Category Archives: Adventures

Catskill 3500: Picchu’s Peaks, 2009

Bob and I and the NYC Whippets packette have been tackling the 35 highest peaks in the Catskills. Our 2009 summits:

#9: Cornell Mountain, 3860 feet

Cornell Mtn: Biski, Bob, Picchu, June 12, 2009

Cornell Mtn: Biski, Bob, Picchu, October 11, 2009

#1: Slide Mountain, 4180 feet

Slide Mtn: Biski, Bob, Picchu, June 13, 2009

Slide Mtn, June 13

#11: Peekamoose Mountain, 3,843 feet

Peekamoose Mtn: Biski, Sesame, Picchu, Bob, August 7, 2009

#10: Table Mountain, 3,847 feet

Table Mtn: Picchu, Biski, Bob, August 7, 2009

#14: Wittenberg Mountain, 3,780 feet

Wittenberg Mtn: Bob & Picchu, October 11, 2009 (Picchu's Birthday!)

#6: Westkill Mountain, 3,880 feet

Westkill Mtn: Picchu & Bob, October 30, 2009

Picchu and Bob on Westkill: Even in the fog, we located the true summit!

Bob & Picchu on Westkill - a rare summit marker

#2: Hunter Mountain, 4,040 feet

Hunter Mtn: Bob and Biski, November 1, 2009

Hunter Mtn: Bob, Biski, Sesame, Picchu (front)

Shira and Sesame on Hunter

#27: Balsam Mountain, 3,600 feet

Balsam Mtn: Sesame, Biski, Bob, Picchu, November 20, 2009

Sesame on Balsam: "Peak, valley, it really makes no difference to me."

#29: Eagle Mountain, 3,600 feet

Eagle Mtn: Biski, Picchu, Bob, Sesame, November 21, 2009

Picchu and Bob on top of Eagle Mtn

Picchu: Pocket pup, hunting dog, hiking accessory or hand warmer?

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Dressing to Walk the Dog

When I told my sister Erika I was getting a dog, she commented, “Enjoy those winter walks!” And cold weather is not the worst of it. The breeder had warned us, “Whippets hate the rain. You will come to dread rainy days.”

Shira & Sesame on dock

Why should dogs have all the coats? Sesame and Shira keeping cozy in upstate New York.

Dog coats are one thing (and I do love a good dog coat!), but there’s also, yes, your comfort to consider. In our family, I have the morning dog walking shift. Dog owners know that means de-cocooning from a cozy bed.

If you have a yard and don’t actually walk the dog, not so bad. If you’re urban like us, no matter what the weather, you’re goin’ out there, so suit up.

Whatever you have to do to make those mandatory, all-weather outings easy and comfy, do it. 

Merrell dog-walking clogs

Merrell Dog-Walking Clogs: Not pretty, but worth it!

Shoes: When I visited Erika, who has two beagles, I noted ugly clogs by her door. Just after I yelped, “Yipes!” she explained, “They’re great for going out with the dogs.” Now I have my own ugly clogs, and consider them a must-have. The sheepskin-lined Merrells (the company generously describes them as “folksy”) are part cozy slipper, part hardy boot, which means I can step into them and out onto the street in the cold without any socks, fumbling or lacing. That’s five-star 7 a.m. dog-walking footwear.

Bob & Biski in Boyne

Bob and C-Biscuit: Just out of bed on a chilly morning in Boyne, MI.

Cozy fleece or sweatshirt: My dad gave Bob and me super heavy, zip-up, hooded sweatshirts from his home in Boyne City, Michigan, a ski town that understands the cold. Before that, I had a no-sweatshirts policy, considering them sloppy. Now that I have to drag out of bed to walk dogs, bring it on! Mmmm…cozy. (I do draw the line at sweat pants.) If you want to splurge on a high-quality fleece you’ll look forward to putting on, I say go for it (on sale). It’s a collateral cost of dog-ownership.

Wind-proof Raincoat: When you’re holding two or more dog leashes, you can’t manage an umbrella. Especially in the wind. The dogs had raincoats for a year before I realized I needed one for myself. I used to just get wet. Then this month I got my first rain coat with a hood, and I am in foul-weather heaven! Especially since, thanks to The Catskill Hiker, I discovered the deals on outerwear at Sierra Trading Post. 

Shira and Sesame on Wittenberg

Heaven in a Hood: High quality dog-walking wear is also suitable for mountaineering.

