"It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed." Art Wolf

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Dogs and Water

Shelter in Place they said.  Maintain physical distancing.  Okay, we can do that. At least in Ohio our state parks were not closed to hiking and our rivers were open.   I was able to work most of the spring by going remote and working from home after the governor closed non essential businesses.   I always wanted to work somewhere that my dogs could come to work with me everyday.   Looks like I made it!   Audrey and Lark supervised from the daybed in my office and made sure to continue supervising me every break time.

But since coming back from Florida they had mostly heard me make excuses for not taking anyone for a hike and then even as the spring came around it all seemed too chilly and wet, but finally (before the heat and humidity set in) there were a few glorious Ohio, spring, sort of days.   And those were not to be wasted......

First up was Audrey testing out the replacement Sea Eagle on the Little Miami river with me.  I looked up and found a group of kayakers that get together in the Cincinnati area.   Most of the group had dropped off their bikes at one point on the river and then drove to the start area. They paddled down river, peddled their bikes back up the bike trail and pick up their cars then to drive back to load up their kayaks.   Then there was me who got a ride to the drop off area and paddled down stream to where my car was parked.   I also realized about 5 miles into the paddle that 10 miles at the beginning of the season is about 4 miles too many even if the current is helping.   Lesson relearned.  I am a paddle, float, float, paddle sort of person.   The rules were that you had to be able to handle your own equipment to maintain physical distancing.  The trees were just beginning to green out and the turtles were seeking their usual sunbeams.    I think some of the other paddlers were amazed at Audrey's "I'll just sit here and observe the water" behavior.

Even good dogs have to get up and stretch their legs.....she also agreed that ten miles was a bit long, lunch stop or no lunch stop.

We paddled past the local Loveland Castle.  And yes there is a long story there.

Sometime after Audrey's trip there was a trip up to Cindy's house in Granville.   And Lark and Audrey brought a puppy home with them.   She went three weeks without a name while I kept trying out new ones.  After a while I think she got tired of of hearing all the "cute" and "special" names and told Lark to just call her Jane.  She shared with Lark that she was quite confident that she would be noticed just fine without a unique or "special" name.

Lark finally found a warm enough day, after the road to the Caesar Creek Visitors center reopened, to take me for a hike.  She likes the trails where she is not apt to run into other hikers so that she can explore off leash a wee bit more.  It makes the swims so much nicer.

And then there were three again.  And for those that wonder about Josef, he recently sent a video of himself swimming in his pool with his humans and playing water keep away with a tennis ball.  I didn't have the heart to show it to Audrey. 

The first time Lark tried out the Sea Eagle she decided that she liked it just fine.  I on the other hand made the paddle a short one because of the wind.   I did mention that I was a paddle float sort of person, didn't I?   When the winds come up the need to keep paddling or lose ground is increased.  

Then it was Larks turn to try out the Sea Eagle, again.   We had started out the day before but after arriving at the lake I discovered that I had forgotten the battery operated air pump.  This GHL was not reverting back to the old foot pump.  We came back the next day and remembering all the equipment this time successfully went to a quieter part of Lake Cowan.   

The water in the lake was high but this end of the lake is very shallow. All the more fun to watch and listen to the large carp chase their prey through the lily pads.  Lark found it interesting enough when they were 20 feet away but when they rolled and splashed right next to the kayak she had other opinions.... 

You could tell the color of the sky from the water drops on the lilies.

This end of the lake had small coves and creeks that I like to paddle best.  As shallow as the water was though I decided that I needed to come back with the Hornbeck because it doesn't draw as much water.

About this time back at home both Audrey and Lark realized that their safety zone on the daybed was no more. Jane had watched Audrey and figured out she too could get up there using the smaller Ottoman that is out of camera range on the left.

The not being done with our water exploring. Jane got to visit the lake.  I found the sandy beach I water but had forgotten that this end of the lake can also get waves from the wind.  

Not that it stopped Lark from demonstrating what fun could be found in the water.

But leaving the waves on the beach, we set out to find a creek.  At this point Jane began practicing her walking on a leash skills.   Training puppies to move in "sort of straight" lines is always easier when a professional is demonstrating.

