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.
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.
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
We have a couple new residents here at Sanctuary Acres. At least for the time being. We have two young mourning doves hanging around in the patio area. There is a small pear tree in one of our raised beds that has a bird’s nest in the top. There are so many leaves around the nest that we never got a good look at the resident bird although we did hear nestlings chirping at one point and noticed an adult coming back to feed its young.
It must have been a mourning dove. Occasionally we see an adult, but usually it’s two slightly smaller birds that must have been born this year. They don’t show much fear of us or the dogs, having grown up with their nest so near us. They grew up watching us sit on the patio, so we are nothing of concern to them.
I am able to get within a few feet of the young birds. Often when I enter the patio garden the doves are there. One time they were sitting on the brick walkway sunning themselves when I came along. They moved to keep around 3 or 4 feet in front of me, but never flew away or seemed too concerned. I can stand there and talk to them and they listen to my voice, cocking their heads from side to side as if they find the conversation very interesting. I have come upon the a number of times and taken the opportunity to socialize with them.
The doves spend some time in the pine trees that surround the patio. They sometimes fly down to the patio as if they want to hang out with us. They have even come to the patio when I am sitting out with the dogs. The dogs do show some interest in the doves. If the doves stay still, then the dogs leave them alone. The doves will fly up into the trees if one of the dogs runs near them and barks, but they will come back later.
I am working on teaching the dogs not to chase the doves when they move around. It is going pretty well. I tell the dogs, these are our doves. If they move towards the doves, I tell the dogs “no no.” This is working well. Claire is our most active dog and likes to watch them. She likes to watch every thing. Even she usually leaves the birds alone at my request. They provide fine entertainment.
I worry that I am not doing the birds any favors by acclimating them to humans and dogs. I hope they stay around here where they are safe. We certainly are enjoying having them around. I had forgotten how much I enjoy watching birds. I recently learned that mourning doves usually mate for life. And that their diet consists of seeds, which they eat from the ground or from a tray style bird feeder. They are too big and heavy for other types of feeders.
I don’t know how long we will have are little friends, but we are making the most of the time they are here.
We are on a roll. Today is our 18th day in a row of hiking. We have been hiking religiously since the fall, but this is the longest stretch without a day off. We are eager to see how long we can keep it going. My husband carefully checks the forecast, and sometimes the weather radar, to find times during the day to go when it is not raining or snowing heavily. Given that it is January, our hikes have been pleasant and not overly cold.
I hate to think what the dogs’ reaction will be on the first day we are unable to go. Dogs appreciate routine and ours’ come to expect that if we do something two days in a row, it is now part of our schedules. Most days we depart near 2:00 pm for our outings. The dogs start pestering us starting about 1:50 now. They stare at us and begin to pace in anticipation for the fun to begin.
We vary our choice of hiking location depending on weather, day of the week, upcoming plans, or maybe just on a whim. The day’s pick may be at a State Park, a County Park, a local cemetery, a Hike and Bike Trail, or just up the road and back. We even have a walking trail around our property to use in a pinch. You have to go around the loop about 5 times to make a mile though. Here is a link to a walk in our woods during the spring. Woods Walk
Most of our hikes are not extremely long. The average length is somewhere between 2.5 to 3.5 miles. The amount of exertion does not always correspond with the length of the walk though. If the terrain is especially hilly, rocky, or swampy, that 2.5 miles can seem far longer than a 3.5 mile walk.
I track all of our outings with the Walk For A Dog App to raise money for Northeast Ohio Shetland Sheepdog Rescue. It doesn’t raise a lot of funds but every little bit helps. (Many other non-profit rescues are available as beneficiaries on this App too!) I like the App because aside from being a fundraiser, it lets me know how far we have walked, the miles per hour, and the time each walk took us. You can also look back at the historical information to see how many miles you have walked over the past 30 days. When we get up over 50 miles a month, I start feeling really good about it!
We enjoy our hikes for multiple reasons. Of course getting exercise and spending time with the dogs are the obvious rewards. We also get to see what birds are in the woods at this time of year. We see what plants and bushes stay green late in the season and throughout the winter. It is easier to locate side trails and see the paths that streams take without all the undergrowth obscuring the view. The sounds of the winter woods are different from other seasons too. Each season has its own beauty and can be appreciated in different ways.
