Year of the (3) Horses

My husband pointed out yesterday that he’s not quite sure when he last saw a post from me (busted). I’ve also found myself deleting my blog’s address from the signature line of my emails when I send them.

Ultimately I’m embarrassed I haven’t been updating the blog. But with good reason…

The last backpacking trip I was able to take.

The last backpacking trip I was able to take.

Here I am in May 2013, near the Dugger Wilderness part of the Pinhoti, getting McDowell, my then hiking partner to snap a picture of me trying to cheerfully indicate to the world on top of this mountain that I was five weeks pregnant. I will never make a good mime I’m afraid and this is why I refuse to play charades.

I fully intended to keep hiking/backpacking well into my third trimester. But on the 6th week when I returned to work from this trip I became violently ill and thus began my initiation into the sometimes rough road of pregnancy. I reeled from one oddness to another, clinging to my belief that despite my bodies apparent betrayal of its ability to do, well, anything easily, that this temporary weirdness would pass and I’d be back out there backpacking and hiking with my dog. I did not. I went from morning sickness to food aversion where the only foods I seemed to be able to tolerate were donuts and garlic bread. I went from not gaining any weight (food aversion style!) to sudden and crazy weight gain despite not changing much of my eating habits once the food aversion had passed. Then on to horrible scoliosis pain and then I lost the feeling in my knees as they were first bruised from various activities at work and also at home with physical therapy in attempts to help my scoliosis improve. My body, unused to the extra weight my knees then bared resulted in bruised, & eventually nerve damaged knees that went numb and tingly whenever I bent them with pain radiating out from where the nerves still worked fine (I gave up on actually using them, even crawling into the bed became nearly impossible without creating excruciating pain in my knees/legs).

The health issues sort of snowballed into colds that wouldn’t go away (“Oh, you’re pregnant, you’ll just have to tough it out…” they said) that eventually ended not long ago with a frightening trip to the labor and delivery room where they gave me the medicines you’re not supposed to have when your pregnant because there was no alternative. I had bruised (or cracked, who knows) ribs, pleurisy, and was unable to breath. Not to mention a two month old cold that was keeping me from sleeping, talking, breathing. The pain that wracked my midsection kept me unable to talk or move without assistance as we shambled in, and later, a very drugged, very largely pregnant woman, shambled out, wondering how in the world her dog would ever get walked again. But even then, well after I’d given up my dreams of backpacking into my 8th month, I still had new health issues arise as my feet and legs and hands began swelling suddenly to 3 times their size and my blood pressure soared. Truly sealing the deal that not only would I not backpack, was the fact that I also would not be able to drive myself, be able to touch my feet, get in and out of bed without assistance, and definitely, definitely not walk the dog.

So yeah. That’s why it’s been quiet around here. If 2013 had been kinder to me health wise I would have kept plowing on through the Pinhoti (I only had about 20-30 miles to get to the GA line I think), exploring local trails, etc.

I do intend to come back, but for now I felt that on this first day of the year I needed to put a big placeholder here on the blog to explain why I’ve been so quiet and explain potential future quietness.

I do regret not using the down sick time to get caught up on all the back posts I needed to post from previous hikes, but just the idea of how to make time to write seemed impossible. I’m not sure what our new normal will look like, or how I’ll incorporate writing into our new schedule, but I believe I will. I believe I’ll be back writing on here sooner rather than later.

As for Whiskey- he’s been doing pretty good with his new routine. He spends a good portion of the day “surveying his kingdom” as well call it, from a slight, barely noticeable rise in the backyard where he can watch the chickens and see most of the yard on both sides and into the back woods. Brandon’s been trying to teach him to turn off light switches, though I’d prefer he teach W how to pick up things off the floor for me! And he has a variety of visitors to dote on him recently.

I’m afraid our walks went from daily, to every other day, to every three, to once a week, to….the last time I took him walking was Thanksgiving, when we visited one of our very favorite places Blue Ridge, Georgia, which was the last time for several weeks that I was able to sleep laying down.

Dogs are truly amazing. He’s adapted. I’ve promised him life will slowly work back into routines of walking weekly, that he’ll get more attention in the arena of physical activity (He gets a LOT of attention, just not the physical exercise outside of the house kind).

