Category Archives: Blackjack & Tonka

Adventures with the pups

A Boy and His Dog.

One month ago today, I lost Blackjack. It hurts as much today as it did then. Maybe more.

However, it was important to me to memorialize BJ and this day, so Tonka and I went for our first Blackjack-less walk, and had a little ceremony to honor our lost pal. Just the two of us, of course, and as always. So very much sadness. And no photos, unfortunately. It’s hard to walk one dog, spread the ashes of another, and take pictures simultaneously. So, like pretty much all of the events of the past month, all I’ll have are the mental images. Maybe that’s better. I don’t know. I’m going to always regret the lack of pictures I have of the three of us – but there’s nothing I can do about it now.

It occurs to me that things are cyclic; that is, it started with just me and BJ, then became all three of us, and now it’s just Tonka and I. Obviously, I’m sad – but Tonka is inconsolable. Yesterday, I went to run errands early, and I got Tonka a new dish and a nice bone; the bone he promptly buried. He’s burying everything. I’ll watch him get a big mouthful of his dinner, and bury it under the tree next to BJ’s stone marker. I’ve never seen him do this before, and I don’t know what to make of it. I’m doing the best I can with him – it’s just hard. Hard for him, hard for me. And, of course, he just stays under that tree. All the time.

Luckily, a few of my closest people have stepped up on our behalf. I guess when tragedy strikes, you find out who really cares and who doesn’t. Without the support of a few people in my orbit, I’d be more of a wreck than I am now. For example, Blackjack’s stone marker was a gift (probably the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received), and it’s really helped me, and in some sense, I think it’s helped Tonka. I was gifted some wind chimes, as a reminder of BJ’s love for chimes and the outdoors in general (he was fascinated with chimes – he’d watch the ones in the backyard all the time). I’ve had people regularly contacting me, checking on me, sending good and sweet vibes to me and Tonka – especially helpful after the whole post-death insult-to-injury debacle, which I still haven’t fully come to terms with. To all those people who’ve stepped up and allowed me – and Tonka – to lean on them during this horrible time, thanks. It means more to me than I can put into words. While I knew this day would come eventually, it caught us completely unprepared, and it’s been pretty touch-and-go. I just can’t over-emphasize how much this has shaken me. Of all the horrible things I’ve been through in my life, this is far and away the worst. No contest. And trust me, that’s saying something.

So now, my Blackjack-related tasks are nearly complete. The artist in the Netherlands who’s making the ring received the ashes, and it should ship to me in the next day or two. The items I need for his plaster paw-print will also be here in short order, and I think what I have planned for that is going to be very special, and more importantly, will last forever. After that, I don’t know. I’ve toyed with making a garden under their tree, but Tonka likes it just the way it is, and I don’t want to disrupt the one thing that seems to bring him comfort. At least he has something. Well, I mean, I have Tonka to comfort me, but because he doesn’t understand any of this, I don’t want to make him more despondent by being sad myself. I’ve always been better at caring for others than caring for myself, and I guess that includes sad little puppers.

Anyway, after our early walk, I decided I needed to get out for a bit, so I hopped on the BMW for what I intended to be a short ride in the woods. A short ride that ended up being around 43 miles by the time I was done. It was nice to get out in the woods – I haven’t really done anything like that in…awhile. Plus, the weather was perfect. Riding a big motorbike on very rugged trails is tiring, though, so after that, I logged a little hammock time. Then – well, stuff – and I decided to hop on the other motorbike and scream up and down the mountain as fast as I could. So, there’s that.

Also this weekend, I bought and planted a bunch of flowers. Lilies, sunflowers, an elephant ear, azaleas, and a few others. Plus, I got the big black bamboo I ordered – it’s gorgeous. With any luck, it’ll start offshooting soon (UPDATE: It already has), so I can transplant some into other pots, or even in the yard (the goal is to have an entire grove of the black, red and green bamboo I currently have). The last grove I planted (ahem) looked amazing the last time I saw it (again, ahem), and it doesn’t take much to get a nice little area. When I rode the Silver Comet last year, I stopped at a beautiful, lush bamboo forest that someone had planted and tended to, and it was amazing. Even though I don’t anticipate being here long enough to see something like that come to fruition, I can at least plan it out. You never know what’ll happen tomorrow. The lilies I planted should also be nice – I bought one plant that’s about to bloom, as well as many bulbs (which may or may not bloom this year).

