Posted by: highmountainmuse | March 30, 2009

A Sunday hike

Trudging onward...

Trudging onward...

Not your average Sunday hike.  We wanted to plan something big and special, in celebration of Bob’s and Forrest’s birthdays.  Take the whole day off for a change.  Isn’t it odd how rare we do that, living up here in such a beautiful place? It’s a big deal to just take the day to enjoy. I’ve heard lots of folks say the same thing. Seems like it’s easier to take time off if you are away from home.  As long as you’re home, you’ll find work to do.  But we don’t want to have to leave to have fun!  So, you just got to plan the day, fill the backpacks with food and water, and take off.

A nice view back towards the ranch.

A nice view back towards the ranch.

Well, this turned into something special, all right.  Our goal was to hike up along Pole Mountain from the east side, that slope that takes off from Lost Trail Creek trail, find our way across along tree line (just under 12,000 feet), and see if we couldn’t remember a way to get down through a draw west of our ranch.  We made this route once, in the opposite direction, during hunting season a few years ago.  Never saw an elk, but had a fun time exploring unchartered territory.  And did have another interesting encounter with a bear up there, but that’s another story…


So, yesterday, we headed out, expecting a challenging but enjoyable day.  Figured the old dog, Alan, would be fine to join us, and as you can imagine, leaving him home was not in his plans.  The day was crisp and cool.  It was right around zero that morning, and had warmed up to about freezing by the time we headed out.  The wind was blowing in a storm, but not too quickly, we could tell.  The weather was the least of our worries, though as you can see from Forrest’s shirt wrapped around his head, it was a bit nippy at times.

On the way up the mountain.

On the way up the mountain.

The bigger challenge was that from the ranch we couldn’t see the snow up there.  Deep snow.  Hidden in the timber where the sun can’t reach it to set it up.  And deep enough to be burying boulders, fallen trees, all kinds of interesting obstacles we’d discover falling in suddenly up to our knees.  That got us pretty wiped out.

Walking across an easy section near the top.

Walking across an easy section near the top.

But then, we faced the biggest challenge.  At the top most point, about as far away from the ranch as we were all day, up on the side of that mountain, Alan’s back legs gave out.  Well, no surprise.  The old dog is probably 12 or so!  He was expecting a gentle stroll through the park, and wasn’t really expecting this.  So, the trip turned into a journey of caring for the old dog. Finding Alan-friendly routes.  Testing the snow to make sure he wouldn’t fall in.  Holding him on the side hills.  Sliding down with him on the steep slopes.  And eventually, carrying him along.  We devised a sling made from my ski poles, my down vest, and Bob’s hydration pack, which fit perfectly as a harness for Alan.  We took turns carrying him like a wheel barrow.  One of us in the back, two of us in the front.  The dog weighs 85 pounds, but at the end of a hike this, that is heavy!  Between our wheelbarrow sling, and Bob just hauling the dog up on his shoulders, we got him home.

The sling we divised to carry Alan home.

The sling we divised to carry Alan home.

It wasn’t the first time the three of us have met interesting challenges on the trail.  About this time last year, we were hiking in the snow in Montana, and Bob’s knee went out.  We got him home between crawling, and Forrest and I dragging him in a travois set up along the icy trail.  But yesterday, as with the time last year, we three were able to work together, not just calmly and rationally to get the job done. But with humor and camaraderie.  Somehow, for us, these challenges are a bonding experience.  One that makes us each stronger as a person, and stronger as a family.  We help each other along, no matter what or how, rise ourselves up to be there for the others, and at the end of the day, can sit back with our arms around each other, knowing once again, we stuck together, and make one heck of team.  And believe it or not, we can look back and say we had a great day off!


Isn’t it funny how we forget how hard and long climbing a mountain can be. Well, apparently we forgot. Because eight hours later when we finally made it home, we thought it was a lot harder than anything we remembered. But tell you what, there’s an awesome feeling of being so completely exhausted, but know you have conquered a goal, feeling like you can do anything, go anywhere.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s good.  On top of this feeling is the knowing how well we three can work together, stick together, keep up our PMA, and get the job done.  And even have fun in the process. Yep, I feel pretty sure I wouldn’t worry about being left on the mountain with these guys. 



And a quick couple of side notes: First, a question for Cyndee. Is Ibuprofen OK to give Alan?  Seems to be helping, he got up once today, but I don’t want to hurt him with medicine.  And second, a note for anyone interested. Tres is waxing.  That means her baby will come some time between now and tomorrow tonight.



  1. Hi Gin, I obviously hadn’t read the blog when I sent you my email asking about the hike and Alan.

    I love your spirit of adventure and we all can learn a lesson from it.

    About the ibuprofen, I can’t remember why but I’ve heard it’s best not to give it to dogs. Coated Aspirin is much better for dogs and usually works pretty well for my boys. Even though Willie was barely 36 months old when we trained for WRDX, he always got sore afterwards because it was such hard work and the aspirin really helped a lot.

