Friday, May 29, 2015

Rediscovering Chapin Forest Reservation

When we first got Doggin' Cleveland several years ago, one of our favorite places we discovered was Chapin Forest Reservation. This is another one of the incredible Lake Metroparks in the next county over from us--anyone looking to relocate to Ohio should definitely consider Lake County because the parks are the best. This particular park boasts an overlook where on clear days you can see 16-miles to Cleveland.

There are also a variety of different trails and most of them have at last one or two good inclines so you can feel like you've gotten a good workout without taxing yourself too much.  I can't remember the last time we went to Chapin Forest, though. I think it might have been over a year since we'd visited. This park is great--but it's also only about 5 minutes away from the Arboretum, which is our favorite place, so it just doesn't always occur to me that we should go there.

I may have mentioned that our town is right on Lake Erie, so in the summer, tourists take over. There's a strip with lots of different food stands and arcades and things. There are a lot of cottages. And the sidewalk along the strip eventually connects to the trail at the State Park, so on weekends during the summer, we usually stay away to avoid the kids and bikes. Since Memorial Day is the start of the chaos, we decided to venture back to Chapin Forest on Saturday.

Why have been away for so long?

There were several things that I'd forgotten about Chapin Forest. The first is that the incline from the parking lot we like up to the main trail is killer. It's short, but it's steep. In just .25-miles, the elevation gain is 81-feet (for comparison, our 1-mile neighborhood loop has a total elevation gain of 11 feet--and that's only because we have to go up and over some train tracks). With the ice and then the heat, we've mostly avoided the hilly parts of the Arboretum this year, so it's been a while since we've had a good incline. My legs, especially my calves, hated me. (Barley, of course, bounded up the trail like this was nothing.)

There are ledges along the Lucky Stone Loop. I love the ledges in our area, but the last time we went to explore some at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park, we got hopeless lost and I've been a little wary of exploring them. The ledges at Chapin Forest are awesome to look at--even though there aren't as many interesting formations as at the other park--but they aren't really accessible and the trails are clearly marked, so I can observe them without the fear of getting lost.

Barley's practicing for a new career as a lumberjack. 

Chapin Forest is insanely shady at this time of year. It was a sunny day and almost 70 degrees, which normally is too much for Barley to do more than a mile or so at a time. But the shade made it possible to get in a full 2.73 miles at once. We probably could have gone farther with no problems, but I was getting hangry and lots of other people were starting to show up at the park with bikes, kids, and dogs.

Barley had a great time at the park and we had quite a few chances to practice reactions to distractions. There was a little boy, probably eight or nine, with his dad running down a hill we were going up. I moved Barley to my right to give her a little more space and she did great--until the kid got past us and started dragging is feet in the gravel and making weird noises. Barley kept looking over her shoulder at him until he was out of sight, but she was still responsive when I gave her commands, so we're still counting it as a win.

There weren't too many dogs on the trail, but I was a little disappointed in the people who did have dogs with them. One couple had an Irish Wolfhound (which I find fascinating) with them and it was off-leash, so there were a few times we had to change directions to avoid crossing paths with them--it just makes me really cranky when we go to parks with leash laws and people don't obey them. It's frustrating when people decide the rules don't apply to them and make our experience more stressful than it has to be. There were also a lot of people with retractable leashes and very excitable dogs on the end of them. I've got a retractable leash that we use when I take Barley out to potty, but it doesn't leave our yard. At our parks, I don't trust people with retractable leashes--they tend to be the ones who are talking on the phone rather than paying attention to their dogs or the ones that insist on letting their dogs try to come meet Barley even when we've pulled way off the trail to avoid them. So, we had to stay on our toes a little more than I had anticipated when we left the house.

Overall, though, it was a great change of scenery and I had one smiley pup most of the adventure. We kept things easy again this week and finished this week with 26.71 miles.

Hope that everyone in Nashville is having a wonderful time at BlogPaws--we're enjoying living vicariously through you on Instagram!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: The Shadow of the Wind

For a book originally written in another language, I chose The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which was originally written in Spanish. As an English major and professor, I've read a lot of translations--mostly the classics like Marquez, Kafka, and Tolstoy. For the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge, I didn't want to just reread something I'll be teaching in the fall. I wanted something new to me, so I spent too much time browsing Amazon and came across Zafon's novel. I'd never heard of the book or the author, but it sounded interesting.

