Exploring in All the Wrong Ways


Took my “A” team today to explore a new hiking trail. New to us that is.

My A+ hiking team consists of Jasmine and Youke. They can usually be relied upon not to cause trouble and not to get in trouble. Which is pretty much why Brady will always be on the secondary hiking team. 😦

Both Jaz and Youke are reliable off leash, don’t typically go too far ahead, have solid recalls and their chemistry is such that when together they are also typically friendly to both other dogs and people, although sometimes Jasmine’s barking becomes a bit strident, leading to her being leashed up.

Since I’d never been to this particular trail, I was reluctant to bring all four dogs at once and thought it’d be a lovely and relaxing time to check it out first with these two. Besides, such a treat to take two at a time. For them and for me.

Easy enough to get to the trail head and discovered we seemed to be the only ones there. The trail signage though? That kinda sucked. Of course, had I bothered to stay on the obvious path straight ahead, I would have found the visibly marked trail. Additionally, had I bothered to really look more closely at the large area trail map I could’ve figured some things out. And lastly, had I looked left of the large area trail map I would’ve seen the handily provided trail maps clearly giving me a closer view of the trail system.

But screw all that. I’m an explorer!

So off I went with the dogs in a completely different direction. After a little bit, it seemed obvious no one else was around, so unclipped the dogs. Naturally, a deer chose that moment to go bopping about in the woods. Both dogs alerted, looked at me, strained forward, but when I quietly advised them to stay with me, that’s actually what they did. A win! Again, this is why Brady will never be on the A+ team.

What we encountered was a morass of intertwining roads, faint grown over trails and dead ends. All mysteriously signed with tree names, but with no explanation. No problem, I thought, I have all day. And I have a decent sense of direction and a good memory. At least I did discover we were on state Department of Natural Resource (DNR) land. That was good because I saw a couple of houses a few times that were fairly close and worried I might be trespassing.

Jaz and Youke had a blast smelling the new smells. I decided to just keep heading in a general direction, but also opting to explore a lot of side trails along the way, just to see if they went somewhere or dead-ended. No one had been that way for a long time. Lots of spider webs. Ordinarily spiders freak me out. But there’s something to be said for flooding. As in flooding me with their pesky webs and tiny bodies. So much so that after a while I didn’t care.

The A+ team heard another deer and decided to check it out, but returned in less than 10 seconds. By then, they were both getting pretty hot. I didn’t bring water for them because I knew we wouldn’t be out that long and figured we’d stumble on some water source. I’m sure that makes me a really crappy hiker and dog guardian. If it makes anyone feel any better, I didn’t bring any for me either.

Youke checked out a culvert, but it was dry. Clever little dog that he is though, he started checking the area. I agreed with him that it was usually a very wet area – very lush green growth and plant types that one often sees in swampy places. And of course, he found it. Water. Youke ran down a little hill and jumped in to splash around. I was so happy for his happy little self. Until he stepped out.

Caked in mud. Again. Jasmine saw how happy he was and that he was wet and looked at me. I could’ve told her no and she would’ve listened. But she was hot and I’m indulgent.

So off Jasmine went into what I knew by then was a giant wet mud puddle. Like Youke, Jaz emerged more black than anything else. It just shows a lot more on her than on Youke.

More exploring. More trying to make sense of the twists and turns.

We came a little too close to one residence. The resident dogs heard us and one came racing into the woods to check us out. Not gonna lie. My heart dropped a little bit when I saw a pittie mix that looked very similar to the ones that got in our faces a few months back and caused havoc.

No worries, Jasmine is a bad ass. She bounded over to the other dog in three huge leaps, got in his/her face and the other dog turned tail and went back down the trail. Jasmine trotted back to me with this pleased expression, tail high. I did spot the other dog turn around and look after us, but he/she did not follow, maybe because it saw Jasmine stop to check where it was too.

We took a few more lefts, a few more rights and I had started to figure how some of the roads hooked up with one another. Meanwhile, Youke was in a spectacular mood.

YoukeWoodsWalk This is Youke’s uber happy face. I can’t always catch it on camera since he has a habit of looking like a Victim – yes, capital V – in pictures. Today was pretty much Youke’s perfect day. Outdoors, exploring, no real agenda, out with his favorite human and his bestie Jasmine, sticks and pine cones to play with, mud to splash in. He even did something I haven’t seen him do in a long time and that’s to solicit play from Jasmine with growls, burst of barking and play bows. Once she responds, he twirls around and does his best ninja moves on her. Then she ignores him. Rightfully so. It’s sort of obnoxious when your friend is acting like a ninja and pulling those annoying moves, but when you didn’t sign on to play a part in the ninja movie yourself.

By then I’d figured out where we were, where we’d been and where we needed to go to get back. Will have to go some other time to explore the actual trail we came to find.

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