People ask us all the time if he has acted any different since I became pregnant. I really don’t think so. From day one he’s pretty much been the same. He’s even laid his head on my belly while Baby R moved around and I know he could feel it, heck, he could probably hear it! But he didn’t move at all. Even when I was intense pain and crying and totally freaking out before we went to Labor and Delivery in the middle of the night he seemed mildly curious, but it didn’t seem to ruffle any feathers, er fur. He barely noticed us at all. Well, that’s standard Whiskey I guess.

But I don’t want you to think our lack of blogging or confession of not walking in the last month means a neglected dog. He’s had a full social schedule. He’s done a number of traveling bloggy type things….

He got to do a lot of walking on the local Rails to Trails.

He got to do a lot of walking on the local Rails to Trails up until November.

He got to see some snow in 2013.

He got to see some snow in 2013.

Whiskey spent most of the year convincing our feral cat that they were friends. After 3 years- it finally worked.

Whiskey spent most of the year convincing our feral cat that they were friends. After nearly 3 years- it finally worked.

We spent a lot of time teaching Whiskey not to chase or eat the chickens. It worked. He is now allowed unlimited unsupervised time in their presence and does great with them.

We spent a lot of time teaching Whiskey not to chase or eat the chickens. It worked. He is now allowed unlimited unsupervised time in their presence and does great with them.

He got to go to the River a few times and spent time adding to his "what can I collect in my fur" collection.

He got to go to the River a few times and spent time adding to his “what can I collect in my fur” collection.

He went into some buildings he probably wasn't allowed to go in on our trip to Cheaha ;)

He went into some buildings he probably wasn’t allowed to go in on our trip to Cheaha ;)

He went to Blue Ridge GA where his tail learned to match the clouds...

He went to Blue Ridge GA where his tail learned to match the clouds…

In Blue Ridge we also found this awesome sign.

In Blue Ridge we also found this awesome sign.

He featured prominently in the displays at our baby shower. Because if you know us, really know us, you know we would have *Had* him there if we could.

He featured prominently in the displays at our baby shower. Because if you know us, really know us, you know we would have *Had* him there if we could.

The banner of ribbons at our baby shower had pictures of our lives in the last 7+ years. Several of them, which you can't quite make out from here, were of us with Whiskey. We incorporate him into as much of our life as we can. We couldn't have had pictures of our shower without our first "child"!!

The banner of ribbons at our baby shower had pictures of our lives in the last 7+ years pinned throughout the ribbons. Several of them are from our outdoor travels and of Whiskey. We incorporate him into as much of our life as we can. We couldn’t have had pictures at shower without our first “child” or without showing our love of the outdoors.

Then because we love it, we took him back to Blue Ridge at Thanksgiving. Lucky dog!!

Then because we love it, we took him back to Blue Ridge at Thanksgiving. Lucky dog!!

He went to Fort Morgan where it was very wet, but he loved it.

He went to Fort Morgan where it was very wet, but he loved it.

He loved it so much this was how he was every time we loaded him up at the beach!

He loved it so much this was how he was every time we loaded him up at the beach!

He had the privilege of being the one who got to introduce the FB world of friends and family that we were expecting- that he would be a big brother come January.

He had the privilege of being the one who got to introduce the FB world of friends and family that we were expecting- that he would be a big brother come January.

Any day now, quite literally, a new little man will be entering the Robertson household. Since he managed to stay inside through 2013, this means we’ll be a household of 3 Horses if you follow the Chinese Calendar. Should be fun! I don’t know what the shape of our lives will be in 2014. But as for 2013 I can say that we are thankful beyond measure- for each other, for time with family, for friends who take care of one another, for dogs who forgive you for not walking them for a month, for all of it. I promise an obligatory “Baby R Arrives!” post once he does. From our growing household to yours, we wish you the best trails, the most trail magic, and lots of dog fun in 2014.

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Darling Companion

Darling Companion

A dog lover’s movie review.

darling companion

Not a movie for everyone, but a lovely easy going flick that flows like a short story, that definitely is for anyone who has ever rescued a dog. Also for anyone whoever arrived home with an animal and was met with “You’re not going to keep “that!” are you?” at the door from someone they loved. Also for anyone who has found themselves realizing they love their pet more than they love the imperfect humans around them. This movie reminds us that “love is love” regardless of whether you give it to your dog, your cat, or a human being. Love is a powerful force and is not any less powerful based on the size of the recipient.

