Rich & Wilder Go Woozle Huntin'

Rich & Wilder Go Woozle Huntin'

Woo! It was nippy out, so Wilder and I played indoors for once. I'd throw the toy and crouch down so he had to jump over me and we'd do this until one of us was too tired to keep going (we took turns being tired). It's a good workout. That pup can jump!

As the day went on, the sun made it over the hurdle as well. We just couldn't stay contained in the house any longer. If Wilder hears the jingle of keys or the ruffle of a winter coat, he is at the door, butt wiggling and eyes shining. Dare I say the magic word? “Wilder, let's go HIKING.”

KA-BOOM! We blew out of that house like a rocket ship flying away from an exploding planet. We were off to the Goodwill Conservation Area in Barrington for a sunset adventure. Wilder had so much energy, I decided to keep him on his long leash this time. Since it is hunting season, I also put a safety vest on him, which makes him look like a little super hero.

Goodwill Conservation Area is a series of nature trails nestled through the hills and rocks around Richardson Pond. The pond welcomed us as we rolled through the bumpy parking area. The sun was already setting behind the high trees. The pond was lightly frozen over and the sunlight reflected on the ice, stoking my imagination. Lively and wild, the way I like it.

Wilder obstacle-course-race-mudpit-crawled across the rustic, wide-gapped wooden bridge over the tributary brook and we entered an alternate universe. I turned around and checked my car – still there. I saw the state road behind it. A truck whizzed by. The frozen pond – still frozen. The brook – bubbling icy cauldron of mossy rocks and fallen leaves. Hmm, but everything seemed different. It was golden and hazy, like a scene in a storybook. A sign pointed us that-a-way. We were on the Winnie-the-Pooh Trail. What fun!

It wasn't long before we passed Christopher Robin's house. He lives in a big tree with a door nailed to it. Nice place. He wasn't there, though. He left a note that he went out. We wondered if we'd meet him in these woods. Up for the adventure, we went in deeper.

Did you know it was woozle hunting season? I didn't either, but once I saw the signs, I figured I had to have a try at catching one of these varmints. I don't know if you know much about woozles, but they like to live in cold places (today was cold), and they like to steal honey. And Pooh does live around here, somewhere. And he's kinda clumsy with his honey. So there are probably well-fed, well-bred woozles all over the place.

Wilder, when approached with the possibility that we could catch us some woozles, went crazy. We raced straight into the bush. After a while, we realized we were just walking in circles. The pond was to our right and then it'd be gone – and then it would appear again. The whole time I thought we were on to something. Tricked by woozles! Rats!

Maybe they were hiding deeper in the woods, so we followed a really fun ridge path called Melvin Trail along the quiet backside of the pond. Cattail puffs stood frozen in the swampy cove, there 'til spring likely, unless some winter birds still need extra nesting. Then we found a snowmobile path. We turned right and went further west into the woods. The path was wide and doused in leaves. We weren't being very good hunters, I realize now, as we ran and kicked up leaves and yelled and panted, but I blame Wilder. He's just not good at sitting still for even a second.

The path went on between some large rocky hills and disappeared in the woods. I decided I didn't want to follow it much longer, since it probably went into Lee or Northwood or some strange place. Last thing I needed was to end up in someone's backwoods backyard. The hill to our right was steep, its peak a brown mossy slab of rock. Fallen trees and overgrowth protected it from curious explorers. But we were crafty enough to bushwack and log-hop to the summit and get a lay of the land. Nothing to see but treetops and sunset. There wasn't a sign of life whatsoever in the woods below. “The woozles must be quiet today,” I whispered to Wilder.

On the way back we stopped to admire the largest Bigtooth Aspen tree in Strafford County. At least that's what the sign said. My oh my! Aspens aren't usually impressive trees – I only notice them for their crunchy leaves – but this one was a doozy.

It wasn't far from Pooh's house, so we raced there. But Pooh wasn't home. We just found a super cool rock cave, totally empty, except for a bunch of jars and dishes sitting out in the open. You can't just leave your dishes lying around, bear, there are woozles out there! And they love honey! I considered taking a jar to use as woozle bait, but there wasn't a drop of that sweet gloopy gold left. Pooh must have been down at Calef's stocking up on the good stuff.

Wilder and I skedaddled, since it was starting to get darker in the woods. We jumped over Owl's house, a fallen log – excellent agility practice – and then Wilder froze. His ears perked up a little. “Grff, grff,” he said. His attention was focused off in the woods somewhere. By golly, we were gonna get some action!

It was then that I realized I didn't have anything to capture a woozle with. Do I need a net? A trap? A woozling rod? I hadn't the slightest idea! Well, I decided, we'd have to give up our dream of catching a woozle. We could just be woozle watchers, instead.

But it wasn't a woozle we saw. It was a kiddo and some grownups walking on another part of the trail, visiting other residents of Hundred Acre Wood. We wanted to ask if he was the famous Christopher Robin, but we were too shy. In a flash, we ran down a hill and right into Piglet's backyard. Talk about shy. Piglet wouldn't even come outside! “Oh D-d-d-ear!” I heard someone cry inside, as Wilder tangled his leash all around Piglet's property. Then Wilder bounced and jumped all over me and I tried to untangle both of us.

I barely got my boot free before we were off again, back toward the pond. I could have sworn I heard Wilder singing, “The wonderful thing about Wilder is Wilder's a wonderful thing!” He was whizzing between trees, his tongue was flailing, his eyes were wide open with high octane puppy furry fury. I'm not entirely sure what a Tigger is – but I think Wilder is part-Tigger.

We just ran and ran and before long we were back near Christopher Robin's house. The kid still wasn't home. Hmm, maybe that was him out there. We missed our chance. After I got Wilder contained in the car, I walked around the front to have a final look at the beautiful pond and spotted a most curious thing. A log – right in the parking lot – appears to have been carved into what I can only conclude MUST BE the likeness of a woozle, that mysterious elusive honey-stealing beast. I mean, I've never seen a woozle (have you?). But what else could it be?

We'll find you yet, you woozles. Just you wait.

Highlights From Ed Webster's Mount Washington Lecture

Highlights From Ed Webster's Mount Washington Lecture

Splendid Isolation

Splendid Isolation