Tag Archives: animals

Mount Major was Minor

In keeping with my goal to hike at least twice a month, K and I set out to hike Mount Major last Saturday. Mount Major rises a majestic 1,786 feet above Lake Winnipesaukee. You can almost see it through the trees.

Oh dear. I seem to be turning into a mountain snob like my husband, which is pretty rich when you consider that South Moat kicked my rear last week.

There are two trail options on Major: Boulder Loop and Mount Major trail. If you take one up and the other down, your roundtrip hike will be about 3.8 miles long. Boulder Loop is 1.6 miles long, a bit steeper and a not as well-marked, while Mount Major is 2.2 miles long with a slightly prettier terrain. The latter is a great trail for kids and dogs because there are a lot of single boulders to climb on but the trail itself is pretty easy footing – and there is a fairly panoramic view of the lake from the summit.

This probably should’ve been our first hike of the season, followed up by South Moat. So I did things backwards. Sue me.

If you plan to hike this mountain anytime in the near future, my first piece of advice to you is this: do not, under any circumstances, use Google maps to get your directions. The directions we got were so wacky and skewed that we must have turned the car around about 12 times – once only about a quarter of a mile from the trailhead, if only we’d known it – trying to find our way. Finally, a cop who was directing traffic at the half-marathon flagged us down. I sweetly told him we were looking for Mount Major and he pointed us back up the Route 11.

We pulled into the parking lot and I was instantly wary. It was packed with cars, people, kids, dogs, hiking equipment and I think I saw a goat. For a minute I wasn’t sure whether I was at a trailhead or the Fryeburg Fair.

One of the things I like about hiking is the solitude. I like to pretend I’m hundreds of miles from everyone and everything, even if it’s not remotely true. I think this is one of the reasons I prefer to stay away from the smaller mountains. As you start getting up into the three, four and five-thousand footers, you meet fewer and fewer people.

So I’m a hermit. Sue me.

K had the best quote of the day: “Hiking was awesome, before everyone started doing it.”

Roger that, girl.

However, we gamely laced on our boots. To the right of the parking lot, when facing the back, is a well-worn path leading up a steep hill. We each grabbed a wad of toilet paper out of my pack and headed up to the huge boulder at the top, behind which was the community bathroom. After taking turns at guard duty and burying our TP, we headed back down the trail to sling our packs and get Owen out of the back where he was waiting not-so-patiently.

At the back of the parking lot was the trailhead, marked with a slightly weathered sign.

Mt Major trail sign 

“Which trail do you want to take up?” I asked K.

“I was thinking we’d take whichever one everyone else doesn’t,” she replied. And this is just one of the reasons I love K.

We watched two groups take the right side trail, so we headed left, up Boulder Loop. One of the trail descriptions I’d read online indicated that hikers would cross two wooden bridges before the trail forked. Almost immediately we crossed a small wooden bridge and then another that wasn’t much more than a few planks tossed across the next bend of stream.

“Were those the two bridges?” I asked. “It seemed more like one and a half.”

K shrugged.

“And is this the fork? That doesn’t really look like a trail,” I said, pointing to the right. What looked like a deer path wandered vaguely in that direction. There were no other indicators, so we followed the more obvious path for about thirty feet before we decided it was leading dead away from the mountain. We turned around and headed up the road less travelled. Sure enough after a few minutes of walking we spotted an orange blaze.

I hate bad trail descriptions.

I swear we’ve had way more than our fair share of unmarked trails and inaccurate directions. Remember this:

Little K on Cranberry Peak 

Fortunately, from that point forward there was little doubt. We began to encounter signs such as this:

more trail signs 

Here you can clearly see that we are supposed to turn right and that Nick is a loser.

Towards the top we had to scamper over a couple of small boulder fields (or around, in Owen’s case) and up a couple of short rock scrambles, but no big deal. We reached the top in just over an hour, even with our temporary off-course veering, and sat down to have a snack.

Owen on Major 

It took a bit to find a secluded spot on the top of that ant hill, but we managed to carve out a little corner to rest and rehydrate. We hung out there for a while, taking in the boats on the lake and watching the gathering gloom.

Lake Winnipesaukee 

K found the summit marker so we took the traditional picture…

Mt Major summit marker 

…and started back down on Mt. Major trail.