The Shadow of the Wind tells the story of a young boy named Daniel who lives in Barcelona in the 1950s. His mother died when he was very young; one day, he wakes up in a panic because he can no longer remember his mother's face. His father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he is allowed to pick one book and he will be responsible for making sure that book lives on as long as he is alive.

He chooses a book by an author named Carax and later discovers that earlier someone had gone through Barcelona burning every copy of Carax's novels they could find, so he may have the last known copy of his works. Daniel goes on an adventure to learn all he can about Carax. The adventure includes romance, mystery, friendship, murder.

I loved this book! This is the second book I've chosen for the challenge that relates to mysterious books. There's just something about books with characters who love books that draws me in. The characters were unique; the historical context was interesting--I studied a little bit of Spanish history in college, but this book made me what to learn more about the time period. Lately, I've been reading different novels that are showing a different side of the 1950s than the one presented in Leave it to Beaver and this book definitely falls into that category.

My only complaint is that it was ridiculously long--almost 500 pages. I usually don't even pick up books that are over 300 pages (it's the poet in me, I guess--I'm just drawn to shorter works). If I had looked at the page length when browsing Amazon, I probably would have kept looking. But I'm glad I didn't see that.

Usually when I read longer books, I find myself thinking about what could be edited out, but I thought this book was great. All of the many characters were necessary to the story, the different elements of the plot moved the story along, and most of the descriptions were poetic and built the mysterious tone that kept me reading.

I'm officially halfway through the reading challenge and have all of the ones I'm most looking forward to to get me through the rest of the year! 

What are you reading this month? What are your favorite books in translation? 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Slowing Things Down

Last week at the end of agility class, Barley took a misstep going up the A-frame and face planted. She quickly corrected herself and got over the top and went over the next two jumps to finish the course and then came running up for her treat. 

She was fine. Taking a misstep isn't that uncommon for her. Often, she's distracted by other dogs or people moving in the class, especially at the end of class when she can hear the door opening as the next class comes in the building. She's also generally a klutzy dog--she can't help it, she gets it from her mama.

But she's also been tripping on walks lately. Again, not uncommon. Sometimes when her lyme disease flares up, she gets a little trippy. Sometimes when she's paying attention to squirrels instead of the sidewalk, she'll miss an uneven spot in the pavement. Sometimes when it's hot, she just gets tired really quickly and that's my cue that we need to head home. 

This week, we took things a little slower than usual. 

Barley hates resting.
Rest week doesn't necessarily mean that we walked a lot less. We still got 27.91 miles--just a few less than the last couple weeks--but we broke them down into much shorter walks than usual. Instead of getting in a full three miles all at once, we took two or three shorter walks.

The weather helped with that, too. For a couple days, it seemed like every time we left the house to walk it started raining. Diva Dog doesn't walk in the rain and pulls me back towards home any time the skies open up.

I'd rather be home with my towel.
By the end of the week, Barley was walking more normally, so we started increasing our mileage just a little bit. The weather helped with that, too.

This was 10 a.m. at the end of May. What?!
The cold had really reappeared and Barley was thrilled. We kept the walk slow, stayed in our neighborhood where there were few inclines to deal with, and ended up getting in exactly 3 miles in one walk. Barley even felt good enough to do a little jumping at the park at the end of the street.

I'm not entirely sure what was going on with my girl this week. Maybe it was the lyme disease. Maybe it was the radical shifts in weather. Maybe she picked up something unpleasant while splashing in the lake. Maybe she was just tired after a few big weeks in a row. Whatever it was, she is back to her normal, only slightly klutzy self now.

This week was a good reminder to listen to my dog when she tells me that she's done walking. Seven of our 13 walks this week were under 2 miles and two of those 7 were under a mile. We might not have earned a lot of extra miles towards our goal this week, but keeping my girl healthy and safe is even more important than meeting our goals.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dear Parents in my Neighborhood

It's Dog Bite Prevention Week, so it seems like a good time for a chat. Especially since your kids and my dog will be sharing the sidewalks more frequently now that summer is right around the corner.

First, let me say, I'm not trying to tell you how to raise your children. I'm not a parent and I trust that you've got more expertise on child rearing than I do.

But I could use your help in raising my dog. You know the one. The one that has the fluffy, curled tail that looks like it's begging to be grabbed.

The one who prances down the sidewalks with a huge smile on her face.

What you might not know about her, though, is that she's unsure of kids. They move quickly, sometimes they move in bizarre ways, they make strange noises. These are all things that make her nervous.

You might have noticed that we cross the street if your kids are playing on the sidewalk or riding scooters up and down your driveway. You might also have noticed that when my dog sees your children doing these things, she ducks behind me, her tail goes down, and her ears look non-existent. We don't mind sharing the sidewalks with your budding artists--I love seeing their sidewalk chalk art when they've finished it. And I'm thrilled that they're outside getting fresh air and exercise--I wish I had the balance that they've developed on those scooters! But we need a little space, so please encourage your children not to chase us across the street when we make an attempt to get that space.

The only thing worse than having a kid reach for your tail is having a cat reach for it.

You might have noticed that we abruptly change directions if your children are screaming (even if it's all in good fun). You might also have noticed that when we change directions, my dog continues to look over her shoulder at your children until I stick a treat in front of her nose and refocus her attention. My dog's default setting is excited. When she sees things moving quickly and hears them making interesting noises, her excitement levels skyrocket and she's ready to party. But she doesn't know how to party with kids. To my dog, a party means chasing and herding things, which involves nipping at things and giving playful growls, and those things make kids nervous and when they get nervous, my dog gets nervous. A nervous dog is not a safe dog, so we will always change directions and, again, we greatly appreciate not being chased.  

I really love that so many of you have taught your children to ask before reaching out to pet a dog. I hope you also tell them that sometimes people say no and that really does mean no. I don't say no to break your children's hearts. It breaks my heart to see their faces fall when I say no. If there are other dogs that we can see or hear, if there's a large group of children rushing up as your child asks, if is a train or other loud vehicle going by, if your child is smaller than my dog, I will always say no. I say no because I have to. I say no because that's the best way to ensure your children and my dog stay safe.

Even if I say yes, there will be rules. My dog has to sit before your child can pet her. Your child will have to pet her back or neck and not put their face in her face. If there's more than one child, they will have to take turns and pet her one at a time. All bikes, scooters, and skateboards must be set down before they approach her. I'll be giving her treats the entire time your child is petting her and the petting session will probably last less than 10 seconds because I want to make sure it's always positive for everyone involved.

Just because she'll put up with a lot from me doesn't mean she'll put up with a lot from everybody.

I've always heard that it takes a village to raise a child and I believe the same is true for my dog. We spend a lot of time training together, but with your help, I can help increase her confidence as she learns that kids aren't scary. Please help us by reminding your children to not ever run at a strange dog and to ask (and listen) before reaching out to pet a dog. If we all work together, our neighborhood will be a safe, happy place for all of us.

Beth & Barley

Heart Like a Dog

We're participating in the Barks and Bytes blog hop hosted by Heart like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs. Be sure to check out all of the other awesome blogs participating this week!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Weather Rollercoasters

It is officially summer vacation for me! I honestly don't know how all of you who work year-round survive. I love my job, but by the end of March, the only thing that gets me through the day is the thought of the end of the first full week in May.

I mentioned last week that we went from winter to summer in .02 seconds. That continued for several days, which meant we had to start a new routine. Barley doesn't handle the heat well. With the black parts of her coat, the smallest bit of sunshine makes her roast. She can handle mid-80s and cloudy for a little while, but 70 and sunny is too much. I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm not a morning person, so this week has been all about new routines.

I don't naturally get up early. I have to set an alarm if I'm going to get up at by hour that most people would consider sleeping in. Naturally, the thought of doing this on my first week of summer vacation was not appealing, so by the time I got up and had coffee, it was already warm.

Luckily, there's a big cold lake just a few miles away.

The boats are starting to return.

Barley doesn't swim. But she'll put her toes in the water and usually that leads to some more of her getting wet. The trail at the state park is 2-miles long, so we usually park in the middle and then we've got at least once spot in each direction that Barley can splash in the water if she gets hot and we're never far from the car.

We took walks at 4 days in a row and Barley spent lots of time splashing in the water and I spent lots of time working on getting an awesome tan line from my GPS watch.

Then, as quickly as the warmth arrived, it disappeared again. Tuesday was almost perfect--sunny and 60 degrees--but by the time we went to bed, the temperatures were down in the 40s. And there they stayed.

