Tag Archives: Hiking

Walking into the Storm, and Out Again

Turkey Vultures at West Branch State Park.

We couldn’t decide whether to go for a walk or not the other evening. The weather looked iffy, it was cloudy, breezy, and looked like it might rain. It had looked that way all day though with no precipitation. After checking the weather radar, we decided to chance it. It looked like any inclement weather would go to the south. Besides, we hadn’t been for a walk for three days and the dogs acted like they were ready to riot.

We decided to walk the West Branch State Park Dam Trail. It is paved, with a parking lot nearby, although the path out and back is three miles roundtrip. By the time we were about halfway out, the winds had kicked up and there were storm clouds in the distance. You could see bands of rain coming from the clouds far away. We decided to go for it and see if we could finish our walk before the storm hit. We should have known better when we saw some turkey vultures taking refuge under the bridge for the spillway gatehouse.

We made it to the far end of the trail and then the storm broke. Of course, this is the point as far from the parking lot as you can get. The place where you turn around to make your way back. There was thunder and then the rain started. It was quickly followed by small hail. My husband was the one with a brilliant idea for shelter that kept us mostly dry. We descended off the trail, past a guardrail, picked our way through some rocks, and down an incline to a concrete abutment. The dogs were not a fan of this and kept trying to go on the opposite side of the guardrail to stay on the path, causing the leashes to tangle. They also didn’t like stepping amongst the rocks. Come guys, you are dogs. They let us know that they are spoiled house dogs and not some wild miscreants! The concrete wall was tall enough and the wind blew at an angle, so that we were able to stay mostly dry and avoid the hail by standing close to the wall. The rain only lasted for a short while and then it blew over.

Lovely water view on our return trip.

The walk back to the car was sunny and pleasant. In fact, we had a great time. The sun was reflecting off the water. The sound of the waves was soothing. And we saw quite a few birds lofting in the wind. They looked like they were enjoying the breeze, just circling or floating in place, riding the air currents. We saw one dive for a fish. Most of the birds were the turkey vultures we saw earlier. There were also a couple large seagulls. The turkey vultures really are impressive birds. Their wingspan is five to six feet, and they can weigh up to five pounds.

Rainbow after the storm.

We were halfway back to the car when we were blessed to see a rainbow appear. It was beautiful and bright. It grew in intensity as we walked. I could so distinctly see each color that it reminded me of the acronym, ROYGBIV, that I learned in school to remember the order of the colors in a rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

By the time my husband and I made it back to the parking lot, we decided this was one of our favorite walks that we have taken recently. We survived the elements and experienced some beautiful sights along the way. From adversity comes growth. May you see a rainbow after your next storm!

Hiking-Off the Main Trail

Hiking with Baxter

I have been on my own for the past few days while hubby is away. It was so beautiful today that I couldn’t pass up taking my boys, Baxter, Cassius, and Zekie for a hike. Unfortunately, the girls had to stay home. I cannot handle that many leashes in the woods. It was 73 degrees and sunny, our first spring-like day for the season. And so, we hit the trail. We went to one of our regular areas, but we also ventured onto some of the side trails that we hadn’t been on before. The day was so beautiful that I wanted to go for a long hike to take advantage of it.

Baxter and Zekie being photo bombed by Cassius’ back end!

The first side trail we took involved fording a small stream. I was wearing my waterproof hiking boots and there were rocks in the shallow stream bed, so it wasn’t too bad. We made our way to the end of a little peninsula and found the area to be well used. I even found this chair that someone had left behind, upturned to keep the seat clean. I covered it with a plastic bag since it was damp from a morning rain and sat in it while I ate my lunch. Unfortunately for me, (fortunate for Zekie), I dropped half of my piece of leftover frozen pizza while leaning forward to get a picture of some geese. See below. I couldn’t really blame Zekie, I did drop the pizza on the ground. Since Zekie had a snack, I felt the need to give the other two dog biscuits. I put the chair back as I had found it before we left, so the next hiker can enjoy it too.

Canada geese enjoying the water.

After stopping for lunch and enjoying the water view for a while, it was time to get back to hiking. We headed back toward the main trail. I was going to get a picture of the stream we crossed, but going up the bank, I slipped and got distracted trying to keep track of all the leashes and forgot. Oh, well. This was an area where I picked up some handy walking stick-type branches to help me keep my balance along the way.

