Friday, August 31, 2012

Unplanned Free Time

I thought Barley and I were going to have to stick to our neighborhood this morning.  I was supposed to have a late morning meeting and then my cousin's scheduled to arrive early this afternoon, so I didn't think adventuring was going to fit in.

But as I drank my morning coffee and caught up on e-mails, I learned that the meeting had been canceled and I officially had an extra 2 hours added back into my life.

Bar and I still stuck close to home, but we took our favorite 1.5-mile stroll at the state park: next to the woods, by the marina, and by the lodge with a quick little romp on the beach.

The morning was perfect for walking.  Mid-70s and blue skies as far as the eye could see.  It's clear that fall's on its way.  The big grassy things that I have no name for, but love are changing from gold to a gorgeous maroon.
What is this stuff called?  I love it.
Just a few weeks ago, the whole field (is it called a field when it's by a lake?) of these things was gold and it looked liked they were sparkling when they moved in the wind.  They're equally pretty with their fall colors.

We also saw an awesome bird--my sister used to call them marshmallow birds (because we used to see them in the marsh)--so maybe it was an egret?
Of course, since we were sticking close to home, I didn't bother to bring a camera along and had to use my phone camera (which stinks and has a worthless zoom), so my pictures aren't really good enough to compare with a bird book.

Bar and I pulled off the trail for a quick water break.  It was a really pretty little ledge that I've always thought looked neat, but never bothered to stop at before.  
It was so peaceful listening to the waves crashing on the shore below and watching our pretty white bird.  

We stopped on a little beach so Bar could splash and cool off, but she was scared of the waves today and wouldn't even put her toes in.

So we headed out just in time to watch a sail boat go by.
It was the perfect way to unwind after the first week back at work.  I feel like my mind's clear and besides needing to get some dishes done, I'm officially ready for company this weekend.

Soth's already in long-weekend mode.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Separation Anxiety

On Monday, I went back to work for the first time since May (summer vacations are my favorite!).  I was worried that Barley would be traumatized since I've been home almost all day every day and when I have left home she's come along for the adventure.  I think I'm the one that's been having separation anxiety; Barley's been fine--going into her crate with no problem and no barking when I close the door.  I've been the one that sits longingly at the window in my classroom wishing I was out romping with my dog.

Ok, not really, but it has been an adjustment to have to wake up at a set time and not just lounge around drinking coffee all morning until I decide what adventure to take.  I always forget how exhausting teaching is after a little break from it.

My classes are AMAZING, though.  Students have been participating.  The ones that have had reading have been prepared.  I have one class where about half of the students I've had before and the students that are new to me are fitting in beautifully.

I'm also teaching a major authors study course on Emily Dickinson--my dream class!
Emily and I are ready for our first day of school!
Luckily, I've had most of the students in that class before because if they were all new to me, they'd think I was nuts.  I came in the first day rocking my Emily Dickinson bling and holding my Dickinson doll.  They seemed excited that we had a mascot for the class.
You can find awesome things like this at the Vintage Nora Lane shop on Etsy!
It's awesome when you have a job where prepping makes you giddy.  It doesn't feel like work at all.  I've been up to my elbows in Dickinson books for the past several weeks and I've been turning off the tv to spend time with poems--how refreshing.

As much as I love my job, it's always nice to come home to my fur babies.  Soth has been greeting me at the door every day (I'm sure Barley would if she wasn't in a crate) and yowling for his afternoon snack.  Today he was especially cranky.  I walked in to find papers that were once on my dining room table spread across the floor and Soth was bolting back and forth between the front door and his dish.  Once I fed him, he was happy and content to sit with me on the couch.

Today, one of my co-workers stopped in with some homemade dog treats he made using the used grains for his homebrew.  Bar was thrilled when I pulled out the bag.  It's fun to work with people who like my pets.

Because I've got the most awesome schedule in the world, I just have to make it through tomorrow and I'll be done with the first week.  My cousin's coming up for the holiday weekend, so we'll probably check another of the Doggin' Cleveland adventures off the list.  I'm happy to have a long weekend to regroup and snuggle with the pets for a bit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Barley's Top 5 Hikes of Summer

I needed something to help me procrastinate on finishing my syllabi and since Bar and I have spent so much time adventuring this summer, here are Barley's top 5 hikes of summer.

