Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Hump Day

First, I kind of hate that people call Wednesday "Hump Day."

Second, I'm now going to talk about dog humping for the rest of this post.

Yes, that's right, the show has reached a new low.

If that kind of thing skeeves you out, you should probably stop reading now.

So, that dog Toby of ours.

He's kind of . . . special.

Actually, we connected the dots about why he might be so special a year or so ago.  In the memory of talking to Toby's breeder in the days after he was born, I recalled a certain bit of information.  I remembered her noting that "We lost one during the birth, but we were able to get him breathing again and now he's doing well."

We're fairly certain the puppy that lost oxygen during his birth grew up to be our lazy-eyed Tobias Guy Head.

Toby is pretty clueless about life in general.  This makes him blissfully happy most of the time, but also confused on a regular basis.

One thing he has never figured out:  his own body.

Before he got fixed, I think he tried to hump something once.  He has never been a dominant dog and has never understood why other dogs at the dog park regularly try to hump him.  He just stands around and looks confused when this happens.

Occasionally his body appears to be going through some sort of confused adolescence and he will start randomly humping.  Since he's asexual and doesn't know what to do, he will just walk around humping, acting confused and looking at Andy or I for help.  He'll sometimes try to sit or lay down, but will find himself unable to.  So he'll just be bewildered while he waits for his body to return to normal.

Andy and I find this amusing, and one morning Andy decided to record the event.

So for your viewing pleasure, here's a video of Toby stuck in a hump.

Happy Hump Day, friends and family.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Urban Adventure Racing

A couple of weeks ago, Andy and I took part in the Grand Rapids Urban Adventure Race.

And it was the most fun I've ever had at a race. 

I think that was due to the fact it wasn't like you're typical running race - where you're trying to beat a specific time goal or set a new PR.  Instead, we just had fun and left our competitive spirits behind.

Thirty minutes before the start, we were given our maps to plan our routes.  There was a running portion and a biking portion, but you couldn't mix the two.  We decided to run first and then bike and plotted our routes.

 Please note that the photos in this post are from Stellafly and Terry Johnston Photography and feature strangers, as I chose not to carry a camera during the race.  I've never carried my camera during a race because that would be a disaster.

At each checkpoint you hole punch your passport with a unique hole puncher.

Some of the checkpoints have challenges you can complete for an extra hole punch.  The goal is to get as many hole punches in the 4 hour time frame as possible.

Since this was our first race, we weren't sure what to expect or how to best attack the course.  We ended up getting all but one of the running checkpoints, but spent about 2 and a half hours running, a little over 7 miles.  After transitioning to the bike, we only had a little over an hour to bike and missed a lot of checkpoints.  Good thing we didn't care.

Since this was themed around Grand Rapids' annual Art Prize event, many of the challenges dealt with the art.  For one challenge, we were given a question and had to search for the answer in the artists' description of their work.

On another challenge, we were given a picture of an eye and had to find the art work that eye was located within.

The next challenge required us to count how many wooden monkeys were hanging right-side up on the blue bridge.

One messy challenge involved a sheet where our team number was written 3 times.  In "paint by number" style, we had to locate all of our numbers and paint in the squares.

Another challenge was tied to a charity, and we purchased art supplies for WMCAT and then made get well cards for the kids at the Helen Devos Children's Hospital.

One of the more difficult challenges was a grid puzzle.  Basically we were given a blank grid and had to fill in the scrambled grid pieces that were on a wall.  When put together, it made a map that led us to the checkpoint.

That's actually a photo of Andy and I and my coworker and her friend.  We worked together when possible, which is another fun aspect of the race.  Overall, everyone is helpful and gave other teams tips or pointed them in the right direction if they were turned around.

One of my favorite challenges featured a hollow wooden tower.

The hole puncher was at the bottom, and you and your partner could only have one finger in the tower at a time.  You had to work together to schooch the puncher up to the top and out so you could punch your passport.  I of course found a way to injure myself and hole punched my finger when trying to get it up the tower. 

Then came the most messy challenge.

There was a tube with many little holes in it.  We had to fill it to a fill line using a bucket, which also had a bunch of larger holes in it.  So I held onto the tube and tried to plug up the little holes while Andy ran back and forth to Reed's Lake to fill up the bucket and then pour the water into the tube.  It took maybe 5 or 6 bucket loads until we filled up, and I had received a significant shower by the end.

Around that time, we saw we only had a half hour or so left and decided to call it a day.  Did I mention that the race began and ended at our favorite brewery?  That may have influenced us in deciding to end our journey and go drink some beer. 

Others did a better job of reporting the race here, here and here.

The next race on the agenda is a Winter Adventure Race at the local ski hill, and Team You Booze, You Win will be signing up for that as soon as registration opens.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Mystery of G

When we first got Gordie, he was described as an "Australian Cattle dog and Labrador mix."