I am certain there is more than one family where one spouse has said to the other one “You love that dog more than me!” and could not fathom the other person’s reasons or emotions. This movie will, if not help the confused spouse understand the other, will help the accused feel better about their unwavering commitment and attachment to their pet. If only we all loved our dogs as much the main character Beth, does. If we all had that much love and devotion for all living things, the world would be a better place indeed.

2012- pg 13 rating. Stars: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, and Kasey (the Dog- a real rescue!)
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A (somewhat) wordless Wednesday- Pictures of Section 3 Pinhoti

I can’t go wordless. If you know me, you know this to be as true as the sun…

But I’ll try to go mostly or somewhat wordless.  All pictures are from day 1 of woods hike of Pinhoti. Roughly section 3, specifically from FS 603A to White Gap (? maybe….).

Here goes…. ::holds breath…jumps into the unknown::

I took tons of pictures of this tree… I didn’t know if it needed a pair of glasses, or a bra! Either way, unusual humanoid features in nature amuse me to no end…

I loved all the gentle slopes and clear woods we saw... it encourages you to just throw down your pack and wander.

I loved all the gentle slopes and clear woods we saw… it encourages you to just throw down your pack and wander.

This copse is very strange… it doesn’t show in the picture well but they all seemed to grow along the ground several feet before shooting up left or right. There were several groups like this on top of the mountain (off trail) where we camped. It felt very magical… like if you walked through the middle it might take you somewhere else…

I liked to call these L trees… but it would be better named a U tree I suppose… I saw several of these too. Pic taken from our campsite off trail.

The size of the mushrooms never failed to amaze me. I wish I could identify edible ones!

Despite how far away geographically we are from Cheaha, there are rock formations all along this beginning part of the Pinhoti that liken back to Cheaha’s rock thick woods… <3 it.

These flowers were huge!! No idea what they are… Suggestions?

The Pinhoti makes use sometimes of existing roads, or at least crosses them (a lot) throughout Alabama. Here we passed by a tower and travel along the road for a ways. At the time we hiked Pinhoti Section 3 there was nothing available on the internet to tell us what we were passing where. The only directions were the old “road walk” directions. So I have no idea where we were or what this was. Still… interesting. Apparently I may have to do this same sort of “blind faith- trust the blazes” hiking up in GA as I hear they’ve recently completed “some” more woods trails but there is nothing online about its path. I say “some” because even the article I read didn’t say how long the new section was… Could be a mile, could be several… who knows!

It was so hot and muggy my camera kept fogging on the lens... I like the result though... even though it's a "woods walk" you do cross over several roads. I think this was a power line maintenance road.. But honestly I don't know...

It was so hot and muggy my camera kept fogging on the lens… I like the result though… even though it’s a “woods walk” you do cross over several roads. I think this was a power line maintenance road.. But honestly I don’t know…

If you want to see more but don’t mind wading through an onslaught of words you can visit these other posts on my Pinhoti trips…
Pinhoti Section 1
Pinhoti Section 2
Pinhoti Reflections
Also, the Skyway Motorway runs very close, over, and by the Pinhoti for much of its way. Several places you can leave water drops, help thirsty hikers (as we did) or just get out and enjoy the Pinhoti from various spots.

Happy Hiking!
g&w

PS. This would be a good section to take your dog on. I didn’t take mine because I was on for over a week and was unsure of the terrain, as well as Whiskey not being able to handle long week long hikes like this. But if I go back for a quick section hike I’d say- bring the dog, pack lots of water, camp on Rebecca Mountain and do it as an overnighter :)

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Pinhoti Backpacking, section 3

As promised ::coughcough.months.ago.cough:: the first day backpacking write up is here :)

I always love taking a before picture. The last time those clothes (and me!) saw water for a loooong time. Hiking is dirty business. Brooke (l) and Gina (r).

Trailhead FS 603A of section 3 (first woods walk) to Bulls Gap 9-8-12

The trailhead as of Sept 2012 did not have a sign board or anything major from the road to indicate where to park. If you follow the directions listed on the PTA website you’ll get to it fine. There is enough room to park maybe two cars- do not block the gate. Also, the forest service looked like it was working on expanding the road or at least making it better the last time I was in there so it probably looks completely different now, 8 months later (the shame… I am so sorry I’m not more prompt). You walk down this road and will quickly see the blue blazes that signify the Pinhoti on your left. Saturday Pinhoti 2012-09-08 003 You will walk a gentle up and down as you approach Rebecca Mountain. This trail is the newest section and in the best shape of any I walked until Cheaha. It was well cut (we met the maintainers who were weed eating as we walked up!) and well marked. You should have no problem. If I had it to do over again I would have stopped at Rebecca Mountain and camped just because it was so danged pretty.