We took advantage of the cooler weather by heading out the arboretum again. There were new things in bloom from last week's visit--and some of the things that were so pretty last week (like my bright pink crabapples) were completely ordinary this week. That's probably my favorite part of the arboretum. No matter which trails we take--even if we repeat the same trails each visit--it's always a completely different experience.

One of the most interesting things we saw was a goose flying up into a tree. I didn't know their feet were built for perching in trees. It didn't seem all that thrilled about being up there and honked the entire time. I just happened to look over my shoulder in time to see it fly up there, which then meant we had to back track so I could get photographic evidence that it was up there to share with my family.

I just wasn't feeling the cold weather, though, and that kept me from venturing into the shady woods--I wanted to at least see the sun even if it was still chilly. There was a field trip in the main part of the garden and I started getting hangry, so we only got a little over 2 miles in before I decided we'd had enough of an adventure.

We ended up with 30.62 miles this week and I have one happy dog. Last week, when it was 60 degrees and sunny, she was collapsing in the shade after a mile of walking. This week, on our first 60 degree day, she was prancing along. Apparently the secret to making Barley and I enjoy the same weather is to give her a couple 80+ degree days and then all of the sudden 60 seems delightful.

Happy Fit Dog Friday everyone!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dear Cyclists

Dear Cyclists,

Barley and I are happy to see you out on the trails again. Really. We are. When we hadn't seen you yet in March, we were beginning to think that somehow we'd been left behind in some trail-user apocalypse. 

Now that you're back, though, we need to have a little chat. I've noticed that your trail etiquette leaves something to be desired. 

I get it. Really. We haven't had to share the trail in months--and I suffer from what my mom calls Bossy Big Sister Syndome (BBSS), so I've never been great at sharing anyway. For months, I've been singing "Let it Go" from Frozen out loud just to keep my mind off the cold. For months, I haven't had to worry about whether we were taking up too much of the trail. For months, we've stopped for photoshoots anytime we've seen something interesting without worrying about who might be coming up behind us. Maybe you've also been alone in the world for over 4 months and have forgotten how to communicate with other people appropriately.

I know it looks like my dog is well behaved. And she is. Most of the time. She heels like a dream. When she does decide to go out a little farther--which I let her do as long as she responds to commands--she checks in frequently with a glance over her shoulder. If I stop, she stops and sits. If I get out the camera, she poses like she's trained with Tyra Banks. She is a good dog.

But she's a border collie mix. And she's reactive. And she has a high prey drive. So if she feels something whizzing up behind her--and she will know you're coming before I do--she's going to react. 

To Barley, you're just a weird-looking sheep on wheels and you're moving very quickly without her permission. She will turn towards you. She will stare. She may nip. She may bark or growl. 

Unless I help her. For me to help her, I need you to help me.

I'm not a mom. I don't have eyes in the back of my head. My ears are relatively small and they're designed for hearing noises in front of me, not behind me--and contrary to what you might think, your bike is very quite (unless you've got those fun, plastic, neon bead things I was never allowed to put on my bike as a kid--then this doesn't apply to you). Unless I happen to glance over my shoulder, I will not know you are coming before my dog does. Help me out. "On your left!" is easy to say. Tapping a bell would be even easier. If politeness isn't your forte, we'll settle for "Move outta my way"--it's better than nothing and we'll take what we can get.

Exercising is more fun with friends. I had never even been to the local state park until I got Barley. But the trails aren't that wide. There's really not room for you to ride side-by-side while you sneak up beside us. That loose leash we've worked so hard to get means that she's got 6-feet of freedom to my left. If you're zooming by and only give us 3 inches of space, you're risking your life, especially if your mama didn't teach you to wear a helmet. Dogs--my dog especially--are unpredictable. She might be heeling beautifully when you're 20, 15, 10, 5 feet behind us, but the second you are beside her, she might decide it's more fun to herd you than to heel. We need space.

Who me?
My dog is always aware of her surroundings. Even when she's lounging in the shade. She is always ready to pounce on things that surprise her.  Please don't surprise her.

We're willing to work on our problems with sharing. If we know you're coming, I'll shorten the leash to make sure she can't reach you. I'll practice her "what's that?" command and reward her with treats that taste much better than sweat and rubber (or so I'm told). If we know there's a large group of you, we'll even pull off the trail and practice sit-stays until you've passed.

