Sunday morning I woke up to find that the tentatively-planned group hike to the Waternomee bomber site had turned into a solo. I felt brave after Saturday’s successes. I figured there wouldn’t be too many others on the trail. I was desperately curious as to how Titus would handle something closer to real hiking.
I loaded both dogs into the car.
Everyone traveled great, which was a huge relief! Lilo was smug about riding up front. Titus was so quiet in his crate that I kept checking to make sure I hadn’t accidentally left him home. We unloaded smoothly and headed up Walker Brook Road, no longer accessible by motorized traffic and mostly overgrown.
We got a little more adventure than we’d bargained for.
Here’s a fun team-building exercise: hike two dogs together for the first time and then randomly develop a ridiculous gushing nosebleed! At first I figured that it would stop any second. Then I realized: NOPE. I ended up having to sit-stay Lilo at the turn marker and tether poor Titus — who is lovely moving down the trail but loses his darling little mind when the fun stops — to a nearby log so that I could drop my pack and dig out the first-aid kit.
And remember that I don’t actually carry guaze. I carry one of those special pads with clotting agent, but I wasn’t going to use that expensive thing on a nosebleed. I’d always figured that any injury that didn’t require it could be easily handled with band-aids and/or some unholy combination of clothing items with self-adhesive wrap and/or duct tape. And this is how I ended up holding a glove liner on my bleeding nose while Titus yelled his disapproval from the log and Lilo dearly hoped that I’d pick up my pack and we’d just leave him there.
So that was fun!
It finally occurred to me that I was carrying kibble, so I threw a handful in Lilo’s direction and — when Titus paused for breath — a handful in his so that he could busy himself searching it out in the leaf litter instead of just being sad.
(He settles beautifully in his crate, you guys. Beautifully! Settling outside of it is…let’s go with “a work in progress.” He’s vastly more relaxed than he was a week ago and he’s starting to lay down with a chew toy while I’m doing other stuff instead of, say, stealing my toothbrush the second I put it down. But the transition from “happy fun time” to “relaxing without being physically in timeout” is hard for him. This is actually a good fit for my hiking style — I don’t move super-fast, but under normal circumstances I just kind of don’t ever stop — but obviously there are times when learning to chill will help him on-trail as well as at home. We’ll get there!)
At last, we were able to move off into the woods without leaving a blood trail for some hungry bear.
We had a quarter-mile of lovely walking. Lilo led the way and Titus did a fantastic drop of bouncing along, sniffing at moss and licking at the water and navigating rocks and fallen logs. Bliss!
Then it was time to cross the stream. I’d been eyeing it as we went, noting a couple of places before the “official” crossing that looked borderline reasonable and hoping that the designated spot was a little shallower and/or offered better rock-hopping. Alas, it was not and did not. We beat our way a little upstream and a little down-, but the river was running a little higher relative to the rocks (and the amount of ice on same) than I wanted to try with 50lb of cattle frog on leash. I’d known this might be a possibility going in. We turned back.
I did end up making it across at one of the earlier points that I’d scoped out. But Titus hasn’t learned about rock-hopping — it hadn’t occurred to me that he’d need to; Lilo goes out of her way to avoid getting her toes wet and so was a natural — and ended up splashing allllll over my nice dry stepping stones as he followed along. That water of course instantly turned to a thin layer of ice. Lilo, very sensibly, wanted no part of following us across.
She had a point. Titus and I made our way back to her side and we headed back towards the car.
Not gona lie: I was a little discouraged. The dogs were doing great when we were actually hiking; I didn’t mind not getting to the bomber, but I didn’t want to go home yet. We paused in the clearing at the top of Walker Brook Road to reevalaute. It was sandwich time!
Happily, there are a couple of old logging roads and/or snowmobile trails that split off from Walker Brook. We explored the first that we passed until it petered out in an old logging site. Lilo took a pass on the second. But she liked the third (or first, I think, coming from the gate where we’d parked; it’s just past the bridge), so we turned off to see where it went.
This road was signed for snowmobiles with a bridge that appeared to be in good shape, although there was a blowdown that made me wonder how much use it actually sees. I kept waiting for it to peter out. Instead it just kept going until it joined the river. I spotted a picnic table ahead and thought first, What a nice spot for a picnic, and then, …but who dragged that in here?
Turns out we’d walked right into the Lost River Valley Campground! It was both cool and a little eerie to wander around the totally-empty site. (I was trying to figure out where we were.) Looked like a very pretty place!
The young man loves his wading! I can’t wait for warmer dog-swimming weather. Letting him dabble his toes wasn’t my brightest idea today, though, as water flips the “must put teeth on everything” switch in his brain. It was a definite smart dog, dumb handler moment.
This is totally not a surprising behavior; he’s a year-old cattle dog mix. Of course he wants to use his mouth when things get exciting (and on days ending in Y). We’ve been working a lot this week on giving him alternative options and some structure, and on me learning to read him and how much I can ask for at any given time. He’s doing brilliantly at sitting to ask for another throw of a fetch item and/or a game of tug. On walks, I’ve taken to carrying a tug toy or stuffie skin hanging half out of a pocket and encouraging him to grab that when he needs something in his mouth. And he’s getting it! He was perfect on Saturday, picked my pocket and flailed around with the toy until he could give himself a shake and settle himself down, and I’m starting to see him mouth the toy in my pocket and leave it there before continuing happily on. He’s smart and agreeable. He’s trying hard to figure it out!
Unfortunately, a pocketable toy was the one thing that I’d forgotten to put in the car. I was trying an extra sock instead and he did grab it a couple of times, but it didn’t seem to have enough weight and whip to be satisfying. Alas. Good dog. Dumb handler. We ended up using sticks instead, but I need to be smarter.
(Lilo, of course, was perfect. I keep on telling her so!)
I was a little disappointed in myself on the homeward drive. The dogs had been really good, but I kept getting in their way. I did manage to regain perspective (and gain more coffee, which never hurts) by the time we reached Lincoln. The hike was eventful in ways that I hadn’t hoped for, but we all learned some useful things about how to go down the trail together, we’d explored some new places, and I’d gotten three hours near-alone in the woods (we saw two other hikers on Walker Brook Road; that was it) with my pups. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday!