I’m skipping over a couple of really stellar hikes here to share one that was not actually one of my finest on-trail days — but that did include Titus’s first higher summit!
I’d been thinking I’d start him on one of the shorter, easier peaks, but I couldn’t quite settle on which. Not Tecumseh: he’s still young enough that I’d like to avoid endless stair-climbing. Not Tom or Field: I’ve had enough of the Willey range for now. I’ve almost pulled the trigger on Hale a couple of times, but there was something else (we’ll talk about it when I catch up on the reports I’m passing over) that I wanted to do first while in that neck of the woods.
Pierce or Jackson would have worked very well, but we’re into summer hiking season and those peaks are crowded right now, yo. Which is not a problem for the little guy. But I didn’t want to leave Lilo home for his very first 4ker — that would have felt too passing-the-torch and that’s not what we’re doing here! — and I do want my two-dog hiking skills more highly developed before I take them to a popular trail on a popular day at a popular time.
I also just kind of wanted something new. Lilo’s last higher summit was back on March 1st; mine was a week after that. I refuse to be ruled by the list, but I was itching to check another off. So I’d been looking at a couple of options but feeling ambivalent.
I mentioned my dilemma in passing (“Trying to decide if my young dog is ready for his first 4kers”) in a Facebook group. A friend weighed in with a suggestion: Moriah via the Stony Brook and Carter-Moriah trails. A bit more of an effort than I’d had in mind for his first big peak — 10.0 miles and 3,150′ of elevation gain — but not out of bounds given what we’d been doing (and how he’d been handling it). And the description was enticing: lots of water on the lower half, plenty of shade (the ridgewalk alternates between ledge and forest), and good views up top. After a bit more investigation, I was sold.
We got a later start than I’d wanted given the projected high temperatures. Lilo is more heat-sensitive than the average bear; I try to protect her pretty carefully. But I figured we’d get most of the climbing out of the way before the heat of the day set in and there was plenty of water for the hike down, so we set off.
The lower portion of the trail was exactly as advertised: pretty if unexciting forest, easy grades over good footing, and mostly paralleling a stream. We did get sucked onto a side path and wasted some time trying to figure it out before working our way back to the main trail. Eventually the climb steepened and the rocks began to show.
I was a bonehead and did not stop to filter water at the last stream; I figured we’d hit it on the way down. This was dumb. It was still pretty warm up top and the near-windless day meant minimal relief. So we moved very slowly along the ridge and I traumatized Lilo by splashing cold mud-water on her chest and belly and inside her hind legs when we found a puddle near the bog bridges.
The book describes a “fairly difficult scramble” where the summit spur trail turns of Carter-Moriah. Here it is! A fun little hand-and-foot climb. It’s a bit taller than it looks in the picture. Maybe 18-20′? This was actually taken on our descent. Both directions, I tethered one dog while helping the other and went back for the first. Lilo kept trying to walk up the sheer face instead of using the ledges, but we sorted it out. On the way down, I belayed her just a bit with her leash and vest: she made the decisions about where to go and I provided some resistance to keep her from pounding on herself as she did. Titus did very well with his balance; I just helped him route-find a bit.
From there it was a very short jaunt to the summit proper.
That pic looks in the least dramatic direction possible and taken while I was sitting down. The summit is a room-sized bare knob with near panoramic stand-up views, but we had company (and nowhere good to tether the lad). I opted to enjoy the rest with my dogs instead of scooting around the edges taking a million pictures — although I’m a little horrified to realize that apparently I took none! But a happy pup is my favorite view, anyway.
Because of my aforementioned boneheadedness, we did run out of water on the way back down. The dogs did well drinking out of mud puddles and I refilled their bottle from same to offer on the ledges. We went Lilo’s pace to be safe. She was very, very slow but never gave me reason for concern. I do love how well she takes care of herself.
I must admit that I was thinking so hard about the dogs that I didn’t do a great job of taking care of myself. I did take electrolytes steadily, which was good! But I’d had a pretty rotten week and not enough sleep the night before (even with our late start) and I felt pretty sorry for myself for most of the descent. Also did not manage Lilo very well during an encounter with another group of hikers-with-dog at a stream where we had settled for a rest. I had my water stuff laid out on a rock beside me and was in the middle of changing my boots and wasn’t thinking or moving quickly enough to get Lilo moved aside. No harm done, but not my finest moment.
I was thrilled with and proud of the dogs, though! Lilo handled her first big mountain hike of the season — it was still winter conditions when she did Cabot and the Belknap range — nicely. I thought she’d need today (Sunday) off, but she’s been happy and waggy and will go back out again (for something small) tonight. And Titus just plain rocked the hike. He was brain-tired in the last hour, but never dissolved into a tantrum and other than that could have easily been mistaken for a seasoned dog. I’m getting really excited about this little dog, you guys. All signs point to him being everything I’d hoped he’d be (and more!).
It’s just too bad that he’s so dignified and doesn’t know how to cut loose and relax.