Then we saw him and thought, um, no.  He might have some lab in him, but I don't see any Aussie Cattle dog.

Gordie had a few traits that helped us figure out one of the breeds that made up his genetics. 

Physically speaking, he had a blue/black spotted tongue, a curly tail, lots of extra neck skin, somewhat stilted back legs, and tiny little triangle ears that look a few sizes too small for his noggin.  Personality-wise, he was very dominant, protective and territorial.  This led us to diagnose him as part . . .

Chow Chow.

It's somewhat difficult to see in G, because he obviously lacks the fluffy coat and was bred with a larger dog that gave him the bulk of his frame.  But all of the above listed traits are strongly associated to chows, and our vet concurred.  However, whatever he was mixed with left us stumped.  We'd heard lots of suggestions: Labrador, Golden Retriever, Visla, Rhodesian Ridgeback, etc.  But none of those seemed to fit quite right.

We knew whatever he was mixed with had to be a larger dog with a longer snout, longer legs and longer frame since Gordie's size is larger than a chow.  He also has a very large chest, especially when compared to his tiny waist.  I guess that makes him the Barbie of the dog world.  He's also a very speedy dog and can outrun pretty much any playmate at the dog park.

Not a great photo above but I think it helps show his somewhat unusual frame.

Then this weekend I was watching Dogs 101 on Animal Planet.  They focused on one particular breed, and I saw Gordie immediately.  This breed had all those missing G pieces.  The longer snout, legs and larger frame.  The large chest.  Speed.  We believe the other breed that gives Gordie a good portion of his DNA is . . . .

A Greyhound.

While we can't be sure without a DNA test, I feel fairly confident in saying that Gordie is a Chow Chow/Greyhound mix.  Truthfully he may have a bunch of different breeds in him, since he is a mutt of unknown origin.  But for now I'm calling it case closed on the Mystery of G.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

End of the Road

We arose on the fifth day eager to return to the world of showers, beer and fresh food. 

Holly Lake had treated us well, but we ready to get the heck out of the woods.  We took some pictures, ate some breakfast and immediately began heading down the trail. 


Thanks for the memories, Holly Lake.

Smell ya later.

A reminder of what our last day had in store for us:

 See how I'm not too clear where the van is in the above photo? That would come back to haunt us later.

There was many a muddy stream crossing on our way down the mountain.  Thankfully for this clumsy twosome, the steam crossings were well tended to and I would have had to work to fall in the river.


 Finally, we reached String Lake.

We then began to look for our van at the String Lake trail head.  You see, we had paid someone to pick up our van from where we started at Granite Canyon Trail head and drive it to String Lake.  It might sound a bit strange or trustworthy of us, but it's a common practice and the Ranger Station actually recommended it.  So, I practically ran to the parking lot to find that beautiful blue beast we had rented.  We walked up and down the aisles.

And our van was nowhere in sight.

I almost started to cry.  Andy then couldn't remember if he had said String Lake of Jenny Lake.  He also wasn't sure if there were more than one parking lot in the area.  We spied another parking lot in the distance so we walked there and walked up and down the aisles.

You guessed it.  No van.

So we continue to walk along the lake for what seemed like a million years.  In reality, it was probably 15 minutes but my brain was tired and weary and couldn't process the passage of time correctly.  We finally arrived at another parking lot and this happened.

We hopped in and started heading toward the laundry and convenience store located aways down the road.  I stepped out to take one photo of what we'd conquered in the past few days.

We arrived at the laundromat, threw our disgusting clothing in, and bought lunch at the store.

Beer, fruit and cheese: the three food groups.  It may seem weird to buy fruit, but trust me, after eating rabbit food for 6 days, fresh fruit is amazing.

Once the laundry was done we took off for Yellowstone and stopped for one last Grand Teton photo.

I am holding Andy in the above photo but Andy seems less interested in making physical contact with me.  I mean, I realize I smell like a foot but just pretend you like me for the photo, honey. 

Thus ended our trip hiking the Teton Crest Trail.  It certainly had it's highs and it's lows, but overall was one of our best hiking trips.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Trecherous Trails Ahead

So, that invading wildlife I mentioned that awoke me the next morning?  Here's one of them:

Three deer woke up for an early breakfast and thought our campsite would be a lovely place for such a meal. 

Fact: Hearing animal noises from your tent when you're on heightened bear alert WILL cause you to almost cry and clutch bear spray and make your husband go see what the ruckus is about. 

After the deer left, so did we.  We had to hike down some more and into Cascade Canyon and up to the Paintbrush Divide to reach our next night's campsite.  A look back at the trail map for reference.

Please note that on the above map, we had an option I have colored orange.  That option would take us out of the wilderness where bears eat people and to our van.  I would like to let you know, I faced a serious mental struggle to not turn down that path and instead turn down the path that made me walk 8 more miles and sleep amongst the bears.  But I knew Andy would divorce me I would be disappointed if we didn't actually finish what we started.  So onward we trudged.