Now this was some water a young girl could get into.

It was while climbing over and around rocks and pools that Jane found out that she could swim, well two feet anyway, across one of the deeper pools. It was the quickest way to catch up to Lark.

Coming back from the creek Jane walked solo.  I think that her mentor did a fine job of leash training.

And at the end of a busy day it is good to relax and chill with a friend.   Physical distancing not necessary.

So for now, my spring seasonal work is finished, there are no dog shows for Lark and Audrey and the puppy is just working on growing and learning new things.  The RV sitting in the driveway is cleaned out and about to be put on the market. Adventures might have to remain local for a while longer.  But considering what is out there, I am good for that.   Any one interested in a used 2014 Thor Vegas with 64,000 miles on it?

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Florida, the Short Trip

I was not forced into deciding to start my seasonal work several months early. It was a decision made free and clear but strongly motivated by my recently collected memories of Scotland and my imagining how many other destinations are still out there not discovered by me. Yet.  So increasing the savings account requires staying around Ohio this winter.  Making a quick visit to Florida to spend some time checking in with friends and remembering what warm weather feels like seemed like a good idea to motivate me to buy warmer boots and tough it out up north.

I took three days to make the drive to Live Oak, Florida, to hang out with Liz and friends.  Judy and Birdie joined us on our first hike.  Lark enjoyed her off leash opportunity and handled it responsibly like a good Golden Retriever should. 

And then there were the morning walks with just Liz and Thistle.  Lark began to better understand that the possibilities for hikes is greatly increased in the winter if the GHL leaves Ohio and travels south. 

Liz no longer lives full time in her RV. She and her new husband Bob live in a retirement community with miles of trails and convenient kayaking access.  The small campground available for guests and visitors is just around the block from her home.   It is very easy for the dogs to stop by and gather their friends for morning hikes. 

I tried to locate my pictures from last December's trip when the Suwannee River was so high.  I found them on iPhoto but not when I tries to pull them up to transfer to the Blog for comparisons.  So now I have another project to add to my list. Organized photos.  That being shared, last year the sand bars and banks where all covered.

And this section of grass was covered.

And the river was within a foot of the pavilion roof.

And the wonderful riverside hiking trail was our private very special watery kayaking trail through the woods. Last year.

More Thistle, Audrey and Lark hikes.

Coming to Florida also gave several of us a chance to create a mini Get Together up in Alachua.  It doesn't take much more than the mention of food to gather folks together even with only a few days notice.  Retirement helps.

Left to Right: Bob and Liz, Steve and Irmi, Birdie, The GHL, Peggy and Nan.

The Christmas Eve Day, Judy and a young friend, and Liz and I took to the river.  After attaching the kayak to the roof back in Ohio, in the dark, in the middle of a sleeting cold rain, with frozen fingers, I was determined to kayak in Florida even if it was an overcast, light jacket weather.

Remains of the beached whale. Maybe.

And this is Liz's method of transporting kayaks.  When she came off the road and traded down from her Class C to a smaller Class B RV, she specifically made sure that her Hornbeck would fit in the aisle.  She reports having carried up to four kayaks when necessary, just don't try to get to the beds or the bathroom.

From Live Oaks I drove south towards Cedar Key stopping at Nan's driveway in Beverly Hills for two nights.  As important as it is for our children to purchase homes with flat driveways or acreage suitable for their mother's RV, it is very nice to have friends around with similar offerings.  (The next best option is to live within 15 minutes of beautiful state parks. Claudia and Martha.)

I was invited to Nan's grandson's and Christmas dinner.  No one went hungry.  Nan and I enjoyed visiting during our car ride.  Later, I got to go to Publix to refresh my supplies and spend more time catching up and sharing stories and perspectives on life.   A mutual friend, Donna, made the short drive over from her Florida home to visit briefly. Lark and Audrey were invited into Nan's house to meet her new Min Pin, Jessie, and once again both remembered their good manners.  We promised not to tell on Audrey and her raid on the trash tissues.  It was only a small lapse of judgement, really!