The bulbs one of my friends gave me last year are coming out now, as well. And, of course, I love sunflowers, but it’s been a couple of years since I planted those. I have 3 different varieties, so I should have a lot of color. This year, I’m going to learn how to save the seeds for next year; sunflower seeds are pretty inexpensive, but I should have hundreds of seeds if my flowers do as good as they did last time.

So, there’s my exciting weekend. And that’s me being facetious, if you didn’t catch it. It was sad, lonely, depressing and all the other adjectives. But at least I (hopefully) honored Blackjack, just a little bit. It hadn’t occurred to me until just now, but since I carried some of his ashes this morning, I guess it was kinda the last walk the 3 of us would take together. Sigh. I sure do miss you, pup.

Welcome to the Black Parade.

It’s now been 3 weeks since I lost Blackjack. Three long, miserable, lonely weeks. I knew when this time came, it would be bad. I didn’t realize how bad. And I don’t know when it’ll end. I had hoped when the time came, I wouldn’t have all this weight on me to carry alone, but here I am. And for now, I have neither the desire or the motivation to just go back out in the world and pretend I’m not heartbroken and completely destroyed. There were three things that mattered to me – really mattered – in my life, and two of them are gone. I would think by this point in my life, “heartbroken” would be the default setting, but this is an entirely new level of melancholy.

But poor Tonka is even worse. I’m really worried about him. About a week ago, we got a surprise delivery – a beautiful Adirondack Blue Stone marker with BJ’s name carved on it. I decided to set it under one of my pear trees; one of BJ and Tonka’s favorite napping spots. Now Tonka just lays there, pretty much all day, every day. I just don’t know what to do for him. Even though I’m very unsure about it, I think one night this week, I’m going to take him out somewhere for a walk. I don’t know how he’ll react to that; when we’d go out in the past, he always looked at BJ as his protector, but now, he only has me. I guess we’ll see – but I’m not going to push anything on him. He’s been through enough lately. We both have. I want to make this transition as delicate as possible for him – he’s had a bad enough life (until he came to me, anyway), and he doesn’t deserve any more upheaval than he’s already endured.

I’ve been keeping myself occupied with various Blackjack-related projects. I want to honor him and his memory, so in addition to the memorial Instagram and setting his stone by his tree, I’ve done a few other things. I had the decal shown made, and put in on the Jeep (in place of a similar “got snow?” decal that was there). I had planned on putting his old dog tag on my keychain, but it was so old and beat up, I decided to instead put it in his urn – which actually seemed more fitting – and I had a new tag made for my keychain. It turned out very nice. I also have a plan for his plaster cast paw print that will guarantee it’ll last forever – and not be as fragile as it is – but that has to wait a few weeks until the plaster hardens completely.

Additionally, I sent off a small amount of his ashes to an artist in The Netherlands to have a ring made. I’m looking forward to this; hopefully, I’ll have it before April 16th, which was the day BJ came to me. I like that kind of serendipity. The ring itself will have BJ’s ashes, along with wood and abalone details in it, plus his name engraved on the inside. Ironically, it’s very similar to a ring I’ve always wanted – years ago, the running joke was that if you planned on proposing to me, that ring would guarantee you a “yes” response. Well, since no one is gonna be proposing to me, at least I’ll have a similar ring to carry BJ with me for the rest of my days.

As for me, I guess I’m trying to keep busy, so I don’t have time to stop and contemplate just how sad I am right now. I went out and bought some plants and flowers for the yard, and stuff for household projects. I finally bought a hammock; something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile (because I’ve learned my lesson about not putting things off). I think I’m going to build a little firepit next to my hammock area, as well. That’ll be nice on a cool spring night. I’m shopping for new doors for my bedroom deck; that’ll be a project to tackle in a week or two, after I catch up on some of my other tasks. I still have a number of trees to take down, and many stumps to grind (and I did finally get the Big Dead Murder Tree taken down, and surprisingly, didn’t kill myself to death in the process). I also ordered some black bamboo for the deck – the bamboo I ordered last year is doing well, and I decided I better get the more desirable black variety while it was still available.

In the process of these errands over the weekend, I was sitting on the patio at Dunkin’ Donuts, and a car was waiting in the drive-through queue with a youngish Malamute sticking his head out the back window. I’m not sure if this was a sign, or what, but you just don’t see Mallys very often, and for one to be right there at the same time as me seems like it must have some cosmic significance. I don’t know. But it made me happy and sad at the same time. He looked like a Very Good Boy – he and BJ could have been pals.