THERE IS NO WATER IN THIS SECTION! so make sure you have a water drop at Bulls Gap if you’re doing more than a one nighter and pack enough in. I carry 3 liters and ended up having a good method of having a gallon stashed as a water drop at the end of each section which is conveniently 3 liters. That way even if I ran dry before getting to the next trail head I knew I had a full supply waiting. I know a lot of people who might think 3 liters is excessive but I keep my pack at 30lbs (including food and water) and so I’m able to do this. I also have a system I like. I carry a tall Smart Water bottle in my side pocket then have a 2 liter camelbak bag in my bag. I use the bag while hiking and use the bottle once at camp. This helped me manage my water and not over drink or cook complicated stuff that needed more water when I was running low. Everybody has their own system. This just worked for me.

the flat beautiful top of Rebecca Mt where Brooke in the lead saw a fox and other critters...

the flat beautiful top of Rebecca Mt where Brooke in the lead saw a fox and other critters…

My filter was almost unnecessary what with the drops. My filter would have been better served at home. But I did filter water 3 times in the approximately 69 miles I backpacked on this trip; once at a forest road on my way up to Rebecca Mountain (it was shortly off trail and we were tipped off by the trail workers where to look, so my threat of no water isn’t true if you know where to look for that one stream), once at Scott’s Lake from a stream past the brownest lake I’ve ever seen, and once short of Blue Mountain shelter from a stream that barely had enough to filter out of. But I didn’t need to. I was almost full on water, I just decided, what the hey- might as well use the danged thing since I’m packing it around.

Pinhoti Sept 8 2012

We had some rain at times, making it muggy, but pretty looking…

So on our first night, we camped on a ridge to our right after not being able to go a step further. It was about 4:30 which is my usual “time to look for a place to camp” time anyway. I have a thing too- about not camping right by roads. So I’m not sure how far past the intersection we passed we were, but this sort of thinking did hinder my mileage a lot. Often it’s not a long hike between trailheads on the Pinhoti, or when it is, there are TONS of forest service and national forest roads cut through that have dirt bikes, four wheelers, off road vehicles, hunters, partying kids (er..or in two cases, partying middle aged men…), etc, roaming about on them. So only once did I have to camp too close to a road for my comfort. As a single woman hiking alone I feel the general best practice for me is to camp no closer than a mile from a road (if I know it’s there). That can be a little tricky because there were sections where I was thinking “where the hell am I going to camp!?” because of the terrain. In fact on my first night I threw down my bag and hightailed it up the side of the mountain to find a wide enough flat spot to camp. We found it. It turned out to have markings on the trees that indicated it was actually part of the old Pinhoti. How old? No clue. Why was it relocated from this awesome sunrise??  I’ve no clue. Property rights?

Celebration Sunrise! Pinhoti wake up call....

Celebration Sunrise! Pinhoti wake up call….

This is the view I woke up to once the sun rose a bit higher. AMAZING!!!

This is the view I woke up to once the sun rose a bit higher. AMAZING!!!

We were close to a road but since we were off trail and in a way- stealth camping, since you couldn’t see us from the trail at all- I felt safe. I wonder how I would have felt the first day at the end of the day if I hadn’t had Brooke to babysit me. She camped nearby and just the knowledge that another person was there was comforting. It isn’t easy doing this as a girl alone. There aren’t a lot of us. Every time I talk in public to strangers about camping or hiking like this I get the same response from perfectly capable, strong, women. “You do this ALONE!?” They are flabbergasted. I’d like to point out- Whiskey wasn’t on this trip. When I attended October BOW IN 2011 (visit Alabama’s BOW event page for more) women kept circling around me asking about how I did it, wasn’t I scared? Did I carry a gun? Etc. I answered all the questions and encouraged them to PLEASE get out there in the woods and do for themselves. Don’t feel like you have to have someone with you to do what you love. Just go do it! I often have more offers of people to go with me than I can handle (At least on my day hikes. No one wants in on the 9-dayers lol! ) On the short hikes I usually don’t tell anyone because I’ve come to love going alone. I tell women, if you get out there and start telling your friends what you’re doing you’ll have a waiting list to go hiking with you a mile long. And there are so many varieties of hikes to do that you can find something for everyone.

