Cora, Adventure Dog

Cora is an eleven year old German Shepherd with the energy level and mannerisms of an eleven month old puppy. I adopted her from the SPCA in Ithaca, NY. She’s been with me for nine years now.

Cora loves hiking, walking, catching frisbees, and chasing rabbits. She is easily distracted (I think she has doggy ADD) and most of her misbehavior occurs when she stops paying attention to us because something more interesting has come into view.

Cora was great on our backpacking trip. To begin with, she was a total trooper about the backpack. It wasn’t easy to get it on her; every time I tried to slip the pack on over her head, she would drop her chin. I eventually outsmarted her. I put her in a down so she couldn’t get away from me. The amazing thing is that she didn’t do anything to try and get it off once I got it on. During the hike in, she was her usual, bouncy self, keeping an eye on all five people in our party as good shepherd should. She acted as if she were completely unaware of the pack.

Instead of looking at the camera, Cora is looking down the trail that Dana and the girls have taken

On Friday, she went up to Emmaline Lake with us. Since it was just a day hike, she did it without a backpack, but she took a real beating anyway. The hike from the meadow to the lake is reported as two miles but was actually much longer. The trail hasn’t been cleared out yet this year, and there are lots of fallen trees that have to be climbed over or around. Cora likes to jump onto or over these. As the trail got steeper, it also got rougher. The rocks got bigger so that we went from hiking to climbing. Cora did a lot of jumping and scrambling to get up the rocks. Being strong-willed, she repeatedly headed off in the wrong direction and had to back track to get onto the proper trail. I think she may have covered twice the distance the rest of us did. Fortunately, the destination was worth the trip.

Adventure Dog on the rocks overlooking Emmaline Lake
Adventure Dog on the rocks overlooking Emmaline Lake

On the way back to camp, she perked up some and I realized she had been struggling at the top due to altitude sickness. Her breathing had been much more rapid than usual, and she began to be reluctant to do anything that required going up. As we went back to 9800 from 11000 feet, she became more spry and less recalcitrant. She did, however, take advantage of every rest break she could get.

Whenever we had our food out to cook, we never had to worry about the chipmunks coming into camp and stealing it. Cora was always there, sharp eyes glued to their smallest movements. She would stand up whenever she saw a chipmunk near our camp, and the tiny squirrels would take one look at her and head back the way they had come.

Cora guards our camp
Cora guards our camp

Cora slept in the vestibule of our tent at night. She rarely moved all night long.

Cora in the vestibule, as seen through the tent's netting
Cora in the vestibule, as seen through the tent's netting

After we broke down our camp for the journey home, I put Cora’s backpack on her and we started down the trail. We realized Cora was in trouble in just a few steps. Her hind quarters were shaking and sinking as she tried to walk. She was so tired and sore from the mountain climb the day before that she couldn’t handle the extra weight. So Kurt added her pack to his. Unencumbered, she did fine on the two-plus mile hike back to the car. But when we got there, she had to be lifted into it. She’s been sleeping a lot over the last two days. Still, I’m sure it won’t be long before the question “Do you want to go for a hike?” gets the usual excited response from her. I know I’m raring to go!

The Trip to Emmaline Lake – Overview

We’re just back from a two-night backpacking trip in the Rockies. It was my first official backpacking trip ever and I came home loaded with good memories, lots of photos, and dreams of trips to come. I’ll be posting stories and pictures over the next several days.

The Cast of Characters: Kurt and I went backpacking with his grad school friend Dana and her two daughters, Sarah and Molly. We also took Cora along for her first backpacking/ back country camping trip ever. We bought her a doggy backpack so she could carry her own food and water.

Kurt and Cora on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Kurt and Cora on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Sarah, Dana, and Molly on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Sarah, Dana, and Molly on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Me having my breakfast
Me having my breakfast

The Route: We took the Cirque Meadow trail in the Roosevelt National Forest to (where else?) Cirque Meadow. It was stunning and made for an ideal camping spot. Here’s the meadow with Comanche Peak in the background:

Cirque Meadow
Cirque Meadow

Here’s my tiny two-man tent and Kurt’s backpack:

Here’s Dana’s three-man tent, with Sarah and Molly inside, reading. Kurt and I had serious tent envy. Not only did we like the design of their tent, but it was twice the size of ours and one-fourth of the weight! I think we’ll be buying one of our own very soon.

Kurt, Cora, and I enjoyed our outdoor time together. Here we are having breakfast on Friday morning before making a day hike up to Emmaline and Cirque Lakes.

The Destination: Emmaline Lake. It was our plan all along to hike up into the mountains to see Emmaline Lake. Dana picked the destination from a slew of suggestions given to us by a well-informed National Forest Service ranger at the local info center. The full story of this hike will be in a later post, but to give you a tiny taste of the beauty we discovered at the end of the trail, here’s a picture:

Kit and Cora at Emmaline Lake
Kit and Cora at Emmaline Lake

The Mystery of the Brass Armadillos

Or, Why Armadillos, part 3?

After I made The Truth About Armadillos and entered it in the Tompkins County Quilters Guild show, I apparently had a reputation in the community as an armadillo lover.

I came home from work one day to find a brass armadillo sitting on my door step. He was about eight inches long and five inches high and had a nice brassy weight to him. There was no note, no indication of where he had come from. I took him in, figuring he needed a good home, and set him high on a window sill on the front side of the house so that whoever had left him there could see he had been taken in out of the cold. I mentioned him casually to my friends, but no one admitted to knowing anything about him.

