Category Archives: Hiking

Chloë Takes a Hike

Fit as a fiddle.

My annual physical confirmed what I already knew: The doctor confirmed my weight held steady at 21 pounds (the most important thing!), my teeth looked great, and none of my lumps were dangerous. But Dr. Kimmel, my personal physician, also detected for the first time a slight murmur in my heartbeat, which she said was not a concern right now but a possible red flag for the future. She recommended further testing with canine cardiology experts, the nearest one in Tacoma. Unfortunately, the earliest appointment I could get is in October. There must be a lot of these canine cardiology concerns going around.

In the meantime, nothing much is going to change in my behavior or my life before the exam, unless I start to slow down noticeably or start coughing during or after vigorous exercise. Whining doesn’t seem to count, or I’d have been shut down long ago.

Middle Fork Snoqualmie River in early April.

With the weather warming up a bit, one Saturday we drove to the foothills and took an early-spring hike on the new Oxbow Loop Trail trail along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. While this is only 40 miles from Seattle, it was far enough into the wilderness that there was no cell phone service, which is wilderness enough for us.

Current events.

River walks are my favorite. While any puddle large enough to generate a ripple scares the bejesus out of me, rivers are my friends, no matter how fast the current may be roaring by. Excavating mud and moving stones along a river bed is one of my favorite sports.

On this trip, I investigated the Middle Fork closely in several spots until the trail veered away from the riverbed and into the moss-covered forest surrounding Oxbow Lake, which was once part of the river.. Plenty of good smells out there in early spring, but it was also a lot of up-and-down walking, so I was pooped by the time we got back to the parking lot. Heather kept me moving along at a good clip.

Keeping up the pace.

Resting after a walk in the woods.

Luckily, there was a bench nearby where I was able to relax and unwind a bit before the drive back home. Right after receiving my “look forward to getting in the car” treat from Mike, I snuggled up in my bed in the back seat. I slept all the way back to Magnolia with nary a cough or whine.

Chloë Sees the Lions

Ballard Lions Club.

For most of February, the wintry weather, along with  Heather’s busy work schedule, has kept our afternoon walks close to home. We went to Carkeek Park a couple of times, and once in a while to Magnolia Village or the library, the grocery store , the Mount Rainier viewpoint on Magnolia Boulevard, or the maybe the Ballard Locks. That’s about it. So I was surprised on a sunny Sunday afternoon when we got in Heather’s car, drove to the locks, parked and started walking from the parking lot, along the canal and right across to Ballard over the spillway and the locks.

Retreating from the lions’ den.

I’ve been across those narrow walkways of the locks before, and in the past the crowded aisles made me nervous. In winter, however, crossing the locks wasn’t congested, and I hustled across without incident. We marched right through the botanical garden on the Ballard side and onto the Burke-Gilman Trail, where we had to dodge runners and cyclists for about 20 minutes. I figured we were headed further north to the Shilshole Bay Marina or even Golden Gardens Park, places we’ve walked before. But this time we turned off the sidewalk into the parking lot of the popular seafood restaurant Ray’s Boathouse, which seemed to be closed at the time. We walked all the way out onto the adjoining wharf, where we were finally able to see the perpetrators of the incessant honking that we hear every afternoon of late when we walk in Discovery Park, just across the canal in Magnolia. Ten or more sea lions were unleashing a constant symphony, singly and in groups of twos and threes, never stopping and louder than a visiting Schatzi when the mail carrier delivers to our house.

This article and video from the Seattle Times gives you all you need to know about these California sea lions. This particular herd of the migrating species showed up at the mouth of the canal in December, and they were still hanging out and barking loudly as the calendar turned to March. Apparently they like this pier just fine. For most Magnolians living south of Discovery Park, hearing those husky honks every afternoon provides an amusing diversion. For people who live or work near the canal, however, its their personal March Madness. We can sympathize.

Nervous at the locks.

While it was nice to walk someplace different for a change, while walking back south toward the locks I realized that I still had to traverse the canal again to get back to the car. Things went smoothly on the return trip until Heather decided to stop between the locks to watch a couple of pleasure boats locking through. This imprisoned me to linger on the narrow walkway between the two locks, which left me much too much time to discover water rushing below and on both sides of me. Although this made me queasy, I was trapped on this thin island until the lock filled, allowing the boats to progress to Puget Sound level and the bar across the walkway to lift. When that finally happened, I trotted over the closed lock and the noisy spillway to the Magnolia side in record time. I had enough excitement for one afternoon.

Chloë Talks Turkey

Smokey looking abnormally  mellow, with Chloë and Pumpkin.

