Tag Archives: Hiking

Hiking with 5 Dogs

Hiking scenery
Zekie enjoys the hike.

I’ve been enjoying hiking again now that fall is here. I even hiked when my husband and daughter went on vacation, and I was hiking with the dogs by myself. The photos in this post are from hikes I took back in October while my family was away. That’s why there are still leaves on the trees in these pictures. The leaves here in Ohio have been down for a while now.

At the water's edge.
At the water’s edge.

I was quite proud of myself on these hikes. I took all five dogs by myself! I had to choose carefully where I was going to go each time so there would be enough room for that many dogs. I tried to pick trails that were very wide and little used. I also have coupler that allowed me to hook Zekie and Claire to one leash. This helped immensely. When Claire stopped to sniff something, Zekie pulled her along. This kept each dog in their allotted position and helped to limit tangled leads.

Shelties
Zekie and Claire on their coupler and leash.

Each of my dogs knows where I expect them to walk. Baxter, Shelby, and Claire always walk to my right with Shelby sometimes behind me if she is tired or the trail is narrow. Cassius and Zekie always walk on my left-hand side. I am not usually alone to walk all five at once, but with some minor modifications and communications, we figured it out.

Any time I walk dogs on my own, usually three of them, and they get out of their assigned position, I correct them and send them back to the expected spot. This saves on rearranging leashed on normal walks and was a great help when I took on five dogs!

Cherry Blossom Trail at West Brach State Park

I even tried a new trail that I had never been on before. That wasn’t in my plans, but when I got to the trail I intended to walk, someone was unloading a horse from a trailer, getting ready to go for a ride. I didn’t want to deal with all the dogs AND a horse and rider. I don’t think the rider wanted that either. So, we drove a little farther and went on a nearby trail called the Wild Black Cherry Loop at West Branch State Park. It was a very nice trail. There was woods and shoreline both to be enjoyed. There was a bit more up and down hills than I preferred when handling extra dogs, but we made it work.

West Branch State Park
View of the water at West Branch State Park.

The water views were beautiful. I can’t believe we never went on this trail before. It wasn’t very long at just a little over a mile, but we saw different types of terrain and woods and water views. There is another trail that splits off called the Club Moss Trail. It is less than a mile and if I hiked both of them, it would end up being about the distance we like to hike. So, that is an adventure for another day.

Hiking dogs
Baxter and Cassius

I stopped a few times for a photo op and Baxter and Cassius wanted to know what was up. There is no way I can walk five dogs and take pictures. I am good at multitasking, but not when traveling over tree roots and up and down hills.

West Branch
Evening view.

It’s turned out to be a good thing that it was a short walk. We went later than usual, and the sun started to go down about three quarters of the way through. This provided some lovely scenery, and I knew we weren’t far from the parking lot. The lateness did keep us moving at a good clip. Since we had never been on this trail before, I was relying on the trail blazes to chart our course. At certain points on the trail, I had to stop and look for blazes because I couldn’t tell which direction the trail took. This was of little concern to me because I knew we were less than a quarter mile from the car at any point since the trail was a loop. If it came to it, I could use the compass on my phone and find the campground road by walking due north. I did always manage to find that blue blaze and continue on.

Water view
View near sunset.

The angle of the sun as it began to set, gave the leaves a beautiful glow. I would highly recommend this trail. I think it does get a lot of use since it is within walking distance from the campground. Still, we only saw three people while we were there and two of them were hiking together.

We keep track and we managed to get in 22 hikes in each October and November. I am guessing we will not do as well in December. There are likely to be days when it is too cold or wet to walk. We are good to go down to about 15-20 degrees. Below that, you will find us at home with a cup of tea and a good book.

Fall Hiking Has Begun and a Few Words About Dahlias

Hiking with dogs.
On the trail.

We started hiking for the season on September 24th and have only missed a couple days. Since we started, we have hiked 35.1 miles in 14.5 hours. Not breaking any speed records but considering the terrain we are covering some days; I am happy with it.

Fall hike
Fall colors!

The trees are really starting to turn! There are beautiful colors everywhere we go. I was not happy with our lack of rain when I had to water plants everyday but now that we are out in the woods, I am glad that it is dry. We are exploring trails that we previously hadn’t spent a lot of time on because they were too wet. We are also seeing many beautiful asters along the trails and one day we saw a flock of five turkeys wandering through the woods.

Woodland stream
Stopping at the stream.

