Monday, April 16, 2007

Hiking With Dogs

FACT: I have 9-month old muscle-dogs with more energy than manners.
FACT: I just turned 38 and I am overweight and out-of-shape.
FACT: I am the primary dog-exerciser. Actually, I'm the primary dog-caretaker (though my husband insists they are HIS dogs,) and it's equivalent (I think) to having naughty toddler twins in the house.
FACT: If my dogs don't get enough exercise they use their energy for evil purposes, like eating furniture and plotting to escape every time a door opens.
FACT: There is no way I am going to be the marathon-runner my dogs wish I could be, and there is no way they can get the kind of exercise they like on the end of a leash that I'm holding.
FACT: While our dogs love our family, tolerate our cats and guinea pigs, and are (mostly) trustworthy at home, they really aren't too sure about other people and animals and can react to them in un-social ways.
FACT: We are working to make them good canine citizens, but they are still only (big) puppies, and don't have a lot of common sense, or restraint of impulses.

So I'm TRYING to get into better shape, and I'm TRYING to get the dogs enough exercise and the best solution I've found so far is at a rest stop on the freeway about a 15 minute drive from home (2 miles north of Castle Rock on I-5.) I discovered it one day when the kids and I wanted to go to Olympia and we couldn't trust the dogs to STAY PUT at home while we were gone. We stopped to give the dogs a walking/potty break, and discovered that the rest stop backed up to commercial woodlots, and logging roads, and there is a spot where there is a break in the fence and you can get back to the logging roads. Logging roads are awesome, and the timber/pulp companies are tolerant of hikers (and hunters in season) as long as there isn't a high fire danger and they haven't suffered some sort of outrageous vandalism. While not without the potential for disaster, it's the closest thing to ideal that I've found so far:

Logging Road

It's beautiful. There are MILES of gravel roads. It's not actively being logged, so it's deserted except for the very occasional person like me who's discovered it's there. I can leave my car parked in the relative safety of a very busy rest stop. There's actually a cell phone tower up there, and in case of an emergency, I can get PERFECT cell phone reception on what is usually a deserted trail in the mountains. And as long as we don't run into other hikers, or (worse) other hikers with dogs, or a porcupine, or elk, it all goes very smoothly. I can let the dogs off leash, they run around like mad but (mostly) stay in sight, they venture into the woods for short periods of time but (usually) come when I call. The time we met the porcupine I was able to call them off before they got muzzles full of quills. And I don't (really) think they could catch an elk, especially not a herd of nineteen of them (like on Monday,) or even the two I saw today.

So it's not without occasional heart-stopping excitement. And it's full of new experiences. Cozy had never rolled in or eaten elk poop before (Yuck! She got a very thorough bath when we got home.) I'd never seen a porcupine in the wild before. I have never "shooed" elk before. (As in Oh crap! There's elk! Oh crap! The dogs are chasing after the elk!" "COZY! CALLIE! COME! COZY! CALLIE! COME HERE! Oh heck! They hear me but they aren't coming. "SHOO ELK! SHOO ELK!" While waving arms like a crazy person and chasing the dogs and continuing to call "COZY! CALLIE! COME HERE! SHOO ELK!")

Dogs Hiking

This is the spot where I usually turn around and go back to the car, there's a clearing all the way down the mountain where a gas line runs (why,I don't know, but the signs say "Danger! Gas Line" and I'll take their word for it.) It kind of gives a cross-section of the woodlots, and you can see how much fun the dogs have going full-speed off-leash. Being out in the woods gives me a chance to work on getting the dogs to come when I call (a VERY important thing,) I took liver treats today and it went much more smoothly. They are also walking much better on-leash, I haven't been pulled off my feet in days! I wish that the highway noise weren't so invasive, but other than that, it's a really enjoyable walk:

Wild Iris

Pink Flowering  Wild Bush


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