Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Return to Overall Run

After our relatively dog-free day last weekend, we wanted to head back to one of our favorite dog-friendly places, the swimming holes on the Overall Run Trail.

This is the trail we visited in the spring, and vowed to come back when it was warm to cool off in the swimming holes. 

It is such a gorgeous place. A steep trail through the woods along reddish dirt, a trail that continues to intersect with the Appalachian trail or the Tuscarora Trail, of which I have fond memories from the early months after I had met Florian.

Overall Run flows over smooth, sculpted rocks that are carved into deep, rounded pools perfect for swimming. Three big pools are joined by cascading falls over slick rock, very slippery for humans and dogs to navigate but fun for the adventurous to slide down. 

We didn't think the water would be too cold, since it's been raining so much and its been so bloody hot. 

In any case, we were determined to go in the water no matter how cold it was because we were in danger of melting from the humidity and the heat on the hike in.

It was definitely cold! But it felt incredibly refreshing, and the water in this pool was at least 7 feet deep in the center. Lamar and Fozzie loved getting to cool down too. 

Lamar found a comfy vantage point in which to relax and survey the action, 

and Fozzie spent a fair amount of time anxiously checking everything out, 

meeting the other people out enjoying the spot, venturing in to the water, 

barking at us when we were in the water, and stealing the lunch foods left unattended by innocent picnickers. 

We knew there would be other people at this spot, since we knew its a popular place and in this heat, who in their right mind wouldn't be out enjoying a cool swimming hole in the woods? And its always a crap shoot whether strangers and co-recreationists are going to appreciate our particular unruly pooches.

But on this occasion we were lucky, everyone who came by stopped to give our dogs a pet and remark on how handsome they were. It seemed like the beautiful spot just brought out the best in everybody who was there.

And despite friendly people and irresistible little kids, Fozzie didn't jump up on anyone!

He was even quite nice to an 11-year-old lab who showed up and proceeded to swim after every stick, rock, and tennis ball her dad threw in the water for her. 

Such joy! 

From our vantage point, with the clear water we were able to observe the mechanics of an excellent dog paddle in action.  

Gotta hand it to the labs. 

What a great place to enjoy a summer day and some family lovin'. Thanks for a great day, guys!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cavern and Kayak

With finally a couple of days of no rain this past weekend, Florian and I tried to fit in as much activity as we possibly could before the all-but continuous deluge resumed.

On Saturday, we were going to go to Great Falls to watch a bunch of kayakers actually go over the falls, which seems insane to me but I guess there are some really adventurous types out there. The event was cancelled because the Potomac is apparently 5 feet above its normal level, and apparently cool heads prevailed. 

Our morning already set aside for dog-free fun, we decided to check out Crystal Grottoes Cavern in Boonesboro, Maryland. 
It was fascinating to learn how these incredibly intricate formations were created through the slow process of water percolating through rock. 

Though at moments it was a tad claustrophobia-inducing to be in a narrow passage underground with a group of strangers, it was worth it to see all the delicate ribbons and cool crystalline formations. 

We were really glad we got to check out the caverns, but a few hours away from the dogs was enough. 

We decided to try out a new cool toy in the company of Fozzie and Lamar. Our ever-helpful friend Francine left us her inflatable kayak, since we haven't been able to use the big kayaks since losing our mini-van to vandalism in February. 

Florian was in heaven at the prospect of a kayak that is easily transportable and lightweight, so we headed out to the Rocky Gorge Reservoir on the Patuxent River in Maryland. 
Although it lacks the size and durability of the big kayaks, in which we had several fun afternoons paddling around with my bitty foster Pager tucked in to the kayak with me,

the inflatable was more than serviceable for Florian to paddle around the lake and get his kayaking fix in
while I waited with the dogs. 
And poor Lady waited at home, ready to give voluminous kisses when we got back. 

She seems pretty content to relax at home, though of course every dog's greatest desire is to be with her people. But I don't want to exacerbate her arthritis, and it is challenging to go places with Lady and Lamar together as they get testy when in close proximity for too long. 

Hope she will find a person of her own soon, who will fill her days with Lady-specific activities tailored just to her (simple) needs and desires. Isn't that what every dog deserves?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Woods Lake

One of the best parts of our trip to the Adirondacks was our (re) connection with Woods Lake.

We went to Woods Lake a few times when I was a kid, but I think it was more polluted and full of fish hooks and nasty stuff then, so my folks didn't go often. 

But just a mile or so down the road from my parents' house, there's a little pulloff from the road. The short drive was a perfect opportunity for Florian to get a manual shift driving lesson

during which Fozzie was the only one in the car who was perfectly relaxed. 

Once we parked, it was just a short trail of less than a mile through the woods, 

with no one else around and  acres and acres for the dogs to run through. 

And then a gorgeous lake surrounded by deep woods. 

I think Lamar was a little too tired to go for a swim, but Fozzie kept going in just for the joy of swimming a lap or two. 

The water was totally clear, and we saw some beautiful fish, dark brown with the most incredible light blue fins. 

Florian says they are bluegill. I never saw them before! I was so happy to see them just milling about in their habitat, with no nasty fisherpeople harassing them. 

At least for the moment. 

We didn't see much wildlife otherwise, but the beavers had left their mark which always makes me happy to see. 

 It was hot the first day we went to Woods Lake,

so although we hadn't brought our bathing suits that was of course no deterrent to Florian, who grew up swimming in cool mountain lakes all over the Swiss Alps. 

Like they always say, you can lead a Swiss guy to the water but you can't keep him from going in.

The water in this lake was actually pretty warm, amazingly, probably because there's been so much rain. Just like in the DC/MD area, it had been raining pretty much every day. 