The world needs more teamwork. Let's help each other out.


Beth and Barley

P.s. To those of you who do regularly alert us to your presence, thank you! We appreciate you more than you know.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesdays Tomes: Prodigal Summer

It's been a long time since I posted my last update on the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Reading Challenge. But it is finally summer--sweet summer--vacation, so I have time to think about books again. My sweet future sister-in-law is the one who told me about the challenge, so it made sense to have her recommend a book for the category a book recommend by someone with good taste.

I don't actually know much about her taste in books. But I know she has good taste in clothes, home decor, and desserts--so I figured she must have good taste in books, too.

Like me, she couldn't just recommend one book, so she gave me a list of multiple books that she loved and left the final decision up to me. There were two Barbara Kingsolver books on her list, so I figured that I should choose one of those. I've actually had The Poisonwood Bible on my shelf for years, but never got in the mood to read it despite recommendations from many friends, but it wasn't on the list of recommendations.

One of the books had themes of motherhood in the blurb on the back of the cover--I knew that wasn't the one for me. Instead, I went with Prodigal Summer.

I really enjoyed this book. There were three different story line being told. I've loved this ever since I read the Babysitter's Club Super Mysteries were multiple characters got to tell their point of view. Deanna is a divorcee who lives in a secluded cabin in a state park and maintains the trails; Garnett is a crotchety old man who wars with his female neighbor about pesticides and other farming practices; Lusa, whose spent her life in research labs, moves to a farm from the city only to be widowed shortly afterwards and left with a farm to run.

I didn't connect to all of the characters--there were parts of Deanna's story involving coyotes that were fascinating, but most of her story involved finding herself and figuring out who she was outside of her relationship to men. That didn't resonate with me one bit and I found myself skimming through her sections to get to Garnett and Lusa's sections.

Even though I didn't connect with all of the characters, the book was lovely. It really showed how much being in nature can heal a person and help them find themselves. That's something I full-heartedly believe in. I'm not someone who enjoys camping--or getting dirty in most cases--but I definitely believe that we need to unplug and just "read God directly" as Emerson would say. For all the pictures I post of Barley and I at the lake, there are just as many adventures we go on where the camera never comes out once--not because it's not beautiful or not photo-worthy, but because sometimes I just need to be in nature rather than recording nature. This book really hit home in a lot of ways.

There were still issues of motherhood--which I will never understand (and really have no desire to understand)--but there was enough else to this book that I could really enjoy it. 

I did have a few issues with the ending--there was so much build up to all three stories eventually overlapping and then it just ended. On her website, Kingsolver responds to questions about a potential sequel by writing, "I hear this plea more often about Prodigal Summer; than any other book, probably because the book is about biological cycles and rhythms, and therefore – as you point out – does not entirely conform to the conventional 'beginning-to-end' structure.  My response is that those characters and that setting are yours now.  You can imagine them doing anything you want." Part of me gets that--I know how important readers are in the process of creating meaning in any literary work--but the other part of me feels like it's a bit of a cop out. To me, the way the story ends doesn't feel organic--instead, it feels unfinished and it seems a little unfair to leave all of that up to the readers to fill in the blanks.

But on the homepage of her website right now, there's a picture of Kingsolver with a border collie, so the book gets bonus points. (She lives on a farm raising Icelandic sheep). There were no dogs--besides coyotes--in the book and while I think Lusa definitely should have had one while she dealt with her grief and the struggles of running a farm, I was ok with the lack of dogs in this book :)

I've officially checked of book #6 in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Reading Challenge. Up next is a book that was originally written in another language--hopefully this one won't take as long to finish!

To see what other people are reading this month, check out the May Quick Lit blog hop.

What are you reading this month? What are your favorite books about connecting with nature?

Friday, May 8, 2015

April Recap + New Adventures

With our long adventure at Presque Isle last week and Soth's adoption anniversary, we didn't have time for an April Resolution Recap. When I totaled our mileage for the month and compared it to last year's, I was ecstatic. In April 2014, we walked 95.43 miles. This year, we got 123.6 miles in April. We're 74.8 miles ahead of where we were at the end of April last year. At the end of last week, we'd achieved 30% of our goal, which is pretty darn close to the 33% we were shooting for. In no time, we'll be ahead of schedule.

