Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Failed Sunset Attempt

With our daily romp put on hold until the afternoon, I decided to capture a rare sight--sunset. So I held out for an extra half hour, leaving home at 3:05, which put us on the trail just before 3:15,

knowing, if we took our time, we'd be on the trail until 4:15,

also knowing, full well, that the sun wouldn't set until nearly 5:00, but the thought of waiting an extra hour seemed near torturous for my waning, wake-before-dawn body,

so I hoped the sun might set early, just for us.
But it didn't. We'll try a different strategy next time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Calling all Crossed Paws and The Power of the Mountains

Our kindred adventurers, K and KB, need our support. K is facing a scary medical crisis, potentially having her front leg amputated today. If you haven't already, stop by to lend a crossed paw and send your shout out to bring our friends the strength of the mountains.

The sunrise was for you today, K and family.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Kona and I celebrated the first day of Winter yesterday by returning to a trail we haven't seen in months. The creek trail we usually follow starts in a scary parking lot, so I decided to find the trail entrance further up the road. I found it without a problem. The ten foot tall, barbed wire topped, security camera monitored, closed with six locks gate was hard to miss. I had heard rumors about this entrance to the forest. The gatekeeper was a mystery. Tales circulated about hikers getting locked out at dusk, having to make the two and a half mile trek through a different exit as the forest spirits emerged with the darkness. Sure enough, a big sign hovered above the entrance: "The city does not have the keys to this gate. If you get locked out, you will have to use the other exit."

Lucky for Kona and I, dawn was barely breaking, so we couldn't get locked out in the dark.

As we started down the trail, I was glad to see Kona loose and relaxed, examining the morning scents. At least one of us felt welcomed. I looked toward the grey slopes and canyon ahead and wondered if the forest spirits were still prowling.
I tried to shake the spooks away as I watched the sliver moon hold it's post before sunrise.
Not two minutes past before I heard two men chatting as they ran down the trail behind us. I picked up my pace, wanting to keep some space between us and our fellow runners. As we passed the first trail junction, a man with his husky swung around the corner in front of us. On another day, I may have been bothered by being sandwiched between two parties on the trail, but in the minutes before daybreak, I didn't mind. The husky and his human would clear the path of spooky forest spirits. We were safe.

With Kona traveling at her typical stop, smell, then go fast pace, I began to feel like the live show of the Tortoise and the Hare. The men behind us kept a slow, steady pace. Kona and I shot ahead, only to have the men nearly catch us as Kona stopped to investigate scents. I picked up our pace between sniff stops in an attempt to keep a gap between us and the two joggers.

My lungs heaved in my effort to switch my shuffle to a jog. There wasn't time to take pictures, but when the sun inched over the horizon, I made a sprint to stay ahead and still capture Winter's first sunrise.
We made good time up the fireroad. About halfway to the top, Husky and his human turned around. Kona and I were suddenly in charge of clearing a safe path. But, with the sun up, everything spooky suddenly vanished.

We whisked around the last bend before the top when an eerie cry groaned above us. I heard the wind for several moments before it hit us. 70 mile per hour gusts were forecasted for the mountains, but the sky had been calm. Despite the shadow of the slopes above us, I put on my sunglasses as sand flew up from the trail.

When we reached our turn around point, we didn't stick around long. Kona handles wind fine, but swooshing air gives me the hebegebees.

The descent brought both shelter from the wind and exposure to the gusts, depending on which bend of the trail we found ourselves. Dusty haze covered the city below. Toward the mountains, lonely cloud puffs dotted the sky.
As we approached the curve of a switchback, wind kicked sand into a towered wave that spiralled as it flew around the corner towards us. Kona slid into a hockey stop, spooked by the sudden outburst. I half expected a genie to round the corner on the coat tails of the dust cloud.

When all settled, we continued down the trail. No wind would stop Kona from her lizard patrolling. She trotted along, a happy dog. I was pretty happy too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Goodbye Autumn

With the Winter Solstice fast approaching, Kona and I took off early to bid Autumn farewell.

The crescent moon was there to greet us.
While I craved endorphins from a good run, my sore knee pleaded for an easier pace. After hurting my knee during the New York City Marathon last year, I scratched the 2011 running events from my calendar. Long adventures with Kona fell less frequently than I wanted.

It took months for me to figure out what went awry in my leg. After my sore IT band healed, I was able to pinpoint the source of the knee pain that made me feel like I lost my winter season with Kona last year. My marathon quest severely inflamed my hamstring tendon (one of those beefy bands you feel on the underside of your knee). My hamstring is also a mess, often feeling like it's in a perpetual spasm. Whatever happened to my knee in New York decided to stick around. Fortunately, I'm hopeful that I can work with my needy connective tissue.

