It’s a bit Muddy

When I visited my old roommate in Calgary, we spent most of our time in the mountains instead of Calgary itself.  Sure, we went to stampede, and that was cool, but really – the mountains.  The Mountains.  This trip was a few years ago, but one of my fondest memories, still, is of stopping in at the Ranger Station before going for a day hike.  We wanted to check about bear reports or any other safety issues before heading up.

I'm told plaid and a cowboy hat is a requirement, and who am I to go against local customs?

I’m told plaid and a cowboy hat is a requirement, and who am I to go against local customs?

It was mid-June and what the parks staff would have seen was two petite blonde girls, a bit tired, and bundled up against the chill air.  What they read into this, I’m not sure, but it was suggested that we not take that trail.

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“It’s a bit muddy,” he said, sounding about as condescending as a car salesman addressing me as little lady, and turning to explain to my father why he should get me to buy the so-and-such car.

Just to be clear, that’s all the explanation of why we shouldn’t take that trail.  So I didn’t buy a car from that dealer, and we didn’t change our plans of doing the Galatea Trail.

We spent the first hour or so of our hike giggling like teenagers and dramatically creeping around the edges of any small puddles or muddy patches in the trail.

We then rounded a bend in the trail and came upon the bridge.  Not quite upon it, since the snowmelt fattened river had jumped out of its bed, and the bridge itself sat, an island, with 10 feet of icy river to either side of it.

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“It’s a bit muddy.”

Oh.

We held our boots at chest-height, and switched to shorts, meltwater rushing up over our knees and the river so forceful each step was like wading through molasses as our toes turned numb.  We re-warmed our extremities with a snack and a break on the bridge then waded through more water, dried off and carried on.

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It was my first hike in the Rockies, and I seriously considered begging my roommate to just turn around *now* as I sweated and panted my way through our third hour of hiking.  Over and over, I thought, if we don’t get ‘there’ soon, I’m not going to make it.  The elevation change going up into the mountains and then exercising there is no joke – I felt like I’d spent the past year bedridden and eating pudding competitively.

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The Lower Galatea and Lillian Lakes were both stunning.  The Upper Galatea was an additional hour or so of hiking, though my mind might be playing tricks on me, so by ‘hour’, I mean it could have been a minute or a mile, what difference does it make if I absolutely can’t make it any further?

The hike to the Upper Galatea was across a brutal screed slope of fist-sized rocks all smoothed and clattering down the hill as we scrambled up the slope.  I wondered if I’d somehow developed rapid onset asthma.

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you want me to go up that? um… no thanks

The Upper Galatea was still half frozen, in June.  There’s nothing quite like having to don a hat and gloves while you eat your lunch overlooking a mountain valley half coated in snow and ice.

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absolutely worth the death-scramble up the side of the mountain.

Staff had corralled the river back in its banks by the time we were on our way back down.  Crossing the river was a bit less epic with just a bit of mud to walk through.

On our way back to the car, we were already discussing which hike we should do the next day.

We might not have used the trail at all if he’d phrased it differently, but I’m pretty grateful to the ranger who tried to dissuade us from our hike with the verbal equivalent of a thrown gauntlet.

For the Dogs

There are dog people, and then there are dog people.  Eileen was dog people. They were her passion and her life’s work.  I met her through the Muttley Crew – a dog hiking group through Meetup.com.  She introduced me to so many local trails I would never have known existed – places near Toronto that have hidden away from the urban life.  She brought together a group of people whose only real commonality was dogs, and made sure to socialize with everyone on the hike.  And their dogs, of course.  She hardly knew me, but she still checked in on me when I didn’t make it out to any hikes for a few months.

She was the treat lady, she was the go-to person for pettings.  She was in the creek with the dogs, encouraging the more timid of them to try swimming.  She got Gwynn deeper into the water than he’d been before.  Ten minutes into the hike, she wsa the pied-piper, leading the dogs on a merry chase.  You’re having issues with your dog jumping up, not responding to ‘come’, being timid, toy guarding?  She would give you encouragement, advice if you wanted it, and absolute positivity.  She believed 100% in your dog.

She worked to get her own dog out of his own anxiety and wariness so that he could, completely comfortably, join a large group of people and dogs in the woods.

Dirty dogs are happy dogs – by the end of our hikes, the dogs were certainly happy!

She was doing what made her happiest – hiking with dogs – and that knowledge makes me glad.  While I wish it could have been years and years from now, she died with her hiking boots on.

Eileen will be missed.  I have no doubt that wherever she is now, there are happy dogs, wide open spaces, and forests for miles.

Gone Campin’

There is nothing I love so much as being in the woods.  The prospect of a trip north leaves me giddy and making lists, even if it’s just for a weekend.  Since Gwynn is back up north with my family, it’s doubly exciting to go up.  After all – what’s better than the woods?  Seeing one’s pooch for the first time in a week.

It might just be one of the most wonderful things… to be greeted with such absolute love and happiness.

This trip, I drove up with some friends of Doodle’s (and mine).  One advantage of this is that we actually got some photographs of the drive up!

Another is that K has a fancy camera, an artistic eye, and an enjoyment of taking pictures.  Any pictures with unusual colouring are definitely hers.  Other pictures, it’s probably equal chances being from my camera or hers.

Fiddling with colours…

… and artistic 🙂

It was considerably chillier up there than it has been most of the summer.  And rainy, though we lucked out with clear skies friday night, saturday morning, and sunday morning.

