Posts Tagged ‘vacation

27
Feb
19

Celebrating a Century of the Wondrous Abyss

My sister was moving to Las Vegas and my aunt, my dogs and I were helping move her from Michigan to her new home. Since none of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, we made it a point to stop on our last day of travel. This was just the first of a number of times that this Midwestern girl has visited the abyss.

Standing on the edge of a precipice looking down onto layers upon layers of color, it was hard for me to comprehend those that described the Grand Canyon as “Eh, wasn’t impressed, it’s just a big hole in the ground.” or “Not sure why I would go back, I’ve seen it once, don’t need to see it again.” On my first visit to the great canyon in April of 2008, I was 30 years old, I could have sat on that edge until the sun went down and remained there until the sun peeked over the rim. I was in awe.

Mira enjoying the breeze on the South Rim in April of 2008

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Yukon as Bark Ranger on the South Rim in April of 2008

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Upon his first visit to the canyon in 1903, Theodore Roosevelt had similar feelings, stating:

“The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison-beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world.  Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness.”

Shortly after (11/28/1906), the then president established the area he found so beautiful as the Grand Canyon Game Preserve.  Thanks to the Antiquities Act of 1906, Roosevelt was able to redesignate the canyon and the land surrounding it as a national monument on January 11, 1908.  In a further effort to protect this area of unparalleled beauty and splendor, President Woodrow Wilson again changed the canyon’s designation, making it the country’s 17th national park 100 years ago today on February 26, 1919.

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It took 8 years for me to return to the park, this time Mira and I making the trip down from Utah onto the North Rim.  We wound our way up in elevation, the landscape quickly changing from desert to alpine, huge Ponderosa pines towering over us, mule deer and turkeys roaming the road side.  It was a stark contrast from the hustle and bustle of the South Rim, hardly a person in the viewpoint parking lots despite equally majestic views.  The cool quiet enveloped us as Mira and I sat and looked out over the endless colorful towers and buttes.

After walking the quiet Bridle Trail (the only dog friendly trail on the North Rim) down to the North Kaibab trailhead, Mira and I went to find our campsite in the Kaibab National Forest, overlooking Marble Canyon and the Marble Plateau.  It was windy, the temperatures dropped below freezing and I had to zip Mira up into my down jacket, but we woke to a beautiful sunrise with nobody else around which made a little bit of suffering all worthwhile.

Mira and Me at Point Imperial – we had a great conversation with a German couple who then offered to take our photo.

Point Imperial Panorama

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Nice short hike on the Bridle Path

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Campsite on the edge – Kaibab National Forest

Looking out over the Marble Plateau

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Fast forward to spring of 2012, I again found myself staring out over the layered landscape.  Camping at Mather, the site was frequented by mischievous ravens and elk bedded down at the back of the site.  The next morning I woke before dawn to catch a bus to the trailhead of the South Kaibab trail.  I’d be taking my first trip below the rim, hiking down to Ooh Aah Point and back.  It was like a different world as a I traversed the rocky trail.  Standing and looking out from Ooh Aah Point, I knew I needed to return and traverse the canyon from the North to the South Rim.

Mira is always a hit with tourists at the South Rim (which for a national park is exceptionally dog friendly).  Such a little ham!

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Hiking down the South Kaibab Trail, its openness allows for some pretty spectacular views!

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Amazingly, I was able to convince my friend and coworker Amy to tackle a multi day Rim to Rim trip despite the fact that she’d never been backpacking in her life.  We nervously submitted our multiple itineraries in May of 2018 for a trip in September.  A couple of days later I opened my email to find out we’d drawn our first choice itinerary and that we’d be spending a night at Cottonwood Campground and another night at Bright Angel Campground before making the arduous journey out to the Bright Angel Trailhead.

Throughout the summer we trained with our packs, scrutinized our meal plans and got one backpacking trip under Amy’s belt.  We flew out to Las Vegas on September 13th arriving at my sisters late that night.  My sister followed us to the South Rim in a separate car, picking us up at the Backcountry Office parking lot where we dropped off our rental.

After visiting a few viewpoints, we started the long journey to the North Rim where we’d camp for the night before Amy and I started our voyage across the canyon.  We arrived after dark, my sister starting the fire and Amy and I setting up the tent.  We cooked over the fire under those towering pines, drinking in the crisp, high elevation air before we retired to the tent.  Sleep came hard, the excitement of the impending journey akin to what a 5 year old feels on Christmas Eve.

Amy, Me and Melissa (my sister at the South Rim)

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Dusk on 89A, heading toward the turnoff to the North Rim

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Melissa roasting marshmallows  and cooking dinner before bed.

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After a few photos and a goodbye hug from my sister, we started our hike at 6:40 AM, the temperature hovering just above freezing.  Over the next two days we descended into the canyon the temperature and scenery changing with the elevation.  After spending a night at the bottom we arose at 2:45 AM to start the strenuous hike out.  Looking down from the rim, one only sees desert, but the many folds of the canyon hide an oasis.  There hanging gardens on rock walls with beautiful orange flowers, bees buzzing back and forth, puddles in the middle of a muddy trail filled with tadpoles wriggling around in the morning sun and several alcoves with cascading waterfalls.  It took us about 10 hours to complete the 10 mile hike out and to the parking lot, it was physically and mentally grueling for us flatlanders, the last 3 miles feeling like an eternity.  But a few short days after we climbed out of the chasm, we were already talking about which route we’d try next time.

Amy and I at the start of our hike – the North Kaibab Trailhead

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Campsite at Cottonwood campground, our first night in the canyon.

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Amy waving up from the bottom of glorious Ribbon Falls

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Bright Angel Creek and Bright Angel Campground

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Amy looking down at the Devil’s Corkscrew that we just hiked up.

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A little waterfall cascading into a pool in a small alcove along Bright Angel Trail

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Looking back from where we had come, getting close to Jacob’s Ladder, the most difficult part of the day!

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Nearing the top, hiking behind a group of guys we had befriended on the way up.

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We made it, despite shredded feet, sore knees and sunburned lips!

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I feel so fortunate to have visited the canyon as many times as I have in my 41 years.  I dream of more excursions exploring the inner canyon and lingering on the rim, feeling like a raven with the wind blowing on my face.  I’m so thankful that our forefathers had the foresight to protect this wondrous place, that it’s not a private playground for the rich with the entire rim crowded by huge vacation homes.  As Roosevelt said, “The ages have been at work upon it, and man can only mar it.

 

 

13
Feb
19

April Adventure Part One – Pigeon River Country

April 12-13, 2018

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Four days off in mid-April during a winter that refused to end, what did I do? Well, for the first portion of the long weekend, I headed up to my parents’ house to drop off my injured Yukon (at the time we thought he had a torn CCL, more about that later). Then, I loaded Mira back up for an overnight backpacking trip to the Pigeon River Country State Forest.

We arrived at the trailhead parking lot at around noon and while wrangling an overexcited Mira, I crammed everything we’d need for our little adventure into my pack. We started our hike in a light drizzle with intensified as we made our way to the forest headquarters. The trail, already covered in 6 inches of sloppy snow and ice was made more treacherous, each step an effort. Thank goodness for hiking poles! Headquarters was closed so we took shelter on the covered porch, reading some pamphlets before continuing on the trail toward our destination for the night.

Getting started – Mira and me at the trailhead

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Made it to headquarters, slightly damp

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PRC is inherently quiet, but winter intensifies that silence, the only sounds being our footsteps slogging through the slush and the sounds of drizzle dripping onto my pack. Signs of the state’s only elk herd were all around us, huge rubs on trees along the trail, their large tracks icy along the slushy trail and large piles of scat (which Mira eyed longingly more than once).

Plenty of elk sign along the trail!