Our "cold" season is just too good to miss. There are trails to climb, smells to sniff,
skies to watch,
and sun rays to greet.
Kona and I said goodbye to the season this morning, watching Autumn's last sunrise. With Winter hours way, new adventures beckon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fireball Dog and Sunrise

Yesterday, Koan and I jumped at the chance to see the day awake. Although we started our run before the sun peaked over the horizon, the beginning of daybreak provided enough light to leave my headlamp behind.
My legs were stiff from our long hike the day before, but I felt myself regain energy as we shuffled along in the low light. Kona fell asleep at 4:30 the previous afternoon and showed no sign of fatigue.
As the sky became lighter, giving me visibility to scan the ridgeline for wildlife, I dropped Kona's long line and let her run. And run she did.
Because Kona's fear makes her a flight risk and because she's a bona fide huntress, her chances for off leash romps are few and far between. But I love to watch the little fireball fly when she gets the freedom. I think she likes it too.
After I re-leashed Kona, she settled back into a slow trot, taking in all the scents along the way. I slowed down to watch the sun make it's debut.
I wonder if the sun knew it wasn't the first red fireball to grace the hilltops that morning.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birthday Exploration

Birthdays are time to Carpe Diem. So I told myself at 5 o'clock this morning when I couldn't get my eyes open. It took several attempts but I managed to drag myself out of bed and pack my hiking bag. It was my birthday and I was going to celebrate with a morning in the mountains with Kona Dog.
We set out towards our familiar Peak, with the plan to head beyond our usual vista to a lookout point on the ridge above. While I was both apprehensive and excited about exploring new terrain, I had no idea of all the small treasures we would find along the way.

We saw a golden eagle, passed through a graveyard of burned oak groves, punched through crusty snow (snow!) left from Monday's storm, found bear tracks, and learned that old trail runners without remaining tread make for slow-going on downhill snow/ice (renamed, snice) patches. (Many apologies. My camera lost it's battery toward the beginning of our trek. My last attempted shot was of a patch of frozen grass. Had I known the scenes ahead, I may have saved that lost shot).

Upon arriving home, Kona and I celebrated a good morning together. She had two slices of Canadian baken. I had two brownies. With glucose levels restored, I decided to buy myself a birthday present--a new pair of running shoes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Squirrel and Lizard and Horse, Oh My!

We've been gone for a season, but are back again.

A schedule change keeps Kona and I away from our sunrises some days, so we're hitting the trails in the afternoon. Some of you may know that afternoons pose extra challenges for Kona. A combination of less energy and more neighborhood sounds can put my fearful girl on high alert. But as more seasons together pass, midday outings become more commonplace, and even offer special adventures.
A balmy 50 degrees made for perfect hiking weather on Kona's favorite trail.

Kona buzzed with nervous energy left over from the car ride to the trailhead. I worried she wouldn't be able to relax. Suddenly, Kona froze and spun around. Coming behind us on the fireroad sauntered the largest animal Kona ever saw. A horse. I pulled Kona off the trail to let the horse pass. Much to my dismay, as the horse trotted by, Kona responded like the beast before her was an overgrown deer.
Just when I thought Kona might stop pulling like her last supper was getting away, the horse turned around towards us again. The rider stopped right by Kona and I, letting us know that her horse was good with dogs; There was no need to pull off the trail. I thanked the rider but let her know that I didn't think my dog was too good with horses. She offered to hang out for awhile to let Kona investigate her first big deer.

I hesitated, but the rider and her horse had such perfect, calm energy that we stuck around. The rider talked casually about dogs while I white-knuckled Kona's leash. After awhile, the horse decided to get a better whiff of Kona, turning his face inches away from my sweet predator. Kona's muscles pulsed. With each exhale from the horse's large nostils, Kona leaped backward. The horse had called her bluff. Kona was way too nervous to make the mysterious beast into lunch.

No sooner had they left that Kona wanted to chase after them again. After several bends in the trail, she forgot about the horse, but continued to buzz with nervous energy. The huntress was primed.
For the rest of our hike, I held on for dear life. Kona slowed only to plead with me. "Can't you move any faster, the squirrel's getting away."
As we explored a new section of trail, Kona's spunk came to use as she helped tow me up the steep terrain.
I made it back to the car in one piece. Despite her antics, Kona seemed not an ounce tired. And remember that girl who was too scared to drink on her hikes? Well horses and squirrels make a girl thirsty.