Tag Archives: walking routine

My dog Truffles is an ideal hiking companion. Photo by Madelyn Given.

My Hiking Sidekick

How can a four-legged furry creature make such a difference to a day hiker?! My dog Truffles has a way of motivating me towards a day hike, better than some of my hiking friends.

The moment I head to the outside door, her manner changes, as she eagerly anticipates an adventure ahead. By the time I am lacing up my hiking boots, she is rolling on the floor under my feet and on top of my boots, slowing down my progress. But by now she has brought a smile to my face.

When we are hiking, she is fun to watch as she crosses streams and finds her way over and around rocks. She is upbeat and wears a smile across her face. She is beaming with happiness. She loves to be in the lead but will never go out of sight. She stops to check to make sure I am O.K. before going on again.

When Truffles was young and learning obedience and behaviors, I prepared to put her on a leash to go in our yard. She plainly explained, “If you don’t put a leash on me in our yard I promise not to run off.” I said, “O.K. we will try it.” I have never had to put a leash on and she has never needed to be reminded. Only in public places—and she knows the rules.

She is a good hiking dog because she doesn’t bark or yip and goes quietly along without bothering nature. She enjoys seeing birds, squirrels, and even cats, and she wags her tail with excitement, but does not chase them. She promised she didn’t want a leash and this is foremost on her mind, good behavior. She has never been scolded or reprimanded and is proud of her behavior.

Truffles likes to go on familiar trails and has a great memory. It is fun to watch her find and point out places special to her. She is willing to try new trails and travels at a good steady pace. She is curious and friendly to people, pets, and nature. She doesn’t dig holes to disturb animal homes.

She asks for help if something unusual comes up, such as going across plank boardwalks for the first time. Then she gets it very quickly and won’t ask for help with the same obstacle again. It’s all part of each new adventure.

Warm days are nice, but Truffles isn’t daunted by rain or snow. We haven’t encountered a bear or moose yet, but I believe she would run to me for help.

After a good hike, she is still smiling and her tail is wagging, too. It’s her way of saying thanks for taking me—and when do we go again? What a joy to hike with such a dog: she brightens each day.

(posted June 7, 2016)

My dog aside, there is lots of wildlife around this bridge in the forest in Maine. Photo by Madelyn Given.

The Little Bridge in the Woods

Back at home in Maine, there is a small bridge in the woods, where I walk nearly every day. The bridge used to be part of a railroad track, but the rails and ties are long gone; only a sturdy bridge and a path now remain. Years ago, the trains traveled across this little bridge, carrying passengers and their luggage trunks to a country depot not far from here, along the spur through these woods. At the depot, there were carriages waiting to bring the guests to the grand hotel, along with wagons to carry the trunks and baggage, and the guests would spend the summer here. Over the little bridge came Queen Victoria, President Theodore Roosevelt, the Rockefellers, and the Vanderbilts.

Now only woodland animals cross over the bridge, and a pair of bald eagles circles it almost every day, looking for fish where the stream leads into the pond. There is much activity about this little bridge that goes unnoticed by most humans. The stream is concealed by an island, with a marsh and wooded shoreline perfect for birds and small wild animals.

Here I sit quietly and watch nature unfurl in front of me. Ducks, sometimes four or five, fly down one behind the other in a perfect row, then hit the water—splash! They’re home safely. A blue heron calls this its territory, too. Ever so deftly, the heron lifts one long leg up and out of the water and ever so slowly places it down ahead, and then lifts the other up and out of the water and places it slowly back down, never making so much as a ripple or sound.

The muskrat is a flighty little animal. It is a fast swimmer and it is all business as it goes along its route and makes a beeline across the water. The muskrat is weary of the falcon that sits high on a branch of the big pine tree on the island. A pair of bald eagles that have a nest on another nearby island on this pond. Each day they can be seen circling overhead, watching for a fish. Down, down one will come straight to the water and snatch the fish with the deadly talons and try to rise up out of the water. It is an effort for this heavy bird and it struggles and slowly gains momentum, until it is high enough to land on a big bare branch near the water. There it will pause and eat the fish.

A pair of Canadian geese decided this area near the bridge would be a good place for a nest, and every year they return and take charge of the area. They march up and down the shore and swim about near the shoreline, telling the ducks and woodland animals that this is their home. Frogs, squirrels, and song birds have their home around the little bridge. A pileated woodpecker can be heard with the loud rat-a-tat-tat, and a woodpile under each tree tells that it has been there.

A pair of red-winged blackbirds lives in the marsh near the little bridge, and their song is very distinct, saying, “We are here.” Deer cross the bridge during the day, and raccoons scurry across it at night. Turtles live in the stream and pond below the bridge. Sometimes on a warm day, they sit on a rock, or line up on a fallen log which is jutting out into the water.

It is the simplest of things that make life so enjoyable. A few brief moments in nature can bring such peace and calm to our daily lives. Life around a little bridge has much to offer us.

(posted May 31, 2016)

Hiking with grandchildren can be a lot of fun!

Hiking With Grandchildren

Hiking with grandchildren is a fun experience. In my case the girls are ages 9 and 12, independent and responsible, fun in a group of hikers. They prepare and carry their own day packs. They walk at a steady pace, actually faster than their grandmother. They have been hiking for a few years. Several years ago they climbed Mount Morgan, last year Mount Madison, and this year another 4,000’ mountain, so they are already accomplishing great goals. The girls are Morgan and Madison—no wonder they climbed mountains with the same name! In fifth grade, Morgan climbed Mount Morgan a second time, on a field trip with her class.

When they hike with me, they keep me so occupied by playing mental games that any challenges or tiredness is hardly noticed. They sing and try to teach me their favorite songs, until they give up and go on to something else more stimulating to them. The time flies by. They are nature bugs and they are the first to spot a frog or turtle on a log. They like to identify tracks of animals and surprise me when they point out a tree and say “That’s a maple” or “white pine” or “oak.” One will recite poems she has created, and the other sings songs she is practicing for chorus. It is a great way for me to keep up with their current interests. I try to remember to focus on the roots and rocks under foot, and on we tread down the path, merrily entering life in the forest. Other times we tread silently, listening for signs of nature to identify: perhaps a woodpecker, a blue jay, or chick-a-dee.

From the time they were born, they were carried on their parents’ backs, and on occasion I carried them while snowshoeing or walking on trails. We live near a state park, and the reward for a walk was going to one of the playgrounds there, with a mini picnic lunch or treat. Sometimes we would canoe one way and walk back, if someone offered to assist with transportation. They like to camp and that includes short hikes and nature walks.

They have traveled in many areas of our country and in foreign countries, too. Travel and family incentives to enjoy nature have encouraged us all to stay physically fit, and hiking is a pleasant way to do it. They are great company, and I plan to enjoy many more years of hiking with them in the future.

(posted October 20, 2015)