But wait I am sooo distracted! Back to the current hike.

So where we stayed was perfect, an old road bed it looked like, just wide enough for our tents and with a great view of all the stars you could imagine as well as the most spectacular sunrise on the Pinhoti I witnessed for the entire trip. If you can find this spot, then I say, camp there!

Our home for the night. It appeared to be on an old road bed, but you can see the old trail in the middle too...

Our home for the night. It appeared to be on an old road bed, but you can see the old trail in the middle too…

Here’s a really frustrating thing, that is all my fault- I do not know the name of the junction right before we camped which would help people find where we camped… and camp there themselves. I think it was White….something… Maybe White Gap.. There was a sign carved in the wood style you see on the Pinhoti on this section. I thought I took a picture of it, but was mistaken. I also texted my husband with the name of it and asked him how far we were from Bull Gap. He couldn’t find it notated on any of the maps we had or websites. Of course I deleted my text to him with the name of it… doh! Bad hiker/blogger! No desert for you! Anyway, if you see a sign saying White something or another right at an intersection of a bunch of dirt roads, keep walking for about a half mile to under a mile and you’ll find a ridge to your upper right that has the “old” trail on it.

Cons to the first day: Guns! We heard TONS of guns down the hill, sounding very close to our campsite. Try not to let it bother you. I read over and over that all over the Pinhoti you will hear constant gunshot. This was definitely true (more true perhaps I should say) of the first two days of hiking. Much of the gunfire came at sunrise… really? Wow.. those people need to sleep in! I will say the rest of the Pinhoti hasn’t offered nearly as much gunfire as those first two days. But I have heard gunfire on almost every day on the Pinhoti, but come on… I live in Alabama. I hear gunfire almost every day of my life anyway lol!

2nd Con: Lack of water (we already covered this so I’ll spare you a rehash).

Very Big Feathers! Brooke sports one for a bit.. I think we ended up loosing them all.. I found several over the course of the week.

Very Big Feathers! Brooke sports one for a bit.. I think we ended up losing them all.. I found several over the course of the week.

One great Pro of the first day of trail hiking: The incredibly devoted group of trail maintainers making sure that the path on the 3rd section (and the first section of actual woods trail) was well maintained. Rebecca Mountain is a very pretty place. I’d love to go back for an in and out overnighter.  There were also TONS of feathers to pick up on the trail for this section and for about the next 3 days.. I was blown away by the size of the feathers!

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Whiskeys Top 5 Toys

Whiskey’s Top Five Toys

We got to try a lot of great new products in the last year or so and some of them were flops in our household but some of them went down in Whiskey enthusiasm legend. Here’s a round up of our favorite dog items.

(In no order of luuuuv):

  1. Zigoo Pets Crinket Toy. This toy is made from flexible and durable (and how!) material that you (painfully and s l o w l y) shove a water bottle in and the dog will go nuts (well, ours did) trying to eat. Our “I can destroy anything” dog has certainly ripped about his fair share of toys but this one gets 5 paws up for complete indestructibleness. It might be able to be destroyed by your dog though! So beware. But ours, who granted, has gotten less bitey with toys recently, didn’t make a dent in it.

    Amid the discarded island of forgotten toys, Whiskey chooses the Crinket.

    Amid the island of discarded & forgotten toys, Whiskey chooses the Crinket.