#5 Indian Point Park (Doggin' Cleveland's #35 of 50): Even though Doggin' Cleveland says this park doesn't have much canine hiking, Barley and I had a great time.  There were fun historical artifacts to look at, gorgeous overlooks, and a fantastic river for splashing (if another dog wasn't already off-leash and playing frisbee there).  There were also lots of stairs to ensure a good workout.  The only drawback was that I wasn't sure Julie the Juke was going to make it up the hill to the parking lot--I've since learned that there's an alternate route to getting there, though, so it's not a real issue.

#4 Chapin Forest Reservation (Doggin' Cleveland's #20): Our book wasn't lying when it said the Lucky Stone Loop trail had an awesome overlook of Cleveland.  We also got a couple lucky quartz stones to send to my nephew pup, Maddux, who was starting heart worm treatments that day.  The trails were peaceful and there were really neat ledges (without being scary).  I can't wait to go back here when the leaves start changing colors.
We could see for 16 miles!
Weird sculpture garden
#3 Lakeshore Reservation (Doggin' Cleveland's #27):  We found this one before I ever got Doggin' Cleveland and have loved it since the first day we went.  There's a sculpture garden and pretty views of Lake Erie.  But probably the best part is how peaceful the beach is.  We've only seen a couple other dogs here and most of the time we have the beach to ourselves (so lots of opportunities for cute Barley photo shoots!).  It's the closest to home, too, so when I don't feel like being in the car for long but want a change of scenery it's perfect.  And, like many of our favorites, there are intense stair cases to get those glutes working.
A great dog with a Great Lake

#2 North Chagrin Reservation (Doggin' Cleveland's #4): There's a castle.  Need I say more?  If so, the trails are also great.  Although there were lots of people in and around the castle, the trails were almost deserted (but not in a scary way).  There were enough hills that I felt like we were getting a workout (and Bar's tongue was hanging by the end to confirm my thoughts), but not so many that my muscles hated me the next day.

Drum roll, please . . .

#1 Holden Arboretum (Doggin' Cleveland's #3): We also found this one on our own.  Even though it's the only place where you have to pay to get in, it's our very favorite--and where we went today!  (Plus, if you get a membership, you save money in the long run and you kind of forget that you have to pay to get in.)

I found the arboretum when they had a gnome & garden display last summer (I wish it was still there!) and I made my siblings (and later Barley) go visit the gnomes with me.
My sister and me with the candy gnome!
Barley with my favorite gnome (the blueberry thief!)

Since I got my membership, we've visited the arboretum in every season and it's equally wonderful in all of them.  There are also at least 20 miles of trails, and dogs are allowed on all of them!
Since there are so many miles of trails, we've never done the same hike twice--although we do have some favorite places to visit and try to incorporate them into most of our hikes.
Barley with the carving in the Rhododendron Garden
Barley loves splashing in the stream, chasing chipmunks, and searching for the adorable black squirrels (that never appear when my camera is ready!).  I like the shade and the peaceful sounds of birds and the trickling stream.  Even when we stop by our favorite places, there are still new things to discover.  Barley got to chase some frogs into the creek today!  She was really proud of herself.

Today, we got home just in time!  When I got out of the shower, someone was curled on the bathroom floor. Turns out the grey clouds that were following us on the trail had a little thunder to go along with them (even though no rain ever came and the sun is shining now).  The bathroom is the only room without windows, so it's Barley's hiding place of choice during thunderstorms.

Poor scared pup
Luckily, the arboretum is also the easiest place to navigate with clear trails, clear markers, and signs that tell you how far you are from the visitor's center, so we could have headed home much earlier if we'd had to.

Honorable Mentions: We've been to so many cool places this summer, that it was hard to narrow it down to just 5.  Cuyahoga Valley National Park--Boston Store (Doggin' Cleveland's #24) was close to making the list.  