This week, I was afraid we'd have trouble meeting our 3.1 mile/day goal because it's finals week and the weather has been questionable. Finals week is usually a good week for walking because I only have to go to campus for about 8 hours to collect final papers and then I can bring them all home to grade, so we can get lots of short walks in when I need a break. But this week we went straight from winter to summer. There's been 80 degree days and lots of rain, so the times that were good for walking haven't necessarily matched up with the times that I was home.

On Wednesday, I didn't have any finals to collect, so I got up and went straight to the couch with my coffee and a stack of papers to power through some grading. Barley was the best girl and didn't chase her brother or try to eat his food or  snack out of the litterbox. She let me get two full classes finished before lunch, so we celebrated in the afternoon by checking out a new park.

Hogback Ridge Metropark is one of the parks in the next county over and it's split in two by the Grand River with no way to get from one side of the park to the other unless you want to swim (which we don't). We'd been to the south side once, but weren't impressed. The trail is only .6-miles long with a steep staircase in part of it. It's also not a park that a lot of people visit, so people ignore the leash laws and Barley and I avoid parks where that's common. But the north side of the park is only a few minutes farther away than the state park and the trail map says there's a 2+ mile bike trail, so Barley and I decided to check it out for a change of scenery since we didn't have time to adventure to our favorite places.

Big smiles for exploring new places.

The trail was nice and I think it will be really shady when the trees all have their leaves back, but we definitely didn't see 2+ miles of trail. It was about .75 miles down to the river and then the trail sort of disappeared. There was a sign at the parking lot saying the trail had been damaged, so maybe part of it got washed away, but we just went down to the river and back up with a couple detours on some trails that went into the woods--but I wasn't in the mood to get muddy, so we didn't explore those much.

Maybe there used to be 2+ miles? 

The covered bridge park in our town is just a few miles away from the new trail and we hadn't been there since last summer (there's not much trail and usually there are a lot of kids splashing in the river), so we stopped to get in one extra mile on our way home.

I had a morning final exam period on Thursday, so I planned to take Barley to the Arboretum for our grading break on Thursday afternoon. When I left work, my car thermometer said it was 58 degrees out and I had been a little chilly on the walk across campus without a light jacket (this is what being close to the lake does to temperatures!). By the time I got home, the thermometer read 70 degrees. I tossed on shorts and after lunch Barley and I headed out to the Arboretum.

When we got there, it was up to 80 degrees and not a breeze to be found, so we headed towards the rhododendron garden in hopes of finding some shade.

We stopped by a wilting magnolia hybrid on the way.

For a place that had a lot of trees, we had trouble finding benches in the shade for our water breaks!

Barley thought this might be good shade cover.

This was labeled a smiling rhododendron, so Barley had to pose with it.

We stopped pretty much every half mile for a water break and it took us a full hour to walk 2 miles! When Barley decided to crawl under a bench, I decided it was time to start heading back to the car.

Barley found a friend.

We passed through the crabapple collection on the way back to the car and everything was lovely and pink.

Barley was more than happy to stop to smell the flowers on such a hot day.

Despite the heat, the rain, and the weird schedule, we still ended up with 30.25 miles this week, which was a pleasant surprise when I ran the Garmin report last night!

Soth got a few outdoor adventures when I needed grading breaks, too.

I have 1.5 classes left to finish final grades for and then Barley, Soth, and I are officially on summer vacation!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Presque Isle State Park

We live almost equidistance from Cleveland and Erie. Barley and I have spent a lot of time hiking the Cleveland area because of our awesome Doggin' Cleveland book, but we've explored most of the parks within an hour or so of our house. The other parks sound nice, but they're usually more of a drive than I want to commit to. Since Doug Gelbert hasn't written a book for the Erie area, we haven't ventured very far east.

Lately, though, Barley and I have been craving adventure and wanting to visit somewhere new, so I decided we should investigate the Pennsylvania parks. We started with my childhood favorite, Pymatuning State Park, which was a nice change of scenery but didn't live up to my childhood memories. Last Friday, I decided we should check out Presque Isle State Park. I'd seen the sign when we ventured to Niagara Falls and on our way to Massachusetts last summer, so I knew it wasn't too far from home.

According to the Presque Isle website, the name means "almost an island." The peninsula has tons of interesting things to see and lots of different trails. I studied the website beforehand and knew I wanted to see the Commodore Perry Memorial and the two lighthouses.