  2. Bionic Bone. They have several products but we purchased the bone one. Find them at their site and blog.Wow. Oh wow does our dog love this. He won’t even touch his kong any more. I think it’s because it’s designed to fit into his mouth and shape to his tongue as well as be held easily by his front paws. He loves the command he has over this fillable toy. However, we got a size or two too small for Whiskey’s “size chart” for the bones. This was by chance, and not design. I *wish* he had a larger one because I know it would fit in his paws even better (he likes to hold it when getting at the treats). He doesn’t seem to mind that it’s a tad small though. The Bionic people talk about freezing things in it but when I asked for suggestions on what you could freeze for a dog in it they kinda gave an answer on their fb page like “um, you know, stuff… like peanut butter.” Thanks guys! I never would have thought of that myself! You’re geniuses! Okay, maybe they kinda are since they have a product that’s so fantastic, but I’d love if their site or staff had more ideas about what to put in it for us first time dog owners! I haven’t checked their site too recently so maybe they’ve added this. Check it out and let us know! Or give us your “to freeze” tips :)
  3. Fruitables. Made of 100% natural organic ingredients how can you go wrong? You can’t. Our dog is still bonkers about these tiny chewable fruit treats. They smell fabulous (for a dog food I think) too which doesn’t hurt my willingness to buy another bag when this one runs out. We tried the Skini Minis Pumpkin and Mango flavored chewys.
  4. Acadia Antlers. I don’t know if I have words for how fantastic this chew is. It’s a bone…(are you sitting down for this?) on a rope. On a Rope! These guys are geniuses. Not only can my dog chew and tug on the rope but he can gnaw on that fantastic antler. Apparently, Moose antlers are all the rage with Whiskey’s taste buds. They have all different sizes. Whiskey ended up chewing his in half and we had to throw it away so that’s the only flaw with the hole through the rack bit. However, he also had an antler sized too small for him (again, it’s what came in the “large sized” dog box for BarkBox. I intend to order him some bigger ones asap.) Regardless of it’s ultimate demise he did get a lot of chew time out of it! And a bigger one will mean even more chew time. Go Acadia Antlers!
  5. Simply Fido. OMG. Whiskey got this amazing plush, beautifully crafted (seriously, any baby would adore this toy) reindeer. The neat thing about it is how its legs and arms slip back and forth through its body. Somehow this adds a cool level to the toy. For the first two weeks Whiskey wasn’t seen without this toy in his mouth or under his head as a wee pillow. It was amazingly cute, and it held up to his antics. He mostly grew out of tearing stuffed toys limb from limb but he still often rips them when playing tug of war (one of his favorite things). This one has survived unscathed for an entire 3 months except for an eaten tag on its bum. That’s okay Whiskey, I didn’t need to know how to wash it anyway ;)

    We'd often ease into a room only to find half of the reindeer under Whiskey's head. He found the toy to make an excellent pillow....

    We’d often ease into a room only to find half of the reindeer under Whiskey’s head. He found the toy to make an excellent pillow….

Honorable Mention (just because of the peculiarity and excitement of finding it): Puppy Cake. We got a red velvet Puppy Cake! It’s totally safe for the dog! I can bake him (and me?) a red velvet cake! I can’t do this right now due to dietary restrictions but as soon as I’m free to eat anything I want again I’m baking my boy a cake! (I’ll let you know how it turns out!!)

Whiskey’s Medium Rated Toys (but we’re holding out hope) of the last year:

  1. Lollycadoodle’s wool toys. We were highly disappointed in the ripability and easily eaten-ness of the first toy we got from them. It was a circle made of wool and he Loved it. However, his love translated to Whiskey delighting in ripping out small chunks of green and trying to swallow them. More times than not they would get caught on his tongue and he’d be half hacking, half licking trying to either get it out or swallow it (I’ve no idea which) and all around making choking gagging noises.  You’d think this alone would land it on our “worst” list but it didn’t because we got a second toy from them (a plush Mr. Mouse). It has held up now for over a week until Whiskey decided to tear an ear off (normal for him). He hasn’t eaten bits of it. He hasn’t choked on it. It’s holding up way better than the first one. In fact, if we had recieved the Mouse first it would have been on our *best* list. We recommend Lollycadoodle for light chewers or nondestructive dogs (those do exist …. right?) or dogs who will be highly monitored with the right type of Lollycadoodle toy.

Worst of of the past year:

I’m sharing it not to bash it, but because for some of your dogs- they might win an award! But our dog could not have cared less for this toy. Notice we only had one on the list? We’ve had several new products in our house over the last year and almost all of them were received with dog glee. However, this one, was a complete dud for us. But every dog has a different style of playing. So check them out and see what you think!

  1. Our attempts to get Whiskey to hold (or play with) the toy...failed miserably. This is as close as we got.

    Our attempts to get Whiskey to hold (or play with) the toy…failed miserably. This is as close as we got.