Even though the trails weren't well marked and we never made it to Brandywine Falls (next time!), we did enjoy Blue Hen Falls and our off-roading adventure to try to find Buttermilk Falls.  This was also a hike that made me take (reasonable) risks and put more trust in Barley than I had before.  I finally knew what our trainer meant when she told me Barley and I were going to make a good team.

Another place we really love, which isn't in Doggin' Cleveland, is the Geneva State Park in our own backyard.  We haven't spent a lot of time there this summer because of all of the tourists who invade Geneva-on-the-Lake in the summer, but we've been to this park more than any other place.  In the off-season, we go several times a week.  Even though this isn't quite as cool as traipsing through the woods  in the other parks, it's still really pretty and when there aren't other people around, Bar can splash in the lake.  It's also really close to home and a great change of pace from the neighborhood when I need to unwind after work (or feel like I got away but have too much grading to do to go to the other fun places we've found).

You never know what you'll find on the beach!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Last Saturday of Summer Vacation

Since I go back to work on Monday (even if it is just for the opening meeting), Barley and I have to make the most of this weekend, so today we decided to try out the South Chagrin Reservation to see Henry Church's carvings on Squaw Rock.  Doggin' Cleveland said the trail to Squaw Rock was one of the must-do trails and noted, "Staircases take you in and out of the ravine but count on the footing for paws being wet and slippery." Another trail, that we weren't going to try out, was described as being for calm, well-behaved dogs only because of steep drop offs with no fences.  I hate heights.  If you remember, I also like safety, so I wouldn't knowingly pick a trail that was going to make me trek along steep drop offs.  Unfortunately, Doggin' Cleveland failed to mention that the trail to Squaw Rock also has steep, unfenced drop offs.

The trail started out skinny, winding, unfenced, and downhill.  I've mentioned how I feel about going downhill at the beginning of a hike, and this was no different--except that with the other factors, it was also scary.  Going down stairs with Barley is always a challenge; she likes to charge down stairs and that doesn't work when she's on a leash that's attached to my arm.

Luckily, this summer we've been working on, in the words of our favorite song of summer, putting "the us in trust, baby."  We had our first breakthrough at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park when we went off the trail in search of the elusive Buttermilk Falls and had to do major rock hopping and a little bit of climbing on tree roots.  Barley sat patiently while I found my footing and then heeled instead of charging ahead on the slippery parts.  Today, she was just as good.  There were parts of the trail where it wasn't wide enough for me to have both of my feet beside each other and I had to have Barley sit and wait, while I wrapped my arms around a tree and inched my way along the rock wall to a place that was wide enough for both of us.      

We passed some of the best waterfalls we've seen yet, but I was way too busy trying not to fall to my death in the falls to try to get out my camera and take a picture of them.  Eventually, though, we made it to Squaw Rock.

There's a woman, a serpent, and apparently several other objects, including a dog, but I didn't see that one.

The carvings were pretty cool, but my heart was still beating 10,000 beats a minute from the hike down to the rock, so I'm not sure I appreciated them fully.

There was a nice big, flat area near the rock, so we took a few minutes to regroup and decide where to go from there.  The skinny trail seemed to continue beyond the rock, or we could have turned around and gone back the way we'd come.  The memory of clinging to a tree was still too vivid in my mind to turn around, so I decided we should continue on and see if there was another way out.

We kept walking and eventually found a scary staircase.  There were no railings and the stone steps moved a little bit in places.  But, it went up and we needed to go up to get back to the car.  I figured we should at least try it.

The stairs kept going and going.  Every now and then, there was a nice wide spot to stop and look out over the river.  We even passed a dad (or uncle? big brother?) going down the stairs with 3 small children.  I figured if they had survived the trail, Barley and I could, too.  They were counting the stairs and were on 70 when our paths crossed, so I kept my fingers crossed that we were nearing the end.

Finally, we made it to the same level our car was on and everything seemed less scary.  When we had a choice to stay on the path back to the car or continue into the woods a little farther, my courage kicked back in and we explored the woods.  Barley was awesome--we came across an off-leash labradoodle (who was also very well trained and went right back to it's owner instead of approaching us when I had Barley sit) and she kept her focus on me and we passed without incident.  I am, however, very glad this encounter didn't take place earlier, though.  I probably would have had a heart attack just thinking about how we were going to pass each other on those skinny trails and then fallen to certain death.

