Molly was afraid of the water until one day we were on a railroad tracks walk along the Susquehanna River. We threw Everett's ball into the River and Molly ran in after him and that was that. If her favorite cousin was going in, it must be fun, right? Molly never looked back and she was never afraid of swimming again.
And so, on a grand adventure geocaching near a different river, on a day when my mind was heavy with the loss of a golden retriever who helped shape my dog into who she is today...Molly had to be the one to come along. Zorro was our third wheel.
Our first stop was an abandoned railroad tunnel that I have been meaning to visit for literal years. Ooooooooh. I work near this spot, there is a geocache here, but it is not something I could tackle after work wearing scrubs and work clogs. And how true that decision turned out to be! I parked at the rail trail parking lot. It's about a .2 mile walk to a small creek. You might consider getting to the tunnel this way. There is chicken wire fencing off a nearby property and it goes through any access to the creek that would be a gentle slope downhill. Then the terrain starts to go sharply uphill. Go into the trailside weeds again and now there is no chicken wire blocking the creek/canal but it is a steep downhill fall into a soupy green mess of water that even I won't walk through (or, more importantly, won't let the dogs walk through and possibly drink). Continue uphill and now any hope of getting down to the tunnel from the northern side is gone, it is a straight 90 degree drop. I am a mountain goat but I'm not suicidal.
I had already assessed this approach over a year ago. I thought, oh I'll wear Crocs and scale down into the "creek" and walk to the tunnel entrance. No. I should have considered the stagnant water would have deepened. This panoramic photo was taken in January 2019 while standing on top of the northern entrance to the tunnel. As you can see there is no going down the sides without climbing equipment. And the clearish water of January was nowhere to be found in almost-June.
Okay, so we will keep walking and find the southern tunnel entrance and walk through the tunnel. I don't really like tunnels, I'm a little weird about that especially when they get too deep and dark and I am by myself. But, I could at least "scout it out". The rail trail went uphill, crossed a road, leveled out and then there was a clearing. I explored. There was a muddy downhill. Steep but not impossible, and I could see the southern tunnel entrance. By now Molly is hot and completely over my shit. Going up a hill on a paved surface and going into the weeds and thorns multiple times. (Trying to find access for the other tunnel entrance) Unacceptable! It was an exciting downhill sprint thanks to the leashed Molly and I'm lucky I didn't fall. I definitely did a much-faster-than-I-was-comfortable-with skid downhill. I was wearing only Crocs because of all the walking in water I had anticipated. But there it was. The tunnel entrance. There was some swampy water yes, but there was a narrow muddy path that was easy enough to travel. And just then I realized. My keys were gone.
Unless I have my backpack, I always clip my keys to a carabiner on the leash loop. And they were gone. Where? In what section of weeds I bushwhacked through? What spot on the trail? Did they fall off when I untied a poop bag from the leash loop? When I pulled the leash because it was stuck on something? Lets just fast forward through about an hour of me searching the muddy hillside, and every off trail thorny bushwhack. Up and down the hot hillside, tearing myself to literal ribbons and trying to remain hopeful I would find my needle in a haystack. After a while I returned to the tunnel entrance and searched the downhill slope again for my keys. Could not find them. Molly was super hot and done by now and the railroad gorge was so nice and cool. What harm was there in exploring the tunnel and then searching for the keys a little more afterward?? After we all cool off?
I never let Molly off leash anymore but with the high stone gorge walls, there was nowhere for her to take a naughty excursion to. She was overjoyed. She slopped around in the water and enjoyed snuffling everywhere and doing random leaps and zooms. I tried to leave Zorro loose too but he only instigated Molly into high speed chase. Molly is too big for Zorro to be running with, and Molly is too old to be able to handle that sort ripping aroundanymore. She actually fell on the ground and did a roll and so Zorro was put back on the leash again. We got to the tunnel entrance, and it was time to go in. Part of the ceiling had fallen down long ago in a huge pile of stone rubble that had to be climbed over to pass. There was ankle deep standing water through the whole thing. I needed my flashlight in the middle, but not for long.