    Moody Pet’s HuMunga Stache fetch toy. Whiskey could not be enticed by any means to pick this toy up once we got it. He slowly came around where he wanted you not to touch it- so if you tried to play with him with it, he’d take it from you and carry it off to another room to leave it and then come back to you. He played with it so little that we actually forgot about it until several months later I saw that he was gnawing on it and had started to make lots of indentations on it with his teeth. I mean, he was doing some rapid damage! So I had to remove it. I think it’s meant to be pretty tough, but it wasn’t, not for our power chewer. If you have a power chewer do NOT leave him alone with this toy. Still I have to admit it’s a super cute idea! If you can get your dog to hold it right I want pictures!

By the way, we weren’t given these toys. We bought them.

How would we know where to find such magnificent things? Simply put- We didn’t.

We purchased a Bark Box subscription when they were running a groupon deal (best thing ever) and we truly like the Bark Box. I don’t know how long we’ll do it, but for right now it’s perfect for us. I figured I made at least the amount of the Bark Box cost in random spur of the moment purchase for Whiskey when shopping for his food at pet stores. This kept me from buying random impulse buys and we just wait for the box. Sometimes they are grand. Sometimes they are not. Overall the toys/treats are too small for him so if you truly have a *large* dog beware. They do not have an extra large box (they need to though!). But for now we’re happy and I’d definitely highly recommend it to anyone with the disposable income to buy their box. If anyone has questions about Bark Box I’d be happy to answer them.

Here’s to another year of fantastic dog toys and human things to buy and play with! Happy Trails to you all!

Gina & Whiskeydoodle

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Fultondale Rails to Trails

We hit the trails this morning at dawn (someone actually beat us out there!) hoping to get some bikejoring in before the weather warms up where we can’t do it at all. We logged 5 miles.

a beautiful way to start out our day

a beautiful way to start out our day

This is a fantastic trail to bikejor (urban mush), run with your dog, hike off trail down to the many places the stream comes near the trail, or just walk with your dog. We’ve never had any trouble with loose dogs on the trail or trouble with people. There’s never been any dangerous trash (we’ve been on other trails with loads of broken glass and even needles on occasion). It’s a good safe well maintained trail.

Not sure what these markers were. Maybe had to do with the train? This was where we heard the coyotes! The light was so amazing through all the green. I couldn’t capture it well on film though!

We highly recommend this rails to trails section. We have only been to the 2.5 mile marker so I’m not sure exactly how long it currently is or when they will stop expanding it. I’ve heard the trail is currently about 3.5 miles and will eventually have benches along the way (Whiskey will appreciate this!). To get to the trail you can park at either Black Creek Park and walk along the pretty obvious Rails to Trails path that heads back under Hwy 31, or you can park at the Fultondale Bark Park (check out their fb page too) and walk out of the park onto the main road and curve back to your left towards Leora Avenue. The trail goes parallel to LEora for a short block or so before veering off into the woods. By the way, the Dog Park is located at the corner of Fulton Road and Stouts Road in Fultondale.

At 2 miles Whiskey suggests turning around. I veto him.

After not running a lot Whiskey did pretty good on today’s trek but we spent about half the time at a slow jog or even slow walk pace. I typically let Whiskey set the pace, especially given some of his health needs that leave him a little worn out at times.

If you’re alert and on the trail when no one else is- it provides a wealth of wildlife. We saw several birds and rabbits, heard one duck, and heard coyotes in the distance making a great morning sunrise ruckus! Whiskey also picked up the scent of an animal I saw no tracks for but he went totally nuts trying to track it so it wasn’t anything he’s used to. Deer? Boar? No idea.

To keep up to date on the trail you can follow Black Creek Park’s fb page

Everyone should get out today and experience this fantastic spring weather with your pups! Be safe and have fun and hit those trails mkay?

-Gina & Whiskey

If you look closely you can see a very wide section of the creek below. We plan to hike down to it on our next trip! Happy trails y'all.

Apologies. It’s fuzzy because we are very high up above this wide section of the creek below. We plan to hike down to it on our next trip! Happy trails y’all.

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Unresolutions

Each new year people pen out their wishes and dreams for themselves, their lives, their families. I see no harm in this.

I do it. But I also see perhaps more value in setting out to do certain things instead of just wish for. These things rarely make into a resolution list which is more akin to a dreaming made ink onto paper. But the doing, now there’s the thing. I try to do 1-3 things each year that force me to grow. Grow! GROW!

