Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Back Yard Dogs On A Summer Afternoon

It was just a quiet summer afternoon with no trips or hikes planned. I let my six dogs out into the back yard as I do routinely, but this time followed them out with my camera. When the four younger dogs collected near the roses and Yucca plant, I got my first photo. The giant Poodle is Seamus, the white Cockapoo is Fergus and the two Papillons are Daphne and Clover. These are my four hiking pals:

Crabby, curmudgeonly little old Winky is an aging Pekingese rescued from the Shelter when I volunteered there. He was so snappy that no one wanted him and the Shelter feared to place him. But a kindly Shelter employee threatened to quit if they put him to sleep, promising that "Bill will take him." I did, albeit reluctantly, and Winky has been part of my family ever since:

Wally was similarly doomed at the Shelter for being snappy. But in Wally's case, he was immediately transformed into a wonderful, mild mannered perfectly behaved dog the minute he arrived in my home. The vet claims he's one of the best behaved dogs he's handled. So I fell in love with Wally and he became part of my family:

Seamus was still sporting his first professional haircut, so I posed him by the flowers so that I could get a picture of his handsomeness:

Wally watched me intently as I moved about the back yard. When I decided to go back inside the house, all six of the dogs came in with me. It seems to me that dogs always are expecting life to present them with the next happy adventure. When it doesn't happen, they are also happy to take a nap. What role models they are for how to live a happy life!:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Part 5, Mountain Laurel Heaven

The dogs and I had hiked to the top of Mount Everett and back down. But before beginning the trip back home, we stopped at beautiful Guilder Pond to enjoy the views and get refreshed:

Seamus was sorely tempted to wade right in as he usually does, but for some reason did not. I was happy that he did not cover himself with mud. But all the dogs were fascinated by the shoreline and investigated it carefully:

My little red car waited for us beneath a canopy of cedar and hemlock:

At this lower altitude, the Mountain Laurel was still mostly in the bud stage, though still lovely. Nevertheless, I knew that we'd pass through a forest of full blooms on our way down the access road. I was looking forward to it:

After one last parting shot of beautiful Guilder Pond, the dogs and I piled back into the car and began our journey down the access road:

As we descended the mountain, the Mountain Laurels became taller and more numerous. Still mostly in the bud stage, I kept alert for the spots I'd seen on the way in where it was in full bloom

And then we were at a low enough altitude for the Mountain Laurel to be mostly fully open. I was not disappointed:

This surely is one of nature's most beautiful plants, and a woodland filled with them is a breathtaking sight:

Mountain Laurels are not tiny bushes. Just look at this one towering above my parked car:

When our hike was over and we were on our way home, I stopped for a cold diet sports drink (well, I actually had 3 of them because I was dehydrated). And then we drove along the small highways through Copake Falls and Hillsdale, New York on our way to the Taconic Parkway. But I couldn't resist stopping for one last photo of this totally unique little shop along the way. I suppose I should have stopped in to see what they had for sale, but in truth I was tired. So I snapped a photo and continued on my way toward home:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Part 4, Mountain Laurel Heaven

We were descending the trail down Mount Everett toward our parked car, the dogs and I. The day had been warm, sunny and breezy. At about the halfway point, the narrow, rocky trail became a gravel service road, making the walk easier. The rocky cliffs along the route provided magnificent scenery:

A mountain stream began flowing downhill along the edge of the trail and all four of my dogs were quick to help themselves to multiple drinks of clean, cool spring water:

We continued downhill, sometimes steeply and sometimes comfortably, through the emerald forest:

When we reached the car, I first had to spend some time with a large family of picnickers who fell in love with my dogs and wanted to hold the two Papillons. But then I began driving down the access road alongside beautiful Guilder Pond. When I saw a turn off, I took it and parked. There were even more Mountain Laurels here than on the steep mountainside, but most were still only in the bud stage:

The dogs and I threaded our way through the Mountain Laurels, Cedars and Hemlocks toward lovely Guilder Pond:

As Daphne and Clover, the two Papillon pups walked through the forest, passing beneath blossoming Mountain Laurels, the scene was surely magical:

And at last we arrived at the shore of Guilder Pond, with Mountain Laurels lighting up the forest like glorious little beacons:

Seamus wasted no time rushing toward the water:

Daphne and Clover found a safe spot to get a sip of water but were careful to keep their feet dry:

If there is a heaven, surely it must look like this. Or maybe we'll discover some day that this earth was heaven, and be judged for how we despoiled it or treated it with love:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Part 3, Mountain Laurel Heaven