I’ve also been out on the motorbikes a couple of times, and taken a couple of walks in the woods. Nothing I would consider an “adventure” – more like, “I didn’t have anything better to do and if I just sit here alone for another day I’m going to lose it”. I know my friends are somewhat concerned about my overall…stuff, but there’s no need. I’m used to dealing with bad things, and while this is exponentially worse than “bad”, I’ll get through it. I always do. We’ll carry on.

All Dogs Go To Heaven.

I knew I’d have to write this some day, I just didn’t expect it to be now, and so suddenly. I’m not ready.

My sweet, beloved Blackjack crossed the Rainbow Bridge two weeks ago, on March 7 2021, three weeks after his 9th birthday. I haven’t written about it until now because I’m still processing, and I’m still hurting beyond words. Tonka, too. Tonka just paces and cries and checks all the rooms in the house and the yard looking for his buddy, every day, and when he can’t find him, he lays under the tree in what was their favorite spot. For hours. I don’t know how to explain to him that his best pal is never coming home again. It was too sudden for all of us. Too sudden, too unexpected, and that period is just a blur of emotions, even now. That Saturday morning, Blackjack was hurt, and less than 24 hours later, he was gone. It was undoubtedly the worst 24-hour period in my entire life – the unknown, then the known, then the hard decisions. No one should have to go through that. Especially completely alone. At least Blackjack wasn’t alone. He had me, and I did the best I could under the circumstances. As for me – well, I’m sure you know the answer to that question. It is what it always is. At least the Universe is consistent.

But this isn’t about me and my hurt. This is about Blackjack. There’s so much I could say about BJ; so many memories. He was my best friend, my loyal companion, and my longest relationship of any sort. The 9 years we spent together were more than I deserved. I have so much regret for the things we never did together, and now, will never do together. So many times, I said, “Well, maybe next week/month/year/whatever.” I will regret that for the rest of my life. He deserved better than that. He deserved better than me. But I did my best. He was never cold, he was never hungry. Too many times I wasn’t here with him, though. Off on some adventure or whatever. I learned that lesson too late. Gone is gone, and it’s absolutely permanent and forever and irrevocable. The days we missed being together will never, ever be re-lived, for either one of us. I’m sorry, pup – I’m sorry for the times I wasn’t there for you. I’m sorry I don’t have more photos of us, especially over the past couple of years. I’m especially sorry I don’t have at least one picture of us together on your last day. I’m sorry I couldn’t ride in the back of the Jeep to comfort you on any of the trips to the vet, especially the last one. I did the best I could. I’ll have to live with my failings the rest of my life, and I’ll always be sorry I wasn’t able to do more for you that terrible weekend.

I will keep that final promise I made to you, and I will take care of your pal Tonka for the rest of his life (or mine). He’s so sad, and he misses you so very much. So do I. My life was better because you were a part of it. You were loyal, faithful, unconditionally loving. You always had a smile and a wag for me, you always knew when I was sad, and you took better care of me than I did you, and you asked for so little in return. I will take you on whatever adventures I go on in the future; there will always be a part of you with me, wherever I go. I have your collar in the Jeep, so any time I’m out driving, you’ll be with me. I’ll carry it when I’m hiking, on the motorbike, everywhere I go for the rest of my days.

In the end, it was just me and you, exactly like it always was, and like I always knew it would be. I’m glad we were together in your last moments. I hope you weren’t frightened. Although the memory of you and I laying on that concrete floor alone is going to be with me for a very long time, I will try to remember better times; running, playing, tasty treats, puppy kisses, singing the song of your people. I hope I comforted you in your final moments, as you did me. But for now, I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. I am completely crushed, and sad, and alone. A huge part of me died when you did, and nothing will ever fill that space. I’m really struggling, pup. I hope that wherever you are, you can hear me when I talk to you, because I do. Often.

I will miss you and think about you every day. I promise. You were loved.

Goodbye, Blackjack. Be a good boy. I hope I get to see you again someday.

I have set up a memorial Instagram for BJ, so he’ll hopefully be remembered, even after I’m gone. Please stop by and say “hi” to him: https://instagram.com/blackjack_the_malamute. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve reached out to Tonka and I during the past couple of weeks. And if you have a pupper of your own, give him an extra pat from the two of us.