When we got close to the car, I decided that I needed to take a chance.  Barley was worn out, so the stairs down to where the waterfalls were visible wouldn't be quite as scary and my camera was already out, so I felt confident I could take a picture this time around.
Even though I was brave enough to go partially down the stairs again, I still decided to rely on my camera's zoom to get close enough for a decent picture.
See how tiny the waterfalls actually were from where we were at?
So, I've gotten a little braver this summer, and Barley and I have seen some really awesome things.  I feel lucky that we live in a place with so many great places to be outside.  We've tried 11 of the 50 places in Doggin' Cleveland--mostly the ones closest to home since I didn't want to drive over an hour when it was too hot to hike for more than 30 minutes--and we can't wait to try more on the weekends once school starts again.

In A Dog Year, Jon Katz said something about how border collies shook him out of his comfortable routine and reenergized his life.  This summer has really proven to be the same for me and my darling border collie mix.  Even though we were together last summer, most of our summer was spent in training--and essentially training Barley isn't all that different from my regular life in the classroom.  This summer, thanks to Barley, I've done things I wouldn't have done before: gone hiking (ask my family about the amount of exploring nature I did in the past--they will tell you that I sat in the car in the parking lot), bought hiking shoes (these are significantly less cute than my Fergie heels), climbed on tree roots (my mom said she wasn't sure she knew who I was anymore when I told her about our adventures at CVNP), left the house without showering in the morning (because sometimes that's the only way to get out of the door before it gets too hot for hiking--plus I've learned I'm just going to have to do it again when we get home).  So, even though she's exhausting and, at times, exasperating, I can hardly even remember what my life was like before this neurotic dog came into it and I wouldn't have things any other way.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Princess Diaries

Since I left Barley for an eternity and then we had a lame day yesterday, I made today all about treating Barley like a princess--and what better place to do that than Squire's Castle at North Chagrin Reservation.

Look at the high-speed tail blur.
Barley knew something exciting was going to happen and couldn't stop acting like a crazy dog long enough for me to put her leash on her.  (Sometimes, I think she steals sips of my coffee when I'm not looking!)

I was surprised how quickly we got to the castle.  If I wouldn't have taken a wrong turn, it would have only taken 35 minutes to get there.  (How is it possible that every new trail we try out is only 30-40 minutes away even though they are all off of different exits on I-90?  This makes no sense to me.)

Before we even got out of the car, we had a great view of the castle!  According to Doggin' Cleveland, you could access several trails by stepping through the castle's back door, but there were several groups of children around and I decided it wouldn't be kind for Barley to behead her subjects her very first day on the throne, so we took a wide loop around the castle to get to the trails.

At first, I was afraid that we wouldn't get much of a work out on this walk because when I took the wrong turn the only trails I saw were flat, paved trails.  We've gotten so used to rock hopping and trail blazing on our adventures that I was bummed we had driven that far for trails like the ones 5 minutes from our house.

When we got behind the castle, though, there was an enchanted forest for my little princess to explore!  Unlike the Girdled Road Reservation, this trail started uphill, so I knew we were off to a good start.  Unfortunately, after taking a week+ off of adventuring or even really walking, this walk seemed just as difficult at first!  I was out of breath after 5 minutes of straight uphill trekking, so I didn't complain when Barley found lots of things to climb on and sniff.

The trail was deserted, even though our book said that it was a busy park with varied terrain that's attractive to runners.  (Dear runners on these trails, you're my heros.) There was evidence that people had used the trail, though.

Dad found the trail before we did?

We really had the perfect day for adventuring.  I was nervous to get in the car and leave the house because there was a big grey cloud over my apartment parking lot.  But, assured me that there was a 10% chance of rain and that it wouldn't be above 75 all day.  The sky was still grey when we first got to the park, but after a few minutes of walking it was all blue skies and sunshine.

The trail was gorgeous, too.  There were all kinds of overlooks for us to enjoy and lots of green.

