Hello! Did you miss us? Lucky and I took some time off from exploring Wisconsin state parks this winter to rest and rejuvenate—which was hard for Lucky because he doesn’t do rest, but it was doctor’s orders. Over the summer, I noticed a lump under Lucky’s armpit that continued to grow to the size of a tennis ball. It wasn’t cancerous or dangerous even, but it was right in his armpit and was starting to make him walk pigeon-toed. Because we still have so much hiking to do, Lucky’s doctor and I decided it was best to remove the lump rather than risk it affecting his mobility. Right after the lump was removed, Lucky had a drain in his armpit, and it was super gross. After a few days of dripping blood and other body juices, the drain was removed, and a few weeks later, the vet took the staples out.
The whole healing process took about a month, but Lucky didn’t get the memo. He was acting like normal hyperactive Lucky pretty much the day after his surgery. Since exercising him wasn’t an option, I did the only thing I could so Lucky didn’t drive me crazy. I left the house. I spent the month going home after work to play nurse and then, as soon as my patient had pottied, ate, and been tucked back in his bed, I’d head to a coffee shop to work on writing. I made some decent progress on A Dog Owner’s Guide to Hiking Wisconsin’s State Parks during that month, and I did so without feeling guilty for not walking Lucky and for all the time the dogs were spending cooped up in the house alone.
Lucky’s armpit healed, and now we’ve returned to adventuring. This past weekend, we went back to Yellowstone Lake State Park for the second time. Our first visit was Super Bowl Sunday 2017, and because most of the trails were groomed for cross-country skiing, we didn’t have many options for hiking. This return visit gave us a chance to explore the full expanse of trails. My sister joined me on this outing, but this time she left the big dogs, Zoolander and Ahsoka, at home. Instead, she brought her miniature Schnauzer, Klaus. This was Klaus’s first time visiting a Wisconsin state park and his first time on a hike, and he did great! Klaus was a trooper on the trails and a gentleman to the other park visitors we encountered.
We started out doing the Wildlife Loop, which we’d hiked on our previous visit. However, this time winter’s dormant creatures were out and about, including the fishermen. During our winter hike, I took a photo of Lucky standing on this block of stone with the frozen lake in the background. I was looking forward to taking a spring version of this same photo, but now the block of stone was occupied by a few men and their fishing poles. They had staked out their territory with coolers and tackleboxes, so we just said hello and kept on walking. We stopped and took a similar photo on a different rock further down the trail, but it’s not the same. ☹
What else isn’t the same in the spring is the experience of hiking through the wetlands. In the winter, with the water is frozen over and the trees barren, the wetlands are a maze for exploring. In the spring, the vegetation creates a thick curtain, making it nearly impossible to tell you are in a wetland area. It might as well be a dense forest―but with more bugs.
After the Wildlife Loop, we made our way to the picnic shelter parking lot and headed out to hike Oak Ridge Trail. In the winter, this trail is groomed for cross-country skiing. In spring, it doesn’t appear to be groomed for anything. Tall grass and weeds make up most of the trail, so of course I was having Governor Thompson flashbacks. On a positive note, we didn’t find one tick on either dog or human, and there were some semi-scenic moments along this route. We also checked out a portion of Oak Grove Trail, which pulls double duty in the spring as a hiking trail and as a mountain biking trail. I wanted to see if the trail was a legit mountain bike trail that allowed hiking or a hiking trail that allowed mountain biking. It was the latter.
Before leaving we also checked out the pet picnic area. One of the nine picnic areas is designated as the pet picnic area, and the park attendant told us there was a beach in the pet picnic area where dogs can swim. Of course, Lucky and I had to see this “beach” for ourselves, and Lucky had to test out the waters. But, after seeing it, we can’t help but wonder if the park attendant has ever seen a beach. Lucky didn’t really mind the non-beach. All that matters was that he could get in the water to walk around and take big gulps, so mission accomplished.
Want more information about hiking with your dog in Yellowstone Lake State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!