I mucked around, took a few pictures. I wish I had taken more and spent a little more time here. It would be fun to return without dogs and bring the SLR camera someday. I was feeling guilty for not sticking to the keys search and then something else happened. I stepped on a board with a nail. It went right through my croc and into my foot. I felt it as soon as I stepped down and quickly shifted weight to the opposite foot (a movement that my ankle still hurts from!) but the puncture happened. Now I had no keys and a puncture wound in my foot that is exposed to filthy water with trash soaking in it. Oh well, guess we were going to be stopping at an urgent care at some point today!
Back through the tunnel, back up the hill. I saw two people looking around, semi-lost. Heard them say tunnel. I explained this was how to get to the tunnel, we chatted about abandoned PA structures for a little bit. I mentioned I had lost my keys and now had to try to go find them, so we parted ways. I was walking back down the trail to go play in the thorns again when I heard "WE FOUND YOUR KEYS!!" I could have fallen on my knees and kissed their feet and sobbed. One of them fell on her butt on the downhill mud slide towards the tunnel, looked over and saw a set of keys laying on the ground. What luck! (For me!) I did remember squeezing and grabbing at the leashes while I was being yanked downhill and I must have engaged the clip open so they keys could fall onto the ground. I didn't remember hearing them fall but I was just trying to stay up on my two feet!
The adventure day was back on! Any sensible person would have gone home, bathed their dogs and showered and gone to the urgent care but I am a fool. Our next stop was a small park at the top of town with a few geocaches I have never found. They all seemed like too much of a hike for an after-work stroll (because, after an 8 hour work shift, I have dogs at home who would like to go potty and have their dinner. I try not to delay that.) First stop: a large-sized cache after a pleasant stroll through the woods. Next, through a field in the direct sun. Not cool. Found another geocache though with bad coordinates. Next was one that has been hidden for a "long" time, 3.5 terrain and it could have been more. Into the woods, into the shade, straight downhill towards the River again. My keys were in my POCKET and safe.
The dogs were hot again and they could see the River. We came down at a live railroad tunnel and the tracks came out from the tunnel and onto a railroad bridge and crossed the river. There were teenagers everywhere. On the railroad bridge, hanging out in the woods. All merrily enjoying a warm day. They were jumping off the bridge into the river, the stuff of nightmares! I let the dogs have a swim and Molly of course had to go swim out to the middle of the river with the teenagers, which surprised and then delighted them. Especially the ones still on the bridge laughing at their friends who were shocked to see what was clearly a brindle crocodile swimming towards them!
After the swim we headed upriver in the direction of the cache. And then we had to go back uphill, what a climb! Poor Molly! But she did it, with some help for me - why I love harnesses on the dogs! The spot where the geocache was hidden also had a group of teenagers hanging out on the lookout rock, so I decided to leave it for another day. The fun was certainly in the adventure! And I found a much less strenuous trail back to the car.
Our last stop was to make a doggie-toast to Everett with a game of fetch. I drove to the boat launch. It was very busy, but we found our own river shore spot and got to it. Balls in the water for your, Everett. Molly ran in fearless, just like you taught her to do. 💗
"If anybody wants to share a few words for Everett, please feel free to speak now"....
We even managed to steal some time on the dock. Zorro surprised me by jumping in with only some minor hesitation. Up until now he had been clinging to the side of the dock and screaming before jumping in, or running around and off of a dock. Cool! I have not been pushing him. There's no rush. Yes, I will love it if we can compete in dock diving, as many of his half siblings and one direct siblings have some very impressive dock skills. They also have experienced handlers. I am still learning my throws and dock skills. But one thing I am experienced with is to let the dog dictate how quickly their progress needs to go - that is what is most important. Confidence is everything with dock diving.
And our day came to a close with a milkshake for me, chewies for the dogs and a trip to the urgent care for myself. The amazing staff even let the dogs come inside because they were worried about the vehicle temperature. (I had the windows open and my sun screens on but having the dogs inside was a real relief and very "above and beyond" from the staff.)
What a day!!!!
What a day!!!!