Secretly a Water Dog?

We took Greta out to Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve this weekend for a change of scenery. If we had thought about it more, we probably would have waved off. Turns out there’s a very popular biking trail that runs through there. *facepalm* However, once we were on the Haul Road Trail things went a lot better.

The Haul Road Trail is a nice little hike. It winds through the different sections of the preserve, from forest to shore. There’s also a number of unofficial side trails that take you out to the shoreline more directly. Down the first one we found a great egret hunting the shallows. After Greta was informed that she was not allowed to chase the egret, she decided to get back to her water dog heritage. Or possibly mudskipper heritage.

Greta shoves her face right into the mud. Not sure if this was an attempt to get her head halter off or what.

Lying down right in the mud and plants.

A very pleased Greta reclines in the shade, covered in mud.

Yeah, that was disgusting. Even after being hosed off when we got home last night, she still smells like mud. I suspect I’m going to have to give her a proper bath. I don’t think she was super traumatized by our boating adventure. Of course, I haven’t tried to get her in a boat again yet either.

And In The End, We’re Going to Call This “Reasons Why You Wear Your Fucking Life jacket”

It’s a beautiful day in Virginia. The temps are in the low 80s F, lots of blue sky, and a lovely breeze. We’ve got a pass to the state parks so we this morning headed once again to Mason Neck State Park to rent a canoe. It’s a wonderful way to see bald eagles, osprey, and all kinds of other wildlife. We also get a discount with having the park pass.

We showed up about 10 am and rented a canoe. Got ourselves set with life jackets, including the one we own for Greta, and set out. We decided to head across Belmont Bay to visit some shore we hadn’t yet visited. It was definitely a ways away from our starting point, but we were taking it slow. The chop was just enough that I was getting seasick in the canoe. That sucked.

We got to the far shore and got out for a bit. Greta did a bit of swimming and so did I. I thought that part of the reason I was feeling nauseated was the bug spray I had put on so a dip in the water would help.

After a bit of playing around, we got back in the canoe and headed for an inlet that I remembered being a great spot to see birds. Instead of hugging the shore, we set out across the bay some more. Spotted some eagles and some vultures. Very idyllic.

Then, we get caught in a boat wake and due to the shifting of boaters, managed to capsize the fucking canoe.

Jason can’t swim. Jason thankfully has his life jacket on. The dog, however, is under the fucking canoe. Fuck fuck fuck, right? But she also has a life jacket and thank fuck there was air trapped under it because it took me way too long to get her out from under it. She’s panicked. Jason’s panicked. I am not panicked, surprisingly, once I got Greta out of the boat, but now I was completely flummoxed with what to do. I couldn’t get the boat turned back over without filling it with water and all Greta wanted to do is climb it or me. Jason, because he can’t swim, wasn’t a whole lot of help. I also realized that our backpacks hadn’t sunk to the bottom yet and as they had both my license and keys, I was determined to keep hold of them too.

Are we having fun yet? Oh fuck no.

I managed to grab Greta’s leash which was attached to her life jacket. I attached Jason to the boat and told him to kick his feet as I tried to point us towards shore. This worked somewhat. My biggest problems were trying to swim with the life jacket on, keeping Jason from completely losing his shit, and the dog trying to climb me or the boat. After not making a lot of progress, we finally caught the attention of some folks on the dock we were heading towards and let them know that no, we weren’t fucking around in the water and actually needed a rescue. A guy came out to help Jason to the dock while I pulled Greta in. Got her on the dock, which wasn’t easy. Sixty pound dogs are heavy, it turns out. Got Jason on the dock, which was somewhat easier. Swam back out to the fucking canoe and with the help of our rescuer, got that to the dock. Then we finally dragged my fat ass out of the water because the dock didn’t have a ladder. That was not fun. I am pretty sure half of my bruises are from that part of things because even at high tide, the dock was still a good 3 ft above the water. Yeah, that sucked too.