Thanksgiving at my country getaway was mellow compared to past visits. Smokey is four, finally old enough to know when he needs to take his nose out of my butt and leave me alone. Pumpkin and I have always been simpatico. And the feline Mr. Fuzz didn’t show his furry face downstairs except at night, when he snuck down when the rest of us were in the bedroom with the door closed. Smokey and Pumpkin, apparently more insecure than on our past visits, had their beds moved from the living room to the floor next to where Heather was sleeping. At least this ploy kept Smokey quiet all night, rather than barking every time a  car passed or the wind stirred outside.

Sniffing out Beaver Lake

Although it rained parts of every day we were there, we did get in some good walking, once at Beaver Lake Preserve in Sammamish and on both the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, each about 10 minutes by car from the getaway. Pumpkin came with us once (she’d rather sleep) and Smokey a couple of times, until Heather got tired of him barking and lunging at every dog he sees. Smokey’s a big guy, and Heather’s arms were getting tired from yanking him back. The final straw came when Smokey tried to climb into the front seat while Heather was driving. It was a lot harder for Mike and Heather to push back Smokey than me, I’m sure, and Heather was screaming at him. After that incident, Smokey’s hiking days were over, at least for this visit.

Crossing a trestle on the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail.

Because we weren’t having Thanksgiving dinner at home, I had been concerned I might be shortchanged on my normally ample rations of Thanksgiving leftovers.  But I needn’t have worried. I got plenty of gravy-laden dishes and casseroles to lick on the big day, and the next day all the leftovers came back to Seattle with us. I will be feasting on chopped-up gizzard, cartilage, liver, skin and turkey meat mixed in with my kibble right through to Christmas. It’s that most wonderful time of the year.

Chloë Gets High

Along the Mount Baker Highway,

You saw the headline, and I know what you were probably thinking: Nasty Mike blew smoke from some of that wacky tabacky stuff  up my ultra-sensitive nose and I started hallucinating. But you would be wrong about that!

No, the headline refers to our first real road trip since we returned from Syracuse in September 2019. This was only three days, but when Heather was driving she kept telling me this trip was practice for another possible trip to Syracuse, that wonderful place where there’s air conditioning throughout the house and nice people dote on me 24/7. Well, we’re not there yet, and Heather’s message to me was clear: Keep up that whining from the back seat and you won’t be coming with us. She sounded like she meant business, too. I whined nonetheless.

Snow patch in Heather Meadows.

We stayed on Birch Bay, northwest of Bellingham and within sight of the Canadian border, which we are still not allowed to cross. This bay of Puget Sound is at sea level, more or less, lapping up on its pebbly beach just enough to scare me away (I don’t like waves). So it was not my ideal location.  But after breakfast, we got back into Heather’s car and started to climb, from farmland through the foothills and eventually to the Mount Baker Highway and the North Cascades. Because of road conditions, we couldn’t drive all the way to end, but we all got pretty high, all the way to the appropriately named Heather Meadows Visitor Center at 4400 feet. There was even snow on the ground in a lot of places!

Chloë at Picture Lake.

Chloë befriends a tourist.

We ate lunch and wandered the trails around the Visitor Center, then backtracked to Picture Lake to  take some pictures (what a concept!). I pursued a dragonfly for a while, waded in the lake for a few seconds (no waves here!), and  I even let Mike sit down and take a photo with me. After being so nice to him, I was expecting a reward, such as my own ice cream cup or riding in the front seat with him. But did he let me lie in his lap on the way down the mountain? NO! Did they stop for ice cream? NO! They only stopped for beer, and I had to stay in the car while they went inside. Not fair.

The whining will continue.

Chloë Takes a Short Vacation

Roll Call: Smokey (front), Chloë and Pumpkin.

When we drove out to my Cascade foothills Getaway last week, it was the first time we’ve spent the night away from home in 400 days, as well as our longest car ride in that time: a whole 28 miles door to door. But for a few moments, at least, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel dipped down to the level of  I-90, with Mount Rainier and the North Cascades shimmering over the lake on a cloudless afternoon.

I love going out there, although sometimes spending 10 days fending off the advances of the adolescent Smokey is not exactly my idea of a vacation. Him constantly barking at dogs in TV commercials is bad enough, but I’m starting to get a vibe that there’s something a little kinky going on here in the wild, wild West (I’ve seen all those smarmy families in the modern Westerns on TV). Smokey not only hounded me every minute I was there, trying to sniff my butt or butt in on my food (much better than his, I can say from experience), but he also stalked poor little Pumpkin, and worse–at least twice a day, he snuck up behind her and started to hump her, stopping only when Heather started screaming at him. And here’s the kicker: Smokey squats when he pees, while Pumpkin lifts her leg every time. Definitely something amiss here.

The pack leads Heather.

The two of them were a pain when we took them on our daily walks, too. Heather took their leashes, while Mike had me, and I tried to pull him along as fast as his bum foot allowed. Smokey and Pumpkin made Heather deal with lots of pooping and stopping to sniff every leaf and rock, like they had never smelled one before.  Boring. Then one afternoon we drove to a different park for a walk, but Smokey started barking at another dog while we were still in the parking lot. Heather hustled everybody back into the car because she couldn’t trust Smokey where there were too many distractions. So we drove to another place, a logging road where there would be no people or dogs to provoke Smokey. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes uphill Smokey found a fresh animal scent to follow and yanked Heather right into the woods after it. That killed this spot as a walk location, too.

Along the Sno Valley Trail.

The number of places without distractions both at the parking lot and along the trail seemed limited, but the Snoqualmie Valley Trail always seemed to foot the bill. From our central location, we could access several  sections in 10 days without repeating our routes.

And don’t let me whine too much, because, the benefits of vacationing at my Getaway far outweigh the drawbacks. This time I got to audition my new REI camp chair, for one thing, although I do want to test it out for a couple of weeks before rendering my final verdict. Out in Fall City, the new chair was easier to leap into, but still put me safely above the Scylla and Charybdis of Smokey and the mostly upstairs cat Mr. Fuzz. I did let Pumpkin use it a couple of times when I was resting somewhere else.

Chloë’ tries her new camp chair.

Another good part of being there, of course, is that just like when my little pal Schatzi visits our house, it’s always the other dogs who are screwing up, barking unnecessarily or doing something gross, and I am looking like a descendant of a certified obedience champion (which is true!). When three’s company, I’m never the one getting yelled at.

Front seat with cushion.

But the absolute best part: Whenever Mike, Heather and the three dogs drove somewhere in Heather’s car, I got to sit in the front on Mike’s lap. True, it still wasn’t my own seat, but it was still the front seat. And I didn’t want to make Mike have to sit in the back with those two.

Chloë Goes Yard

A perfect spot for fetch?

I found a great new location for playing fetch. Increases in park use and various critter distractions have put a severe crimp in my favorite game. It has gotten hard to find a secluded place where I can just concentrate on the ball. That’s why the park’s maintenance yard driveway was such a find. I can’t believe we haven’t used it before.

It’s in a relatively low-traffic area and fenced in on two sides, should I entertain any thought of escape. It has enough slope to allow me to catch Heather’s throw and roll it back to her from my selected location. At the hour we walk in the late afternoon, nobody is ever working there, so we’re not going to be chased away. And for ball security, Mike can stand in front of the fence and kick away any loose throws trying to sneak through underneath it.

Delivering a strike.

Unfortunately, that’s what happened twice already. The first time, I am forced to admit, it was my fault. Mike had not yet assumed his assigned post, so when I pounced upon Heather’s hard, skipping throw, I knocked it forward and under the fence into the maintenance yard, where it continued to roll until it came to rest on the far side of the lot.  It was fenced in.

Don’t do me like that!

The next morning Heather and I walked back there, and the gate was open. At first I didn’t see my ball, but once we walked around the yard a bit I found it under a parked dump truck. I carried it home in triumph.

That’s why we decided to station Mike in front of the fence the next time. And indeed, that’s what we did when we returned there a few days later. Mike dutifully stood in front of the fence at the point of the tallest gap at the bottom, ready to block any throw that managed to get past me. With Heather throwing from the bottom of the hill, I would touch the ball before she released it and race uphill after it, often catching up to it and grasping it mid-bounce. I then turned and carried it back to Heather, dropping it neatly at her feet so we can do it again, or else pausing mid-hill, dropping the ball and letting it roll downhill to her waiting hands. When I get into a rhythm, I am world-class.

Fenced in.

Things were going so well that Mike decided to take out his camera to document my achievements. And thus he had the camera up to his face, paying attention to my movements, when Heather’s next throw sailed past me and skittered under the fence and into the maintenance yard.

Heather and I went back again the next morning, and for a second time I managed to find it and carry it back home. I still think the maintenance driveway is a good location for fetch;  if I can only get Mike to concentrate on just one thing at a time, we’ll be fine.

The winning team.

Chloë Activated from the Injured List

Meditating at Kubota Garden.

