There are no mountains in Portland. And after the recent record snowfall here of 32″ (yes, almost 3 feet of snow in one day!), hiking any mountain would be…interesting to say the least. Even though I live in the city, at the end of our dead end street, there’s a great little section of woods where I take my sister and brother-in-law’s dogs for a walk a few times a week. We spend about 20 minutes whether there’s ice, snow, or mud. Cash, mostly Black Lab but also part Great Dane always takes the lead, keeping a keen eye out for any squirrel that makes a sudden move. He darts across the woods and anxiously circles a tree until I convince him otherwise that it’s a lost cause. I commend his persistence however. And there’s Murphy, the Great Dane big bro who can scare any 6 foot burly, bearded man, but is as gentle as they come. He lags behind and smells every tree, every twig, and marks each and every one along the way. It’s a predictable walk for all us, but a fact that doesn’t take away from the experience at all. Cash runs ahead and eventually waits for me to catch up while I’m calling Murphy to catch up with me. As we head home, Cash will grab a tree branch as tall as me and tease Murphy as they playfully make their way back home.
So you’re probably wondering what weekly dog walks have to do with thru-hiking. Even though we walk along the same route every time, I imagine myself on the trail. Across the logs someone has placed over muddy sections, up the steep ascents, down the rocky hills, and in the winter, finding my way through the untouched snow. It’s a peaceful time of day. I laugh every time Cash brings me a huge tree branch or yelps after each and every squirrel, and I smile as Murphy trots up the hill in his winter coat. Unfortunately, Cash and Murphy won’t be hitting the trail with me, although I think they would be great trail companions. Cash, for his unyielding devotion and Murphy, for his presence as a protector and watchdog. Although, Murphy would require a luxury item just as some hikers choose to bring on the AT. For humans, it may be a pillow, Kindle, or a deck of cards. For Murphy, he would choose to bring along his blue Snuggie that he enjoys sucking on daily. I’d even make him a nice little stuff sack to keep it dry on rainy days 🙂
I know that when we’re on our thru-hike, as we hike through forests similar to the woods beyond my dead-end street, I’ll remember these walks with Cash and Murphy. Maybe I’m not out there with them hiking with my pack, physically preparing for the trail, but I guess it’s kind of like trail meditation to me. Just me and the dogs out in the woods. Murphy and I contemplate our earthly existence, while Cash…well, contemplates sticks and squirrels. A dog can dream, can’t he?!