Saturday, June 4, 2011

Our First Big Hiking Adventure with Dogs!

The Hike: Pleasant Mountain via the Firewarden's Trail, which is located on Wilton Warren Road off 302 in Fryeburg, ME. 2.5 miles to summit. 3.2 hours round-trip for our group. A pretty tame hike with waterfalls, streams and pools for cooling off.

The Weather: Couldn't have asked for better - 60's, sunshine and a nice wind blowing on the top 1/3 of the hike. The black flies and mosquitos were out but not too pesky.

The Pack: Age range - 4.5 months to 9.5 years. Size range - 6 pounds to 85 pounds. Breed range - Morkie to Puggle to Sheltie to Lab. Leg length - 3 inches to a yard! Experience range - years of off-leash hiking to first-timers! These dogs totally bonded as a pack, got along famously and were amazing together!

The Car Ride: About 1.5 hours to get there, as we had construction and a.m. commuter traffic to
contend with. Duke Puggle road on the floor, front seat passenger side. Molly Morkie road in Julie's lap. Anabelle Sheltie was supposed to be in the back seat, but inserted herself between the two front seats on the console so she could "help" with the navigation and supervise
Mike's driving. In row two, we had Angus Cairn
Terrier on the left sharing the view out the window with senior hiker, Casco Bernier. Anabelle's hind end occupied the middle of the seat. Tonya Bernier had the right window so she could feel the wind ruffle her ears. In row three (the "way back" gated rear compartment) we had Rosie Black Lab, Jethro Choc Lab, Lola Shar Pei Boxer and Bailey Yellow Lab. Everyone rode really well...with only a few whines of "are we THERE YET?" The ride home was rrrreeeeeaaaallllyyyy quiet.

Hike Highlights: The saints and angels conspired to make this quite a spectacular day in every way possible. We had absolutely NO mishaps, issues or problems. The weather was gorgeous. The dogs were incredibly well-behaved, happy and downright joyful to be free in the ME woods. Mike and I slowly and steadily let our fears and worries float away as we headed up the trail. This pack was amazing. At the summit, we were almost tearful as we watched our whole pack zooming around enjoying the beautiful views, the meadow-like lushness of the mountain top and the wind zipping along. We were at the top of our little world! Along the route to the summit, we encountered a foursome of hikers with a Shepherd named Lara. They were so impressed with our pack and Lara wanted to continue up with our crew! We shared snacks
and a bit of lore from our travels and continued on up. When we got back to the car post-hike, they'd left a note in the dust of our back window -- "bark bark!" Indeed!

The Hikers: Lola was ridiculously energetic and happy on arrival. She tore through the woods
non-stop, zipping up and down the trail, buzzing through streams, leaping over fellow hikers -- it was hilarious. She was a pack leader for most of the way up, blazing the trail for us. She probably got 50 miles to our 5 under her belt for the day with all the running around she did!

Jethro was another trail blazer and hike leader. He is so fit and agile, we were truly in awe. He showed the younger Labs all about water play and swam several times in the shockingly cold pools below the waterfalls. Like Casco, Jethro loves to tear through the pucker brush alongside the trails. He stuck close to Casco and the two became good buds by day's end.

Rosie was our youngest hiker...but she is already well-versed in the art of hiking with humans. Her parents take her out almost every weekend. Rosie was a riot in the water, which she loves
but isn't completely comfortable in just yet. She got in over her head and was splashing up a storm. Hilarious! And she made sure that no stick was left untasted along the trail's edge. She and Duke and Bailey had fun carrying them together and playing tug.

Molly was our tiniest in size...but that means NOTHING. She has more energy than anyone in the pack. She took her time getting comfortable being off-leash and free and stuck close to Julie's ankles for most of the way up. When we got to the top, though, she went wild and showed us just what she's made of. Lola couldn't get enough of chasing her 'round the mountain top with Angus. On the way down, Molly was relaxed and traveled ahead of Julie with the pack!

Bailey is a goofy goober. His big body doesn't quite move the way he wants it to at times...and he lost his footing (or Angus pushed him -- who knows?!) and he splashed face-first into a pool at the beginning of the hike. The photos of this are amazing! He got himself sorted out just fine and wasn't opposed to more water fun later on. He's a great hiker and stayed with the pack at all times. Bailey did seem to be limping a bit near the summit...maybe in the right front leg.

Since he's such a big, hearty boy, I would recommend supporting his joint health with a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. Casco's been on one for years and we swear by it for keeping his joints and bone structure healthy. Ours is vet-prescribed, so ask your vet about it ASAP.

Angus was simply fantastic all day long. He was off leash very quickly after the hike began and never ever waivered from staying with the pack. He interacted well with everyone in the pack and loved the whole experience. He loved riding with Casco in the back seat and they are now good pals (yay). Angus got into the streams and waterfalls with the rest of the pack and just loved getting wet and cooling off. He worked hard, played hard and was bleary-eyed and blissed-out on the ride back home.

Duke Puggle was the BOMB on this hike. He'd NEVER been off-leash before and let me tell you, you'd never have believed it. He is a master hiker and outdoorsman. The whole experience was just fantastic for him. He loved being with Bailey (his BFF) again as well as with Rosie. They shared sticks, ran through the woods and streams and at the summit, had a wrestling contest. Duke rode like a champ in the car, too. Mike and I thought he had the best space - on the floor at my (Julie's) feet all cozy on a soft towel. He looked so content!

Anabelle Sheltie also amazed the human pack leaders on the hike! She stuck close to us at times and always brought up the rear...making sure that the pack was together and all were accounted for. But....there were times when Anabelle couldn't resist going bonkers and ran through the woods and fields along the trail with wild abandon. The rest of the pack couldn't help but chase her, which she loved. The photos of these rampages tell the story. She was an absolute delight to have in our pack, in every way possible. When we got back to the car, we loaded everyone in....but Anabelle didn't want to cooperate. I think she wanted to keep hiking! I sat down on a log and waited with her until she decided to accept a cookie and a promise that we'd bring her back to the mountains soon.

The Next Adventure: The Pack Leaders are still plotting and discussing the next adventure...but we will say this: EVERYONE is invited back next Friday! We were so energized and thrilled by their love of the trail and their ability to stay together. Couldn't be more pleased!! Drop 'em off here next Friday between 7 and 8. Who knows what's next.... Our first hike experience will be tough to beat, that's for certain.


  1. What a GREAT time everyone had! I loved reading your blog and how you describe the assorted dogs and their personalities. How lovely!

  2. Enjoyed meeting you and your crew on the Pleasant Mt trail Friday. Lara says hello! Hope to run into you all again somewhere in the hills on a hike. I've sent you some images from the hike.
    Allen Crabtree

  3. Wow, that looks like it is alot of fun, hiking with a bunch of dogs. I would love to live in the woods so that I can train my dog to follow me on a trail. Now that is the way dogs were supposed to live. I really like this post. Even though I believe dogs should be free to roam, while in the car I use dog carriers that keeps them in the back seat.

  4. Aww it sounds like such a great time. I would love to do that. I love to let my dog run free. Do you have to put your dogs in dog carriers when driving far? I never put my dog in one but we never go far.