I am happy to report I have returned from the 10-day Injured List (IL).  According to Mike, this was formerly  called the Disabled List (DL). The new title is probably more accurate and definitely more politically correct.

The problem was somewhere in my right front leg, although without an MRI, the exact location of the tendon tear or muscle pull that caused my limp remains unknown.  “Rest and recuperation” was the prescription from Dr. Heather, who might have contributed to this predicament by running me though too many fetch repetitions the day before I started limping.

Working on a down/stay at Kubota Garden.

At first the injury didn’t appear too severe, and I gave every indication of being raring to go to chase that ol’ ball again. I was almost deemed ready to rejoin the active roster when I leaped off my camp chair one morning and landed awkwardly, straining my muscles all over again, this time more severely. Heather prescribed a total shutdown.

I was sore for several days. We went outside for peeing and pooping purposes only. Favorite toys Wiffie and Lamby were quarantined in places I couldn’t even see, and my camp chair was folded  away in a corner. My napping locations were limited to my floor-bound office and living room dog beds. And Heather’s lap, of course, or between her legs in the bedroom while she was reading or watching TV.

Yet my limp persisted. Heather was almost resigned to calling in noted “Tommy John” surgeon Dr. James Andrews (or more likely my personal physician, Dr. Kimmel), when I finally crossed the summit of recovery. The pain was gone,  and my strength and stamina gradually returned. We walked in the park for 20 minutes, a half-hour, then 45 minutes and a complete hour. After almost two weeks of rest and rehab, I was almost ready to play fetch again.

Walking narrow trail single-file.

First, however, I had to do one more endurance hike. Mike selected the hilly terrain of Kubota Garden. My pals George and Debbie came along, and while they are experienced and adept hikers from the Alaskan wilderness, George is temporarily weakened by his compromised immune system, so I was under strict orders to go slow and avoid the steepest trails, which I was able to do for the most part. Still, it turned out to be my extremely lucky day, as one trail near the park waterfall got so narrow that Mike had to duck off to the side to avoid a child coming the other way. As he moved, something or someone nudged the partially open treat bag on his hip, sending a slew of Charlee Bears and cheese hearts hurtling onto the gravel path. I couldn’t allow Mike to litter a public park like that, so I pounced, cleaning up all of the fallen treats before he even realized they were gone. It was the least I could do.

Recuperating with the pack after unexpected treat windfall.

Then it was on to the reintroduction of fetch–without spectators, of course. In Spring Training 2.0, I was only allowed to fetch on non-paved areas at first, thinking my legs would take less pounding that way. Heather had me on a strict pitch count, so she could monitor my response and recovery time. After my first session of seven throws in the meadow produced no ill effects the next morning, the number of throws increased daily.

If all goes well from here,  my favorite spot on the pavement on the hill near the Visitors Center can’t be too far into my future. It’s time to play ball!

Chloë Entertains Her Pals

Chloë (center) with her pal Charlie

I spent  most of the fall settling back into my old routines after the three-month journey to the East and back. I played a lot of Wiffie with Mike and fetch with Heather, although she declared my favorite spot, Chloë’s Lane, off limits after I ran away into the dense underbrush in pursuit of rabbits once too often.  I can’t blame her, but it’s just the hound in me.

So instead of visiting friends and being catered to, I’ve been the one playing host the past few weeks. First we had a long weekend visit from my best pal Charlie, who came all the way from St. Louis just to see me and eat some of Seattle’s best pizza. Charlie arrived just after Halloween, which may explain whey he dressed like some kind of black-clad commando when we took a walk in Discovery Park. When Mike took our picture, we blended well together.

Schatzi in her car seat

I also spent a lot of time with Schatzi, the dachshund puppy who belongs to Caroline, my personal financial adviser and sometime hotelier. Schatzi got a lot longer over the three months I was away, and each week she’s putting on  weight. Eventually she’ll weigh more than I do, but for now, I’m the alpha dog and plan to keep it that way. She gets in my face a lot, but I can still flip her over by her nose if she gets too bothersome.

Over the fall we took several long walks with Schatzi. When we went to the military cemetery I tried showing her how to fetch, but mostly she wanted to chase me, not the ball. We’ll work on it some more next time.

 

Dachshund Wrestling Federation.

Amazingly, since I generally don’t want to be around other dogs, especially puppies, I really like Schatzi. Two weeks ago Caroline and David dropped her off at our house with her crate and food, and she stayed with us for a whole weekend. Even though Schatzi arrived with one front paw bandaged because of a nail-clipping accident, we had a lot of fun hanging out, walking in the park and wrestling in the living room. Plus, she brought her own treats and dog bed with her, and I liked them all. Sure, she pooped in the house once and whined a bit at night, but as far as I’m concerned, Schatzi can stay with us anytime. I’m looking forward to a lot more of this.