I think all of us have reached the point where we are thoroughly tired of Covid 19 and its effect on our lives. I know many have it worse than me, those who have suffered losses of loved ones, personal illnesses, and financial woes. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have valid feelings of sadness and emotional distress as we struggle to make it to the post-pandemic world. So I am sharing with you, some of my coping mechanisms.
Keep a Journal
Mine is a journal of things that I want to do, but can’t right now for some reason as a result of the coronavirus. Here is a link to what is in my journal. Ways To Deal With a Pandemic That way I won’t miss out on things I wanted to do but couldn’t at the time. You could also keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings during isolation. Whatever suits you.
2. Get Outside and Enjoy Nature
Nature has a way of healing us that defies explanation, but it is proven to make you feel better. Surrounding yourself with plants, trees, and wildlife can bring a sense of peace. I find something magical about knowing that the greater world around me goes on, no matter what is happening in my life.
Exercise can help relieve stress at any time so it’s no surprise that it will work during a pandemic too. I combine my exercise with #2 above and hike or walk in nature. We attempt to take our dogs for a hike at least five days a week. If we are running late, the dogs let us know that it is time. They look forward to the outings too. People may be missing their gym workouts these days, but you can always walk. Just find a secluded area and keep your mask handy.
4. Train Your Dog (or cat if you’re ambitious!)
These may be trying times for us but our four legged friends are enjoying that extra time we spend around the house. Give them some extra attention and brush up on their obedience skills or teach them a trick. It will strengthen your relationship and the two of you will come out of this closer than before.
If you know me, you knew this was going to be on my list! Reading can take you away to other places and teach you something in the process. You can read non-fiction and learn about new things or places in our world. Or you can read fiction and get sucked into a good story. Either way, reading occupies your mind so that you escape for a bit from your current reality which can be a real treat in these trying times.
6. Take a Nap (Get extra Sleep)
The act of sleep rests your body and mind so that you are better able to deal with whatever comes your way. Also, if you are stuck on the “worry train” and distressing what ifs, or actual bad times, keep playing through your thoughts, sleep can break that cycle and reset your brain.
7. Work on a Hobby
Hobbies, especially artistic ones, occupy us so that it is hard to think about anything besides what you are currently doing. One of my hobbies is cooking. I especially like to bake and kneading bread dough is soothing to me. Working and shaping the dough is fun. I was working on breadsticks for Christmas. They got too long to fit on the baking sheet and as I was turning the end to make it fit, I thought that reminds me of a candy cane. So I made all the breadsticks in the shape of candy canes just to be festive.
8. Watch a Movie (especially comedy)
How often does anyone encourage you to spend more time watching television? In this case I think it is warranted. Letting yourself become absorbed into someone else’s life, especially in a positive scenario, may provide you with some mental benefits as you escape this Covid riddled world for a while.
9. Make a Phone Call to a Friendor Family Member
We can all feel a little lonely in these times of social isolation. Even me, and I don’t generally mind being by myself and am not a phone call kind of girl. I usually avoid the telephone and am often happy to spend time by myself. (For me, by myself means with dogs.) I have been making an attempt to keep in touch by phone with family members. And I make more effort to text and message friends. You may be helping other people when you reach out, because we are all in this together.
10. Don’t Give Yourself a Hard Time
We are all doing the best we can. You may find yourself being a little short tempered or down in the dumps, and not doing as well as you normally do. Cut yourself some slack. These are not normal times.
And in closing, be aware that there is light at the end of the tunnel! We still need to socially distance and wear our masks for a while longer. But the end is in sight. People are being vaccinated right this very minute. You have been strong enough to make it this far so you are up to the task of surviving what we need to do for the rest of this ride.
One of my favorite signs of spring is…hiking! Spring is the best season for this as far as I am concerned. It’s warm, it’s sunny. Not too cold, not too hot, limited bugs. And all the green, blooming and sprouting things are good for the soul.
I took our dogs who enjoy long hikes on a three mile trek at West Branch State Park. I call them The Three Amigos because they go nearly everywhere together, Cassius, Baxter, and Shelby.
You can tell how much fun they had by the smiles.
Shelby and Cassius
Shelby and Cassius enjoy the view. And quite a view it is.
We saw some boats.
But the nature views are the best. The dogs seem to enjoy it too, but really their favorite place to be is anywhere that I am. My favorite place is also any place with them. That’s why we stay home a lot. The best place to be is with family. Cassius, Baxter, and Shelby are family.
Kammie and Nikki, our other two shelties, are of course family too. They just can’t hike so far anymore so they stay home. With age, comes that right!