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.
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.
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.
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.