I've been meaning to get "back to nature" for months, but work and weather have gotten in the way. That all changed last Sunday, when I had the opportunity to visit Ledges State Park with my friend Aryn and her Doberman, Rocket. Rocket and Jayne are half-brothers, sharing the same sire.
With the threat of afternoon rain, we got an early start to the day. After a quick trip to Target for snacks, water and bug spray, we headed out to the park. We arrived by 9am and started our descent. Ledges has a long history of flooding, but in 2008 the park was severely crippled by the "500 Year Flood." Automobiles are barred from the Canyon Road, so hikers must start at the very top of the park and walk down into the lower areas. The Canyon Road is unique in that was designed to dip in and out of the creek that flows through the park. The downside to its design is that the road floods easily, and is extremely vulnerable to flood damage. The damaged bridges are safe for hikers and horses, but would collapse under the weight of a car. While I'm sure some folks miss the accessibility of the park, we enjoy the peace and quiet that the "vehicle ban" provides.
The first descent was fairly tame - we stayed on the Canyon Road for the most part. Our first adventure came when we reached the first water crossing, as Jayne had apparently never experienced natural water and was very skeptical of what we were asking of him. Instead of sloshing through the stream, Jayne decided to theatrically jump from rock to rock until he reached the other side. Aryn was able to capture the hilarity:
After Jayne got over his water-drama, we continued on. The road at the far end of the park was completely washed away and the river had taken its place, so we turned back and let Rocket steer the direction of the hike. Aryn expressed interest in exploring the steep trails that led to Table Rock and the Council Ring, so we started to look for the closest entry point to the steep trails. We found one, and Aryn instantly noticed its resemblance to the stairway to Mordor. We made tons of Lord of the Rings jokes after that, and made the boys pose next to the stone stairs.
"If one is a Doberman, one does simply walk into Mordor!"
Rocket was delighted with the steep trail. When given the option, he'd always choose the most treacherous and vertical route. In fact, he took us all the way back up to the park entrance! We hadn't expected to get back to the car so early, so we decided to do a second descent back into the belly of the park. This time we decided to walk in the creek, which was a lot of fun but definitely a recipe for waterlogged shoes! I had water shoes, so I didn't have much trouble. The dogs really enjoyed the creek walk, especially when they got the opportunity to chase the little fish in the shallows.
Several large pieces of limestone sit in the shallow, sandy creek-bed. We used these chunks of limestone for some posed portraits of the boys.
Finally satisfied with the hike, we headed back up the Canyon Road to the car. We'd been in the park for hours, having a whale of a time, and in those last few minutes of our visit we heard the only comments from other park visitors that irked us. As we were walking uphill, a large group of people were walking downhill. Our dogs were on their best behavior, walking at our sides and ignoring the loud, chaotic group of people.
A child asked his father, "Aren't those dogs mean?" ... the dad didn't say no.
A man said to another, "I hate it when they have their ears cropped."
A third man said, "I had two dogs like that once, but I got rid of them."
A girl asked her father if they were Rottweilers, to which he replied, "No, those are Dobermans. Rottweilers are nice dogs!" (as if Dobermans are not nice dogs. Huh. Interesting.)
Seriously folks, were you raised by Neanderthals? If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all - or at least wait until the people (and dogs) you're criticizing aren't within earshot! What a great example you set for your kids, too - nothing like learning from an early age that you can criticize strangers to their face.
Thoroughly disgusted, we decided that if it happened again that we'd make comments back.
"Wow, that is one ugly kid. Omigosh, I can't believe they kept it!"
"Can you imagine hiking out here wearing those shoes? I'd just die of embarrassment!"
"Aren't kids that age stinky?"
No, no, we wouldn't actually say those things out loud. We're more polite than that. But that's probably because we were raised by good parents that didn't make rude comments about people as we encountered them in public places. I guess parenting styles have changed in the past 20 years!
So that was the end of our awesome Ledges hike. I'd like to say that both boys were exhausted and slept the rest of the day, but that would be a lie. They were both bursting with energy once we got home.
Although... Jayne did finally succumb to fatigue, and spent about an hour snoozing with Kaylee. What a guy!