All safely on land, now I had to figure out what the fuck to do with the fucking canoe. We lost an oar and I’m pretty sure none of us wanted to get back in it. I borrowed our rescuer’s cellphone to try and call the park, but didn’t get an answer. Finally had to leave a message that we were leaving the boat at the dock. Our rescuer’s father ended up driving us back to Mason Neck so we could fill them in on what happened, dripping slowly all over his BMW. I need to send them a giant thank you.

Back at the park, I filled in the ranger at the visitor center desk, and figured I’d end up owing some decent cash for them having to go pick up the boat. Instead, they utterly stunned me by not charging for a single thing. Mason Neck rangers, you are fucking amazing.

Jason and I are both fine, if a bit battered and sore. Greta I was worried about because she had been under the boat for some time, so we took a trip to the emergency vet just to get her lungs checked. She checked out A-Okay so we’re all home now. Only things lost besides our dignity and calm were the oars and my favorite hat from Fishtown in Leland, Michigan. :(

Lessons learned: Wear your fucking life jacket. No really, I mean it. Also, fold-over sandwich bags do fuckall to keep your phone dry. Both of our hiking packs float surprisingly well. Jason will be getting swimming lessons.

Now I’m going to sit around on the deck and drink something alcoholic because frankly, I think I deserve it today.

Another Trip to Sky Meadows

I love Sky Meadows. Sky Meadows State Park is

Rich in history, this 1,864-acre park has scenic views, rolling pastures and woodlands. Look into a bygone era by touring the Mount Bleak House to see how a middle-class farm family of the 1860s lived. Nature and history programs are offered during the spring, summer and fall. Hiking, picnicking, fishing and primitive hike-in camping for families and groups are favorite activities in this peaceful getaway on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park has 7 miles of bridle trails, 17 miles of hiking trails and a trailhead for the Appalachian Trail.

We headed out there on the 5th of July this year since it was supposed to be less hot than the rest of the weekend. The mountain breezes would be cooler, we thought, and there’d be wineries around when we got done. All things I look for when I decide to climb small mountains.

We decided to take a different trek than we usually do. Not too different, just a bit backwards. (PDF trail map) Instead of heading up the South Ridge trail which, while being pretty constantly uphill, it is a wide smooth trek, we decided to head up the Piedmont Overlook Trail to the North Ridge Trail. These are steeper, narrow, and generally more difficult due to the rock on the trail. The thought was that it was better to be less tired and overheated on this trail that day. I usually love running down the North Ridge at a good clip because it’s just so damn fun, but I was really worried about the heat. Downside of having a dog with a short muzzle is that they’re more prone to overheating. Just a few hundred feet up through open meadow, both Greta and I were like “The hell were we thinking?” Okay, maybe I’m projecting.

Being a weekday and not officially a holiday for most people, there was actually more traffic than I expected, but not enough to scare off all of the wildlife. I spotted this black rat snake right off the path curled up in the hollow of a dead tree.

black rat snake

I didn’t notice how she was covered in mosquitoes until I was editing the picture. Poor thing.

Another water break found a juvenile skink waiting for us to leave his hunting grounds.

juvie skink peeks around a rock, waits for us to leave

But mostly we just sat in the shade and panted or sweated.

Greta lying in the path panting

Got to the intersection with the South Ridge Trail and decided it was time to go downhill. This was much nicer. Could actually concentrate on things around us and do things like spotted Pawpaw trees!


And then we stopped for the view.

Sky Meadows view over valley

Yeah, it’s worth it.

Greta engaged in some classy grass eating.

Greta upside down and on her side, trying to eat grass

The best part of the day is that it was also Greta’s Gotcha Day! This mutt has been waking me up in the morning for 3 years now. Hard to believe. So we took our free wine tasting coupons over to Barrel Oak Winery again to cool off, drink some wine, hang out in dog friendly environs. Greta managed to scam multiple pizza crusts off the softies next to us while I refused to give her more than five or six (many, many) crackers or pieces of cheese. All and all, it was a really nice, if sweaty, day for everyone.