Addendum: Blackjack is home now, where he belongs. We took what was most likely our final car ride together, and it was somehow cathartic – that is, our life together ended exactly as it began, with just the two of us, riding in a car. When BJ came to me as a pup, he was lost in transit, and just like then, a similar situation occurred now, which has strained the limits of my emotional well-being. As if his death wasn’t enough, it couldn’t end peacefully for either of us. The details don’t really matter now, because he’s home, but it’s been a very, very trying week. Anyway, our last ride together was profoundly sad – unlike the first trip – and it took everything I had to actually go through with it. It had to be done, though – I wasn’t going to leave him where he was for a minute longer than necessary, especially since circumstances had him away from me for too long. I owed him that much; to be strong for him. But it was tough, going back to the vet alone, knowing what was waiting for me there. Hopefully now, with some closure, this sadness will start to fade, at least a little. The past two and a half weeks have just been a big blur of sadness and loneliness, but he needed me to make things right, and I’m all he had to see it through. I guess he’s all I had, as well. Now, it’s just Tonka and I, and that will have to be enough. I miss you, pupper, and I’m glad you’re home. I hope I did right by you. I hope I lived up to the commitment I made. I did the best I could.

“Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Yesterday Was a Good Day.

A very good day, in fact. Today – Saturday – not so much. But I’ll power through it like I always do. Like I’m always forced to. And do you know what helps?

Journey. Journey helps. One of the few bands I’ve never seen (ditto Pretenders), and all it took was a tiny prod to give Ticketmaster and the boys (and Chrissie) 300 of my American dollars. So, assuming I don’t step in front of a bus before August, there’s that. That’s so far away, I can’t even think about it right now. Nonetheless, as it is written in the Albums, Departure 1:1 – Any way you want it, that’s the way you need it. Devotional meditation: Do I love to move? Do I love to groove? Do I love the lovin’ things?

What I can think about is my deck project. So, after driving around all night (again, which is a story of its own – let’s just say I’ve seen some sh*t; and over the past 9 months or so, I’ve logged a stunning amount of time just driving around aimlessly in the Wee Small Hours), I finally made it to the hardware store to get the lumber to finish up the steps. I’ve been wanting to get on this for weeks, but life kinda gets in the way of projects sometimes. But, now, done. Well, mostly done, anyway – I need enough lumber for a couple more steps and the banister. I’ll probably pick that up tomorrow, after a road trip, or Monday, after my home-away-from home time. (Monday addendum: except for a little sanding, the steps are done. So, would-be burglars, murderers, stalkers, whatever, you’re welcome for the much easier access – but be sure and smile for the camera.)

Steps are challenging. Lots of math and geometry, and very little margin for error. But I did it, without a single screw-up, nor a drop of blood spilled. Now, after, that’s another story – inexplicably, I got a really bad nosebleed. No idea why. Probably stress. Maybe it’s a tumor. Anyway, if I can build steps on less than an hour sleep, image the projects I could accomplish if I was well rested? I had debated hiring someone to do this, but why pay someone to do something I can do (probably better)? You just wind up with a shady contractor that does a half-assed job and it becomes a hassle. Do it right, do it yourself. Like me. Use your whole ass.

Now I just need to get my mighty pressure washer out and clean the deck. It’s always something, right? Right. Speaking of, I’ve ordered new sinks and faucets for my bathroom. No one sees it but me, but I still want it to be nice. Can’t stand a sloppy bathroom (or a sloppy house in general – I’m somewhat fastidious about my cleaning). I mean, come on. One thing I’ll never be accused of is being a slob.

Of course, I will pay my guy to work on the Jeep. Not because I can’t do it, but because I don’t have a car lift, and if you’re going to tear the suspension apart, a car lift helps move things along. Oh, right – I tore the suspension on the Jeep apart. Intentionally. I think I mentioned a while back that I ordered a lift kit and wheel spacers – well, all that finally came in, and because if a project is worth doing, it’s worth over-doing, so I went ahead and bought big new tires to go with it. In a word, it’s awesome. It looks so much better, and I’m sure will perform better off-road. Between the lift, wheel spacers, new tires, and the recently-added winch, I believe I’m ready to take my adventuring to the next level. Of course, it’s never done – next on the list is skid plates, and I’m having some custom tow hooks made for the front. Basically, to put the skid plates on, you have to take the whole front end off, and if I’m going to do that anyway, I might as well add the tow hooks, because that also requires dismantling the front. Gonna get them in yellow, to match the caliper covers. I’ve taken the back apart to install the tow package; the front should be basically the same. Being handy is awesome. And if you’re wondering, the inside of the Jeep is pretty spotless, as well. I’ll make someone a good wife someday.