I immediately ran into trouble with Owen on the downward rock scrambles. He likes to jump down them quickly, but ends up dragging me with him. We only have a six-foot leash and he’s not an off-leash kind of dog. It’s not a behavior problem: he’s very friendly and mellow; he doesn’t jump and he gets along well with other dogs. The problem is that he has selective hearing in regards to the “come” command.

Very selective.

I could be holding a bacon-wrapped New York sirloin in my hands and calling his name at the top of my lungs, but if he got it in his head that he wanted to check out something else first (like a bird or a bee or a porcupine), it wouldn’t make a difference in the world.

Even once we got past the boulders he continued to pull me, which is odd for him. I worked for months with this dog on loose-leash walking and usually he’s a champ. Not this time. This time he was frustrating me to the brink of either sitting down to weep or just letting go of the leash altogether.

It is so exhausting to walk down a mountain while trying to pull a dog back up it.

The good news is that Mt. Major trail was quite well-marked.

obvious trail sign

You can’t quite make them out in this picture, but not only is there a sign pointing out the trail’s rather obvious location, there are also a total of four blue blazes along this straight stretch. Four.

Even K and I don’t need that much help. But hey, I guess I’d rather have an over-marked trail than an under.

We made it back to the parking lot just as the first few drops of rain were starting to fall. As we drove off, the sprinkle turned to a downpour, so our timing was pretty good.

Best of all? I wasn’t at all sore the next day, so I got back a little of my self-respect. On to the next mountain! Right after Owen and I do a little review of “easy”, “wait” and “stay”. “Come” is just hopeless, so why bother?

How about you? What commands do you have a hard time teaching your dog?

The Tree of Life is Fake

I’m going to give you fair warning that if you don’t like animals, you’ll probably find this post boring. Wait! Before you close out, scroll down and watch the video of Justy at the petting zoo. Even if you don’t like animals, she’s hilarious.

Our third day at Disney started with breakfast at Boma.

Yeah, yeah. We’ve been over that before. So fast forward:

Welcome to the Animal Kingdom

In all the Disney theme parks, there is an iconic visual element as soon as you enter. Think about it: in the Magic Kingdom the first thing you see is Cinderella’s Castle; in Epcot there is the giant golf ball; and in the Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life.

These not only inspire countless oohs and aahs, but they provide the perfect photo op. Disney cleverly creates another revenue stream by placing PhotoPass photographers every fifty feet.

We never used the PhotoPass, but I did ask a photographer to take a picture of us with my camera.

Tree of Life

Everybody now: It’s the circle of li-i-i-ife, and it moves us a-a-a-all…

Sorry, I got carried away there. Anyway, the Tree of Life is this giant (and, sadly, fake) tree with all kinds of animals carved into it with amazing detail:


The animals were carved high up into the tree…


…but also extended right down through the “roots” which wove along some of the animal viewing paths.


We spent part of the morning wandering the paths. The colors of the flamingos astounded me.


Because I already have a zillion pictures picked out for this post, I won’t bore you with those of the anteater, the kangaroos, the ducks (yes, ducks), the vulture, the lemur and the monkeys. Just take for granted that there was a variety of animals from both Asia and Africa.

At one point a sharp-beaked and frightening tortoise chased me at an astounding speed, nipping at my, uh, heels.

The tortoise and the Sare.

After we emerged from the trails, we took a safari ride through the savannah and that’s when the viewing got crazy, yo.

Again, I took a million pictures, give or take 999,753, so here are two of my favorites:


If I couldn’t see one off my balcony, at least I got to see one in the park.


And, for you Jungle Book fans, here’s a picture of Colonel Hathi’s rear guard.

After the safari, we went to see two live shows: The Festival of the Lion King (which would have been amazing, had we not seen La Nouba the night before) and Finding Nemo – The Musical (which was just plain amazing).

Lunch was at Tuskers. Did I mention I love the food at Disney?

After lunch we checked out some more walking paths, one of which lead us through an aviary. This little guy astounded me:

golden weaver

As I watched him flashing overhead, he suddenly stopped on a branch, stripped off a long piece of vine and darted across to another tree. He – and I swear I’m not making this up – poked one end of the grass through a loop in what looked like a loosely formed grass wreath. He then grabbed it from the other side and poked it through another hole. He kept doing this, bobbing his head about almost too quickly to watch, until the entire vine was wound around the wreath.

weaver wreath

As he flew off to grab another vine, I, with all the subtlety of a shrieking teakettle, voiced my awe.

