We were back to our high trails to start the week out right. I decided to head to a trail I've been on a handfull of times, but have never taken Kona. It was only a few miles from the trail we explored last week, but it was a few swerving miles. You should have seen my freeway driving skills try to handle the hairpin turns. The speed limit was 10 mph, so you bet I was flooring it at 7. Scary mountain roads. . .
We arrived without a problem. Kona hopped out of her crate on full alert. Thankfully, there wasn't munch around to keep her worried. We headed up the fireroad that would eventually lead us to our trailhead. I took a detour down a small trail to take Kona to the creek to rehydrate. The creekbed sat at the bottom of a streaming waterfall. The water flowed down the canyon walls over several levels, creating a perilous water slide.
Back on the main trail, we pushed uphill and nearly missed the turnoff for our trailhead. The steep single track blended into the rocky fireroad. Although a popular peak trail, the first several meters switchback up a scree slope that refuses to pack down into a trail. My heart rate immediately skyrocketed. I shook my head in amazement of Kona, who impatiently pulled on her line to yank me up the hill.
We soon arrived at the trail log book. Unlike summit logs, which celebrate a hiker's success, trail logs seem to forebode the mishap, the tragedy. You write down your name to confirm you went up, in case you don't come down. I hesitantly picked up the pen, as if writing my own curse.
6/7/2010 7:30 am AC and Kona
And we were off. About 10 minutes into our hike, Kona glued her nose to the ground and lifted it only for seconds at a time for our entire ascent. With my novice tracking skills, it took me awhile to find the deer tracks that Kona followed. I'm amazed at her focus when it comes to deer.
I was glad to have Kona's company (and help, as she tugged me uphill). The trail was the kind of steep that keeps you from looking around. My thighs took up too much oxygen and left no energy for me to keep my head up. I kept asking, "Wait, why is this fun?" But 30 minutes in and my body started to relax. I stopped to look around the uninviting, but somehow beautiful, terrain. All around me, trees sat sideways, perhaps toppled over by snow or rain. Dead yucca sat with dried out blooms, dotting the canyons with erect skeletons. Up narrow draws, patches of thick ice resisted the intense sun, feeding wildflowers, and perhaps Kona's deer.
After a long hour climb, we reached our turning point. I decided early on that we wouldn't go to the summit. It was hot and we had reached treeline, so the trail to the peak would provide little shade for the heaving Kona. I stopped to snack. Kona found a lizard to stalk. She seemed annoyed that the little reptile wouldn't come out of its hiding spot between two granite rocks. I urged her away from the lizard, but the theme of our descent had begun.
While Kona used her nose for the uphill, she was all eyes downhill. The sun was out for perfect lizard weather. Anything moving was worth pouncing. If I caught her in time, a firm "leave it" kept her from yanking me downhill. Thankfully, the lizards served mostly as a good distraction from the several parties we met on our hike out.
Back at the car, I felt satisfyingly tired, but had a twinge of disappointment for not making it to the summit. We'll just have to go back.
Some of you have asked about foxtail season and (perhaps jokingly) about foxtail masks. I think the worst of foxtail season is between June and July. Unfortunately, even when the stickers begin falling off, they're still a hazard for Kona, who tends to glue her nose to the ground. I'm really not sure when they'll have fallen off and blown away. I'll do some solo scouting to check out our local trails later in the season.
I seriously thought about making Kona a foxtail mask. I was going to buy a mesh muzzle (the kind that lets the dog keep its mouth open) and line it with a doctor's mask. I think this would work, but I was concerned about how covering Kona's mouth might affect her ability to dissipate heat. Also, I really don't think Kona could handle a mask. She still freezes every time I put her harness on.
A question for all who take their dogs on long excursions: Does anyone set a mileage limit for their dogs? I want to take Kona up some of these peaks, but don't want to overdue it. I Know so much depends on weather, terrain, etc., but was curious if anyone sets a rule-of-thumb limit.
Daily Kona: Girl on a Mission