That's apparently the only picture I took over the next few miles.  For some reason, I was in a very foul mood after rejecting taking the easy way out.  The following conversation took place as Andy tried to encourage me:

Andy: It's okay, I'm pretty sure all of our miles today are pretty much flat.

Me: That's a lie.  The map shows we have nothing flat ahead.

Andy: Um, well . . .

Me in mocking fake Andy deep voice: I'm pretty sure it's really flat ahead.  Oh, and I'm pretty sure there's a Bernese Mountain Puppy Factory at Holly Lake.  You won't need your sleeping bag because you'll sleep in a bed of puppies.  I'm pretty sure there's free money there too. 

We continued to talk about all the things we were pretty sure Holly Lake had to offer us, and somehow that distracted me enough and we finally reached Lake Solitude.

After a lunch break, I was finally reinvigorated to tackle the straight 2 mile incline we faced towards the Paintbrush Divide.

A look back down on Lake Solitude.

Looking back on Cascade Canyon.

As we slowly hiked upwards, we passed a number of hikers coming down the other way on the trail.  They gave us lots of neat tidbits of information, such as:

"Oh, you're going to want to grab a stick.  The trail is really snow covered on the other side and I would have fallen down into the canyon without a stick."

Actually, we heard that tidbit from about 5 different groups.  Then we heard a really super fun and neat piece of information from a hiker:

"You're staying at Holly Lake?  They saw bears down there yesterday.  A mama and two cubs."

I responded by plugging my ears with both fingers and saying "LA LA LA LA PUPPIES, KITTENS, RAINBOWS AND HAPPINESS I DIDN'T HEAR THAT LA LA LA."

As I tried to forget what I'd heard, we finally reached the divide.

And then came the tricky part of the trail we'd heard about.  And I'll be honest in saying that this was the most treacherous trail we've ever hiked on.  Loose rocks made up a good portion of the "trail."

It was very slow going to ensure that we didn't twist our ankles or create a rock slide and fall into the crevasse below.  Then came the snow.

Lots of slipping, sliding and falling.  But after a couple of miles we reached a more solid trail and spied our campsite ahead.

And now with labels and some insight into our next day:

I was more than ready to go set up camp with the bears, soak my feet in the lake and call it a day.

Now, although it didn't seem like we had a very long day planned for our final portion of the trail, that was assuming that we knew where our van was parked. 

What's the old saying?  Never assume because it makes an ass out of u and me?

Whoever said that was pretty wise.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stormy Weather

After setting up camp on the Death Canyon Shelf, we noticed something coming in the sky.

Those isolated thunderstorms I mentioned earlier?  They were coming for us.

Let's review some safety tips for hiking/camping during a thunderstorm:
  • Stay in a valley or ravine, avoiding ridge tops or summits
  • Stay in a wooded area with uniform trees, avoiding an isolated tree
  • Get below timberline!
Let me remind you where we setup camp:
  • On a canyon shelf, the opposite of a valley or ravine
  • We were among about 2 trees
  • We were right along the timberline
Basically, we were not very safe where we'd set up the tent.  But, it started pouring, thundering and lightning striking, so we stayed put.  After over an hour of intense storms, the skies cleared and we had survived.  We had an early dinner as we were afraid the storms would return.  A chipmunk had the same idea.

We turned in early and awoke to this view from our tent:

Andy took in the view.

Then we set out for a day full of ups and down.  Literally.

Still trying to get around those mountains you see off in the distance.  We hiked down into that valley and then up over the ridge behind us in the photo.  This portion of the trail lay outside of the National Park, so the trails were not as well kept.  We came across one particular stream crossing that had been flushed out.  After hiking upstream for about 10 minutes, we were finally able to find a safe spot to cross.  We successfully forded the river, and no oxen were lost.  Oregon Trail, holla.

After we hiked up that ridge, we had to hike down to Lake Sunset.  We enjoyed lunch while soaking our achy feet in the frigid lake.  Then we had to hike up over the ridge you see behind the lake in the photo above.

 A look back on Lake Sunset as we climbed the ridge.

At the top of the ridge lay Hurricane Pass, so named for the blustery winds that tried to knock me over. 

Finally, we got up close and personal with the Tetons.

Grand and Middle Teton.

After taking in the views for awhile, the wind finally blew us down the trail.

But we still had to go down to get to our camping spot in the South Cascade area.

We passed some waterfalls on the way down and finally set up camp.

In anticipation of more thunderstorms, our tent was setup below treeline, in a valley, nestled among a lot of trees.

So of course it didn't rain that night. 

However, that didn't mean I slept well.  Being below treeline means your also in bear country, so I awoke to every noise throughout the night.  And although no bears came, some wildlife did invade our campsite and startle me awake the next day.