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By the time we reached the 10 mile loop cutoff, we were both exhausted, so I opted to leave the uppermost portion of the trail off and head west toward Section 4 Lake and ultimately the south end of Grass Lake where I was planning on camping for the night. Just past Section 4 Lake, I noticed some larger tracks iced into the snow that at a glance didn’t look like elk. I moved in for a closer look and saw they were made by a recently awakened, rarely seen, forest dweller, Ursus americanus – the American black bear. As I always do when I find slightly out of the ordinary (somewhat scary) tracks, I sent a photo to my mom so she and Dad could worry even more. I suppose it’s not as bad as my first solo fly fishing trip where, when I arrived at my campsite along Rock Creek in Montana, I found a mountain lion track in the mud and sent a photo to Mom captioned “Here kitty kitty!”

It seemed like forever, probably because both Mira and I had slowed to a crawl, but we finally reached the south end of Grass Lake and set up the small Kelty backpacking tent on the wet snow. Mira’s needs took priority, she was shivering and could hardly stay awake (she is 13 years old I guess, 6+ miles in slushy snow is a workout for an old lady). Wrapped in a down throw, she struggled to stay awake nodding off, but unwilling to give in a fall asleep. I made her some warm Honest Kitchen before heating water for my Mountain House meal. We snuggled in for the night, both of us still shivering so I filled a Nalgene with hot water and crammed Mira into my bag with me. Sleep didn’t come easy despite the added warmth, visions of rampaging bears filling my head.

Pigeon River

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Made it to the cutoff, time to head to camp!

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Bear!!!

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Tired old dog after a strenuous hike!

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Camp for the night

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Thankfully, we survived the night without slipping into a hypothermic coma or being eaten by a starving bear. After breaking camp, I was soaked and exhausted and so was Mira, time to head cross country and forego the top end of the loop. I broke trail threw the deep wet snow and Mira followed close behind. Powered by trail mix, granola bars (Tucker’s Carnibars in Mira’s case), we were back to the car in no time and heading back south to my parents’ to don dry clothes and rejoin our Yukon.

 

 

13
Feb
19

Back in Time 2018

Well, 2018 was a bit of a rough year. A year of loved ones lost, both two-legged and four-legged. But also a year of new adventures and new experiences. I didn’t keep up with documenting these adventures so I’ll be stepping back in time, via this blog, to recap the excitement (and the pain) of this past year.

01
May
16

Pups Go West 2016 – The Hunt for Rock Art

The alarm sounded, waking me from a very deep sleep, Utah was waiting and it was time to  continue westward. Being a dinosaur nerd, I’ve always wanted to get a photo of the Fruita, CO grain elevator featuring a huge mural of a T-Rex.  Immediately after snapping a shot, I thought of the terrible joke I told to coworkers a couple days before vacation.

Q:  What do you call a guy who sticks his right hand in T-Rex’s mouth?

A:  Lefty

Groan…

Pushing toward the border, the La Sal Mountains came into view to the southwest; their appearance always feels like coming home.

Fruita grain elevator

Tricera-van?

Made it!

My ultimate destination for the day was Joe’s Valley Reservoir west of Orangeville.  We camped there last year, and along with being nearly alone in the campground, we caught a number of decent Splake from shore.  Before making camp, however, I wanted to explore around the Moore area, looking for rock art.

The San Rafael Reef, a fantastic monocline that I-70 cuts through, is one of my favorite features in Utah.  The dogs and I made a quick stop at the rest stop just east of the Reef to take a couple of photos, stretch our legs and breathe in the dry Utah air.

Camera is over here dogs!

Westbound I-70 cutting through the San Rafael Reef

Moore Cutoff road was waiting, so I eased the Jeep back onto I-70 and continued westward.    I-70 through the Reef always impresses me, it’s hard to fathom the massive amounts of work that went into that short stretch of road.

I turned onto the Moore Cutoff road with Short Canyon as my first intended stop.  After a couple of misturns (and some pretty bumpy two-tracks), I found my way to the mouth of the canyon.  I loaded my pack with camera gear and water, got the dogs ready and started the hike into the canyon.  We made our way down the trail until we reached the location of the geocache we were searching for.