After leaving Nan's driveway I traveled over towards McIntosh, FL, to stay the remaining  couple of days on Orange Lake with their kayak ramp within walking distance from my door.  

This handsome feller quietly observed my paddling past before turning and slowly walking away through the vegetation.

Ok, so it wasn't a bright sunny day.  It wasn't a rainy downpour sort of day, either.  I was paddling on water. I was happy.

Coming back into the campground, I took this picture to show Liz that her favorite campsite on the lake is still here.  This is what a Premium Lake front site looks like.

And the water in the lake was up. Not as far a up as the river by Liz but enough to attract more sport fisherman.  This particular campground is small and geared more to long term residents and fisherman.

In the afternoon after kayaking I drove to the store to pick up dog food and later drove up highway 441 towards Gainesville. Nan had mentioned that Paynes Praire Park was slowly filling up with water again after a suspected shift in the limestone had drained it years ago.  She was right.  So the Bison and wild horses will have to be satisfied with less grazing land.  However, the ducks, Ibis, Cranes and other water loving birds will be very happy.

Just some friends hanging around the campground early on a damp morning.

One of the reasons that I like to come back to this campground when I come through Florida is because the dogs and I get to take our daily walks around the beautiful  village of McIntosh. Other years I have made posts of the wonderful old Victorian homes and the streets lined with large Spanish Moss covered Live Oaks.  Many of the homes are beautifully kept up. Others are in need of love and a good handyman.   Some appear to be more storage facilities than homes. As I walk past those I imagine an episode of "Hoarders" or the wild treasure hunt of valuable discoveries that might be made as one would work themselves through the various hallways and rooms.  

I stayed long enough in the Ocala area to visit with my friend Leslie who is an Ohio transplant.  She and her husband moved to a new home this past summer.  I liked the view of the lake through the screened porch.

Lark liked the view, too!

Leslie said that a few very small gators have been seen around the lake but weather permitting the grandchildren swim off the dock and one neighbor does his ritual lake swim across and back every morning regardless of seasonal weather changes.  This is life in Florida.

And Leslie shared that the additional acreage across the one lane sandy road in front of the house. also came with their house.  I think Lark is evaluating its potential to fit a small RV.

Sigh. So after gathering up memories of warmer weather, I climbed back into the driver seat and headed back up I-75 towards Ohio.  I once again successfully navigated my way north through Atlanta right before rush hour and made it home Wednesday, New Year's Day.  I got the dogs cleaned up and groomed on Thursday, headed off to a supervisor's meeting on Friday and spent the Saturday and Sunday with Lark and Audrey at their first Rally and Obedience Events.

Both Lark and Audrey earned two Rally Novice B legs and Lark earned her first leg in Beg Novice B Obedience.  Audrey's attention in Rally told me all I needed to know. She will be entering Obedience next time, too!

And for those that have been following Josef's adventures in the conformation ring, he completed his Silver Grand Champion title in November and finished his Owner Handler year in the Top Ten for the third year in the row.  He declined his invitation to Orlando this year.  He had happily sent me off to Scotland in October to use up his Orlando funds.   

Here he is in PetSmart practicing a long down stay next to some of his favorite squeaky toys.  He was learning how to be a better mannered companion animal.  In early December he and I drove up to his Other Mother Cindy's house to meet a wonderful family from the Philadelphia area. He had been corresponding to his humans by email while he was finishing up his Silver title.  It was pretty much like finding love on the internet. The dog version of Match.com. That "First Date" worked out so well, he left to go back to PA with them and meet the two younger humans in the  family.  He has sent pictures reflecting what being an"Only Dog" means to him: More snuggles on the couch, sleeping in bed with his humans and no other dogs to compete with for attention.  He says he likes being THE "heart" dog to humans that need him.  Just this afternoon he sent another email outlining how well his new humans are responding to his training.  

Sadly, Lark and Audrey won't be helping me add 10,000 step to my Fitbit now that we are back in "frosted fingers" Ohio weather.  Maybe walking around Rural King enough practicing our obedience moves will add a few steps. I still have a few days to locate those warmer boots before reporting to work on the 20th.