My friend Morriah invited me on a hike today and after much hemming and hawing on my part, I agreed to go. Initially we were to hike Square Top Mountain. Morriah told me that her cousin and friend were taking their children on the hike and that it would not be terribly difficult for anyone in good condition. Not certain that I fit this description, I tentatively agreed. Once I’d been sucked in, Morriah let me know that we had to meet at the Morrison Park-and-Ride at 6 am, oh and to bring winter gear since there might be snow, sleet, and wind.
I responded thusly:
6 a.m. is far too early of a time to actually have be anywhere. But I agreed despite thinking of ways to have a sudden emergency.
6 a.m. is also too early for my pup’s doggy daycare, Dog-Topia to open so it meant that either the dogs stayed at home or I brought one of them with me.
Sophie is a more seasoned hiker, but a trail with anything approaching a “Difficult” rating has to be tested out before I’ll take her on it. Square Top Mountain is close to being a “Fourteener” – a mountain whose peak is fourteen thousand feet high or higher. Her knee issues and her barely-noticeable front leg deformity that affects her range of motion already cause her to move with a slight limp. I didn’t want her to be unable to walk down the mountain. And taking her would mean leaving Rufus in his crate for a longer time than usual. It could go beyond the usual six hours that he can handle.
That left Rufus as the dog to take.
How would he behave? That remained to be seen.
After a restless night of listening to fire crackers explode well past midnight, I finally got some sleep. I woke up at 4:44 a.m. (just like Jay-Z!) and just got the hell out of bed. Waiting for the alarm would be sixteen minutes of misery. The dogs were surprised but fairly good sports. I let them out, fed them, got dressed, and got the rest of my gear together. I did a pretty good job the night before of getting my backpack ready so I didn’t have too much thinking to do, fortunately. (Handy tip: if you have to wake up before 5 am, get your crap together the night before when you are actually lucid so that you don’t forget anything. I speak from experience after forgetting to bring my sunscreen, my sandwich, enough water, a map, and my hat on various hikes.)
Sophie gave me a serious WTF look as I left with Rufus, all harnessed up and ready to hike. I knew it would not be a fun morning for her but I did leave a poop pad out in the kitchen for her to use in case of an accident. Her previous owner clearly trained her with those and she knows what they are. Any accidents not on one of those things leaves her with serious anxiety. Still, she watched me through the window as I drove away, a look of betrayal lingering in her eyes.
Rufus and I made it to the Park and Ride before Morriah. Traffic was easy-peasy and I was feeling pretty good, i.e. not grumpy.
When Morriah drove up we transferred over to her car and Rufus made himself very comfortable on the Kong Bed she had ready in her back seat. Rufus did an awesome job of handling I70. Then we had to go up the very, very twisty Guanella Pass. Rufus got carsick more than once. It’s not easy on the inner ear by any means.
We arrived at the very crowded trailhead parking area – 3 pukes later – and I cleaned up the bed as best I could with the poop bags I carry. Fortunately Morriah said that the bed could just be hosed off once we got home and not to worry. We did let it dry out under the car, however because we did not need the smell of vomit to get absorbed by the whole interior of the car. Clear thinking is obviously important for all aspects of a hike.
We met up with Morriah’s crew: they had decided we should hike Mt. Bierstadt – an actual fourteener rather than Square Top, just because the trail integrity for Square Top was a little questionable that day, and young kids were with them. We agreed without any issue since the mountain trail was immediately available, and set off. (Beautiful photos of the mountain by Morriah Fickes)
It was a beautiful morning. The two kids with us were ages seven and eight, and experts in hiking. I had to explain to them that Rufus is a little scared of strangers, but that once we got hiking, he’d warm up to them. For his part, Rufus was a little barky but nothing awful. And true to form, once we set off, he was fine with the kids walking near him. Eventually they would pat him and Rufus was fine with it.
We got to a creek that I did not take pictures of since I was too busy planning how to cross. I’d had visions of being pulled in by a certain dog. Speaking of, said dog was not thrilled with having to cross this water. At one point I was balancing on two different wet rocks and he was behind me, not having it at all. Morriah turned around, having gone first, and called to him. According to her, he “leapt” into the water. I did not turn around to watch since 1) that would have thrown off my balance and 2) I was wearing a pair of Morriah’s sunglasses (mine are MIA) and did not want them floating away.
Already Rufus was proving himself better behaved than Sophie. I know in my bones that Sophie would have stepped in the creek and rolled, despite the water’s depth and current.
One we all had crossed, we found a good pace that we kept as best we could. Bierstadt starts out very narrow. Some people wanted to motor on up, and we had to stand aside for them. A crazy pace is just not possible with kids. And honestly, it doesn’t make for a very fun hike. I’ve hiked with plenty of people who never bother to look at the trees or birds just because they are hellbent on getting another fourteener notch in their belt.
Rufus behaved himself just fine, for the most part. A few folks had their dogs off leash, and he wanted to check them out. This seemed to keep happening, and Morriah finally got in someone’s face and told him his dog had to be on leash. I was more anxious than I care to admit, and I’m sure Rufus picked up on that. I worry more than I should that he’s going to start something. Despite my worry, he’s never “started” anything, other than obnoxious playing.
He gets barky with people, but he doesn’t get territorial over me when other dogs come around. He just is play-aggressive, which some dogs do not like. One guy picked up his big dog who was not on leash, and Rufus jumped up on him. Fortunately he was a big guy who could move, and frankly, had he had his dog on leash, this wouldn’t have happened. I apologized anyway, and was really upset about that. Every other encounter was fine though, and I realized that I worried about stuff that just wasn’t going to happen.
I would like to end this by saying we summited and stood atop the mountain like champs. We did not. The altitude got to me, and the kids decided enough was enough. I’m adult enough to say that I faded far earlier than the kids did. They had a hike the day before and were wiped out.
The way down the mountain was fairly easy, although around every bend with new people, I had to ask if people had dogs. WHY is it so hard to keep your dog on leash in a place where you are supposed to?
I was stewing about that when we came across a group of trail maintenance workers. One of them held out her hand for Rufus, and he sniffed it. She petted him without any issues. Hooray! Then I heard her say, “I love that dog.” Aw. We’ll take it. Then I heard her say, “Is that a Weimaraner?” (Not even a little close, but thanks for the love.)
The kids were sad to say goodbye to Rufus. They waved and watched him leave. I was very proud of how he acted with them. Most dogs are pretty good with kids and take pains to make sure they are safe, and I’m happy to see that both of my dogs act accordingly.
Rufus was conked out for the drive home. He has been an utter dream since coming home, sleeping away and being a good dog. A tired dog is a good dog.
What is the most strenuous hike you have taken your dog on? How well did your pup handle it?