Thoughts On An Early Morning Hike in the Mountains

Dog and I went camping again yesterday in the mountains (where else?).  I am normally and early riser anyway, but especially when I am camping and haven’t slept too well anyway.  I am excited to see the morning after a long night in the tent.  I was much warmer on this trip (thanks to a better sleeping bag, kindly lent by my roommate), and extra blankets.  Dog was perfectly comfortable, sans blanket.  Still, when I woke up and saw sun creeping across the sky and heard the birds chirping away in the cheerful morning chatter I was glad.  The air outside the tent was coooooold and I regretted my decision to leave my blanket nest, but Dog was ready to go so I didn’t have much of a choice.  April in the city of Denver is much warmer than April in mountains, and the air had a special spring chill.  Refreshing and sweet, but cold.   Anyway, I layered up, and after a hasty breakfast Dog and I set off on the trail.  Here are some reflections on early morning hiking.


1) You will meet a whole different set of birds.  I WISH I WISH I WISH I hadn’t left my new Rocky Mountain Bird identification book at home, but I could tell even without it that the birds I was seeing and hearing in the morning were different from the ones I encountered in the day and evening.  For one thing, the woodpeckers- a species different from the kind I was used to in Wisco- were voracious, and their pecking echoed all around the forest.  Dog and I had a good time watching all the early morning birds swoop around and call to one another.

This woodpecker was attacking the phone poll.

2) If you prefer the trail to yourself, you’ll have it.  I did see two trail runners go past, but apart from that we had what felt like the whole mountain to ourselves.  Most of the other campers were still asleep, and the day trippers weren’t in the park yet.  The stunning views of Panorama Point were OURS, muahahaha.  I also felt less inhibited about sitting down in sunny patches to catch my breath or to snag a snack.

A blurry goofy picture of me playing around with the self timer on my camera near Panorama Point.

3) The freshness of the air and the sun coming up behind peaks and trees is unbeatable.  Yeah, I’m sure the air is always fresh up there, but something about the brisk temps and bird chatter just made the scent of the trees and chipper mountain streams fresher.  It was a joy just to breath.  Stopping to take great big lungfulls of air I was also in awe of the views of the sun rising from behind forested peaks.  It wasn’t dark when we set out from camp, but there was definitely a sharp contrast between the places on the trail where tendrils of sunlight had sneaked in and where it hadn’t.

The change of night to day.

4) The feeling of accomplishment when you saunter back into camp having completed a somewhat grueling hike while everyone else is just starting their day.  I took a one hour victory nap in my tent to celebrate.  So did Dog.

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Things I Learned Hiking With A Dog


I love dogs (and cats.  I’m adamantly both a dog and a cat person) and I work with them every day.  Growing up my parents constantly adopted rescued dachshunds who had various scars and sad stories, but who turned into cuddle bugs and snuggle monsters.  I worked in shelters consistantly after graduating college, as well as being a dog walker and a receptionist at a vet clinic.  Yeah, I’ve seen some dogs.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I lived with a dog who is- shall we say more a dog in the traditional sense of the word?  I refer to her as Dog on social media, where she has been cropping up a lot lately, and she receives a fair amount of attention.  Dog looks like a big black German Shepherd and she loves people, she loves adventure, and she loves exercise.  My roommates say that Dog doesn’t sleep, she waits.  Waits to play or run or explore.  She just waits.  Dog comes to work with me a couple of times a week, but on my days off I have started taking her out on hiking adventures.  This is Colorado, after all, where both dogs and adventures are the lifestyle.  Hiking with just a dog and no other human companions has taught me a thing or two.


1) You WILL become tired long before the dog and she WILL constantly look back at you with a disappointed look on her face.  Bless Dog’s heart, she always waits for me…except for yesterday we we descended a trail on a mountain side that was coated with ice and snow.  I ended up “surfing” part of the way down as Dog pulled and I clung to the leash, unwilling to let go.

2) No matter how sociable dogs are when in the dog park/doggie day care/a friend’s house/the neighborhood, etc meeting another dog on leash can be stressful.  The dogs might be tired or on edge from the hike, or picking up on whatever it is you the leash-holder are struggling with.  They don’t necessarily want to become friends with every other pup on the trail, so just greet the other hikers politely and move on.

3)I hope you packed dog-appropriate snacks!  If you didn’t pack some specifically for Fido then at least did you bring some that are safe to share?  I fully expected that half of my little Baybels cheese wheel would disappear into Dog’s maw and I’m okay with that.  Of course, the car was also stocked with a variety of treats so Dog could have a little power snack to reboot after the hike.

4) Dogs don’t chatter and they don’t get bossy about which trails to hike.  Well, maybe some dogs do…I enjoy hiking with friends too, but there is something wonderful about the peacefulness that comes from taking in a breathtaking view in silence with your canine by your side.  Dog is very good natured and listens pretty well (my roommates trained her well) so no matter how exciting or dull the trail I pick it, she’s enthusiastic about it.  That’s rare in a friend.

5) Don’t be a douche- bring plastic bags and throw away your dog’s waste!  Do not just leave it hanging from trail signs.  That is disgusting and lazy and hello!  Part of bringing the dog means taking responsibility for them!  Ugh, rant over, just pick up your dog’s poo please.

If you’re inspired to take your adorable canine for an adventure be sure to check if your intended destination allows dogs on the trail.  The rules can be kind of convoluted (like that many state and national parks allow dogs in campsites and anywhere cars go, but not on hiking trails).  Make sure you leash Fido too, because no matter how well behaved she is, there are bears and shit out there, so watch out.

Also, shout out to the Alt National Park Service for their bravery  and dedication to science and truth.  If you appreciate their work follow the link and show your support.  Follow them on Facebook or Twitter as AltNationalParkService.  Don’t forget Rogue NASA!