Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Hope This Works

Kona and I always hike solo. It's our time together and Kona's time away from the scary sights and sounds of the city. We're happy on the trails, just the two of us.
So when a friend invited me on a group hike, an all day group hike, I hesitated. I worried Kona would be scared by the company, which would ruin the hike for both of us.
With Kona, it's easy to overdue things. While exposure to new experiences helps many dogs build confidence, new experiences typically push Kona beyond her ability to cope and only reinforce her fears. But I thought this was a challenge Kona could handle, or so I hoped.
When we met our friends at the parking lot, I opened the car door but left Kona in her crate. I wanted her to hear me talk to our hiking partners, in hopes Kona would connect that these were people I knew. I was happily surprised to see another dog in our group. While Kona doesn't have impeccable social skills, other dogs can still be great icebreakers for her.

When Kona hopped out of her crate, she looked around, sniffed a few ankles and started pulling for the trailhead. And so the five of us humans and two dogs took off for seven hours on the trail.
Kona showed how far she's come with people. While she dodged every outstretched hand, she showed no stress by the new company. I soon relaxed and enjoyed the trail.
Kona led the way. Our group's pace was slower than what we're use to, so we stopped every few minutes to let everyone catch up. Kona kept a lookout for her new "buddies."
Before long, we reached our first saddle.
The wind whipped up and over the canyon. As I held my hat, I looked at Kona for signs of stress. While the wind pinned her tail awkwardly to the side of her body, she looked anxiously only for the next lizard.
We trudged along, tucking in and out of the overbearing wind with each contour of our climb.
After 4,000 feet of climbing, and one close encounter with a sleeping rattlesnake (I, of course, would never almost step on a sleeping rattlesnake. Nope, not me.), we made it to the summit. While the rest of our group sat down for snacks and water, Kona proceeded to entertain everyone with her lizard pouncing (which she didn't give up until it was time to start our descent).
Kona and I, along with a friend, jogged the descent back to the parking lot. Kona showed her only obvious signs of nervousness when my friend jogged close to my heels. (Someone chasing you can be scary!) As long as my friend stayed several paces behind, Kona seemed fine.

My crazy pulling monster willing trotted behind me as we neared the end of our long adventure. We made several stops for water before making it back to the car.
As we jogged into the parking lot, a group of five kids shouted, "Look at the dog!" and Kona's tail went straight to her belly. We made a sprint for the car, where the allure of barbeque chicken overpowered the screeching kids and Kona chopped down a much deserved snack.

I think our day worked just fine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Textures of Summer

Summer near the foothills makes me count the days til Fall. Too far from the coast to feel the cool beach breezes, we're stuck with heat and smoggy haze. While I complain about sticky clothes, Summer's secrets go unnoticed.

As Kona and I jogged our ridge, I wrinkled my nose at our browning landscape. Then the more I looked, the more I noticed the layers of textures, the fine shifts of colors.
Witches hair grew over sumac. I wondered if the parasitic plant would harm it's hardy host. Kona lunged for a rabbit that zigged underneath the sumac's low branches.
Tufts of dry grass dotted our sandy fireroad and mingled beside mustard, still yellow in the early Summer.
I relaxed into a steady pace and Kona panted, pulling slightly ahead. With our easy rhythm, I let go of my brown, bleak, one dimensional season. I let the trail show a different side of Summer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer

I have a thing about waking up early. To keep myself in bed after I wake up is an undertaking. This morning I planned to hike our highest local peak to celebrate the solstice with Kona. When my eyes flew open at the crack of 4:40AM, my body protested. It wasn't a day for a summit run. I willed myself back to sleep for another 40 minutes and then headed to our ridge to greet Summer.

Had we been at on our high-altitude trail, I'm sure our morning would have felt more like Summer. Being much closer to sea level, we trotted through June Gloom instead of sunshine.
Overcast and misty mornings are normal during the Summer along much of the West Coast as thick marine layers push inland. Here in Southern California, overcast mornings typically arrive in May and June. We sun addicted Southlanders fondly refer to this foggy weather pattern as May Grey and June Gloom.
So while our morning hike felt particularly June, it didn't feel particularly Summer.

And I'm not about to complain about that. It won't be long before morning rays make the Summer air thick and hard to run through. I welcome overcast skies this time of year, though I'm always amazed how hot I can feel when the air is filled with mist and the sun is out of sight. 60 degrees is plenty warm to work up a sweat on our steep hills and with 150% humidity, sweat does nothing to cool you off. It wasn't long before I was wet from both the outside in and the inside out.

In the sticky morning, Kona and I took it easy. Kona tried her best to follow scents she picked up in the breeze, though I wouldn't let her wade into the foxtail-ridden grass.
Before heading home, we practiced some recalls. Kona sprinted through the mist.
Thoroughly sweaty without help from the sun, I jogged the final stretch to the car with Kona panting as she trotted by my side. And with that, we finished our first outing of the Summer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunrise Sunday: Spring Edition

While we were MIA in blogville, Kona and I remained dawn-chasers. Here are some of our Spring morning views.

The days of snow on our low peaks are behind us but a mild Spring and extra rain dusted our foothills late in the season.

Rainy mornings often caught us by surprise and left us with ethereal skies.

The sun did sometimes come out. This is Southern California after all.
Kona got better at waiting on her silly human's sky gazing.
A special sunrise dedication to all the fathers out there today!

Friday, June 17, 2011

We're Ba-ack!

Spring is slow to relinquish to Summer this year but our high mountain trails have finally cleared.
Above our canyon trail, nearby peaks clung to melting snow-fields.
Kona, without need for her head towards the sky, reminded me of the important things, like spotting chipmunks.
And watching chipmunks.
And going to distance to meet chipmunks.
And that's why, my friends, that no matter how rocky the path, no matter how far the summit, everyone needs a Kona Dog.
Happy final days of Spring to all of our blogging buddies.