Bumpy drive to Short Canyon

Michigan shaped pothole and Molen Reef

Strike a pose

After the GPS jumping around, trying to find the cache’s coordinates, I located the geocache in a crack in some boulders.  I knew there were pictographs and petroglyphs in the canyon so we continued hiking a bit to try and find them.  We didn’t go far before high up on the canyon wall I spotted a pictograph.  While I knew there was additional rock art further into the canyon, we were running low on time and I had another panel I’d been looking for the past couple of years.  The rest of the canyon’s rock art would have to wait for another trip.

We turned around and headed out of the canyon, the dogs running and wrestling, burning off some of the energy they stored up on the trip out.  We reached the Jeep and started the short drive back to the Moore Cutoff road.

Found the geocache!image

Pictographs high on a canyon wallimage

Heading back to the Jeepimage

Pent up energy from the long drive from Michigan


 Back on Moore Cutoff road I headed west to the Molen Reef petroglyphs to walk around a bit.  It seems as though every rock holds an ancient image, one can find new figures on every visit.

Molen Reef Petroglyphsimage

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Moving on, again westward, I was looking for a panel that I’d wanted to find for several years.  I had written down clues I found in blog posts and forum trip reports, pored over maps looking for likely places and spent far too much time on Google Earth.  I was pretty confident that I had it this time.  The dogs and I started off up the steep slope to where I thought it was, this asthmatic flatlander and her flatlander dogs sucking wind as we went.  After a bit of searching, I decided I was thwarted again, which was fine – the view was pretty fantastic and it gave me another reason to visit the area and explore more next time.

Moore Cutoff Roadimage

Mira is still a little mountain goat, even at 10 yrs old!image

Mira and I (and my four chins – not the most flattering photo LOL)image

Spanish Bayonet (I think) – take care, very stabby!!image

We made it back to the car, Yukon barking like a doofus at the cars as they went by below, and started toward our destination for the evening, Joe’s Valley Reservoir and what would turn out to be a great night of fishing!

Rarely seen in the wild, a sleeping Australian Shepherd 🙂image

24
Aug
12

Northward Bound

This summer’s motorcycle adventures have been sparse (ok, non-existent) so when given the opportunity to test ride a used 2006 V-Strom 650 for the weekend I jumped on it.  Where to go for a short camping weekend…the Upper Peninsula of course!  On a recent car camping trip, Andy and I had noticed a small campground on H-58 east of Grand Marais, Michigan called Lake Superior campground, that would be my destination for Saturday night.  Since I’m diligently saving vacation for my fall India trip, I planned on leaving after work and staying somewhere in St. Ignace for the night – riding at night isn’t my favorite (especially in rural areas).

After what seemed like a never ending day at work, I got home and loaded up the Strom.  On schedule for a change, I hugged the dogs good-bye and pointed the Wee north.  The ride up was pretty uneventful albeit a bit shaky at first.  It took a few miles to get used to the new machine, but once I was comfortable all was well.  After a few hours on the road, I saw the white towers of the Mackinac Bridge looming in the distance – the gateway to my weekend getaway!

My plan was to camp at either Carp River State Forest Campground or Foley Lake Campground, but while crossing the bridge, the clouds started to open up…motel it would be!  After a few calls to find a place with vacancy that was sufficiently cheap, I landed at The Pines Motel, a little mom and pop on the north end of St. Ignace.  Thankfully there was a convenience store next door with homemade pizza and baked goods.  It was nice being able to take a short walk in order to grab a bite to eat!  After scarfing down a couple of pieces of pizza, it was down to the lake to watch the sunset.  On my walk back, I was joined by a party of bats swooping around me grabbing their evening meal.  Off to bed, it’d be an early morning ride to the big lake and my campsite for the day.

All packed up, the V-Strom ready to ride

20
Apr
12

Pups Go West 2012 – Day One

Finally the day is here, no work and Utah bound!! My intent was to be up, loaded and ready to roll at 6 am. That didn’t quite pan out, between working way too late the night before and trying to load up the Jeep with two overexcited dogs underfoot, we ended up heading out of town around 730am.