Winter Hat: Last year we visited my dad in Northern Michigan in October. Did we bring deep-winter wear? No, because we thought October meant cool, not gale-blowing, hail-storming frigid. Dad wore a baseball cap and thin coat and took us on a death march while declaring the weather “not so bad.”

LL Bean Shearling Hat

LL Bean's Wicked Good Shearling Hat: "I'll never be cold again!"

 C-Biscuit shivered even in her Wisconsin-made puffy coat, and as I felt the wind cut to my skull, I made a Scarlett-in-the-potato-field promise that I would buy a shearling hat and never be cold again. 

When I got home and found out those hats cost $100, I said, “I can wait until January – they’ll be on sale.” They weren’t. I waited until the end of winter. Still no sale. So this year I find the funds and splurge – especially before our upcoming expedition to Northern Michigan. And may all the winter morning dog walks be warm and merry!

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The Whippenberg

 

For Picchu’s second birthday Sunday we went on a mountain-climbing extravaganza in the Catskills. 

Bob and the Birthday Girl, Picchu

Bob and the Birthday Girl, Picchu, on our latest Catskills adventure

Bob, Biski and Sesame on the trail up Wittenberg

Bob, Biski and Sesame on the trail up Wittenberg, cliffy in parts

Destination: Mt. Wittenberg, the most massive mountain in the Catskills, so it is referred to as The Wittenberg.

We were wondering if a whippet pack has ever scaled it before, and in honor of our expedition, decided to re-name the mountain The Whippenberg.

Two nights, three day-long hikes, all meals and accommodations, um, carried by everyone but Picchu.

 

C-Biscuit and Sesame, sherpa whippets

C-Biscuit and Sesame, sherpa dogs

 

Sesame and Biski look for a way around the rock-scaling, but there isn't one

Sesame and Biski look for a way around the rock-scaling, but there isn't one

 

Why the pack wears harnesses/backpacks: "Ok, hoist them up!"

Why the dogs wear harnesses/backpacks: "Ok, hoist them up!"

 

The Whippenberg: Shira and the whippet pack atop Wittenberg

The Whippenberg: Shira and the whippet pack atop the mountain formerly known as The Wittenberg

 

Biski billygoating on top of the mountain

Biski billygoating on top of the mountain: "Will a pack member with opposable thumbs please step forward to release my lunch!"

 

Shira, Sesame, Biski, Picchu: Brrrrr

Shira, Sesame, Biski, Picchu: Brrrrr

 

Bob herds the whippets on a side excursion to Cornell Mtn

Bob herds the whippets on a side excursion to Cornell Mtn, overlooking Slide Mtn

 

The dogs huddling in the tent, shortly before moving into our double-wide sleeping bag

The dogs huddling in the tent, shortly before moving into our double-wide sleeping bag

 

There's one in every pack who refuses to observe check-out time

There's one in every pack who refuses to observe check-out time

 

After two nights in arctic temperatures, Bob & the packette are ready to head home

After two nights in arctic temperatures, Bob & the packette are ready to head home. Next stop: Rockettes audition!

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City Dogs, Country Dog

 

The House Whippets' Border Collie friend at home in the country

The House Whippets' Border Collie friend, Sasha, at home in the country

The House Whippets are urban dogs, but like any New Yorker, they do love a weekend in the country!

 

Especially when it involves a house in the woods, excursions to orchards, and a friend.

 

Shira, Roya and the whippet-border collie mixed pack

The House Whippets practice their "Charlie's Angels" routine, pretending to protect Shira, Sasha and Roya from the nearby fruit trees

 

Divide & Conquer: Bob, Sesame and Biski take one side; Roya, Sasha the border collie and Picchu the other side

C-Biscuit says, "I couldn't help but notice our new pack member is wearing a coat, and it looks like formal wear at that...are we underdressed?"

 

Sasha and Sesame didn't, uh, see eye to eye - they spent the weekend nipping or ignoring each other

Sasha and Sesame didn't, uh, see eye to eye - they spent the weekend nipping at or ignoring each other

 

Sasha says, "Leashes off!"

Sasha says, "Leashes off!"

 

House Whippets say, "Now this is a dog run!"

C-Biscuit (right): "Now THIS is a dog run!" Sesame (left): "I will keep look-out for danger, that is surely all around us." Picchu (back): "Do you still love me, in a green field?"

 

The border collie plays Herd the Whippets!