We arrived at the summit of Mount Everett and my recovering injured calf muscle still felt fine. This summit used to be open and grassy, with a fire tower. But Massachusetts has removed the fire tower and small trees are now growing up all over, blocking most views. It is, nevertheless, a glorious summit and especially so on a fine June day such as this. Our friendly hiking group with the Yellow Lab took my photo (and I took theirs):

I explored the summit with my dogs for a bit hoping to find some place with a scenic overlook. I never found one. Another hiker or two passed by with heavy backpacks on their way along the Appalachian Trail:

It was time to begin our descent, but first one one more photo op, this time with Seamus in the picture (resting in the shade) and Molly, the friendly Yellow Lab:

And then we began descending the rocky, narrow trail:

When we arrived again at the rocky promontory with the scenic overlook, I couldn't resist making the detour once again:

The dogs don't much cotton to scenic overlooks, but they do somehow seem to understand that they are in a special, exciting and exhilarating place:

But then we continued our descent. The rocky trail along this stretch is treacherous, with many sharp edges and ankle twisting traps. I walked extremely carefully lest I again injure my healing leg or add a sprained ankle to my list of woes:

We began to pass more Mountain Laurels:

And always the air was clean, the sun warm, the breeze refreshing and the scenery outstanding:

I stopped at another scenic overlook which I'd missed on the way up. We continued carefully downhill, always more treacherous than hiking uphill, albeit less strenuous. But we were still had lots of trail to cover. I'll post more tomorrow:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Part 2, Mountain Laurel Heaven

I was hiking up Mt. Everett, in western Massachusetts, with four of my dogs. Both the weather and the Taconic Mountain scenery were magnificent. We climbed higher and higher up the rocky trail which was lined with budding Mountain Laurel bushes. Little Clover turned around to see what was taking me so long:

There had been lots of Mountain Laurels in full bloom on the entrance road, but here at this higher altitude there were mostly just buds. But still they were beautiful:

A close up view of a cluster of Mountain Laurel buds:

And then I saw these red beauties in the understory beneath the tall Mountain Laurels. They looked very much like a miniature Mountain Laurel and, in fact, turned out to be Sheep Laurel, Kalmia angustifolia, a close relative (same genus) of its taller relative, the Mountain Laurel:

Here's a close up of some Sheep Laurel blossoms:

And just around a rocky bend in the trail I came across a few Mountain Laurels with a few open flowers:

The trail turned both steeper and rockier. I was beginning to huff and puff, but the two young Papillons ran from rock to rock like miniature mountain goats:

Just below the summit, we scrambled up and out onto a rocky overlook where I knew the view was good:

At its highest point, the dogs and I relaxed in the warm June sun:

And looked out over the valley below and from there across the Taconic Mountains:

When I arrived at this scenic overlook, I erred by saying I was looking out over the Hudson Valley. I later realized that I was already east of the Hudson River and looking eastward out over southwestern Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut. The lake I saw was Washining Lake, one of the Twin Lakes just north of Salisbury, Connecticut. In spite of my misidentifying of the landscape, the scene was lovely:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Part 1, Mountain Laurel Heaven

I'd badly torn a calf muscle 15 days previously, but on this Sunday morning I seemed to be walking almost normally again. The day was beautiful and the forest paths were calling me. So I got brave, loaded my four hiking dogs into my little red car and set out for Mt. Everett in Massachusetts, near the three-way border of New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The hiking trail began on an old service road, at first rather level but quickly turning steep. We began climbing higher and higher:

The last time I'd hiked Mount Everett, the wild Azaleas were in bloom. But I knew I'd see Mountain Laurels blooming in June. I was a bit too early as they were mostly buds, but still lovely:

Seamus has been on a diet and had lost enough weight to enable him to keep up with the youngsters as we climbed higher and higher. It was a great pleasure for me to see him having so much fun:

Mountain Laurels filled the woods and lined the trails. Seamus found this one a great spot to sit down and catch his breath:

At a bend along the path, a broad grassy area opened up and Daphne and Clover, the two Papillon puppies, ran back and forth at full speed:

Fergus joined them for awhile, but then found an interesting smell. When he realized that we were continuing on our way, he ran like crazy to catch up with us:

Mountain Laurel flowers are mostly white, but the buds are mostly pink:

The trail had become quite steep and my injured leg was doing OK. Seamus was beginning to slow down:

And then we reached the first overlook, where we could see out over the broad valley toward the Taconic Mountains. If you click to enlarge this photo, you'll see that the two pups continued running at full speed, oblivious to any scenic overlook:

We were looking out over Massachusetts and Connecticut from here, and the view was stunning:

Another group of hikers joined us and their Yellow Lab, Molly, was very friendly. She and Seamus struck up a friendship while the puppies mostly continued running at full speed. But we were only half way up at this point. I'll post more tomorrow: