I’ve been writing this post in my head for a while. I really dislike messing around with images in WordPress, though, so I got annoyed and rage-quit every time I tried to write it for real. Something beats nothing, though. So here I am lowering criteria: words, yes, and images, no.
When last we spoke, the dogs and I had returned triumphant from our first backpacking trip in a decade (me) and ever (them). A few plot twists arrived hard on the heels of that outing and I spent the rest of 2017 adjusting to a role change at work and a return to the unpartnered life. It’s all to the good, for sure! There just was not a lot of bandwidth left over for writing (or fighting with WordPress).
But here we are now. February isn’t too late to review our hopes for the year that was and define some new.
1) Return to the New Hampshire 4,000 footers.
Success! I said something grim in last year’s post about it counting even if I just hiked Tecumseh a bunch and I came close to living that nightmare: late last winter, Lilo and I did run up from the ski area just to get a 4ker done. I backed off this one for the summer. Titus’s bionic leg was holding up very well to flat miles and significantly less well to climbing, so we disappeared into wilderness areas and the Belknap range to gain some fitness. Something clicked for him in August, though, and his newfound strength carried us up Garfield, the first new 4ker for all three of us in Quite Some Time. Then we got him Jackson on Labor Day weekend and haven’t looked back since.
2) Sleep outdoors three times.
Success! Two backpacks — Flat Mountain Pond and Spruce Brook tent site — and one New Hampshire car camping weekend, plus some nights in the tent (and the Jeep) while road-tripping. I have a lot of anxiety about food while backpacking for some reason and the kindness of friends in that department made these trips much easier for me, but we got out and did and that’s a win.
3) Work on the paw-protection puzzle.
Qualified success. Lilo now has a set of fleece-lined Muttluks that that make it possible for her to go for walks in really frigid temperatures. They’re not perfect; she doesn’t love them yet and while they mostly stay on well, some days she throws the same boot over and over again. But they’re miles better than anything else we’ve tried and they do fill the niche we need them do.
4) Hike in Vermont, New York, and/or Maine.
Success! We ended up doing a significant road trip for each of September, October, and November, and incorporated a whole bunch of tiny hikes in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, and West Virginia. And yes, we’ve even done a little in Maine.
5) Train each dog in public once per week.
Ahaha, no. I mean. I guess we fulfilled the letter of the law in that we were out and about in the world every week and I rewarded behaviors that I liked in the process. The point of this exercise, though, was to increase our training-specific outings. I don’t know what our average was, but definitely less than once per week. I learned a few things about what makes it easy for me to Go Train Dogs and what stops me, though. Useful, but still a fail.
6) Invite the possibility of new hiking buddies on four separate occasions.
Qualified success, I think. I put at least four invitations out into the world. I think only one actually resulted in hiking with any new people — that was a very pleasant local snowshoe on a very, very cold day — but the goal was to try. I tried. And I did reconnect with a few older hiking buddies who I hadn’t seen in a while, so that was nice.
As for 2018, my concrete goals are fewer. I think they’ll keep us busy, though.
1) Finish Titus’s New Hampshire 48.
He’s ready. That other knee is always a question. But he’s as well-rehabbed as I can make him and it’s going to be whatever it’s going to be. In the meantime, I think he’s ready. He’s sitting at eleven summits now with ten months left in the year. We’ll nip away at what feels good during the winter and then once the ice melts, we’re going for it. Wish us luck! And let me know if you’d like to tag along.
2) Pursue TEAM 1 titles with both dogs and get Titus into the rally ring.
Here’s what I learned from the year of trying to regain my formal training momentum: I’m goal-oriented. I mean, I already knew that. But I enjoy process and journey enough, and have built into my life enough failsafes to keep my crazypants competitive side from making me nuts, that sometimes I forget. It’s still true. I need clear, concrete goals and clear, concrete achievements and clear, concrete accountabilities to get certain stuff done.
I debated adding “get Lilo into an ORT” to this list. I ultimately opted to not. She’s super fun to handle in nosework and I want to do more with her, but I have enough anxiety about the idea of taking a dog to a trial without it being my reactive dog. I like the idea of the TEAM titles, though. Video titling has never appealed to me before, but this program is really interestingly-designed and I think is a nice goal for both dogs.
And I have wanted to do some rally for ages and ages now. I think T would enjoy every piece of that process. And I really want to get him heeling. This year, we will.
3) Hike at least one 20-mile day and three Terrifying 25 trails.
This might be a dog-free goal. So that’s weird!
I’ve taken it pretty easy on trail for the last year and change. For dog reasons, for logistical reasons, sometimes because I felt like a flattish, beautiful trail was an offer that I couldn’t refuse, and sometimes because I just had enough else going on in my life that was hard and I needed hiking to be easy. No regrets: it was what I needed and most days I would still rather hike out into the wilderness than up a crowded mountain.
That said. I love long days and difficult, scrambly trails every bit much as I love joyriding and waterfalls. And it feels like times to get back in touch with the me that did some of those (relatively, for us mere mortals) big traverses and went back the next day for more. Need to add fitness and subtract some ice, and then we’ll see where this takes me.
And that’s all that I know. I’m not going to formally put another “sleep outside” goal on here; I’m confident that will happen anyway, including in service to Titus’s push for the 48. And I’m not going to set a formal blogging goal, either. But I’ll see what I can do.
Just don’t hold your breath over the pictures.
(Seriously. Don’t hold your breath. Go check out our Instagram. And breathe.)