West Branch Reservoir

I did get the above photo from the opposite side of the peninsula where we stopped for lunch. Things are still pretty grey looking in the woods but once the trees fill out, you lose the view of the water.

A beautiful Baxter smile!

It didn’t bother Baxter any. He had a wonderful time. He found some nice soft moss to lay on while I ate my lunch. Would you guess Baxter is 13 years old? We don’t know exactly when his birthday is but it’s around now. He showed up as a pup, so we can’t be far off on our estimate.

Back side of WBSP Reservoir

We hiked on the main trail for a bit until we came to an old homestead driveway. The houses aren’t there anymore. They were lost to make way for the reservoir and park. Some foundations and driveways still exist though. We walked back an old driveway and followed a “trail”, more of a deer path with young trees and brush to wander through. It was a bit of a challenge with three leashes to keep track of, but we made it. We passed some old fence posts, remnants of a couple outbuildings, old tires, a couple picnic tables, and an old doghouse. Or maybe a really small chicken coop. We ended up in a clearing under a bunch of pines that ran alongside the water. The photo above is the view we saw. We will definitely be going back to this spot to see the view as things green up.

Cassius enjoying the view.

The dogs enjoyed the view too. You can tell by the big smile on Cassius’ face. Of course, Zekie had to walk on the ice near the shore. Baxter tried it and was surprised when he fell through the ice because he weighs more. Don’t worry, he was only about six inches from shore, and they were all leashed. I have no doubt that Zekie would be the dog to run out onto the ice and fall through. That boy loves water in all forms. In the summer, he drags me to every puddle so he can walk through them and drags me to every stream so he can jump in. Now he walks on every patch of ice and snow that he can find even though the roads and trails are clear.

Cassius is watching the water.

As we headed back to the woods in the direction of the main trail, we found some lush, green beds of moss. There were so beautiful, I had to get a picture. As we navigated our way back out of the area, it became apparent that many people had been there before us. People really should pack out all their waste rather than leaving their stew cans, Gatorade and water bottles, and snack wrappers out in the woods.

Zekie says “This is fun, mom”!

The dogs and I both had a wonderful afternoon. We only went 2.86 miles, but it took us two hours. I guess, fording streams, climbing muddy hills, and wandering through brush does slow you down. I have to say, all the things you notice along the way are well worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Three Season Hiking, and one of them is NOT summer!

Baxter, resting after a walk.

How did Baxter get so sleepy? Winter hiking!

We hike more in the winter months than we do during the summer. The reasons are many. In the summertime, it is just too hot. For the dogs, and for me. Not only is the air temperature too hot, surfaces can be dangerous for the dogs’ paws.

And then there are the bugs. Mosquitos, gnats, and the dreaded biting flies. Not only are mosquitoes pesky, but they can also carry diseases like West Nile Virus or heartworms. The gnats are mostly an annoyance. But who wants gnats flying in their eyes or mouth? For biting flies, we may encounter enormous horse flies, deer flies, or three corner flies. Their bites are painful, and I appear to be allergic to them and swell up in unattractive and itchy, painful ways.

Because of these deterrents, we do most of our hiking in the fall, winter, and spring. There may be a few days we skip when it is dangerously icy, but when it is just cold, we bundle up and go.

We take all five of our dogs with us. Until last fall when we lost little Nikki to old age, we had six dogs, but Nikki hadn’t been able to join us for the last couple of years. Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute We have been hiking with five dogs for some time. About the time Nikki began staying home, we added Claire to our pack, so we still hike with five dogs. Don’t worry, any time the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, we put coats on our two shorthaired dogs. Hiking gives the dogs exercise and mental stimulation, so they are better behaved in general. I guess it does the same for us.

Our hiking route options had become more limited lately due to multiple heavy snows which later turned to ice. Most of our normal haunts developed unsafe footing. That’s why we were excited when we discovered some new options. Most of our hiking is done at West Branch State Park (Ohio) in the winter which is near our home. The park has areas that receive less use in the winter, and we found that some of the dedicated park roads are a good option for walking. They are plowed, but not salted. The road surface is good for walking most of the time and melts off quickly when there is sun or milder temperatures.

West Branch Reservoir

Above is the view from one of our walks. The reservoir is iced over, and you can see tracks from cross country skiers along with footsteps. This is a popular place for ice fishing. Sometimes you see people fishing from a chair and others put up portable ice shanties and make an afternoon of it. Visible in the distance is the marina.

