Monday, June 7, 2010

Uphill Deer and Downhill Lizards

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.

Side notes:
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


Sara said...

Kona looks like she is in amazing shape, and it is not like she is some sort of weekend warrior. You take her on these sorts of hikes on a regular basis. I don't think I'd worry too much about a "mileage" limit. Just work up gradually like you would yourself. Of course I am not a vet! LOL.

I can't imagine putting a mask on my dogs. Although, I do torture my dogs with boots when it is 10 degrees or colder out.

Barb said...

I think Kona needs to hydrate and snack, too, on these tough runs, but she seems to be quite the athlete - as are you!

Stella said...

You both amaze me with your energy and interest in climbing. I come from a much lazier generation where a mile long walk was a big deal (in town!)

Keep on enjoying yourselves, thats all I can say!

Cheers and hugs,
Jo and Stella

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

I hope KB weighs in since she is another adventerer.

I'm pretty sure that Lilly can keep up with my outings since I tend NOT to go to unfamiliar places and keep our mileage somewhat low (3-6 miles), but Tom once took Ginko on an exploratory hike that turned into a many, many hour get-lost, death march kind of thing over several mtns.

They were VERY late getting back, of course, and I was worried sick.

Both were exhausted and dehydrated when they got home, but generally OK.

LauraK said...

Sounds like you two had quite the work out this morning! I didn't even know they had books to write your name in- great idea!

Kona must sleep all day from all the exercise you get her. When I take Riley on hikes/runs, I just pay attention to what she's "telling" me. When she was younger, she could go for miles and miles and still want to play afterward, but as she's gotten older (she's almost 6!) I try to be more careful. She can easily do 3 miles depending on the heat, but one time she just laid down in the middle of the trail and wouldn't move. That scared me!

Dogs were born to migrate and be on the move, and they know what their limit is. Kona is in tip top shape though, so just let her tell you what she can handle, and use your best judgement- only you know your dog best!

Priscilla said...

I think Kona's scents have been very largely developed by you taking her out on hikes. She can smell everything!
You should get her a face mask to block the foxtails :) LOL

Dawn said...

I think it's important to treat Kona like the athlete she is. Work up in mileage, make sure she has energy snacks and water, Maybe a few stretches at the end.

Kathy said...

I am with everyone else, since Kona is an adult so you are not overexerting growing joints...I would think watching her and how she handles things would be the key and conditionining her like you would yourself, it sounds like you know how to take care of your own fitness...I LOVE how aware you are of what Kona is reacting off of, scents, using her eyes, I can tell you are soooooo in tune with her.

OOOOOOH I wish you had been at the Pasadena trial, that would have been so much fun to meet you in person, I will have to post next time we are trialing by there and maybe we will see you! When I was going to that trial I got a little lost...and ended up driving through some foothills by there and it was sooo pretty.