Tag Archives: Trails

An Icy Hike, and Shelby Is Back!

West Branch State Park
Frozen reservoir at West Branch State Park.

Hiking has been challenging this week. We did take one day off because of icy conditions and bad weather, but then we were back at it. The reservoir at West Branch State Park has been frozen. We have seen several people ice fishing on it each day. Some of them have little tents they set up on the ice for a bit of protection from the elements. Others just cut a hole and fish. The photo above is one I took from a hiking/snowmobile trail on the south side of the reservoir.

Yak trax
Wearing Yak Trax for better traction.

We did hike yesterday. I knew the footing would be slippery with melted and re-frozen hard pack snow. With the warming conditions it was a combination of ice and slush. I strapped on the Yak Trax so I would have a better grip for safer footing. This was the first time I had used them for hiking and I was pleased. I felt much more confident that I could navigate the trails and keep my balance.

We also hiked today. I didn’t wear the Yak Trax today because it was warm enough that there was a fair amount of slush on top of the snow and ice. Footing was a little tricky. The trails were packed from snowmobiles, mountain bikes, and foot traffic. The packed snow was still there, but many times there was enough melting underneath that my foot would punch through the snow and fall a few inches. This means you have to pull your foot out of a hole. The descent through the layer of snow also ends with a jarring impact when you reach the bottom. The snow also slides and moves with each step so it was a tiring hike. We went 2.8 miles this afternoon, but I must say it seemed farther.

Sheltie, shetland sheepdog
Shelby is back!

Great news! Shelby is back to hiking. This is the first day she has rejoined us on our hikes since her attack by loose dogs exactly three weeks ago. Encounter With Loose Dogs, Gone¬†Bad We kept Shelby home while she was healing up and to keep her wounds clean. She also had a thigh shaved due to dog bites and it has been too cold for her bare skin. Today the temperature climbed up over 50 degrees and Shelby has been wanting to join us again, so today was her lucky day. She did great. She was so happy to be back on the trails with us. Baxter was happy too. He never smiles as big as when his “sister” Shelby is walking with him.

Shaved leg, Shetland sheepdog
Shelby’s shaved leg.

It’s not the clearest view, but here you can see Shelby’s shaved leg. The fur has grown an impressive amount in three weeks. I call this haircut on her leg “The Howard Walowitz”. All you Big Bang Theory fans will understand.

Napping sheltie
Shelby napping after some time on the trail.

Here is Shelby napping. Her first hike in three weeks has her tired out. She is happy to be a part of the pack out on the trails again. I feel like we have overcome a big hurdle and Shelby is, if not back to normal, at least well on the road to recovery.

Snow Dogs on a New Trail!

Sheltie dog and friend on a winter hike
Zekie and Claire on the trail.

We hiked with four of our dogs today, Zekie, Claire, Cassius, and Baxter. Shelby is still on injury leave from her run in with the loose dogs last week so rested at home. You can read about her injury. Progression of a Dog Bite¬†Wound She is looking much better and her bruising is mostly gone now, we’re just finishing off the antibiotics as healing continues.

We went back to West Branch State Park to explore some of the trails we hadn’t tried before. From the the Mountain Bike Trail parking lot, we went down the main trail to trailhead A3. This trail is a snowmobile trail so it is nice and wide and relatively flat. We hiked out A3 until we came to the Bit O’ Honey Trail which is a mountain bike trail. Mountain bike trails are generally rougher, rockier, and tougher going. I am particularly slow, making sure I don’t trip on rocks, sticks, and so on. Even so, when it is in the 20’s, I get hot enough on these trails that I soon end up with my hood down and my gloves in my pocket. If it is a longer mountain bike trail, I end up with my coat unzipped too. That still leaves me with a turtleneck and a polar fleece and I am just fine. If we slow down, I just zip my coat back up.

Rocks at West Branch State Park
Rock view on the Bit O’ Honey Trail, West Branch State Park, Ohio.

The dogs start pestering us each afternoon around 1:30 pm. They know we leave for walking or hiking near 2 o’clock. On the rare day that we haven’t gone, they mope and give us dirty looks from the dog beds or couch. Yes, they are spoiled pups!

Dogs hiking, West Branch State Park, Ohio
Cassius and Baxter hiking with daddy.

Cassius the greyhound always wears a coat in the winter when we walk or hike. All our past greyhounds have too. They just don’t have the body fat to stand up to cold temperatures. Baxter the Lab/Rott/Dobe mix has never worn a coat until this year, once it got below 30 degrees. In the past Baxter never wanted a coat. Now that he will be 12 in a few months, he seems to get colder and appreciates the warmth. Other than that he hasn’t slowed down much. So, getting ready for winter hiking can be quite the process. In addition to two humans suiting up and getting the right boots, sunglasses, hats, etc., we also have two dogs to put coats on.

Two dogs hiking at West Branch State Park, Ohio
Baxter and Claire ready to get in the SUV after hiking.

Luckily, Baxter looks quite handsome in his coat. Of course, I am biased and think Baxter looks quite dapper all the time!

Winter Trail Hiking Again!

Hiking at West Branch State Park, on the trail.
Hiking again, on the trail.

We are back to trail hiking. We had a scary incident while out last week. Two loose dogs attacked Shelby and Zekie. It was quite scary and between that and the ice, I took a couple days off from walking. For two days after that we walked on paved trails in town.