First stop, the Circle K gas station about a mile from my house. I had stopped for gas on the way home from work the night before but needed ice for the cooler. During my incredibly brief stop, my crafty little Aussie had thwarted my efforts to keep her out of the dog food bin by chewing one of the gear ties I used to secure the lid (bloody toothmarksas evidence). Thankfully she didn’t get it open far enough to eat much and we were on our way again!

Ready to Roll Out

I planned my first non-gas stop for Davenport, Iowa – weird place to stop but my stomach won out!  At the north end of Davenport sits a chain sandwich shop, Capriotti’s, that my sister introduced me to in Vegas.  We don’t have them in Michigan and I had been dreaming about one of their signature sandwiches, “The Bobbie” for weeks!  This delight of the sandwich world consists of sub bun, shredded turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo…Thanksgiving to go 🙂

After enjoying half of the delicious, long anticipated sub, I filled up the Jeep and hit I-80 once again.  During planning, I thought “Hey, I’ll just drive straight through to Utah…what’s 24 hours of driving?!?!”  I had done it more than once in my younger years, a quick nap at a truck stop and I’d be all set.  Well, apparently my 30’s are catching up with me (that and two antsy – I don’t wanna be in the car anymore dogs) because by the time I hit Nebraska, I realized my visions of a marathon push west was NOT in the cards!!  I took a  peek at the map (and consulted the mighty iPhone) and decided that the Motel 6 in Kearney, Nebraska would be our home for the night.  Bonus…dogs stay free at most Motel 6 locations!!

After unloading a few necessary items and feeding the beasts it was time for bed.  Now, Yuk and Mira have stayed in motels in the past, but the first night out is always a challenge.  They were both on super-high alert, I guess they felt is was their duty to protect the room because every noise in the hall triggered a low growl or quick bark from Yukon with Mira quickly following his lead (she has no clue why she’s barking – she barks first and asks questions later).  I’m a terrible dog mom because after about a half an hour of that nonsense I decided it was time to break out a Benadryl for each of them, for the sake of my sanity as well as the sanity of those in the surrounding rooms.  Thankfully, they settled in after a bit, the next day would be up and at em early – we were going to get to Utah come hell or highwater!

How can this be comfortable?  Mira as seen at a rest stop just east of the Nebraska border.

19
Apr
12

Pups Go West 2012 – Trip Preparation

This year, Her On Wheels will be taking on some new, non-motorcycle adventures.  I’ll definitely be riding (the upcoming Women’s Track Day at Grattan Raceway for one) but no extended trips.  Instead, I’ll be on 4-wheels and the most exciting adventure will involve many hours of airline travel!  My sister moved to southern India last fall, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend 3 weeks with my amazing sister traveling around India (and possibly Nepal)!!

Since my fall trip out west, I’ve been thinking about the desert non-stop so I figured the first trip of the year should be to Utah and my dogs needed to come along (hiking is way more fun with the beasts).  I decided that converting my Jeep Grand Cherokee into a mini-motorhome would be the best option, partly for portability (no tent setup/takedown), partly for safety and comfort and partly because my lab mix Yukon figured out how to unzip the tent flap so he could roam the campground schmoozing with fellow campers hoping for bits of food 🙂  The trick was to make it comfortable for the 3 of us for our 12 days on the road! In this post I’ll run down what I did to make it suitable for (wo)man and beast 🙂

My primary concern was finding a way to cover the windows of the Jeep so I could change without scaring anyone and also to block light while we slept.  Originally I intended to sew curtains for the windows, but as the date of departure approached, I grew lazier and lazier…I needed an easier solution!  After a bit of searching the net, I found an Instructables that detailed making window coverings using Reflectix (didn’t follow instructions exactly but it was a nice guideline).  Reflectix looks like shiny bubble wrap and is found near the insulation section of the home improvement store or hardware of your choice (mine was purchased at Menard’s – a 16” by 25′ roll for about $15.00 if I remember correctly).

