I‘ve been rather despondent lately. The weather and other assorted home projects have kept me from getting my USRDA of sunlight, and its taken its toll. I’m not really a morning person anyway; rising early isn’t really in my vocabulary, and when it has to happen, there usually needs to be superhuman doses of caffeine involved to avoid a homicide investigation.
What’s more is that come winter time, I’m prone to outright hibernation if someone or something doesn’t kick my butt once in a while – this morning, it was the dog. From the hour that the alarm went off, until I finally gave up trying to ignore her (an hour and 15 minutes), Bindi-Roo jumped in the bed on top of me, plowed her nose under my arm, tried to dig me out of the quilt, and attempted to run out of the room with the covers. There is little to be done to dissuade a determined Cattle Dog – over the last 4 years I’ve learned that I won’t ever win, the best I can hope for is a split decision by the judges. Bindi had somehow gotten the idea in her little noggin that going for a hike would be a fantastic idea. A check of the weather revealed that, yes, she was right. I put on a few clothes, grabbed her leash and one LEKI Carbonlite Antishock pole, and we were off.
Now, I’m pretty dang lucky with location. The Mississippi Valley Conservancy owns a nice portion of land, immediately behind my house (La Crosse South Blufflands) and a great trail goes through it. Its not a technical hike, by any means, but its also a little steeper than your average walk in the woods. From the trailhead, you take a short walk down, then it winds a pretty consisitent uphill path for the better part of a mile. The trail crests on the ridge, defined by a small rock formation, then its mostly a downhill loop back. Hiking back here with the dog is fantastic – because there is [sadly] hardly anyone back there, and she can run, run, run…if you have or know a herding breed, you know what a great releif it is to let them run.
We’ve had a lot of melting lately. In the woods, snow still blankets most of the ground, a couple inches deep, and the trails are, well, ice. Hence the pole. No matter for Bindi-Roo with her built in crampons.
I noticed a few tire tracks while on this hike, and to whoever the biker is – kudos! This is not an easy singletrack once you gain the ridge.
Now, some people who hike, walk, backpack…whatever with dogs always seem to have their faithful companion, at their side or trailing a little ways behind. Not so with Bindi-Roo. Aussie Cattle Dogs are notoriously independent and curious clowns. Hiking with Bindi means maintaining a pace while she sprints ahead, or off into the woods after an imagined critter, or off into the woods after a real critter. Every time, she runs ahead, stops, then looks back as if to say “Will ya hurry up?”.
Its not above the Cattle Dog to see a deer and think “Hey, I can get that!”, not really aware that their tiny 40-odd pounds of Dingo ancestry isn’t likely to catch, much less bring down anything other than a new born fawn. So, hiking with Bindi-Roo means that every two or three minutes, I’m calling out “Bindi, GET back here!” – which to her credit, she does every time. I think its because I have food.
We follow along the singletrack path, coming up to the top of the ridge. Its been a gorgeous hike already – sunlight feels good. Getting out in a nice calm day feels good. It feels good to get a hike in. It feels good not to be staring at some computer or tv screen, or to be stuck on the spin trainer staring at the same DVD you’ve been riding to all winter. It feels good to have this trail, these woods, all this scenery, and all the available outdoor activity coming back into the daily routine. I can tell Bindi’s enjoying it too, because she’s playing the clown and posing for the phone camera.
We get to the far end of the smaller loop, and I see her slowing down a bit. I’m not the only one who’s a little out of shape from this winter – she’s been relegated to the occasional snowshoe hike and walks around the neighborhood – usually cut shorter because those big radar dishes she has for ears can freeze pretty quickly, and its been a cold, windy one here. She’s had her run in the woods, knows these trails well already, and tells me in no uncertain terms that “This has been great – we should make our way back and EAT!” I once heard someone talk about Cattle Dogs being happy when they’re tired – because they smile when they pant. Makes sense to me!
We head back to the trailhead, and as its mostly downhill, I’m definitely watching my feet. Its slick, but I’m making decent time…all the time I’ve been using trekking poles, I wonder why I hadn’t started using them earlier. I’m also thinking about the money I’m going to be spending this spring for another set, because I’m in love with this Carbonlite.
The new Aergon grip is fantastic in my palm – I’m top-gripping the pole for balance downhill, and the shape of the grip fits perfectly in my hand, also angling the pole perfectly out in front of me. I really couldn’t think of a better way to design a pole.
I’m not all that thrilled when I look at pricing – no one ever is – but the weight is non-existent, everything about the Carbonlite is fantastic. Worth every penny.
On our way out, we take a little detour – road less traveled if you will. The nice thing about the last two major floods we’ve had along the river valley is that some of the erosion of the sandy soil away from the rocks has exposed some nice winter features. Like this one.
(This is my climb. Its hard to tell from the picture, but its about 30′ tall, with a small ledge in the middle. I’m not a superman with grading climbs, but my guess is that its WI2-ish. A little bit of vertical with the ledge in the middle and a nice ramp to top out on. I call it “Be Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, and yep, I’m allowed to name it because I led it several weeks ago during a vertical ice scouting mission. Its not Sweet Mother Moses, but its a block away from home. I wanted to see if it was still up, because its the first year this has ever formed, and I forgot the camera when I climbed it.)
We make our way back home – and for those of you who think I’m a crazy dog person who anthropomorphizes his dog, just try and tell me she’s not glaring at me in annoyance at having to get wiped off before going inside.
So the moral is – Go outside. Even if its to just go take the dog for a walk. Its beautiful weather, this long winter looks FINALLY over, so its time to stop hibernating and go do something. Yet again, I’m taking life lessons from my dog – I could do worse, I think.