“He’s weaving it! Did you see that! He weaved it in there! I can’t believe it!”

T consulted the bird chart he was holding.

“Let’s see if we can find him on here. It looks like he’s a…golden weaver.”

How odd.

Here’s what a finished nest looks like. The entrance is on the bottom!

weaver nest

So cool.

As we made our way out of the aviary, we saw meerkats. This one was keeping watch while the others foraged around.


Not a bad idea, really.


One of my all time favorite areas was the gorilla pen. This silverback male was kicking back and snacking on some bamboo. His hand was as big as my head and I’m quite sure he could crush it if he wanted to. Fortunately, it didn’t look particularly like he wanted to.


His wife, who was considerably smaller but impressive none the less, was sitting up on the hill around the corner. Her baby was around somewhere and there was a small crowd hoping to catch a glimpse.

Mrs. Silverback

Is there a good way to politely tell a 200-pound gorilla that her crack is hanging out? I didn’t think so.

As we were standing there a brown rabbit ran out from behind a bush and the crowd was like, “Oh! There it is!” (Meaning the baby gorilla.)

T laughed. And made no effort to hide it. This is part of his “reintegration” process. He has no problems letting people know when they are being stupid. Because really? How can you mistake a brown, bounding animal with long ears and a cottontail with a 10-pound black baby gorilla?

As the afternoon was winding down, we headed for the petting zoo (my request). On the way there we came across an interesting game:

Match the feces
Okay. Moving on.
In the zoo we met Justy the Diva. Justy is a llama. She wants you to look at her. She wants you to feed her. She wants you to admire her.
She just doesn’t want you to touch her. Ever.
After the petting zoo and Fussy Justy, it was time to leave. We waited at the bus stop to head back to the Lodge. I was getting tired and probably hungry, which always makes me terribly cranky.
And somewhat violent.
nose biting
Clearly I was getting on T’s nerves as well.
mantis grip of death
Not sure what he is doing here, but I think it might be the Mantis Grip of Death.
Or something.
We had dinner at Jiko, which was nice, though not as impressive as Boma, even if they did bring us rosewater-scented finger cloths.
And because we hadn’t done enough yet that day, we headed back to the Magic Kingdom for extended hours. While we were there we caught a few rides that we’d missed the day before, such as Peter Pan’s Flight and a few others that I can’t remember.
Just to round out the day, which ended shortly thereafter with us crashing again, I’ll leave you with a picture of us waiting to see the 3-D extravaganza, Mickey’s PhilharMagic (which was actually kind of neat).
3-D glasses

This is how we roll.


We don’t have TV.

We have a TV, but we don’t actually get any channels. Not even the basic ones. This is fine with me because I’m sure we’d spend a lot more time on the couch if we had Dish or digital or cable or whatever it is that people have these days. (It’s been about twelve years since I’ve been in the TV market.)

What this means is that on Monday and Tuesday evenings, Owen and I go next door and watch Dancing With the Stars with our neighbors-slash-landlords. They are super-nice people and it is great fun.

But they have cats.

What does that have to do with anything? you might say to yourself if you’ve followed this blog for an extended period and therefore know that we also have cats.

What it has to do with is that Mowgli is sick. Very, very sick.

I didn’t even know that cats could get sick. I mean, I know they can get horrible things like Feline AIDS or leukemia or cancer, but I didn’t know they could get just a plain old cold. Only in the cat world they call it an “upper respiratory infection”.

Whatever it is, Mowgli has it. The poor little guy has boogers billowing from his nostrils almost constantly like two tiny yellow balloons. He occasionally coughs, but mostly he just sounds like a mini Darth Vader walking around the house, trying to breathe.

I wipe his tiny nose for him and he gurgles and blows snot bubbles and meows pitifully.

Cat boogers

Cat boogers.

The thing about it is that URIs are contagious from cat to cat. (So far Jackie is fine.) So we’ve been quarantined to our side of the house until Mowgli is feeling better.

And no DWTS for me. At least not in real time.