I have also continued to add to my Ring camera network. I’m completely sold on it. I now have cameras covering all sides of the yard, the dog area, the barn, the Jeep and a few other spots I’m not going to divulge. Plus, of course, the Jeep itself is always recording – and I do mean always – it sees (and hears) everything, and I have a whole folder just full of…stuff. So, if you’re thinking about murdering me to death – or anything else – you better lure me away from the house, the Jeep and the motorbikes (I would suggest tasty, tasty donuts as bait). And keep in mind that I have Liam Neeson on speed-dial, and he has a very particular set of skills.

It’s that time of year again. My sweet Blackjack turned 8 years old. I can’t wrap my head around that. His birthday coincides with The Great Unpleasantness, so that means it’s been 8 years since that fiasco, as well. Yeah, there’s always some fiasco with me – but I’m working on it. I made it through the holiday season (officially, now), and I haven’t really celebrated a single holiday in a year – not Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. Not even flippin’ Arbor Day. Because reasons. Oh, I wanted to, but like every year, it just didn’t happen. All that’s left is that thing of which we do not speak in April – although, truth be told, I’m trying to look forward to it this year. Probably spend it on the Dragon. Now that the Jeep is all souped up, I’ll have to get new photos up there – and, of course, gotta get the bike up there. Sorry, kinda wandered off-topic. So, BJ turned 8, and he had cake, as always. He’s doing really well – he had some hip issues last year, but the daily Cosequin really seems to be helping. Great advice from my vet. I don’t understand people who have pets and never take them for basic veterinary care. Pets are a responsibility; not just something to dump off when it conflicts with your social schedule or are too self-centered to provide basic health needs. Grr. Some people just don’t have a heart. Or a soul. More specifically, some people just suuuuuuck.

And good news for the puppers, there was snow. Unexpected, of course. At least we got one snowfall for the pups to play in. And the Jeep (but that was prior to the mods) and the BMW. I’ll take it. It was the best kind of snow; a lot in the morning, and gone by the end of the day.

Of course, now that the Jeep is all souped up, it’ll probably never snow again. But at least I got out on the bike. That’s something.

There’s been a little adventure, as well. Not much, but a little. I went back to Falling Water Falls, which is always awesome, and then returned to Signal Point/Rainbow Lake and Edwards Point. These are some of my favorite places. The hiking is amazing, the scenery is spectacular, and wrapping up at River Drifters is always a bonus (OK, not Hot Chocolatier bonus, but a bonus all the same). However, tomorrow, there will be adventure. Much needed adventure. Watch this space.

Now, I need to go wash all my hoodies. Because of course I do.

Links:
Falling Water/Rainbow Lake/Edwards Point Photo Album on Facebook

Handy, man.

I have a pile of lumber sitting in my yard. Yeah, I’ve gone a little nuts on the shopping, again. I have contractors coming today to install a new French door (‘freedom door’?), but the lumber is for another project. I’m gonna build steps off the deck on my bedroom, to make it easier on potential murderers and stuff to creep in in the middle of the night and do what they do. Actually, it’ll also be so I can pop right out when I go to the gym without waking the puppers at 3 AM. I need a project – but not installing a French door single-handedly; it’s a two-person job, and I don’t know anyone who’d make the time to take me to the hospital if I had a spear through my head, much less take a few hours to help me install a door (ironically, though, I know plenty of people who’d want me to install a door or something for them). I miss having projects. I was thinking about the house remodel I did just prior to the Great Unpleasantness, and that really was good times. Gutted and expanded a bathroom (jacuzzi – noice), remodeled the kitchen, my office – really, the entire house, including all the landscaping. I learned how to do slate tile, plumbing, hardwood flooring, HVAC, cabinetry, electrical, lighting and ceiling fans, foundations, plants – really, everything you’d need to know (and I already knew quite a bit). It turned out amazing. I guess I’m handy to have around, just ask – well, just take my word for it. Maybe someday, I’ll take on another major remodel, because it really was a great time, not to mention an awesome team-building exercise (if you know what I mean). Say what you will about *ahem* that person and what she did; she was an awesome remodel partner, and did a great job helping. Maybe that’s what I actually miss – the camaraderie of tackling a project as a team. Dunno. Perhaps I should start looking at buying a project house? Wouldn’t be any “team”, though, unless me and a box of doughnuts counts as a team. Team Fatass. Yeah, that works. Anyway, I’m looking forward to my little step project, although that won’t be a big deal. Just gotta find the time – I’m planning on going away this weekend, so maybe next week.

