed away from our yard too so I was very busy.  This morning I woke up with a very draggy left hind leg. My toes kept curling under and making me stumble so I went out to pee and then went back to bed. Then a few hours later I got up and ate breakfast and went back to bed. Then a hour or so after that I took a short walk with Mommy and went back to bed.  Mommy washed my sheets and went grocery shopping and cleaned the house a little and changed my Cafe Press shop a bit and did other little chores while I slept. Then I woke up at 3:00 and realized it was Sunday and we hadn't hiked!! I went to find Mommy and I barked and barked at her. She said it was late and I was tired and sore and wouldn't I rather NOT hike? But I said NO!! We HAD TO HIKE because it was SUNDAY!! So, even though we only had enough time before sunset for me to hike about a mile Mommy packed up my stroller just in case I decided I couldn't finish a short hike and we went to the preserve closest to our house.

I wanted to sniff everything around the parking lot but Mommy said if I wanted to hike the pond loop, which is one mile, I needed to get on the trail.  Otherwise sunset would come along and we'd run out of time. So we got out onto the trail and headed for the pond loop.

This was new.
It is a straight line of mowed prairie starting at the parking lot and following an underground gas pipeline all the way through the preserve. We aren't sure what is going on, but it sure was ugly.

After the ugly mowed scar we hiked to the little ponds. There are still some waterfowl hanging out in the ponds, but I didn't see any sign of Mr. Muskrat.


We're pretty sure the duck on the right is a female mallard, but we don't know what the duck on the left is.  We think it might be a female blue winged teal.  Here she is bigified:

Not a mallard

After the ponds you loop back onto the regular trail and then we had to head back to the car because our time was running out. The rangers drive around and lock up the parking lots around sunset and you don't know which park is going to be first and which is last.  

 Some color is starting to appear in the west

The ranger wasn't in the lot and the sky wasn't pink yet so Mommy suggested we hike five minutes the other way and then turn around, but I decided I was tired and wanted to go back to the car. So we ended the hike there.

Miles hiked by me: 1. Miles riding in stroller: 0. Total miles: 1.

Monday, November 4, 2013

County Hiking Challenge 11/15

Today Mommy and I did our wildcard hike.  For the wildcard you pick any county trail and have to hike at least 2 miles on it.  Mommy and I chose to do the south end of the north end of our the river trail which is our favorite. I say south end of the north end because there is a gap of a 1/4 mile between the north end of the south end of the trail and the south end of the north end of the trail.  I'll explain more when I get to the gap.

Anyway, you may remember the beginning of this hike from the last long hike Mommy and I did, which was back in April.  I hiked about 2 miles and then needed a 45 minute nap and then I hiked back and we had to stop at every bench for another 10 to 15 minute nap. Then I slept for days afterwards. That was the hike that made Mommy realize that my long hiking days were over.  But then I got my stroller, so back to this trail we went to take the whole hike.

The hike starts off in tall grass prairie

Then you approach the woods. This is the most color Mommy and I have seen all fall.

Then you are in the woods

You hike through the woods for a long time until you end up at the spring peeper pond.  It being fall, Mommy didn't bother to take a picture of the spring peeper pond.  That is about 1.3 miles down the trail and it was at that point that I decided I wanted to ride. So I got in the stroller and we continued on down the trail.  You hike for a little bit more and then you have to cross this busy road.

Really, it is busy. Mommy couldn't quite figure out how she managed to take a picture of it without catching any of the cars. BOL!

After you cross the road the trail goes through land that belongs to a resort hotel with restaurants, a golf course and theater.

Here is the golf course

But on the other side of the trail is wetlands. 

We don't know if the hotel owns the wetlands or if they donated them to the forest preserve, but either way it works out well for everyone. The river trail has a nice area to pass through and the resort guests have easy access to a good walking/jogging/biking trail which is a straight line trail, so you can't get lost.

 There are always ducks in the little pond, no matter the season. We think the hotel guests must feed them.

 Here is the resort

The chef at the resort has his own little garden that you can see from the trail where he grows fresh veggies and herbs to use in the restaurants.

He also has a rather large apiary. There are about 6 hives along the trail.

After you leave the resort you end up in a gated community.  Mommy and I always chuckle at this because it seems that having a public trail cut through your gated community, even if the trail is on the other side of a small lake, kind of defeats the purpose of having a gated community, but as Mommy's grandmother used to say, "Some people have a lot more dollars than sense."

The gated community

Shortly after that lake is where the trail used to end and where Mommy expected it to end, but we were surprised to find that the trail continued on past the community's golf course to a small road.  Where there was this sign:

Mommy followed the instructions and walked down the road for 500 feet and sure enough we came to a continuation of the trail! At this point I started to bark that I needed to get out because I had never walked this area before.

Heading down the new trail

This part of the trail is really odd to travel.  It has a very split personality.

On one side you see this black fence preventing you from going onto that new apartment complex's property. They have a nice little lake, but obviously hikers aren't supposed to go see it.

On the other side is this extremely formal garden that stretches for most of the trail.  There is a three wire fence with giant NO TRESPASSING signs on it. There must be some sort of manor house in there somewhere.