Zekie survived the attack and wasn’t much worse for wear. Shelby, however, was quite seriously wounded, but is on the mend. I continue to give her meds and provide wound maintenance while she heals. She won’t be hiking again any time soon. I won’t even think about it for a few weeks. She needs time to recuperate, and I don’t want her wound aggravated from too much activity. Also, the wound needs to stay clean and not have dirt and salt from the trails and roads splashing on her underside.

Trail side, West Branch State Park
Trail side, West Branch State Park.

I love hiking in the snow and am glad to be back on the trails. I find it easier to hike with snow on the ground. It fills in a lot of the divots and small holes, and covers the large gravel. These tend to make the walking surface uneven and having them covered in snow makes it easier for me. The trail is beautiful when there is freshly fallen snow. I sometimes feel bad that we pass by and leave footsteps and pawprints to mar its beauty. The landscape at trailside still provides views of unbroken snow vistas. It can also be fun to see who else is using the trails, be it footsteps, pawprints, snowmobiles, or snow bicyclers.

After last week’s incident, we hike with pepper spray. I have heard that a product called Spray Shield, that is citronella based, is safer for dogs. I will look into that in the future. For now, what I have is pepper spray. I need to be responsible for defending my dogs to the best of my ability. I feel guilty that I failed them last week. Especially Shelby. She and I are a working team, having provided therapy dog visits for the past seven years. I need her to trust that I will take care of her, and you better believe that I will do everything in my power to do so.

Sheltie profile
Shelby watching out the window.

It seems odd to be out hiking without Shelby. She is none too happy about it either when we leave her at home, even though she gets a treat when we go out the door. She is used to being part of everything that goes on and she believes she is in charge of safety. The other dogs believe that too! Even while she is healing, she does what she can to maintain order around here. Above, she is watching out the window to see what is going on in the neighborhood. She still barks at the mail jeep and delivery people, alerting us that strangers are about. Last night after we had gone to bed, Shelby even barked at something outside and a few seconds later, our motion activated security light came on.

That Shelby is one smart, and tough, cookie!

A Snowy Hike

Snowy hike with dogs at West Branch State Park, Ohio
Hiking with the pups

Today was our 31st day in a row of hiking! We have logged over 74 miles of trails in the past 30 days. Not bad for January. The unseasonably mild weather has accommodated us.

This afternoon’s hike was a snowy one. Our area of northeast Ohio was fortunate to get only a few inches from yesterday’s snow storm. Other areas faired much worse than we did. It was still enough to slow us down a bit. We humans had to look for rocks, roots, and branches buried underneath the snow and just waiting to trip us up. The long-haired dogs, Shelby, Zekie, and Claire, had to stop repeatedly to chew snowballs from the back of their legs. Shelby in particular seemed to stop suddenly and plunk herself down in front of me on the trail, especially where it was only one track wide. 

Another trail hazard was the areas that had thin sheets of ice, frozen over running water. None of these were more than a couple of inches deep, so it was the element of surprise as you dropped through the ice and had to step out that was the issue, rather than any danger. This does help you to see how important it is to have the proper footwear for the conditions you are out in. Fortunately, I had chosen to wear my L.L. Bean Wildcat boots, so I was in good shape.

Snowy hike at West Branch State Park, Ohio
Ice on West Branch State Park Reservoir, Ohio (Trail View)

I also plan carefully what gloves and coat I will wear. Usually, at this time of year I wear my mid-thigh length storm parka. The terrain we covered today had lots of winding paths as well as ups and downs. Even though it was about 30 degrees, I got hot enough that for the last quarter of the hike I had my coat unzipped and my gloves in my pocket. Of course, I was also wearing a turtleneck and a hooded sweatshirt under my parka. Layering is king for outdoor activities in the winter time.

West Branch State Park Reservoir, Ohio
Another view from the trail of the frozen reservoir at West Branch State Park, Ohio

The types of trails at West Branch State Park, near Ravenna, Ohio are varied. There are mountain bike trails, snow mobile trails, and of course, hiking trails. There is something for everyone and you can walk on any of the trails. Be aware that as this is a multi-purpose park, you should be aware of your surroundings at all times in case you come across bicycles or other vehicles. Hunting is allowed, in season, so be prepared. That is why Cassius’ new collar is very bright. A New Collar For Cassius

Although the trails were snow covered, we all had a good time. The views are beautiful and the squinch of the new fallen snow is pleasing to the ear. The dogs like to occasionally grab up mouthfuls of snow and swallow them. Rather like the doggy version of snow ice cream.

We have been noticing a lot of bird activity in the past week although I am not sure why. Perhaps they are having more trouble finding food this late in the winter. This is just a guess on my part. I only know for sure that I have seen increased numbers of birds flitting around, sometimes groups of birds, and they often sing. They are medium sized songbirds, at least a few were robins.

Trail map for West Branch State Park, Ohio
Trail map for West Branch State Park, Ohio

Here is a photograph I took of the trail map from trailhead entrance beside the mountain bike trail. The hike we took today was the squiggly blue line next to the water. It is fun because you are able to see the water for the majority of the time you are hiking.

I encourage you to try hiking in every season. What you see varies depending on the time of year. We tend to think of winter as a lean time with less plants. It is the perfect time to see the structure of the woods. I notice things that I never see in the summer because then they are covered with leaves and undergrowth. Each season has its own beauty. See which one you like best. Maybe, like me, you will decide you like them all.