Laika the dogI’ve always liked going for walks. It’s a nice thing to do. Recently, I’ve graduated to the kind of walking more usually described as “hiking” (otherwise known as “rambling” here in the UK, or “tramping” back in NZ).

The difference, I’m led to understand, has to do with distance, terrain and scenery – but the core principle of putting one foot in front of the other remains. I did a bit when I was over in California, and kind of fell in love with it.

Mind you, the scenery of Pinnacles and Joshua Tree National Parks sort of raise the stakes somewhat. There isn’t quite the same awe-inspiring pull here in South Birmingham – but there are certainly some pretty bits – especially when it’s all covered in a deep blanket of white.

I’d been stuck inside because of this weather we’ve been having the past few days, so I thought I’d brave the elements and go for a walk in the local park. I wrapped up warm, grabbed my camera and went out into the snow.

The Flickr set’s here, if you want to see the pictures I took.

I made it about halfway through Highbury Park, when I noticed that the only reason anyone else was outside was that they had children or dogs. Both need to be exercised regardless of the weather or they’ll just drive you nuts. So I popped around to my friend Sam’s house and borrowed Laika (above). She is both addicted to and entirely obsessive about chasing a tennis ball, and will take any opportunity to do so. So we went to the woods at the top end of Cannon Hill Park and did exactly that.

I threw, she retrieved. I walked, she ran. We stopped and chatted to other dog people. We hunted for lost tennis balls in the deep snow. Repeatedly.

It was, despite the temperature and the ankle-deep snow, a thoroughly lovely excursion that filled a couple of hours on a Sunday and got me out of the house for some much-needed fresh air.

And thanks to Laika, it looked like I was doing so with purpose, rather than – as had previously been the case – like some lost loon who’d strayed from the pub and couldn’t find his way back.

Pro tip: Borrow a dog.