So, instead of posting a longer blog entry…I’m going to go watch this week’s episode on abc.com so that I can write and post my (admittedly late) recap tomorrow.

If you feel like reading more, however, hop on over to lovely Mrs. Mike’s blog, The Year After. After much patience on her part, she finally received the Fall Favorites package I sent her and she wrote a really cute post about it, complete with even cuter pictures of her son Maks.

Oh yeah, and remember that amazing apron she made me? She’s started selling them on her Etsy site. AND she makes purses now, too. So go check it out.

She’s awesome.

A Doggone Good Time

Owen and I went to the dog park today.

Owen loves the dog park.

At the park

I love the dog park, Momma!

He particularly likes to bark at any dog that he feels isn’t behaving properly.

Barking Owen

Hey you! Knock that off!

Especially poodles.

We hadn’t been to the park all summer because of Owen’s shoulder issue. I was afraid he would be a putz and strain it running around with the other dogs.

But this was a special trip. We met a friend there.

This is Biminy.


Hi Biminy!

Biminy was in Owen’s first-ever obedience class. She was also in his Canine Good Citizen class.

They both failed the test at the end. It was nice to have company in the FAIL department.

But, Biminy is a very good dog. See? She knows how to sit.

Biminy sits

Sit, Bimmy!

Actually, they both know how to sit. See?

Owen and Bim sit

Sit, dogs!

Owen failed the test because he wouldn’t lie down. You can’t use treats, so he had no motivation. And, there were birds. You really can’t do anything with Owen when there are birds around.

Biminy, I think, jumped on the trainer. Just once. But it was enough to fail her. Give the girl a break. She was only about 18 months old at the time.

Anyway, except for a brief encounter at the Strut Your Mutt, Owen and Biminy hadn’t seen each other for several months.

They were happy to be reunited. They ran, they played, they barked, and when they got tired, they took a break.


Taking a break.

Owen also got to see Biminy’s mom. He loves Biminy’s mom. She gives good butt scratches.

Owen and C

Ooo! That's the spot!

What dog doesn’t love a good butt scratch?

It was a fun day!

And…if you think Biminy is as cute as I do, you can vote for her to be the “Face of the Strut”. Her Strut Your Mutt picture is one of twenty-eight that are up for the contest. But really, is there any competition?

Face of the Strut picture


Actually, there are some beautiful dogs there, but Biminy is still my favorite. If you’d like to vote, or even just check out the other dogs, please go to the AWS photo gallery. Biminy is number 011.

Vote for Biminy!

We Did It!

We did it: lame shoulder, sprained tail, sore neck and all! (I was the one with the sore neck – I slept wrong the night before.)

Yesterday was the 12th Annual Strut Your Mutt fundraiser and Owen and I not only walked the entire two-mile course, but we left most of the other entrants in the dust.

Not that we’re competitive or anything.

And it isn’t a race. It’s just a fun walk.

But if it had been a race, we probably would’ve won.

I’m just saying.

Where was I? Oh yes, the race. I mean, walk.

My fears of Owen’s shoulder holding him back were almost completely unfounded. He was so excited and distracted by the other dogs and people, that he forgot he even had a shoulder. And once we started walking, he wanted nothing more than to be at the head of the pack.

Well, you know what they say: if you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.

Starting Line

And they're off!

Did I mention we were Army proud? I was wearing a Red Friday t-shirt with T’s unit on it and Owen was wearing his “Proud ARMY Dog” shirt.

Yeah, we rule.

There were two flag-bearers leading the walk down the beach. We caught up to the first one before the end of the first mile.

Leading the pack

Excuse us! Coming through!

Owen was walking so fast I could barely keep up.

At the end of the first mile, we went down to the water’s edge. The nice shelter people had arranged doggy water stations all along the course, but Owen wanted to drink the salty sea water instead.


Mile 1

At the 1-mile mark.

 It was a nice time. Owen was happy to be outside and around other dogs. I was happy because he was happy. And the best part is, the shelter raised over $60,000 for their animals. This was their most successful event yet!

Thank you so much for helping us to help them. Your donations were much appreciated, as were your wonderfully kind words of encouragement. We thought of you all every step of the way!

Thank you!