Now is the winter of our discount tent.

And that’s not all the shopping I’ve done. I finally got around to ordering the tent I’ve had my eye on, along with appropriate camping accessories. It’s nice – it’s a “blackout tent”, meaning it blocks out most of the sunlight during the day, and people can’t see in (because no one wants to see that). So, I’ve got to plan a camping trip – maybe that’ll be next weekend. Maclellan Island or Williams Island, via kayak, perhaps. That’s one of my bucket list items, anyway.

There was other shopping, but stuff I’ll probably just end up pitching. I’ve tossed almost as much stuff as I’ve bought in the past couple of months. You know how much personalized carabiners cost? Here’s a hint: a lot. Grr.

“Alexa, make my life not suck and order some Cap’n Crunch.”

Oh, I also got the new Echo Show – it’s the newer Alexa device with a screen. I have a bunch of these now – I ordered one as an ungiven gift last month, plus I already had several other Alexa devices. The beauty of the Show is I’ll be able to pair it with external cameras, so I can see what’s going on outside. I already have outdoor security cameras (and, boy, the things they’ve seen) plus cameras on the Jeep and Thing 1 (ditto – they’ve really seen some shit), so it’ll be cool to tie them all together. I’d really like to try the video chat functionality, but I don’t know anyone else that has one – besides, I’m pretty sure I have a face for radio.

I have also continued to dramatically downsize. I have too much junk. I think my sentimental days may be (finally) coming to a close. Not much point in that, really.

Hello, ladies.

As if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also that time of year again – pup pics with Santa at the mall. I think this year, I’ll forego being in the pics myself, and just let the puppers be with Santa. I know what I look like, and honestly, two fat guys and two dogs is just kinda sad. I’ve always hoped that it would be different, but it never is. Meh. Still, I can let the boys have their fun – and they are always a huge hit at the mall (yeah, we have to walk a couple of laps, mostly so the goths at Hot Topic can ask, “Are those wolves”?). The mall is doing the photo shoots 5 times this year, so at least I’ll have time for a do-over if I don’t like the final result.

Yeah, like you didn’t know.

I guess that means I need to get the “Naughty” Chuck Taylors out, as well. So, there’s one good thing about the holidays.

Oh, and someone sent me this: Stay Single Until You Find Someone Who Puts Effort Into Pursuing You Every Day. That’s a 12-piece bucket of truth right there (although the pronouns should be gender-neutral; I could easily replace “his” with “hers” and “boyfriend” with “girlfriend” and still have a good read).

My current jam:

Anti-Social Network.

I’m rapidly getting over the various social network platforms. Sure, I like pictures of cats doing stupid things as much as the next person, but seeing strangers insulting/arguing with each other, the non-stop parade of spammers, and every company out there trying to sell me shit I don’t need is getting old. And yeah, I realize the irony in posting that here. So, for now, anyway, I’m going to limit my online activity to my Movescount, which shows all the maps and selected photos from my adventuring. That’s about all that keeps me motivated anymore, anyway – well, that and binging Naked & Afraid (which I absolutely want to do).

Because I haven’t really posted anything here in months, there’s some catch-up to do. There have been adventures, despite my knee still giving me a hard time. Thankfully, the Winter of Our Discontent is over, so I’ve taken the kayak out, ridden the mountain bike, and been on both motorbikes. And, of course, hiking.


In no particular order, there was mountain biking at Edwards Point; one of my favorite places. It’s been a bucket list item of mine to bicycle through the woods to the Point, and it was worth it. Only about 17 miles, but all slop; mud, rocks, streams and poorly-marked trails. Now I have a much better sense of the trails and Jeep roads, so I’ll be going back before the weather warms up too much.

Click for larger, or Movescount data.

I also took the kayak out for the first paddle of the season. This, too, was one of my favorite places – the ruins of old Harrison, the town that was destroyed when the dam was built back in the 1930s. It’s super-compelling; in the winter, the water level of the lake is low, so old foundations, roads and other debris are exposed, and (to me, anyway), it’s really interesting. In addition, I landed at Patten Island, and had a more extensive hike than the last time I visited. Really awesome way to start the paddling season.

Click for larger, or Movescount data.

And hiking. Really, more than I feel like spelling out; I’ll just say that they were all amazing, challenging, sometimes dangerous hikes, with some visits to old spots (like Falling Water Falls), as well as new ones:

Mystery Falls (Movescount)
Raccoon Mountain Caverns (Movescount)
Mountain Beautiful Trail & Incline #1 (Movescount)
Spiritualist Campground (Movescount)
Skyuka Spring (Movescount)
Cloudland Canyon – Bear Creek Trail (Movescount)
Falling Water Falls (Movescount)
Mushroom Rock/Suck Creek Gorge (Movescount)
Persimmon Branch Dual-Sport Ride (Movescount)


There we go, all caught up. Oh, and all this activity has been incorporated into the Master Adventure Map – if you want to be impressed and/or tired, you should check it out.

I’ve also been going through a full-blown purge out in the barn, because reasons. Lots and lots and lots of stuff gone, and more still to go. The practical upside of this – well, one of them, anyway – is that I have plenty of room for the motorbikes, kayaks, mountain bike, unicycle, and other devices I’m in a perpetual state of trying to kill myself on. Who says there’s not a plus side to being compulsively neat?

click for larger


Now, after going to all the trouble of writing all of…that, the most important thing: my sweet BlackJack turned 7 years old in February. Not only does that mean that we’ve been best pals for 7 years (technically, 7 years next Monday, since he was 8 weeks old when he came to me), it also means it’s been 7 years since the Great Unpleasantness. I don’t know where the years have gone. I don’t know where they’re going, either, but hopefully it’ll be more interesting than just stomping around in the forest by my onesies. Nonetheless, Happy Birthday, BJ.

Links:
Edwards Point MTB Ride Photo Album on Facebook
Old Harrison Paddle Photo Album on Facebook
Mystery Falls/Raccoon Mountain Photo Album on Facebook
Lookout Mountain Photo Album on Facebook
Cloudland Canyon/Bear Creek Photo Album on Facebook
Falling Water Falls/Mushroom Rock Photo Album on Facebook

Fat Bastard.

…no, not Santa. Me. They say, “Don’t be fat and ugly, go to the gym and just be ugly”. I think “they” might have been onto something there. So, obviously, that time of year again – my only holiday tradition; Santa pics with the pups. I don’t want to say it was a trainwreck, but it was a trainwreck – because reasons. Still, a half-way decent pic this year; probably the best of the 5 times we’ve done it. It is practically impossible to get a decent photo of all 4 of us – me, Santa, Blackjack and Tonka. So, they shoot 5 or 6 shots, and I simply pick out the least-worst of the lot. Sorta like playing chess, when you know you have no good moves left. Nonetheless, it’s done, and I guess I’m glad I’ve documented us once more for posterity. I’d really like a great pic of me and the boys – I need to find a photographer.

Probably the best of the lot, not that that is saying much – click for larger

Probably the best of the lot (especially after my Photoshop magic), not that that is saying much – click for larger

These old ones – ugh. Turbo ugh. I think that girl who said I was single because I’m…unattractive might have been on to something. At the very least, I don’t photograph well, unless I’m wearing the motorbike helmet or a paper sack.

Who knows, maybe by next year, I’ll be prettier. I don’t think that’s how the Universe works, though, and sadly, Photoshop doesn’t have enough filters to help much.

Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls, Part II

A long way down - click for larger

A long way down – click for larger

Not a huge amount of adventure this weekend, but some. There’s just so much other stuff going on – not really worth getting into – but I was still able to explore a little bit. In this case, Foster Falls, in the South Cumberland State Park. I’ve heard about this, had friends invite me out there, but never actually done it. I don’t know what I was waiting for – it was spectacular, and mile-for-mile, some of the best scenery I’ve seen.

It was a short hike – only about 5.5 miles circumnavigating the falls and the Fiery Gizzard Trail; just not enough time to explore much more (but I’m hoping to go back next weekend for a more intense trek – or maybe on my bike, since it’s 13 miles one-way). Got to the trailhead before sunup, and just piddled around until it was light enough to hit the trail. First stop, the overlook above Foster Falls – only about 100 yards from the trailhead. Hey, don’t put the cool stuff first! That’s like Van Halen opening for your local Journey cover band. Make us work for it, Mother Nature. But following the overlook, a somewhat challenging hike down into the ravine to the base of the falls. This was amazing, and I’m already looking forward to going back next summer so I can swim in the lagoon right to the bottom of the falls.

Foster Falls - click for much larger

Foster Falls – click for much larger

Following that, back up the “Climber’s Loop” to the top of the western rim, and a great view from well above the falls (the photo at the top, where I was – again – hanging over the side of the bluff; not the first time I’ve done this, probably won’t be the last). A little bit farther, and back to the trailhead. The loop was only about 3 miles, so I decided to explore the campground and surrounding area, just to add some steps and see what there was to see. So, all together, only 5.5 miles, but a really good 5.5 miles.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

Following Foster Falls, a few side trips. I checked out Denny Cove – near Foster Falls – which has it’s own trails and a waterfall (didn’t explore the trail, just found the trailhead for future reference); Ketner’s Mill; and the Haley Road entrance to the PCSF. The last time I was here, it was about halfway through a (at the time, personal best) 21-mile hike. Thanks to the Jeep, I explored the road a little bit; I’ll go back once my better wheels/tires are on the Jeep, and I’ll probably add skid plates, as well, because rocks.

No walking this time, kids.

No walking this time, kids.

So, not my usual crazy amount of adventure, but still, adventure, all the same. No complaints.

Maximum capacity: 2 pups.

Maximum capacity: 2 pups.

However, there was still Sunday, which brought the first real trip with the boys in the new car. Not a long one; just a quick trip down to our regular stomping grounds on the North Shore. The 7 Bridges Marathon was going on, so there were people and activities everywhere, and I think the boys were excited to be out for their first real adventure of the fall. They did just great on the drive – the back of the Jeep is so much different than the backseat of the truck; they have room to move around, so they have to kinda figure out what they most comfortable spots are while the vehicle is moving. And they did; it just took them a few minutes to get settled. Once they were, no problem. I’m thrilled – the ability to take the boys with me was one of the big deciding factors in what kind of car to buy (along with the ability to carry my kayaks and/or my bike; 4 wheel drive; and fuel economy). I think there are going to be some good times had this fall for me and the boys.

Link:
Foster Falls/Fiery Gizzzard Hike Photo Album on Facebook

Birthday Boy (Pup, That Is).

click for larger

click for larger

My sweet Blackjack is 5 years old today. That also means it’s been 5 years since The Great Unpleasantness (well, practically), and y’know what? Worth. It. I wouldn’t have imagined that a dog would so significantly improve my life, but here we are. Probably the most notable thing – apart from non-judgmental companionship, affection and lots of wags – is that he motivated me to get off My Huge Fat Ass™. A big, active dog needs big, active activities. It started with us walking, then hiking, then realizing I was going to have to get cracking if I was going to keep up. And cracking I did get.

His birthday hasn’t been all good, though. He’s been dealing with a bit of a shoulder injury for a couple of weeks; didn’t seem to be too major, no obvious pain or anything, just a little limping. So, I took him to see Doctor Pretty Vet on Thursday – luckily, no bad news, just some anti-inflammatory meds and a little rest. Most likely, a pulled muscle in his shoulder. He’s responding well; so well, in fact, we went for our traditional birthday walk on Saturday (with Mr. Tonka, natch). Not a long walk; didn’t want him to overdo it, but since I had to go out anyway to get his cake (yeah, he had a cake), I brought the boys along.

The cake was awesome, and the boys have been enjoying it – they’re just getting small slices at a time; it may be too rich to have all at once. In addition, I signed up for auto-delivery of their food from Chewy.com, and that showed up Saturday morning. So much more convenient that going to the pet store, and actually slightly less expensive. When you’re talking about $60 bags of food – twice a month – cheaper is good. And free shipping, as well. The boys are worth it. Of course, there were toys, as well, and lots and lots of birthday pets.

I was just telling someone today that I am basically a “love me, love my dogs” person. I’ve met people who’ve said to me, “You have dog hair on your coat (or whatever – their hair is everywhere, all the time)” in a kinda judgmental/condescending way. See ya! Love me, love my dogs. In fact, I don’t care whether you love me or not, but loving my dogs is non-negotiable.

Happy Birthday, Blackjack. I hope we have many, many more together.