You know those words you have to spell out, or chaos will ensue?
T-R-E-A-T. R-I-D-E. W-A-L-K.
With my pack, there’s one more: H-I-K-E. I only dare whisper it when ready to head outside.
Of course, my dogs are on the lookout for clues too. Water bottles, leashes, collapsible water bowl, scrunched-up plastic grocery bags. Add in the tell-tale doggie backpack and tennis shoes on my feet, and their suspicions are confirmed. Game on! The excited whining and yelping won’t end until we’re heading down the road.
I live on the bench of the Wasatch Front, a north-south range of the Rocky Mountains. So, we head to Millcreek Canyon, the one dog friendly canyon within easy driving distance. (Most canyons are closed to dogs to protect watersheds.)
Odd days are off-leash days. These are a favorite, especially for my hiking buddy extraordinaire: Elvis, a youngish 105-lb natural-eared Doberman with energy to spare. He’s a joy to watch on the trails. He races ahead, ears flopping. Then, losing sight of us on a turn, runs back to ensure we’re still in his wake. I continue at my meandering pace, as he flies back and forth.
With his backpack, other hikers find him more approachable. Otherwise, they sidestep him, not knowing what a big friendly galoot he is. Inevitably, I hear jokes about him carrying my load but all in good fun. He does carry his own water, though, and T-R-E-A-T-S, and those handy-dandy grocery bags for pick up along the way (gotta love that he carries out his own bags).
Buzz, my twelve-year-old beagle, tags along on short, minimal incline trails now. His speed is walking in the neighborhood, preferably less than a mile. Cinnamon, a poodle mix, goes at my pace, happy to be at my side.
We hike in all seasons. In spring, with the snow melt, Elvis splashes in the cold creeks racing down the gullies. Plants are greening and birds are singing. In summer, wildflowers dot the hillsides, lavender lupine and larkspur, snow white columbine, and deep pink Indian paintbrush. Come autumn, the golden quaking aspens and cottonwoods and red-orange mountain maples are set off by the evergreens. Then winter again, a white wonderland.
And always breath-taking panoramic views.
So many reasons to get outside. But, the dogs don’t care why. They just care about when, and the sooner the better, today and every day. Oh, is that a backpack they see? Let the chaos begin.
“H-I-K-E” appeared in the June 2011 issue of Dog Fancy.