 

 

 

 

 

Chloë Escapes Dangers on the Road

Our summer trip was fun, but it was not without a few difficult situations. And I won’t even count my continued frustration with chasing down my Syracuse aunts’ cats.

Devil’s Tower, WY

For instance, when we stayed in East Glacier, MT, for three nights, every time I stepped outside for a pee, a pack of large neighborhood dogs descended upon me, intent on sniffing my butt, or worse. Heather or Mike managed to shoo them away every time, but still. They made me nervous.

In Syracuse, things doubled down. I took two trips to the vet with an ear infection and two drenchings from thunderstorms as I waited in the car while Mike and Heather ate pork and drank beer inside.  Did I complain?  NO. Syracuse was also where I also suffered the only tick bite on the trip, leaving a large, hard bump on my chin. It got a little bigger and hurt for a week, but then it went away and I did not come down with Lyme disease, as Heather had feared.

Flooded highway in Valentine NWR, NE

On to Canada, where two large dogs leaped upon me while I was minding my own business on the side of a hiking trail. I had always been told all Canadians are nice, but those two were not at all nice. Their owner was a little cranky, too.

Danger stalked me from coast to coast. In Massachusetts, I had to survive some choppy seas on a boat ride and a nest of yellow jackets, the latter of which sent me to the doggie emergency room with multiple stings around my mouth. In Pennsylvania, gnawing on an animal carcass might have brought infection or even poison into my system; at least, that’s what Heather said, although she seems prone to voicing worst-case scenarios.

Milwaukee Railroad Trail, MT

The western part of the trip was no less stressful for me. In St. Louis, it was so hot and humid that I sometimes refused to walk. In northwestern Nebraska, standing water on the road came up as high as my window when Heather drove the car through; I thought I was in a submarine. In Montana, thunderstorms brought rain and hail so hard that we had to pull off the road for a while. When conditions died down, we went hiking on an old railroad trail with tunnels so long that they were totally dark in the middle. Bring a flashlight next time, Mike.

OK, some troubling stuff happened to me, sure, but it could have been much worse. Look on the bright side: In nearly three months on the road, I never got lost, never barked at or ran after a large animal, and never tried to bite anyone.  In addition, everyone treated me like a queen. When did you say we are leaving again?

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, WA

Chloë Finds America Great Again

Great Sacandaga Lake

The final afternoon walk on the Canadian leg of our coast-to-coast excursion didn’t go so well.  While the place—Lemoine Point Conservation Area outside Kingston, ON—had nice, wide trails that kept me away from its Lake Ontario waves, in the middle of a large meadow on our trek, two dogs who were both a lot bigger than me and not at all under the control of their owner leaned far over to where I was lying down on the side of the trail and lunged. Even though they were on leashes, they got pretty close to me. Luckily, Heather reacted quickly and yanked me away by my leash. When I was safely out of harm’s way, she started yelling at the dogs and their owner, who was dragging them away and muttering apologies that Heather wasn’t buying.

Actually, that owner exhibited the kind of me-first behavior usually associated with Americans, and yet here we were in Canada. Apparently bad behavior knows no boundaries.

Chloe chills by the lake,

On the other hand, after we returned to the U.S., everybody from the border patrol agents to people we meet on our walks has been so darn nice to me. Instead of motels, we stayed at the homes of several of Mike’s and Heather’s friends, and every one of them lavished praise and attention on me, telling them how physically fit and well-behaved I am. (Let’s just say I am practiced at the art of deception.)

Our first stop on this part of the trip was with the people I already know the best, my Seattle friends Mike and Carol and my dog buddy Penny, who frequently comes over to our house when everyone except us watches Syracuse games on TV.  Before we arrived at their camp on Great Sacandaga Lake, Mike and Carol were smart enough to hide all of Penny’s Mushabellies (I tend to silence them forever), but I did get to play some Wiffie (I left some pretty good tooth marks on the ball, too).

With Heather, Mike, Carol and Penny at camp.

While we were staying there, Heather went to a local pet and feed store and bought me a new toy of my own, a stuffed one with a squeaker. It was the first new toy I’ve had in quite a while, in fact. And Mike bought himself a sweatshirt and a pair of scissors at America’s first “5 and 10” in Northville, NY.  Apparently the American economy is booming.

Yes, it was great to be back in the U.S.A.