The border collie plays Herd the Whippets!

 

The whippets say, "Full speed in opposite directions - the collie can't catch us!"

C-Biscuit and Picchu: "Full speed in opposite directions - the collie can't catch us!"

 

Cerberus? Or House Whippets?

Cerberus? Or House Whippets? Country water does strange things...

 

What a hostess: Sasha braves the rain so the house whippets can have, well, the house

What a hostess: Sasha braves the rain so the house whippets can have, well, the house (Sesame isn't so polite. "And stay out!" he says.)

For all of that wide open space and yummy country air, the country getaway had its downsides: thorns that went nearly all the way through Biski’s ears, rocks that ripped Sesame’s thigh, and the ultimate house whippet horror: they were not allowed on the furniture.

Country road, take me home: Same designer as the Brooklyn Bridge, but a much slower pace

Country road, take me home: Same designer as the Brooklyn Bridge, but a much slower pace. (Specifically, 15 mph.)

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Tree Climbing with Dogs

Bob is a major tree climber. He climbs for work, then climbs for fun. If we pause on a hiking trail, it’s common to lose Bob to a nearby tree:

Bob disappeared into this oak tree in no time

Bob disappeared into this White Oak tree in no time

On hiking trips, this is a common scenario for us:

Bob: "There's an amazing view up here!"

Bob: "There's an amazing view up here!"

Shira: "Get back down here, the dogs are going nuts!"

Shira: "Get back down here, the dogs are going nuts!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dogs can’t believe he can go where the squirrels are, and they can’t come. C-Biscuit especially is determined – when Bob goes up a tree, she runs up the trunk a good 6 or 7 feet.

Where the squirrels are: Bob and C-Biscuit attempt a tree climb

Where the squirrels are: Bob and C-Biscuit attempt a tree climb

We’d love to do more climbing together, but who would whipsit?

Bob has roped me into tree climbing

Bob has roped me into tree climbing

Doubleback Harness from Ruffwear

Doubleback Harness from Ruff Wear

Bob’s idea is that the dogs should be harnessed and brought up with us. Until this week I’d thought that was a joke. But our favorite outdoor gear company for dogs, Ruff Wear, just came out with a climbing harness for dogs! Woo-hoo! 

It’s described as a “2000 lbf strength-rated harness built for lifting and lowering in extreme and exposed areas.”

Dog ready to rock climb in Ruff Wear's new harness

Dog ready to rock climb in Ruff Wear's new harness

There’s a video on the site that shows a lab being strapped into the harness – it has leg straps and everything – and belayed up a rock face. Bob’s nearly unheard-of response: “Let me buy it!”

Seeing as the harness is $125 (!) – the whippet who most wants to climb will need to come forward and make a strong case before we get one. And even a climbing harness won’t mean the dogs can follow Bob in every climbing situation:  

In addition to trees, Bob likes to tango with bridges

In addition to trees, Bob likes to tango with bridges

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Squirrels in Central Park Displaced

 

Scrat, the squirrel superhero of "Ice Age"

Scrat, the squirrel superhero of "Ice Age"

Our three whippets’ favorite part of living in New York is nearby Central Park, and the best thing in the park are the squirrels.

They are everywhere, obsessively amassing acorns like our squirrel superhero “Scrat” and also scurrying in and out of trash cans like the junk-food eating wildlife in the movie “Over the Hedge.” Once, a squirrel begging from my friend Chad got impatient and made off with an entire half of his bagel with cream cheese.  

So it is with a heavy heart that we saw dozens of squirrels lose their homes last week as 80 mile-per-hour winds ripped briefly through a corridor of Riverside and Central Parks and brought down hundreds of trees/squirrel apartment buildings.

Bob, my sister Barbara and our whippets touring the storm damage in Central Park

Bob, my sister Barbara and our whippets touring the storm damage in Central Park

The damage looks like the aftermath of a hurricane or tornado, with trees toppled at their roots and branches sheared off by the ton. An estimated 500 trees are down, several of them near 100 years old. 

Bob, an arborist, used to work in Central Park and this enormous Red Oak was one of his favorite trees. We took some acorns to carry on the "bloodline."

Bob, an arborist, used to work in Central Park and this enormous Red Oak was one of his favorite trees. We took some acorns to carry on the "bloodline."

The dogs were nearly as confused as the squirrels to see tree tops at ground level. We watched squirrels scampering through fallen trees, obviously saying to themselves, “Now, I know my nest was right here in this limb!” 