Finally you get to the end of the trail which is blocked by an 8 foot chain link fence with three strands of razor wire on top and more NO TRESPASSING signs on it.  This is the quarter mile of land that the county lacks to connect the two sections of trail.  If the sections could be connected the river trail would run all the way from the Wisconsin border down to the south county line.  At that point it would connect up to the neighboring county's trail system and would be about 60 miles long.  But the man who owns the quarter mile will not let the county buy or lease any of his land.  

The man who owns the land owns this putt putt golf course

The story we heard (we have to admit we don't know if this is all true or not, so assume the word "allegedly" is scattered all over this paragraph) was that when the trail was proposed 30 years ago the man who owned the land promised the county that he would talk to them about giving them access to his property when the whole rest of the trail was completed.  Well, that happened during the big housing boom and he thought he could sell the land for a lot more money to developers than he could to the county, but the developers didn't buy his land, and then the housing bust happened. The forest preserve people keep talking to him trying to convince him to sell them a chunk of his land even though many county residents think they should just take the land for the trail by eminent domain, but they are too nice to do that.

Mommy had heard that he had a tiny railroad set up on this land so she went up to the fence so she could see what is behind it.

 Sure enough, there is a tiny railroad track all overgrown by grass

After Mommy took a picture of the railroad we turned around and headed back up the trail.  I got tired around the gated community and got back in my stroller.  We continued up the trail and then, shortly after we crossed the busy road, a large black lab came tearing out of the woods at us! Mommy lunged at him and yelled, "NO! GET OUT!" and he stopped and ran back into the woods.  He seemed fit and was wearing a collar and there were no humans around so Mommy figured he had probably escaped from one of the homes in the gated community.  Then a little way further on he came charging out of the woods at us again! Mommy again ran at him yelling, "NO! BAD! GO HOME!" and this time he ran up the trail.  Then he turned around and charged straight at me.  Mommy jumped in front of the stroller and yelled, "GIT!" and I started to growl and bark and then we heard a whistle and a man came strolling up from a long way behind us and the dog ran to him.  When the man finally caught up to us Mommy said, "You need to put that dog on a leash." The man said, "No I don't my dog isn't vicious like yours, barking at people. You shouldn't have a vicious dog on this trail." Mommy said, "My dog isn't barking at people he is barking at your dumb ass off-leash dog who kept charging him. It is illegal to let dogs run free on this trail." The man said, "Watch your language." Mommy said, "Don't be a f-ing a-hole." (only she said the whole words) I continued to bark and growl. The dog then ran ahead and tried to jump on a jogger and then ran straight at bike rider making him swerve. The man did nothing. Mommy called the ranger and issued a complaint and then we stopped at the next bench so that Mommy could sit down and pet me and calm me down. I was so upset I was shaking.  Mommy didn't get a picture of the man, but she found a drawing of him online.

The man 

I continued to ride in the stroller until we were a little more than a half mile from the end and then I barked to get out.  I walked the rest of the way to the car, and, just as Mommy was putting the stroller into the back of the car we saw the ranger driving his car down the trail. We hope he caught the man and gave him a ticket.

Total miles walked by me: 3.2!!!!!!! Total miles riding in the stroller: 3.8. Total miles hiked: 7.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

County Hiking Challenge Hike 10/14

This week we hiked another trail we rarely go to. The only reason for this is that the trail is relatively short and on the other side of the county. It is a nice little hike, but for just a short hike day it is a little too far away. Mommy and I like when it is on the county challenge because it means we HAVE to go do it.

The hike starts off with you going down a hill and seeing what looks like a small lake.
It isn't a small lake, it is actually a good sized reservoir with multiple islands in it so that you get the illusion of seeing complete shoreline.

 Since we haven't hiked here in a few years this is what Mommy saw every time she looked to see what I was doing. Sniffing and peeing, that is what I was doing.

You turn a corner on the trail and the reservoir looks completely different.

On the other side of the trail is restored tallgrass prairie and woods. We have been rather disappointed with the colors this year. Many trees just decided to go brown and drop their leaves this fall rather than give us the golds, reds and oranges we expect.

  Another turn in the trail and the reservoir changes again.

 Mommy likes the big rock peeking out from the water at this point.

The official trail is a straight line trail, but there is a nice loop after the end of the trail, so we ignored the instructions.

I had walked .9 miles by the time we hit the end of the official trail so I asked to ride.  Mommy helped me in and we crossed the street that divides the straight line trail from the loop and off we went. This trail is in an area where a lot of immigrants live, so a lot of people who passed us on the trail started talking animatedly to each other and looking at us, but since they were speaking Korean and Japanese and Russian and Polish and Mommy and I don't speak those languages, we didn't know if they were saying nice things or mean things about us.

There were so many good smells I decided I needed to ride sitting up rather than lying down to try to take them all in.