A few days later I came home and had a shock. The brass armadillo was outside, pausing during a climb up a pile of gravel that was waiting to be spread over my driveway. Not believing that he would leave the house on his own, I was certain someone had broken in and brought him outside. Then I looked up and saw the first brass armadillo sitting where I had left him on the window sill.

The mountain climbing armadillo was the first orphan’s twin. Now I had two brass armadillos and still no idea where they had come from. As time went on, I wracked my brain, trying to guess who had left me armadillos anonymously. I confronted everyone I could think of, but no one ever confessed. To this day, I do not know who the culprit was. I only know the armadillos found their way to my house, and they live with me still. Fortunately, I like a little mystery in my life.

Altoid Tin Makeover, or, I Learn A Crafting Secret

I’ve been interested in mixed-media art for the last few years but only a handful of pieces turn out the way I hoped they would. I keep thinking that there are secrets to learn to get the results I want, but I know in my heart it’s just a question of practice and experimentation. All I need is the willingness to make a bunch of ugly stuff in the process.

However, this past Monday night at my To The Bones art workshop (we’re working our way through Women Who Run With The Wolves), Robin Muse told me a Secret about working with metal tins that I hadn’t discovered yet – you can glue paper right onto them! I painted a tin with acrylics and the paint flaked off after it dried. I assumed glue wouldn’t stick either, but the box in the photo is an Altoid tin covered with brown paper. I used Modge-Podge to attach it, but gel medium also works. To give it a more interesting look, I painted it. I love the texture and depth I achieved. The only question is, do I love it too much? I was going to make a little shrine, but I am now afraid to mess up my super cool tin.

Technicalities for those who care: I coated the paper with a layer of Modge-Podge to seal it and let it dry. Paint layer 1 contained partially mixed ochre, burnt sienna, and gold acrylic paints applied unevenly with a brush. When it was dry, I brushed on paint layer 2 (a black I mixed myself), then took most of the paint back off with a paper towel.

Sights Seen

Yesterday, we finally made the trip south to a home near Evergreen, CO to buy a used canoe that is in beautiful condition. It was a solid hour and a half drive down, but it was another gorgeous day in Colorado, so we decided to take even longer on the return home. We took the scenic route (i.e., back roads through the mountains) and it lived up to its name. Around every corner was another stunning view of mountains or meadows or canyons.

The Big Event: we were treated to the sight of three bighorn sheep grazing on a hillside right by the road. It was hard to miss them – there were people standing by the road and staring at them through binoculars and cameras. It was the first time I had ever seen bighorn sheep in the wild. They were a lot bigger than I expected.

The other fun thing about yesterday was seeing the canoe strapped to my car. It’s longer than my Honda by over two feet, but we figured out a secure way to tie it down and it turns out it’s not that hard to drive the car with the canoe in place. We took Cora along for the drive, and here’s a picture of the complete package: car, canoe, and Cora (she’s looking out the hatch window).

The Truth About Armadillos

or Why Armadillos? (part 2)

or Inspire Me Thursday – Whimsy

Back in 2001 and 2002, I spent the spring in Killeen, Texas as part of a research team studying black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers on Fort Hood. I was working as a programmer for Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program, and having gotten severely seasick on the whale cruises, I was excited to be part of a project that was on solid ground.

The armadillo part of this is, of course, being in Texas. I was on the watch for wildlife in general but my greatest wish was to see an armadillo running around in the wild. To my dismay, the only armadillos I saw there were lying by roads, crushed pink and gray messes. When I left Texas after the 2002 field season, my dream unfulfilled, I decided that armadillos had to be more than pink and gray shells. I decided armadillos only looked that way dead. When alive, I imagine armadillos as being all colors of the rainbow. (This is the whimsy part.)

A few years later, I was part of a scrap bag challenge with an art doll group in Ithaca, NY. I was given a bag of fabric scraps and told to make something with them. Seeing the rainbow of colors available, I immediately thought of a living armadillo. So I made one (see above).

I combined quilting techniques (quilting and piecing) with my art doll skills. The design (if you can call it that) is all my own. The entire thing was an improv – I made a bunch of body parts more than once trying to get them right. I chewed through the challenge fabric, but wound up adding only one fabric (the light blue belly) to the provided scraps. I was ecstatic with the results and was surprised to find that other people liked The Truth About Armadillos enough to award it the viewer’s first prize for soft sculpture at the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s show in 2005.

Doesn’t Follow Directions

Improvising improvements while I sew is standard with me. Even when I have a pattern to follow, I usually change it. For some reason, I rebel against the instructions, not always with the best of results. In this case however, things worked out nicely (with only one minor oops). Here are pictures of the sketchbook cover/carrier and the “matching” pencil roll I made for my sister for her birthday.

The cover is a variation on a pattern by Cindi Edgerton for making paperback book covers. She also gives directions on how to measure any book and make a cover for it, and they work great. My modifications include a flap to hold the book closed and a shoulder strap for carrying the book around. (You need the flap if you’re going to hang the book from your shoulder, or it will open and close as you walk.)

The pencil roll pattern is from Cloth Paper Scissors’ 2008 Studios issue that came out this past April. My modifications for this pattern were minor – I just added the little D-rings so the roll can be carried on the sketchbook carrier’s strap. Of course, the first time I sewed them on, I wasn’t paying close enough attention and wound up sewing the pencil pocket shut.

I really enjoyed using the D-rings as connectors. They made the final product look sturdy and professional. And playing with fabric, which I haven’t done for months (due to a disaster of a studio), was really satisfying.