Saturday was National Trails Day and the weather was almost 70* and partly cloudy, so the three of us decided to visit a state park and do some hiking. Not only was the weather perfect for hiking, it was also a great opportunity to test out some of our gear and to help Patronus continue to build up endurance and practice his trail skills.
After stopping for some lunch, the three of us drove to the trail head, parked in the parking lot, and got our packs situated. Luke carried some water, dog treats, and a bandana. I wanted to practice hiking with some extra weight in my pack, so mine had my water bladder, my first aid and emergency kit, our hammocks, bug spray, sunblock, and a couple of extra layers that I probably didn’t need, but wanted to practice hiking with. In his pack, Patronus carried some dog food and a couple of small bottles of water.
The trail began by heading into a wooded area along a river near the parking lot. The trees provided a good amount of shade, which helped to keep us cool, but there were a lot of mosquitoes. They started to get annoying after a while, so after the first road crossing and post that we came to we decided to take a quick break to give Patronus some water and then bust out the bug repellent. Neither one of us are huge bug spray fans, but I found a natural one that doesn’t feel sticky or smell bad, and fortunately it helped keep any bugs from biting us for the rest of the hike.
After making our way through a big field and another patch of woods, we eventually discovered a small lake with several tiny, dog-friendly beaches. This was Patronus’ first time around a large, un-fenced body of water that was any larger than his pool, and he went nuts! He was so excited to be able to swim that he wanted to run right into the lake with his full pack on, making Luke and I instantly regret that we didn’t pack our bathing suits after all. Needless to say, me being a former pool rat, swimmer, and swim coach, I was quite proud of our dog!
(And a side note, the waterproofing on Luke’s new boots was so good, he was able to wear them wading into the lake without a drop of water leaking through.)
After continuing onto the trail a bit further, we came to another, smaller beach that had nobody at it. We decided to take a quick break so we could have some water and let Patronus enjoy the beach for a bit. He had a great time splashing around in the lake and rolling in the sand.
We continued back along the trail, which made its way along the lake for a bit before winding around into a field and then eventually back into the woods.
The second part of the trail was quite a bit hillier than the first, but thanks to our trekking poles, we made pretty good time. This part of the hike took us into a forest canopied by tall trees and lined with wildflowers in shades of bright white and vibrant purple.
Eventually we came to an observation deck over another lake, which led to what was probably the most technically challenging part of the trail. Running along the lake, the path sloped downward a bit and was just a few feet away from the water. Many of the inclines on this section of trail were fairly steep, and some sections contained exposed roots, rocks, and tiny stumps from recently chopped weeds and trees. Adding to the challenge, there were broken pieces of glass scattered about the path that we had to make sure Patronus dodged. (Leave no trace people, come on!) I was extremely thankful for having a trekking pole to help me keep my balance, because being tall, I am a huge klutz. Despite the more challenging terrain, this was Luke’s favorite part of the trail.
After making it out of this stretch of the woods, we came to a clearing on a grassy hill where we stopped to give Patronus some treats and water and check his paws.
We continued on the path along the lake and came to another area with a place to hang hammocks with a view of the lake.
There was only a space to hang one hammock, and no trees nearby worthy of our Python Straps, so we took turns snuggling with Patronus in my hammock.
As you can see, Patronus did not object. He didn’t even want to let us take his pack off. He climbed in with it on!
After spending some time relaxing and snapping a few photos, we decided to pack up and hike the last quarter mile or so back to the car. Patronus ate a bunch of dog food and drank some water while I removed my pack and boots and put my sandals back on. After a quick tick check, we loaded up the car and headed home.
All in all, it was a great hike and a fantastic way to spend out Saturday.