We were proud of C-Biscuit, Machu Picchu and Sesame for not trying to take advantage of the situation and squirrel-loot. (Being on leashes also helped them “make good choices,” as my sister Barbara tells her first-grade class.)

Bob, Shira, and the whippets with storm-shredded trees in Central Park

Bob, Shira, and the whippets with storm-shredded trees in Central Park

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Hunting with Dogs (or not)

 

C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu at Lake Minnewaska: Release the Hounds!

C-Biscuit and Machu Picchu at Lake Minnewaska: Release the Hounds!

Sure, two of our whippets chase squirrels as if they’re prepared to live off the land. The third, Sesame, doesn’t seem to see squirrels but will always break ranks to snap his jaws on a fly.

Still, recent events leave me wondering if our dogs have any true, wolfy hunting instincts.

First, there are the snake encounters. Or rather, I encounter them. The dogs, apparently, do not see them, sense them, or smell them.

There's a reason I hike in back: Bob, Biski and Picchu supposedly clear the trail of wildlife

There's a reason I hike in back: Bob, Biski and Picchu supposedly clear the trail of wildlife

The first one we crossed was on a day hike this Spring in Harriman. Bob, Biski and Picchu hiked merrily ahead while I was suddenly confronted with a snake splayed across the trail. After I sent Bob back to investigate (and I’m skipping over my hysterics between the sighting and the investigating), he reported, “Well, I see why it wasn’t moving off the trail: It was busy eating a frog. Wow, I’m surprised the dogs missed that.”

Yeah, after all, why are we hiking with dogs, as a woodsy fashion accessory? No, to warn me of snakes! What kind of sighthounds are these? After all, the dogs love chasing tail, and what is a snake but all tail?

Hiking a half-mile with me perched on his back after the snake sighting should have taught Bob to look out for snakes himself if he had to. But I guess it didn’t. Because a couple weeks later, hiking around Lake Minnewaska, Bob decided we would take a short-cut. As we bush-whacked, again Bob, Biski and Picchu stepped right over what I was left to leap over announce as a “SNAKE!”

And I don’t mean a garter snake. This was the biggest snake I’ve seen since my fifth-grade class kept a 4-foot-long boa constrictor as a pet. (Alas, that did not desensitize me.)

“It’s HUGE!” I squirmed to Bob. “It’s a huge black snake! How could ALL of you miss that?!”

He backtracked to the scene of the snake, saying, “I’ve got to see this.” Clearly he was expecting to tell me it was only a root. He took a good look, then could only say, “It’s not black. It’s gray.”

Fun at dog day camp! "We are House Whippets, not Hunting Dogs!"

Fun at dog day camp! "We are House Whippets, not Hunting Dogs!"

So maybe I needed a greyhound to spot it?

But fine. Moving on to our latest camping trip. At the trail head, I caught Sesame jerking his head up and down – snout to dirt, snout in the air – repeatedly. “No!” I called to him, hoping he wouldn’t swallow whatever it was he was hunting. Then I saw what was going on: A little frog was hopping along, and Sesame was merely watching it, following along, up-down, up-down. That was fine with me, except aren’t dogs supposed to, you know, get it?

Our sighthounds are extremely good at spotting lunch, if it's packaged and ready to serve

Our sighthounds are extremely good at spotting lunch... if it's packaged and ready to serve

At the campsite we had another hunting scare. Sesame darted across the site, then I saw him pounce and grab something in his mouth. “Ohmygod, Sesame’s got something!” I yelled to Bob.

“DROP IT!” Bob told Sesame, while I went over to inspect the victim, which I thought might be one of those porcupines that John Burroughs writes about crawling all over the Catskills.

“Oh,” I told Bob before he arrived at the, shall we still call it, scene of the crime. “Never mind. It’s just, uh, a tennis ball.”

“A tennis ball? Where did he find that up here?”

If Bob wants to rough it, that’s fine. But why should the children suffer? “I brought it,” I told him. 

It wasn’t until the next day that he saw Sesame attacking a miniature bull, its eyes wide and horns shaking as Sesame whipped it around.  “I can’t believe you hauled that up the mountain,” Bob said. (“It doesn’t weigh anything,” I explained. “And Picchu was using it as a pillow.” So there.)

If the whippets aren’t going to scout and hunt for us, I figure we will have to do it for them. 

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