March 18, 2020 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

The Lower Trail is a seventeen mile run. For the most part, it has a rolled, crushed limestone surface. It’s a flat run, meaning there are no hills or slopes to deal with. That makes it perfect for horseback riding and a more casual bike run. Some people come out just to bird watch, taking the smooth terrain to its full advantage.

As they move along the trail, the remnants of the canal era are clear. There are locks and the old foundations to the lock tender’s houses. A number of bridges cross over the Juniata River, including a covered bridge that crosses over the tail race of a historic mill stream.

Massive concrete rock crushers can be seen off in the distance, from abandoned stone quarries that dot the trail. They’re the only sign of a once industrial land, where now there is nothing but forest beside the river.

Chase asks, “do you think we’re gonna go see Mt. Etna? I heard WooFDriver talk about that once! It sounded really cool! And it’s been a while since we got to explore anything without the humans following along.”

Princess says, “I don’t think so. We haven’t been there before, and WooFDriver sounded like he just wanted to visit places that we’ve already been.” A pause, and then, “I still think that’s weird.”

Jag says, “I don’t think it’s that weird. Maybe he’s just feeling nostalgic.”

Zarro says, “I think you’re both wrong. This is for one of his websites, I bet. He’s doing something for that.”

It’s a good thought.

It’s probably the right thought.

But still, Princess knows better than to ignore her instincts. And right now, her instincts say that there’s something not totally right. Maybe it’s not about the run itself, or the meaning behind it. But there’s something wrong here, for sure.

The trail is known to be home to a lot of animals and plants native to the area. It’s important to birdwatchers and avian conservation agencies alike. There are even some particularly rare plant species along the trail; spots that split off to the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway, and the Juniata River Water Trail.

There’s a lot to look at on this rural trail, even for someone that’s been here before. And the weather out is lovely!

There really shouldn’t be anything causing this sense of anxiety in Princess, and yet here it is, making her fur stand on end and filling her with an undeniable sense of unease.

But then, a dog’s instincts are almost always right.

They’re barely eight miles into the trail when an awful sound fills the air. It’s like a bird, but worse. Hoarse and drawn out. The poor thing sounds like it’s in pain.

Princess stumbles at the sound. The whole pack starts slowing down, heads on a swivel. Relief fills Princess when WooFDriver calls the team to a stop and cuts the engine of the WooFMobile.

The cry comes again. This time, there’s a word in it. At least, to the dog’s there’s a word.

“Help,” cries the animal. It’s clearly some kind of bird.

To WooFDriver, it just sounds like an animal in pain.

“That’s not good,” says WooFDriver, under his breath.

“I knew something was wrong,” says Princess. “That’s it. That’s what I’ve been feeling.”

Jag says, “I don’t see anything. It’s got to be out in the trees.”

Zarro whines. “We’ve just got WooFDriver here with us. If he goes to look, he’s either going to have to bring all of us, or leave some of us here alone.”

Chase says, “he should bring all of us. We work better together.”

Jag says, “you just don’t want to be left on your own.”

The cry sounds again.

Princess whines, her ears flicking back against her skull. “Whatever he does, he’d better make the decision fast. That bird’s in a lot of pain. I can tell.”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author

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