The loop circles through more restored tallgrass prairie, but none of Mommy's pictures came out showing what it was like since most of the grasses had gone dormant already. So you will have to use your imagination and picture dried brown grasses 4 - 6 feet tall on either side of the trail. I rode for about a 1/2 mile and then I decided I couldn't take not sniffing every blade of grass, so I barked to get out, and then became impatient while Mommy was detaching the front wheel and tried to jump out. I got tangled in Mommy and the wheel and my leash got tangled too. Luckily Mommy caught me so I didn't fall over, but it took some time for Mommy to get me balanced and untangled so we could continue the hike.

 Mommy spotted this big wasp's nest.  It was already abandoned for winter. I wonder where the new queens moved to.

She also spotted this nest. It was only about 3 inches in diameter and packed nicely in that clump of branches in a small tree. We think it might be a rose-breasted grosbeak's nest.

There is a big section of preserve that is blocked off with barbwire fencing and has no trespassing restoration in progress signs on it. We don't know if this area will ever open to the public or if it contains too many endangered species to be opened up.

I hiked for another mile and then I decided I wanted to ride. I rode until we were about a quarter mile from the car and then started barking that I wanted out. Mommy made me ride a little farther because it wasn't a very good stopping spot. But I got to get out and walk the last part.

It is milkweed season. I kept getting the seeds stuck on my nose and Mommy kept laughing at me.

Just before we got to the car we got stopped by a woman with a Russian accent who wanted to know where Mommy got my stroller. She told Mommy she had bought one for her big dog who has knee issues, but it was almost impossible to get the dog in and out of it so she returned it. Mommy told her that she got it on Amazon, but that all the strollers were sold out in days and, since it seems to be an import, she wasn't sure when more might be available, but she told her the keywords to use to find it.

Total miles hiked by me: 2.1. Total miles riding: 1.4. Total miles hiked: 3.5.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

County Challenge HIke 9/13

Mommy and I went to a preserve we only go to when it is on the hiking challenge.  There are many reasons for this. First off, it is on the other side of the county. Second, it is a weird preserve being two rectangular preserves and a little square one connected by skinny sections that are only about as wide as a football field is long. And third, while the far ends of the hike are very nice the skinny sections have McMansions right up on one side and Mommy HATES McMansions. This trail doesn't have a lot of shade so Mommy thought today would be a good day to hike it since it was only about 58 degrees out and overcast.

This preserve also has no parking lot of its own so you have to park in a lot that belongs to city hall and a city park and then take a short path to the trail.  There used to be a sign at the beginning of the short trail that said "NO DOGS ALLOWED. VIOLATORS WILL BE FINED" but that wasn't true because dogs WERE allowed on the preserve trail and there was even a poop bag dispenser at the beginning of the preserve trail. The sign wasn't there anymore so someone in the city hall must have finally figured out that it didn't belong.

 The trail follows this nice little creek.

Unfortunately after a very short time you can't see the creek anymore because the banks are overrun with buckthorn.

On the positive side, this preserve is undergoing a restoration and part of the plan calls for repairing the creek's banks and removing all that buckthorn next year. 

Can you see how weird this trail is? On the left is wild forest preserve overrun with buckthorn and on the right is overly groomed and poisoned lawns.

This shows you the silliness of the McMansionites. First the preserve had to build that little wooden fence to remind them where their ugly lawns end. Then the McMansionites go and chop down all the trees and kill all the wildflowers and put in lawn and for some reason plant an island of small, overly pruned, non-native trees, lavender and decorative grasses in the middle of it. If you look close, up by the house there is a fenced off area which contains a small pool and a fancy garden.  We assume the fence is to keep the deer out of the fancy garden.

 This poor hawk was all cold and puffed up watching for something to eat.

After about a mile we got to the nice part of the preserve where there is preserve on both sides of the trail and the nearby McMansion lawns are gone.

 The second pretty creek. The trail passes over this creek. The creek flows under a road and feeds...

a great big fen which is home to a whole bunch of endangered species so people aren't supposed to go in there.

After passing the creek and fen we came across an area that had obviously been plowed under recently and was full of little oak trees in cages.  This is part of the restoration of the preserve.  They are trying to restore the oak savanna. The trees have to be in cages to keep the deer from eating them. 

After that you get to the Fox River and the end of the trail.  The improvement plan calls for fixing the banks of the river and adding some trails along it sometime at the end of next year.

 Mommy and I made our own trail to the bank so she could take a photo.  I thought about going in for a swim but I decided the bank was too steep and it was too cold.

When we came back from the river I decided I wanted to ride in my stroller so Mommy helped me in and we turned around to headed back to the car. I rode until we were about a 1/4 mile from the car and then I barked that I wanted out.

I don't know if this was the same hawk as the puffed up one in the tree, but this one was perched on the flue of one of the McMansions by where that cold bird was on our trip up to the river. He found a nice warm spot to watch for food to come by.

When we got back to the parking lot Mommy suggested that we take the south part of the trail until it gets to the hilly part, but I decided I was done and didn't even want to ride anymore so we went back to the car.  This was a long official hike so it counts as two, bringing our count to 9 hikes or, if you count the doubles, 13 hikes.
Miles hiked by me: 1.7  Miles in the stroller: 1.1. Total miles: 2.8