Above, we stopped by the stream at one of my favorite local parks, Shaw Woods. I like this park because we seem to be the only ones who know about it. The two times we went, there were no other cars in the parking lot! It’s not that I don’t want anyone else to use it, but when you’re walking a reactive dog, it’s nice to have the place to yourself. There was one couple starting out on the trail with their dog when we were leaving yesterday. This park allows horse riding. We see evidence that horses have been there (read, road apples!), but I haven’t seen a horse there since last year.

Three dogs
Zekie, Claire, and Shelby

And lest you think Shelby always has to stay home, I include this photo with my three walking companions ready to get started on the hike. My husband walks Cassius and Baxter. Shelby stays home once in a while if her limp is flaring up. The limp appears to be from arthritis. As grandma once told me, ” Getting old is hell.” Most days Shelby does go with us and is fine. One day I took her along and let her stay in the car while the rest of us went on the hike. No reason for her to miss out on the car ride. She was perfectly content to stay in the car while we were gone. The weather is cool enough that we can leave her without concern.

Dahlias
Dahlias

And I couldn’t close this post without sharing a picture of a couple of my dahlias. They are growing amazingly large. Especially the red and white ones. The smaller, yellow dahlias are six inches in diameter and the plant is covered with blooms. Probably a dozen of them. The red and white flowers are larger than my hand and there are several blooms on the plant. All of my dahlias are staked upright because the weight of the blooms pulls the plants over, and I don’t want the stalks to snap. I will definitely be digging up these tubers and planting them again next year!

Fall is Here!

Sheltie mix
Zekie, a happy boy!

Fall has arrived and with it, time for an update on things around here.

With the cooler weather, we have resumed hiking! This makes for happy dogs. We have hiked four days so far this week for a total of 9.35 miles and 3.5 hours. It is good to be back on the trails. I was afraid that Baxter and Shelby would have trouble keeping up as our senior dogs at 13 and 12. They have done pretty well. I did keep Shelby home today as she was limping a little. Yesterday’s walk was on hard surface, and she does better on dirt or grass trails. She can go with us next time. I gave her a dental chew as we were leaving, and she seemed happy enough to see us when we came home.

Hiking with dogs.
Hiking on the trail.

There aren’t many people on the trails as we’ve been hiking before lunch time. The few people Zekie has seen have been from a distance and he hasn’t barked at them! Is his reactivity better? I don’t know if it’s because they aren’t that close or if he is doing better after being on Prozac for over a year. After our last trip to the veterinarian, we decided to increase Zekie’s Prozac by 50% because he still tries to chew his way out of his crate when we have to leave him at home to go away. The vet warned me that some dogs’ behavior gets worse with a higher dosage, not better. After six weeks of the higher dosage, I decided that Zekie was not doing as well as he had been before. He still tried to chew his way out of the crate, no change there. What I didn’t like was that he had a perpetually wide-eyed and upset look on his face. He appeared to be continually surprised or like he was waiting for something unpleasant to happen. Not the effect I was going for. So, Zekie is back to his original dose of Prozac and seems to be more comfortable. We also left Zekie (and the other dogs) in the car while we stopped to get apples at a local orchard today. He was only without us for five minutes and he didn’t seem to have a separation anxiety attack. We didn’t want to push our luck. Once we chose our apples, my husband went back to the car while I waited to pay.

Greyhound under a blanket
Cassius getting warm.

Although the cool weather makes Cassius chipper and eager to hike, he does get cold when laying around the house. We cover him up and he seems pretty happy. Does he have us trained or what?

Sheltie
Lilly!

And in other news, we have a new dog in the extended family! My mother-in-law got a sheltie through a seniors for seniors program. She felt her other dog Paisley needed a companion. After a week of settling in, the two dogs have begun playing and having a good time. The new dog’s name is Lilly. We have been over to visit twice with all five our dogs and Lilly has adjusted to them too. She is an adaptable little thing.

Dahlias
Dahlia blooms!

It took long enough but we have dahlias! I was late in planting them, so the blooms are just coming on. We should be having our first frost in a couple weeks. I will throw a sheet over the plants for the night when frost is forecast, and they will be fine. We generally have a couple more weeks of good weather after that first frost.

I planted a small crop of cold weather vegetables on the far end of our garden. They are where our zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers were. Those plants are long gone. In their place, I planted mixed lettuce, beets, turnips, green onions, baby bok choy, and Chinese cabbage. All of these places should survive multiple frosts. There are just a few seeds of each. What I think we can eat before winter sets in.

Take care and enjoy the crisp fall weather!

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?