As I remember my mom explaining to me when I was a kid, the lakes and streams we used to visit were so cold because at least early in the season, they were fed mostly by snow melt. 

Lots of rain, coupled with warm nights, make for water that is balmy by comparison.

So when we went back to Woods Lake, on the Fourth of July, we brought our bathing suits and joined the dogs for a refreshing swim in the clean-smelling water.

Just like when I was a kid, swimming in a lake that has a lot of muddy, mucky, weedy substrate gives me the heebie-jeebies. Not that there were likely any really terrifying things like crabs or even crayfish in there, but I am a tad squeamish about the sensation of mucky, weedy stuff that may conceal untold crawly species. 

So I was glad that the water was so clear and the bottom was rocky.

The dogs of course don't mind icky substrates, or if they do, they don't let on in any way that we could easily identify.

I think we could all agree that this lake had something for everyone. What a magical place!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Week in the Adirondacks

Last week, having found accommodations for Lady with a wonderful fellow foster mom, Florian and I headed up to New York for a week in the Adirondacks with my parents.

Everything about that place relaxes me. The smells of the forest and damp, clean moss and dirt, the sounds of the brook and the birds, and even the mosquitoes and deer flies, 

the feeling of the sleepy town of Gloversville on a hot summer day.

Reminders of my youth, and climbing up the steep hill to visit my mom in her garden in the mornings.

Of water balloon fights with my brothers and sister, and the smell of the plastic beach balls in the Five and Ten store in Northville. Hot days playing with the minnows in Sacandaga Lake. Evening walks along the road with Uncle Johnny, making up stories about the aliens that grew in milkweed pods. 

The froggies and toads and red efts who were my playmates once my brothers and sister were older and stayed in the city over the summer, and when Uncle Johnny was working on building his own cabin down the road. 

All the lakes and streams and swimming holes and hikes we went on, washing the dogs and picking blackberries and eating sandwiches in the sun. 

Going up there for weekends in the winter, and toasting marshmallows with Uncle Johnny. Getting our water in the winter from the well that fed the pond, which in the summer serves as froggie and dog habitat.

My mom and dad and Johnny inexplicably indulgent of my childhood pastimes and wants. When I think of how much time we spent just doing fun, childhood stuff together as a family, I feel amazed. I suppose some of it is just a function of how people's lives used to be structured, where one spouse's income was enough to raise a family (which of course, is no longer the case for most middle-class families) and a tenured position at a university for Dad meant stress-free summers for the whole family. But some of it is the patience of my Mom Dad and Johnny, and the fact that they are just people who are cut out for parenting (or uncle-ing, as the case may be).

It is so much fun to bring Florian and Fozzie and Lamar there, and to have them enjoy it as much as I did. 
Florian loves hanging out with my parents,  

and the dogs are in Heaven being a part of a larger tribe and having lots of people around to pet them. 

Not to mention a huge space in which to run around and sniff and chase frisbees

and play with our friend Dizzy, who was sweet and seemed happy to have us there. 

All week, there was nothing to do but watch TV with my parents, 

explore the grounds and the woods, go for drives to visit the quaint little towns I grew up in, 

roll around in the grass, 


and read my Dad's books. 

When I'm up there, I actually sleep. It's the silence but for the sounds of the crickets and the brook, the relaxing way we spend our days, the comfort and familiarity of being with family. 

More than anything though it's how distant I feel from the thousand little stressful responsibilities of daily life, and the feeling that none of them can get me. There's no cell phone service, internet is so slow there's no point in logging on, no one knows how to reach me. 

I can safely regress to those happy years of childhood when everything was taken care of, and I slept (more) easily.

Before returning to the real world of adulthood, 

which is really not so bad either.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lady's Day at the Pool

The past two weekends, I've gotten a break from the heat and humidity at my wonderful aunt and uncle's pool.

Last weekend, Florian and I went directly after his ballet performance, so we didn't have any dogs with us. 

Just an elephant, who seemed to really love the water.

This weekend, Florian was away in Los Angeles where he'd been all week on vacation with his son, enjoying record heat in the desert, while we enjoyed our usual heat and humidity.

So I decided to bring Lady to my aunt and uncle's, which is becoming a fun rite of passage for most of my foster dogs.

After the hot car ride there, Lady just couldn't wait to cool down. Though I don't know that she's ever seen a pool before, she knew it looked cool and refreshing so she didn't waste a moment in launching right in. 

It was very sweet because it reminded me of my old foster dog Foster, who looked a lot like Lady and who did the same thing upon arriving at the pool the summer of 2009.

Upon landing in the pool of course Lady plummeted underwater, and I made ready to go in after her. Happily though, I think dogs must know instinctively how to swim and she wasted no time in paddling over to the edge and climbing out.

I've wanted to take Lady swimming, as it seems like the perfect exercise for her given her arthritis. So I brought her in again and held her up while she paddled.

She wasn't too relaxed about the whole thing. I don't think she got that I was holding her up, so she paddled for dear life.

No worries Lady, come on out and relax.

Lady enjoyed just lying in the grass and exploring my aunt's amazing gardens. Though she did get into a bit of an altercation with her cousin Genghis, as both of them are I think what you would call "dog selective."

This week, Lady is going to stay with a wonderful fellow foster who is between dogs, while Florian, Fozzie, Lamar and I go to New York to see my parents. She's had lots of interest from adopters lately, so I don't even know if she'll still be a foster dog when I get back!

What a sweet girl. I have really been enjoying going to sleep this week with Lady on the floor on the right side of the room, Lamar on the floor next to the bed on my left, and Fozzie in bed with me on my right.

Dogs are so incredible!