I traced each of the rear windows onto newspaper and transferred those patterns to the Reflectix with a Sharpie marker.  They turned out OK, not perfect but good enough for my purpose, I didn’t even need to use Velcro to hold them up – they fit perfectly in the channels around each of the windows.  Between the front and back seat, I cut a piece of Reflectix to the appropriate width and Velcroed it to each of the side plastic pillars.  In the future, I’ll likely ditch this for a large piece of black fleece attached in the same fashion for better coverage.

A few of the back windows covered with Reflectix

The dogs helping out with preparations – my sleeping pad on the left of the pic for size reference

Next, though I knew Mira would likely sleep either on me or in my sleeping bag and Yukon is pretty happy sleeping anywhere, I needed somewhere for the dogs to snooze.  So I threw some foam padding beds that I picked up inexpensively from one of the rescue groups at this year’s pet expo into the back of the Jeep.

Securing the dog food bin was also of high priority as my aussie Mira is an evil genius when it comes to food, I didn’t want to return from visiting a rest stop bathroom to find she had eaten 10 cups of food!  To try an thwart the little menace’s efforts, I drilled a couple of small holes into the lip around the edge of the food bin, and matching holes in the lid.  I threaded some of the Nite-Ize Gear Ties through the holes and twisted them tight, theoretically keeping the food safe – reality was a different story, she figured out how to open it at the first stop, a mile from my house.

For my sleeping accommodations for the trip, I inflated my Exped Synmat and slid it into the sleeve in the back of my Big Agnes bag and left it setup next to the dog beds in the back.  It surprisingly was very comfortable and gave us more room than my two-man tent provides.

Mira modeling in the rough setup

Yukon testing out his new bed while I work on cutting Reflectix

Freshly “Mira-proofed” bin

**Next Post — Pups Go West 2012 – Day One**




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Looking down to see Andrew’s new little GSP puppy, Morgan, and my not-so-little Aussie puppy, Mesa, laying next to me like this last night brought up a huge upwelling of emotions. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The GSP/Aussie duo of Cache and Elle that we just lost were similar in age difference and were best buddies from the second they met. They often cuddled on the couch together next to me, just like these new pups do. I have a feeling they’ll be just as inseparable as their predecessors were. . . #aussielovers #aussiepuppy #aussie #dogs #dogstagram #australianshepherdworld #australianshepherdsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #instadog #dog #aussies #puppylove #australianshepherd #puppy #puppiesofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #aussiesofinstagram #aussielove #cute #doglover #reddog #redmerle #redmerleaussie #adventuredog #adventurepuppy
Slo-mo humming bird moth (likely a white-lined sphinx), they were everywhere at dusk last night. Seriously cool creatures! . . . . . #insects #moth #nature #insect #entomology #hummingbirdmoth #whitelinedsphinxmoth #michigan #garden #slomo #iphonex
It’s a bit hard to admit, but while I instantly knew when I met Mesa that he was coming home with me, for about the first week I second guessed whether doing so was the right thing. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Cache had died only a couple of weeks before and while ludicrous, I felt like I was betraying him. I still cry most days about that little black dog, he was a gem (but aren’t they all). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ As the days and weeks have passed, I’ve seen him grow and learn and I have zero doubt that he was meant to be in my life. He seems to sense the somber vibe on the farm after all of the loss and provides love and humor whenever either Andrew or I need it. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ No dog replaces a previous dog, they just help to plug the ragged hole left in our hearts. I can’t wait to see this little moose continue to grow into an amazing adventure dog. . . #aussielovers #aussiepuppy #aussie #dogs #dogstagram #australianshepherdworld #australianshepherdsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #instadog #dog #aussies #puppylove #australianshepherd #puppy #puppiesofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #aussiesofinstagram #aussielove #cute #doglover #reddog #redmerle #redmerleaussie #adventuredog #adventurepuppy
“How could you betray me like this, Mom?!?!” . . #aussielovers #aussiepuppy #aussie #dogs #dogstagram #australianshepherdworld #australianshepherdsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #instadog #dog #aussies #australianshepherd #dogsofinstagram #aussiesofinstagram #aussielove #cute #doglover #adventuredog #bluemerle #olddogsrule #seniordog #seniordogsofinstagram #geriatricmenace
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