The map I looked at online made it hard to tell how far it was between different trails. Few of them connected to one another directly, but there's a multi-use trail that goes around the whole peninsula so I thought that we'd probably be able to piece together the short trails into a nice walk. The speed limit was deceiving, though--it's 25 mph through the whole park, so I felt like we'd been driving forever and finally picked a parking lot off the road, thinking we were close to the Commodore Perry Memorial.

It turns out we were actually 3 miles from the memorial and we could have done the 6 miles it took to get there and back to the car, but then taking the other trails probably wouldn't have happened. We took a short little walk along the main trail just to see the sights.

We drove over to the memorial and tried again. The memorial was interesting. I was familiar with the name Commodore Perry because Great Lakes Brewing Company has a Commodore Perry IPA with a little blurb about him, but I didn't know much about him.

Yum! This has become my official lucky beer for Pirates games.

Perry's fleet stayed in Misery Bay (Erie Brewing Company also has a Misery Bay IPA--who says beer doesn't make you smarter?) during the War of 1812. The Bay protected the fleet while the ships were being built from local timber. According to the signs around the memorial, Perry always seemed to get into situations that seemed impossible, but then at the last possible minute everything would fall into place with him, so people refer to those sorts of situations as "Perry's Luck." Misery Bay got it's name while Perry's fleet was stationed there because his men got smallpox one winter and were quarantined there. Then they were buried in the nearby graveyard pond (which we saw, but we didn't take the trail).

We had the park pretty much to ourselves, so we got to work in some distance on our sit-stays while I tried to get a photo op with Barley and the whole monument.

The map near the memorial suggested that the North Pier Lighthouse was another several miles away, so we hopped in the car and tried to find a closer parking lot to that attraction. The pier was much windier than other locations had been, so I was extra glad I'd brought another layer in the car with me--but I can't complain about the cold because I think in nicer weather there would be far too many other park-goers for us to have a relaxing experience.

As we drove to the pier, we passed Horseshoe Pond, where 24-houseboats are docked year-round, so we had to walk back to check those out as well. I'm not sure what I thought a houseboat was--I guess I thought it was a boat that people lived on that had some "homey" elements like curtains and picture frames on the walls, but these houseboats were magical and weird. Apparently houseboats are houses that are on a raft-like thing.

Barley and I were both a little mystified by them. Some of the houses looked about the size of our apartment, but I can only imagine what it would be like to be trapped with Barley and Soth in the middle of a pond with no easy way to escape. I love my pets dearly, but I think we need a little more space and a little more yard than that. I also just have so many questions about electricity, cooking, bathrooms. Fascinating little things.

The big draw of Presque Isle (besides the swimming beaches in the summer) is the Presque Isle lighthouse. There's a 1.25-mile trail that goes from one side of the peninsula to the other and puts you right in front of the lighthouse. We'd already walked quite a bit, but the trail was completely flat and we decided to find the closest parking lot to it and walk to the lighthouse and back. 

The lighthouse was built in 1872 and was the second American lighthouse built on Lake Erie. Barley and I read some of the signs in the exhibit and the lighthouse is attached to a 10-room home that the lighthouse keeper used to live in. Now, the whole thing is a private residence--and has become my new dream home. Can you imagine how cool it would be to have a reading nook in the top of the lighthouse?

Barley doesn't think this looks like the "loneliest place"--she could totally picture living here!

We ended up walking a total of 7.75 miles our longest adventure yet since our record was 6.4 miles from around this time last year. It was a great adventure to go on with my girl, but it's probably not a place we'll go back to often. With the construction between our house and Erie, it took about an hour and a half to get there and when we have the Geneva State Park minutes away and the Arboretum 30 minutes away, I'd have to be in a special mood to go that far, especially since we saw all the main attractions this time.  It's also a busy spot in the summer with all of the beachgoers--and we saw a bike rental place, so I'm assuming the trails would probably be filled with more people, dogs, and bikes than Barley and I would want to deal with. Maybe in the fall when we're tired of visiting the same trails all summer we'll go back for a visit. We ended the week with 31.58 miles, so we're celebrating this week!

On an unrelated note, today is my 6-year anniversary of being a crazy cat lady, so I needed to make sure that Soth was acknowledged today (even though yesterday was all about him). Happy adoption day, my boy!