Recap: This year here are my main big undertakings that stretched me as a human, a mate, an animal lover, a traveler in 2012…

  1. I took a series of horse riding courses. This is something I had wanted to do since I was a child. My mother spoke of riding horses as a child and my cousins had horses. It left me with an empty hole… a longing. I wanted these memories too… so I took the lessons and it was wonderful, and challenging. I didn’t even care much that I was surrounded by a bunch of 7 year olds… lol. I wasn’t the only adult, by the way, just one of the very few… and they were private lessons, but you see other lessons (with seven year olds) going on.

    We tried to get a good pic on my phone of me riding. Sorry for the blur!

    We tried to get a good pic on my phone of me riding. Not possible on my phone apparently! Sorry for the blur!

  2. I finished our solo trek of the Natchez Trace. (Even if I haven’t finished blogging about it yet!) It was challenging and stirring and moving and inspiring. It made me feel much more confident with Whiskey as we faced new traveling challenges.
    On the last leg of our Natchez Trace Trip Whiskey looks quite at home on the top of an old Indian Mound doesn't he?

    On the last leg of our Natchez Trace Trip Whiskey looks quite at home on the top of an old Indian Mound doesn’t he?

    This trip really solidified some of our traveling habits. I feel much more confident traveling with Whiskers now! It was really good for us :)

    This trip really solidified some of our traveling habits. I feel much more confident traveling with Whiskers now! It was really good for us :)

  3. I got chickens. That’s right! I got Cheeeeekiiiiins! And we couldn’t be happier. They are our pets, and are named. They live outdoors but in swank surroundings. I have had to learn some instant on the spot vet skills and had some tearful trying times but all three of our 1 day old baby birds have lived and we are very proud of each of them. Chickens are so rewarding! I can’t imagine ever not having them (unless someone comes and tells us we have to get rid of them… as many zoning ordinances do not allow for backyard fowl, even in small numbers… but let’s not think about that!).

    From L to R: Chicki Minaj (an Australorp), Feather Locklear and Yolko Ono (Laced Wyandottes) love apples!

    From L to R: Chicki Minaj (an Australorp), Feather Locklear and Yolko Ono (Laced Wyandottes) love apples!

  4. I hiked a BIG chunk of the Pinhoti alone. This was a HUGE undertaking for me. Much harder than I imagined. The loneliness was palpable. I had company on the first night only and then spent the rest of the week in solitude cursing along in my too tight shoes that cost me several toe nails (they weren’t tight till the feet started swelling….) But my confidence… wow I cannot tell you how much more confident of a backpacker I am now that I have camped so many nights alone in the wilderness. It was spectacular.

So onto this years goals? I have a few ideas.. we’ve got some stuff in the works as a family (shhhh… it’s a secret) and then individually I’m taking on the goal of getting a city bike and riding it to work a few times a week. This is both exciting and scary! Scary because I’ll be going home in 5 o’clock traffic. I have a few more solo trips I’d like to take backpacking… specifically to finish the entire Pinhoti trail. We’ll be gardening more… I’m working on some art pieces, and working on some poetry that I’d like to see published. I’m also going to teach myself knife throwing. I looked for classes anywhere within a days drive and couldn’t find any. And I’m talking frontier skills knife throwing. Not some pansy ninja crap- but the Take Down A Bear or Zombie at 20 Paces stuff! Yeah! Just call me FrontiersWomanGina. (Don’t worry, no beards included).

So as for Whiskey- my goals are this- to get a new bikejoring harness (his is too small and I’m worried about it hitting too high on his throat and restricting breathing… so we need a new one), to hike 2 entire sets of park trails in Alabama, and to camp at a new state park to explore.

For the farm- my goals are to plant twice as many herbs, plant at least 5 veggies, and to get in two new fruit sources this year. I hope they do better than last years blueberry bushes!

So what about you? I challenge you to think small- I sometimes only undertake ONE new skill a year. This makes it manageable and completely doable. What have you been putting off learning that you’ve always wanted to do? Pottery classes? Painting? Restoring an old vehicle? Hiking??? I challenge you to *make* time somewhere in the next year. Getting out there and learning a new skill makes us better people and grows our souls. It stretches us.

Whiskey and I wish you the best of new years!

w&g

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