West Branch Dam

Here is another view from one of our recent walks at West Branch State Park. This is the view from the back side of the dam. You can see the gatehouse on the far shore. We do sometimes walk on the dam access road that is off in the distance. We tend to avoid it in colder weather because the winds are so strong and cold coming off the water.

We have logged 50.54 miles in the past 30 days and 615 in the last year. I am rather proud of this because we do it with five dogs, and that includes very few miles between the months of June through August. We still get plenty of summer exercise. We spend many hours gardening, in both our vegetable and flower gardens and maintaining our various fruit crops. The dogs spend lots of time in our fenced pasture. They have fun sniffing things, playing frisbee, and barking at items of interest.

If you have any fun winter activities, feel free to share them.

Hiking on a Cold Winter’s Day

The reservoir is frozen!

A couple days ago we hiked the trail at the West Branch State Park Dam. We usually save this walk for warmer weather since it is always windy. However, we are having trouble finding places to walk. Most of our usual haunts are snow covered or too icy. Some, we can’t access because the parking lots aren’t plowed and there is no place to park. So, when we saw that the parking lot at the Dam was cleared, we decided to give it a try.

Stand of pines along the trail.

It turned out to be a very nice hike. The sun was shining and a park vehicle finished plowing the path as we were getting started. This is normally a well used spot, but we didn’t encounter many other walkers either since it was so cold. Always a plus when walking a reactive dog like Zekie.

Gatehouse at West Branch Dam

The path here is paved. It’s actually an access road for the dam’s gatehouse. Workers need access to open and close the gates that release or hold back water from downstream. The reservoir was built to help with flood control. It is a large enough body of water that I enjoy this three mile walk to be able to listen to the sound of the waves. That did not happen this time because the water is frozen over. We did see people ice fishing with their colorful tents dotting the ice.

Snowy view while walking.

It is also a good place to see birds. There are often gulls, hawks, swallows, turkey vultures, and sometimes blue herons in the shallows. On the other side of the reservoir, I have seen an occasional bald eagle.

I would highly recommend this walk. It is easy, level terrain that is even handicapped accessible. You may want to wait for a warmer day though!

Not a Boy Scout

Today’s hike route.

What an afternoon! We did our hike with the dogs as mapped above. Three miles. It seemed farther with the rugged terrain. Rocks, tree roots, mud, standing water, and slippery, wet leaves. Still, a fun outing. Until we got back to the car and I couldn’t find my keys. My husband had his so we went home to look for mine. No luck.

I was almost certain that I felt them in my coat pocket when I locked the back door. But that could have been yesterday I was remembering. I couldn’t be certain. Did I mention that I have had a small hole in that pocket for the past two months? It has never been a problem. A good Boy Scout probably knows that a small hole can become a larger hole. I was not a good Boy Scout. I wasn’t even a Girl Scout.

So, we put the dogs away in the house, and hubby and I went back to re-hike the trail and search for the missing keys. We found them in the middle of the trail about a mile into the woods. Once we found the keys, we took a shortcut and shaved about half a mile off the second hike, making for a total of 5 1/2 miles for the afternoon. Taking a shortcut brought us out to a muddy ditch to cross before getting back on the main trail. Of course it was steep and I fell down crossing the muddy ditch. At least mud is soft.

All’s well that ends well. We were very glad to have the keys back because electronic car keys are expensive. This is an opportunity to learn from my mistake. No hole is too small!

Hiking: On the Trail Again

Fall Leaves

We didn’t hike much over the summer. It was too hot for me. Once the weather reached 80 degrees I started whining about it and when it hits 85 degrees I won’t even go. Not too mention the biting flies, mosquitos, and gnats.

But with the cooler fall weather, we are on the trails again. Fall is my favorite season, not only because of the temperatures, but the colors are just so beautiful. The maples are putting on a show with their golds and oranges. I especially like seeing the colors on the trees against the blue of the reservoir water at West Branch State Park where we usually hike.

Fern moss.

It doesn’t matter how many times we hike at West Branch, we always see something new to us that we hadn’t seen before. Last week I thought we had discovered something called a fern moss. Fern mosses are mosses that have a fernlike appearance and there are numerous types.

Another fern moss.

Upon further research, I discovered that these two photos are not of fern mosses at all. These are apparently something called ground pine or clubmoss. They are more closely related to ferns than either pine or moss. The plant with the flat needles is called ground cedar. As near as I can tell, the other one is called tree clubmoss.