Through your generous sponsorships, Owen and I raised a total of $420 for the cause. Because we raised over $100, we were given an AWS Strut Your Mutt t-shirt and a goody bag filled with treats and toys for Owen:


T-shirt and goody bag!

(Owen was a little worn out from his big day.)

Here’s what was in the bag:



The Planet Dog rubber ball smells like mint. I’ve been sniffing it like a cocaine addict since I pulled it out of the bag. Owen likes the squeaky toy.

Overall, Owen is still limping, but he seems to be doing a little better. I expected him to be sore and lame after the walk, but he was in great spirits today and tonight we took another almost 2-mile walk. I don’t know where this road will lead us, but I am still hopeful for a full (surgery-free) recovery for my brown-eared pal.

Thanks again for your heartfelt support. We truly appreciate it!

The End

With love, Sarah & Owen

So, What’s Newt?

Tonight I had planned to post about my first-ever experience at an indoor climbing gym. It rocked.

Get it? It rocked? Because you, like, climb rocks and…uh, ahem.

Anyway. That’s what I was going to post tonight.

But I climbed really high walls yesterday.

And I worked out today.

And I haven’t been sleeping well.

So I’m too tired.

Instead, I would like to share an only vaguely related picture:

red-spotted newt

Actually, it’s not even remotely related.

But I like it anyway.

Owie and I found this little salamander in the road the other evening on one of our walks. I saved him by putting him back in the grass.

At least I hope I saved him.

‘Cause he’s awful cute.

Good night.

Wild Mind Monday – September

I am excited to be participating in Wild Mind Monday, hosted by the wonderful Maranda over at My Camo Colored Life.

This is a virtual writing group in which, once a month, we are given a prompt from Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind. Writers are asked to post their writing, link up over at Maranda’s and then give constructive criticism to others.

If you’d like to join in, head on over to My Camo Colored Life! If you’d like to leave a constructive comment on this post, please do so!

This week’s prompt: write for 10 minutes using the prompt “I remember”. Take a break, then write for another 10 minutes using the prompt “I don’t remember”.

I remember

I remember now why I hate writing prompts so much. Nothing gives me worse writer’s block than forced free association. I need a thought enema.

I remember the day I got my cat, Jackie. She wasn’t litter box trained, though I didn’t know that at the time. She had been separated from her mother, who was an indoor/outdoor cat, so she could be an indoor-only cat. Kept in a bedroom for much of her first three months, she had never learned the proper use of a litter box, but would instead pee or poop on any clothing that was lying on the floor.


The first night I had her, she peed and pooped on my bed. I changed the bedding, right down to the mattress pad, and scrubbed at the mattress, all the while seething at my friends who had given me the poor, untrained little kitten. I made a trip to the laundry mat.

I came home to find she’d peed and pooped on the bed again. Next, she used the tails of a long curtain I used as a room divider. I called my friend to um, assess the situation.

She came up with the rather ingenious idea of using her now-husband’s t-shirts to litter box train. We put an old shirt in the litter box and bingo!

I gradually replaced the shirt with litter, eventually using only a few cloth strips mixed in and then just litter.

My cat has never since had a mishap. Luckily for both of us – and my friends – she is a brilliantly clever girl.

I don’t remember

I don’t remember what it’s like to have a father who doesn’t have Parkinson’s disease.

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when I was two and a half years old, and I have no recollection of him prior to that. He has always done his best not to burden his family, particularly emotionally. He makes jokes and tries to diffuse any awkwardness or sadness that comes with the situation.

One day he stumbled to the back of Olympia Sports, where we were buying sneakers for me, lunged for the shoe bench and turned to look up at the clerk.

“What have you got in a running shoe?” he asked.

Still, as the disease has progressed, the Parkinson’s has taken his body from him and now, the drugs and medications that he has been on for over thirty years, are taking his mind.

This, for me, is the saddest part of all. My father always had a keen mind and a sharp wit. He could effortlessly have people rolling in the aisles. He is well-read. He taught me many life lessons.

But now, he is confused. Sometimes he can’t remember or understand simple instructions. His happy-go-lucky attitude is changing. And his pride is suffering.

I am the youngest, the spoiled, and am ill-equipped to deal with a situation that I can’t change. I wish I could change it.

But I can’t. I guess all I can do is diffuse the situation.