Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Great Pond Hike

Hey everyone! It's been super hot and humid these past few days, but there was finally a break in the heat last Friday.

Around noon, I got bored with sitting around the house doing nothing but my summer reading. So I set down my book and jumped up, ready for a swim, a bike, a hike - anything was better than sitting still on such a gorgeous day! But Mom and Dad were busy and Zoe was still asleep, so anything I did I would have to do by myself. After thinking for a moment, I knew just where I could go. I threw some snacks into a backpack, called for Ginger, yelled a hurried goodbye to Mom, and hopped on my bike, bound for a hiking trail a few miles down the road.

I passed the trailhead and began to climb the steep incline directly behind it.

Although that first incline was relatively short-lived, the one following it definitely was not. By the time I was halfway up, Ginger had already scrambled to the top like a squirrel, leaving me, panting, in her wake, wondering why on Earth I hadn't thought to bring her leash.

Ginger was waiting for me at the top of the hill, where I stopped for a water break. Thankfully, that was the steepest part of the hike. After pouring some water for Ginger and satisfying my own thirst, I slid the bottle into my backpack and looked up at the sign nailed to the tree trunk above me.

After some deliberation, I chose the arrow pointing to the right. The trail in that direction dipped sharply downward, then began to climb again. Sighing, I watched as Ginger - seemingly without effort - scaled the rock face and waited for me at the top.

Soon, as I had remembered, the trail leveled out. I stopped for a second break underneath a large pine tree, settling myself into the sweet-smelling meadow grasses at its base as I eased my backpack off with relief. Ginger crawled up into my lap and gave me her best puppy eyes, begging me for a drink. I laughingly gave her one, then took a drink from the bottle myself, as I reveled in the coolness of the shade beneath the pine tree.

As Ginger began to sniff at the bases of surrounding trees, searching for one to mark, I noticed that the plants to my right looked suspiciously like low-bush blueberries. Upon closer inspection, I found not only that they were, but that most of the berries on the branches were ripe! Having neglected to bring a bucket, I simply settled myself in the midst of several large bushes and ate the sweet, sun-warmed berries as I picked them.

After our detour for blueberries, there was only about half a mile to go to the summit, which Ginger and I covered quickly. The tree cover broke just at the peak, and the sunlight and nearly cloudless sky made the view look more gorgeous than I had ever seen it.

We turned to our left and headed in the direction of a little overlook where we usually stopped to eat lunch. It had a better view, more shade, and was always less crowded than the summit.

Upon finding a perfectly shaped indent in the rock where we could sit, I shrugged off my backpack and settled in for a break.

I extracted a tinfoil-wrapped sandwich from the bag and began to nibble at it, all the time trying to keep Ginger from doing the same.

Ginger, still hardly more than a puppy, was full of energy and very impatient. She waited, wagging her tail furiously and barking every now and then, as I finished my sandwich, an apple, and a bottle of cherry soda. At last, I picked myself up off the rock, dusted off my hands, and searched for a suitable stick for a game of fetch. I snapped a branch off a nearby tree and got into position.

Ever since we had gotten Ginger about seven months ago, I'd been trying to teach her how to fetch. Shiloh was an old pro, but Ginger -- not so much. I wasn't sure if it was just because she was so young and energetic, but she had never been able to actually retrieve a stick and bring it all the way back to me. She always lost her concentration on her way to get the stick or on the way back - she was easily distracted by birds, squirrels, even her own shadow - or forgot where it had landed entirely and simply came trotting back to me, her tongue lolling out from between her teeth and her tail wagging jauntily in the air. I don't know if there's some sort of dog-version of ADHD, but if there is, Ginger definitely has it.

"You ready?" I asked, pulling my arm far back in preparation of the toss. She sat up on her haunches and gazed intently at the stick. Hoping that this was a good sign, I brought my arm down in a graceful arc and threw the stick as hard as I could. Ginger raced off in pursuit.

She bent down once she reached it and picked it up in her mouth.

"Go Ginger!" I cried, waving my arms crazily in the air as she turned around and started trotting back in my direction. Five feet left, four, three, two --

I bent down and reached out to accept the stick as she approached, looking immensely pleased with herself. She was so close - literally inches from my outstretched fingers - when a sparrow chirped off to her right and her head jerked up.
"Come on, girl," I coaxed, but Ginger continued to stare intently at the bird. Silence fell for a moment, and just as her head was beginning to turn in my direction, the bird twittered again. With a loud bark, Ginger dropped the stick and bounded off towards the sparrow, any thoughts of the stick gone entirely.
I sighed deeply, tossed the stick off the cliff, grabbed my backpack, and found Ginger barking furiously at the base of the sparrow's tree. She bounded over to me as I approached, and I reached down to scratch behind her ears. Oh, well. We'd keep trying.

Despite the heat and humidity - and, of course, summer reading - I've been having a pretty good summer so far! How are your summers going? Is there anything you're looking forward to during the vacation?
That's all for now! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Picking Strawberries / Happy 4th of July!

Hey everybody! Happy 4th of July! The rain here finally stopped this morning and the sun even managed to make an appearance, just in time for the holiday. 

Every year on the 4th, Mom makes a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert after our family barbeque, and decorates the top with sliced strawberries and blueberries to look like an American flag. She didn't realize until this morning that we were out of strawberries, so she asked me to head down to the patch in the lot down the road to pick some. I tossed some bug spray and a bucket in a backpack, strapped on my bike helmet, and headed down the road in the direction of the empty lot.

Once I reached the lot, I realized that it was the ideal time to be picking strawberries - every plant that I could see had at least one or two ripe, bright scarlet berries dangling from its leaves.

I spotted a particularly large strawberry and bent down to pick it up.

Since it had been growing so low to the ground, it had a few pieces of dirt and some pebbles on its outer layer of skin, which I brushed off before I dropped it in my bucket.

 I continued my search for berries in the thick bushes at the back of the lot.

Hidden in the deep grasses, I found one of the largest strawberries I'd ever seen! After some deliberation, I popped it in my mouth as opposed to in the bucket - it just looked too good not to eat right away!
A little while later, I heard a distant rumble, and looked up to see dark clouds gathering above me. I sighed. But it hadn't started raining quite yet, so I thought I'd gather a few more strawberries before it did.

When I felt the first few drops, I had to be satisfied with what I had picked, though it was hardly half a bucket.

The rumbles of thunder had gotten much closer, so I grabbed the bucket and ran down the dirt road towards our driveway before the rain could reach me.
The downpour started just as I reached our front porch. Zoe and I took the strawberries that Mom didn't need for her cake out onto the screen porch, where we ate them as we watched the rain coming down.

The downpour was over by lunchtime, and the sun came out again soon afterwards, which means that our barbeque and fireworks are still on for this afternoon! I can't wait! What does your family do on the 4th of July? Do you have any favorite traditions?

That's all for now! Thanks for reading!