These tiny plants grow very slowly. It takes up to 15 years until they are mature to the point where they can reproduce. For this reason it’s best to leave them alone.

We often see other sights that are new to us as we are out in the woods and walking along roadways. We see birds, snakes, minks, weasels, etc. It is fun looking them up in field guides or online to learn about exactly what it is we have encountered.

We take all five dogs with us when we hike. It seems funny not to have Nikki waiting for us back at home anymore after her passing last week. You can read about Nikki at this link. Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute

Stay tuned for more hiking adventures.

Did You Know There Are Many Types of Trilliums?

Great White Trillium

I find trilliums to be fascinating. I learned long ago that they were endangered, so I get excited whenever I see one. I had them growing in the woods behind my first home and I have one clump of them at the home I have now.

The type that grows here at Sanctuary Acres is the Great White Trillium. It is startlingly white and blooms faithfully each year. It doesn’t spread or reproduce, we just always have the one clump.

I learned on-line that there are 43 species of trillium known worldwide, with 38 of them occurring in North America. The majority of these are found in the Eastern States. All trilliums belong to the Lily family. This information is from the U.S. Forest Service.

Large groups of trilliums at a nearby park

My husband and I and the dogs were out hiking earlier this week. I was busy watching where I put my feet so I didn’t trip on a tree root or rock, when my husband pointed along the side of the trail. There were beds of trillium for about 200 feet along both sides of the trail. We just stopped and stared at them, soaking in the beauty. (Even though we hiked a different trail the next day, we hiked a short spur up this same trail again to see them.)

Pink (?) Trillium?

My husband pointed out that these trilliums are different than the ones we have at home. I’m not sure of the type. Possibly a pink trillium? I discovered that the types can hybridize, so it’s hard to be sure. Whatever type they are, they are beautiful. Apparently, trillium do not have true leaves. What looks like a leaf, is actually a bract, or part of the rhizome that grows above the ground. It does have chlorophyll and functions as a leaf.

Isn’t nature great?

Books I Read in March 2021, and a Slice of Country Life

Bloodroot seen on our hike today.
  1. A Year in Provence-Peter Mayle (Non-fiction)

The author describes how he and his wife bought a house in Provence. There are many amusing tales from his first year. He shares a real flavor of local life and you meet many people from the town. A good read. I will keep this book on my shelf and read it again in the future.

2. The Rural Diaries-Hilarie Burton Morgan (Non-fiction)

The author and her husband are both actors. They find and live their best lives in rural New York state. The author turns out to be a down to earth girl and seeing their farm and connection to the community grow is heartwarming. Definitely worth reading.

3. Dragon Teeth-Michael Crichton

This book was published posthumously, and I can still say, I haven’t read a Michael Crichton book I didn’t like. This one has science, dinosaurs, and the old West. I got sucked in and read it very quickly.

4. Bodie on the Road-Belinda Jones (Non-fiction)

The author suffers a break up and adopts a shelter dog to be her companion. After a few weeks together, they take a road from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, with many stops along the way. Belinda and Bodie both have a fabulous time. It is healing for both of them. Loved this book!

5. The Solace of Bay Leaves-Leslie Budewitz

This book falls into the cozy mystery category. Although I enjoyed this book, it took me a while to finish because once I put it down, I was not drawn back to it. May have been my fault and not the book’s. Pepper Reece, former lawyer, now owns a spice shop. She has a busy life between her boyfriend, friends, shop workers, and the police investigation. She still finds time to solve a murder and another attempted murder.

If you can only read one book from this list, I would read…play drumroll here!…A Year in Provence. I had a difficult time choosing between this one and Dragon Teeth, but since A Year in Provence is the book I am likely to re-read, it has to get my vote.

A Slice of Country Life

This was another month that I did not do a good job of keeping up with my reading. Too much time devoted to dogs and hiking, I guess. It is only likely to get worse, as far as me having time to read. Gardening season has begun.

Hubby did the first tilling of the vegetable garden this morning, and maintenance of the asparagus bed. Then I planted various lettuces, spinach, and a few turnips and beets. After that we raked up branches and pine cones in the front yard from the winter, and I cleaned dead leaves and debris from the little flower bed beside the house. Don’t worry, these are hauled to a pile in our woods, so any pollinator eggs and larva are still nearby.