I’m kind of in love with her camera’s selective colour options

K & S … Doodle had to work on Sunday, unfortunately, so she missed out on hiking shenanigans

Gwynn found some puddles after all that rain

He’s very good at recall lately, and we practice a lot… still, on trails in this kind of woodland, I let him drag the long-line for short stretches, and call him back often.

We had a great trip, even with the rain.  Less fun… the trip home.

two lane undivided highway + Sunday afternoon cottage traffic + an accident closing the southbound lane = usually 4 hour drive extended to nearly 7… shoot me now.

a better picture to leave you with… sometimes Gwynn chickens out after he gets up on the rocks. Or his ‘getting up’ point is too close to a very long drop for my sanity.

It was the Creature from the Black Lagoo-OO-oon!

Be seeing him again real Soo-OO-oon!

After his last intended did the dirty o-on him,

didn’t last five minutes in the-e swim!

Last weekend, my sisters and Gwynn and I piled into the car and headed North.  Up into the wild blue yonder of Scotsdale Farm, there to trek epically and mightily through rain and cloud and patches of sunshine with a group of like-minded adventurers bipedal and quadrupedal alike.

We did somewhere between 12 and 15 km of hiking, on the Scotsdale Farm property and along sections of the Bruce Trail system, and were out and about for about 4 hours.  There were hills and rocks and brief walks along the side of a country road.  We walked down to a waterfall, through a field and alongside a small escarpment. 

about 5 minutes into the hike... and the last time Gwynn was mostly-clean

Gwynn ran around with a dozen other dogs big and small, older and younger, through woods, puddles, creeks and mud.  He cavorted, pranced, splashed, stomped, gallivanted and even monkeyed around a bit.  There were shenanigans. 

River froliking with his partners in crime... the cleanest soaking he recieved that day

Gwynn met a horse… his response was such delight that he did a little two-legged dance and then tried to slap the horse on the face.  Do we have pictures of that?  No… I was too busy making sure that this laid-back Mr. Bill didn’t try to slap Gwynn in the face in retaliation.

Gwynn and I... united in MUD... relaxing by the waterfall

He was, at times, thoroughly soaked, thoroughly coated in mud, and varying degrees between.  My pants were, at times, thoroughly soaked,  coated in mud, and varying degrees between.  They required two runs through the washing machine to get clean.  I wish sometimes that the dog could go through the washing machine.  I seriously considered taking off my pants and putting them in a bag before getting into my car… but then I realised how awkward that would be, since Doodle and I would be switching positions part-way through, and I’m pretty sure I’d end up arrested for indecent exposure during the switch.  I did insist that my sisters and I get barefoot before getting into the car, though… our boots were relegated to the trunk.

Doodle and Gwynn on the road... he is hypnotised by the dried bananas she's snacking on.

The most bizarre and extreme part of the journey happened when we were on yet another boardwalk.  The boardwalks throughout the hike had been over slightly muddy areas, or shallow creeks.  Gwynn loved it – he’d leap enthusiastically off the boardwalk, if he made it onto it at all, and frolic in the oozing black gook, or prance and splash through the creek, luring other dogs to follow him in.  This boardwalk was different, though.  It was a small projection that jutted in a U shape over a big semi-marshy pond.  The water was crystal clear, and you could see mud a foot or two below the surface.  Now… this mud.  I recognised it as what it was – the kind of mud that you just sink down into, so that you end up almost waist high in mud by the time you stop your descent.  It’s just about gelatinous for the first few feet, then progresses to a gluey sucking consistency the deeper you go, until finally solidifying.  This is the kind of mud that tightly laced up boots get left behind in.  But the bottom looks like it’s just there… just a foot or two below the water’s surface, which is itself, only about a foot below the boardwalk.

waterfall

 

Don’t pretend you don’t know what’s about to happen here.  I should have realised what would happen… but I figured he’d recognise the type of mud like I did.  Have I mentioned it’s been less than two weeks, at this point, since Gwynn actually started swimming… all four feet off the ground? 

He jumped about equidistant from the shore in either direction of boardwalk (you knew this would happen…)… and he sank like a stone.  He landed about 5 ft from the edge of the boardwalk, and plunged down into the murky waters, only to bob back up a few moments later, hair plastered to his head, and entirely covering his eyes.

Gwynn covered in mud... after he'd shaken off a lot of it

 He paddled his way back to the boardwalk and realised his dilemma – no way to get back up onto the boardwalk.  And I had about the same chance of luring him to swim all the way around the boardwalk to shore as I did of teaching him to use the toilet in our house for its intended purpose… and flush.

So I grabbed him by his slimy black mud-coated harness and hauled him up.  Safely ashore and having come fully up onto the boardwalk right between my legs, my beloved pooch, coated in a thick layer of dark slimy mud, did what any beloved pooch from the black lagoon would do… he shook.  You’re probably now understanding why I seriously considered dropping trou before getting into my car, despite it being a public parking-lot. 

It was a great trip, and we were all thoroughly pooched by the end of it.  Our reward for a day of hiking and adventure?  The food of champions – Timbits and Iced Caps!  Gwynn got a peanut butter sandwich, since the food of champions is way too full of sugar, caffeine and chocolate for a dog to safely eat.

sockfoot, grubby and triumphant!

Bike update:  As this is posted (hopefully, if scheduling works properly), I am biking… and have been for several hours.  proof of this will be forthcoming, with photos of the beautiful Niagara on the Lake region we’ll be biking through all weekend!