I wonder what's over there.
I'm the cutest little trail dog ever.
My one complaint about the park is that the trails were a little bit confusing.  Our book said there were detailed trail maps available at the park, but we didn't find them (nor did we look that hard) and decided to just wing it.  There were lots of signs along the trail, but I wouldn't say they were necessarily clear.
We just need a scarecrow to go along with this sign and we'll be in Oz.
Several of the markers seemed to suggest that a single trail went in several different directions (I assumed this meant they were loops--most of the time I was right).  Sometimes there'd be a trail marker nailed to a tree, but there were no options for going other directions.  Other times, there were intersections of trails with no markers.  Since it was a gorgeous day, we didn't mind being "lost," but I might have been a little cranky if it had rained.

Eventually, we made it back to the castle and took a quick break for water and a photo shoot before getting back in the car.  
Every thing the light touches is our kingdom.
Barley was sufficiently worn out after an hour of hiking.
So, we got in the car and shared a baggy of Cheez-Its on the way home (I never leave home without snacks!).  Now, she's sleeping soundly on the couch on top of her lamb toy.
That white thing at the top of her tail is the lamb's ear--guess she's no Princess and the Pea.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Travels Without Barley

Last week, Barley, Soth, and I headed to my parents house to celebrate my dad's birthday with a beer and a ball game.
Ok, so this was a different birthday, but same place, same beers, different shirts, so it works.
PNC is the prettiest field in the world.
Luckily, the Pirates got the memo that Dad needed a better game than last year's birthday game and we could "Raise the Jolly Roger!"  We also go to throw up a few Zs during the game.
Yay Cutch!
We had a great trip and Dad got a couple days off, so we took some adventures in the Mingo Creek park near their house: first with a hike with Barley and my parents' dog Maz before the ball game (we got a little lost and my glutes were very unhappy the next day) and then a family picnic (minus the little bro who doesn't have summer vacay) the next day.
I took this on my sister's phone, so I can steal it from her blog, right?
Barley had a great time playing frisbee with my dad and sister.  They played an intense game of pickle in the middle with her and she was worn out by the end of the day.

Then I headed down to my sister's to help her put up some bulletin boards in her classroom.  I can't wait to see them when they're all finished because I think that they are already super cute right now.

I did, however, learn that I am very glad that I don't have a classroom of my own!  As cute as the bulletin boards are, putting them up is way too much manual labor for my taste!  

I also learned that I hate traveling without my pets.  I got a taste of this in May when I drove from Pittsburgh to DC to Williamsburg, VA to Charlotte, NC to Charleston, SC to go to various graduations and catch up with good friends, but this short trip confirmed that I'd much rather have my pets along for the adventure.  Driving alone is just so lonely.

The pets seemed to hate me traveling without them, too, even though their grandparents spoiled them silly while I was gone.  Now that I'm home, they are in rare form; I might actually look forward to going back to work on Monday if they keep this up!

When I first got my parents' on Tuesday to retrieve them, Barley almost knocked me down the basement stairs she was so excited to see me when the door opened.  Soth came trotting into the room pretty quickly, too, to get his love.  Neither one of them has let me out of their sight for long since I got back. 

Today was our first full day at home.  Soth has been giving me the evil eye all day, despite wanting to be right beside me all day.
This is the look I got while I drank my coffee this morning.  (If you look closely, you can see Barley's tail in the background . . . she couldn't be left out, either.)
Seriously. He is creepy.
I'm a little afraid he is going to try to suffocate me in my sleep tonight.

Barley has been beside me all day, with one naughty exception.  A few minutes ago, I caught her with her paws on the stove licking the pork chop pan I had just emptied of leftovers.  When she knew she was caught, she ran and hid under a pillow.
"I can't get in trouble if Mom can't see me."
Now, she's snoring away beside the couch.
Sweet dreams!
In just a few short days apart, we've returned to that crazy lifestyle of Barley following me everywhere, even sleeping on the bath mat while I'm in the shower.  Hopefully, a few fun adventures (we still have 40 or so hikes to try out from Doggin' Cleveland!) over the next few days will cure this before I am back at work all day again.  I'm convinced Soth's beyond hope unless I decide to take him to church for an exorcism--I mean, the blessing of the animals--whenever that rolls around again.