We went for our usual hike in the afternoon. Our life is always an adventure and nothing ever goes exactly as planned. I ended up with dog poop on my shirt early on in the walk from a pick up attempt gone awry. A little farther up the trail, Zekie walked up behind a garter snake that he didn’t see until the last minute. He started high stepping in reverse to get away from it. It was quite comical.

There’s never a dull moment. And so, life is good!

Rocky Trail Hike: Are You Up for It?

Rock Face
Rock Face from our hike.

We took a hike on the Rock Face Trail at West Branch last week. We had put this one off at my request because I didn’t want to undertake it when it was snowy and possibly slippery. It turned out that the biggest challenge was the rocks used in paving the trail. This is also a mountain bike trail and marked for experts only. We took this warning to apply to mountain bikes and thought hiking would be no problem. And the trail is definitely hikeable, although the going is slow. I had to stop once and get Shelby out from between two rocks. She could have done it, but I knew she was tired by then and at eleven years old, I didn’t want her straining herself.

What I can’t figure out is why someone would want to ride their bicycle over all those rocks. The trails generally go back and forth over a small area distance-wise. What you could walk quickly as the crow flies, becomes a ribbon maze to create more distance. And of course, the up and down and bumping and jarring from riding over the rocks. I’m thinking it must be a young person’s activity. Something to be pursued before you have achy joints and you still have more cushioning left between your bones.

Hiking
Hiking beside a rock formation.

Of course, hubby and the bigger dogs always fare better than me and the shorter dogs. For some reason I am also the only one who seems to have problems keeping my footing and not sliding in the mud.

Rock formation
Another rock formation.

Mercifully, for these types of formations, the trail goes around the rock face and not up and over, or down. I don’t think I could handle that. It is always exciting to see new things along the trails. The trees are starting to bud out and new green shoots are springing forth from the soil.

By the time we get back home, I am ready for a cup of tea and a bit of reading. The dogs are ready for a nap.

Baxter having a nap.

Zekie’s Big Stick

Dog fetching
Zekie retrieving his big stick.

We were back hiking at West Branch State Park yesterday. We combined two trails for a total of 3.81 miles. A portion of the walk was along the edge of the Reservoir. It is so nice to hike near the water and listen to waves splashing as the water rolls in and out. Although I am not the biggest fan of swimming, I do love to be near the water for its beauty.

Some of our dogs enjoy getting in the water and some do not. Zekie LOVES the water. In fact, when we are hiking and use a foot bridge to cross over small streams, Zekie always tries to jump off the bridge so he can wade through the water. I often let him. He gets such a kick out of it that he turns around and smiles at me with a mischievous grin.

Yesterday, my husband threw a stick in the water and told Baxter to go get it. Baxter just gave him the “surely you jest” look as he turned his head and walked away. My husband said to Baxter, “Zekie will get the stick. Get it Zekie”. And he did.

Dog retrieving stick
Zekie carrying his stick out of the water.

Zekie was so proud about retrieving the stick. We were proud of him too. He is a pretty good fetch dog. He will bring things back, but it is difficult to get him to relinquish them. He always brings them to within a few feet of us and lays them down though. He just can’t make the final step of putting them into our hands.

Three Dogs
Zekie, Claire, and Cassius.

You can see in this photo that Zekie has a sense of humor and a bond with his fellow pack members. Here he is smiling at Cassius. Probably telling him, “Hey, I went and got that stick and brought it back. Did you see me, huh, huh!” Cassius likes to wade into the water. He just stands there enjoying it.

State Park
Southern shoreline of West Branch Reservoir.

This is the beach area we hiked down an incline to reach so the dogs could play in the water. The level of the Reservoir is low now, so the beach area is bigger than it often is. You can see how shallow the water. This makes it easy for the dogs to walk into the water and back out to the shore line.

WBSP little bit of land
Tiny island in the Reservoir.

Above, you can see a tiny island in the distance. During the summer when the water level is raised in the Reservoir, this little bit of land is probably submerged. Levels are kept lower during the winter off-season months. If you look closely, you can see some birds on the edge of the little island. Most of them were seagulls. As you drive over the bridge to reach the parking lot for this area of the park, you can often see Canada Geese, sea gulls, and an assortment of ducks bobbing on the water. The park is home to various wildlife. Two times within the past week we have seen mink crossing our path. The animals have learned to cohabitate with all the park goers who frequent the area.

We are blessed to live in such a beautiful area.