  2. Thanks, Karen – I thought I read that about ibuprofin, so glad I asked. I gave him one last night and one this morning, but if he needs anything else today or tomorrow until he heals, I’ll give him coated asprin. The last thing he needs is for me to make things worse for him!

  3. Oh, and Karen, what was Willie’s WRDX? I’d assume part of his water dog rescue training?

  4. Yes, WRDX is Water Rescue Dog Excellent and it involves a huge amount of swimming. So much so that any dog entering the test has to take a “fitness test” (a six minute swim) before being allowed to take the test.

    Here is a link that has all the exercises a dog must pass before earning the title. If they fail one exercise they do not pass.

    Sorry to go on and on…you know I’m so proud of my big boy!

  5. Can’t wait to hear that Tres has safely delivered!!

  6. Hi, had bird programs all day and just got to your blog. I usually enjoy shareing my morning coffee with you.

    I agree with Karen, no to the ibuprophen, yes to the coated asperin. If you have Pepcid AC you can give it along with the asperin to prevent stomach upsets. Watch for dark tarrey stools indicating problems.

    Hope Alan is doing much better today, we love him you know. Will never forget him defending us all from the “mad cow”!

  7. Cyndee!! You can’t just post a mention about being defended by Alan from a “mad cow” and not elaborate!!

  8. Cyndee & Karen – thanks so much for the help, and for caring! We switched to the asprin, he’s been up a few times, seems well. Sore, but well! I bet he’ll feel much better tomorrow, then 100% in a week.
    In the meanwhile, Tres just started lying down. We moved her to the new foaling shed. It’s 17 degrees out, snowing and windy. Why do they pick these times?

  9. Sending positive thoughts and prayers your way. Can’t wait to see baby pictures!

  10. Thanks… I’m as anxious as Tres is. Yes, Cyndee should share that Mad Cow story.

  11. Returning from another breathtaking ride (folks, there aren’t enough adjectives to describe these mountains) up the Rio Grande we passed thru a beautiful meadow. A small herd of cattle were grazing along it’s edge, a few lazily lifted their heads to watch us pass. Looked just like a peaceful calendar picture until the boss cow – the mad cow – determined us a threat to her group. Up went her head and up went her tail and acharging she came right at our group of 6 or so riders. Alan immediately noted the danger and sent his entire 85 pound body hurling right at the 1600 pound cow. In he would charge, and again she would attack. He would have gladly given his life for his people. Fortunately Gin and Quattro were there to even out the cow’s size advantage and the story had a happy ending with the cow going home with her tail between her legs. Alan was so proud, his riders were safe.
    I might add, that when we are riding Alan constantly circles from the back of the group up to the front. He sits down and “counts” the riders to make sure he has us all. All dogs are special, but Alan is the best! (don’t tell my dogs I said that)!

  12. Oh my gosh! Aren’t dogs amazing? They are so in tune with their surroundings, probably more than we will ever know or be able to comprehend. Thank you for sharing!

    Your story reminds me of last summer while I was hiking alone on the Lost Trail Creek Trail. I had hiked the trail a few times but for one reason or another had to turn around at the same spot every time. I was so excited anticipating what was going to be around the bend right past the spot where I had always turned back before. So, I’m hiking along just looking around and enjoying the magnificent beauty of my surroundings when I noticed something ahead of me. I remember thinking, “I don’t remember that huge boulder being there before.” Then I saw another boulder and then another and realized they weren’t boulders at all but COWS! Now, I am familiar with cows because my grandparents had them growing up, but there was something about meeting them out in the open wilds of the National Forest that made me stop and think before I passed right through the middle of them. I weighed my options and decided that the view from around the bend would have to wait for yet another day. I wasn’t quite ready to be found on a hiking trail in the Rio Grande National Forest trampled by a cow no less! So, once again I am anticipating hiking past the usual point of turnaround this summer!

  13. Gin, I don’t know if this is helpful or not – but Coco runs with me a few times a week. When she was a younger dog, she used to limp so badly after running at alll… even after just a minute or so. Someone told me to put her on Glucosamine. I give her one a day and since that time, she has never limped again – and she runs 3 to 4 miles with me… on those short stumpy legs. (Hers, not mine – ha ha) Anyway – I don’t know if the success is attributable to the pills or not – but in my mind, I guess it is.

  14. Alan update: Give a dog (and a person) a job to do, and they’ll get over their problems. So, Alan is the official foal baby sitter. Ever since AFTER his first year of chasing them, of course. Just has to sit out in a snowbank and keep on eye on things, make sure nothing gets close. But all the up and down and back and forth out there is good for him. He’s 90 percent recovered. (And of course, right now he’s snoozing by the wood stove) So much better than we figured.

  15. […] we had to carry Alan.  On a family adventure hike across Pole Mountain in the spring of this year. (link)  I suppose he knew we’d not leave him.  We’d take care of him, just as we know he’d try to do […]

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