Thursday, October 20, 2005

West Rim Trail - Day Three

Soon after Dog and I settle in for the night, I realize that Dog is licking and licking and licking himself. I ask him to stop, which he does for a few seconds but soon starts in again. At this point, I start to worry that he’s having a problem with his feet, so I find the headlamp, turn it on and examine him. I soon realize his feet are fine, but I find a bare patch of skin on his leg, high up by his elbow. Even with the headlamp I can’t see very well, and I can’t tell if there’s a cut or not. I can only see this bare patch that’s about 2”x 1” long. I press a wet cloth against it, looking for blood and can’t find anything. Eventually he quiets down, and so do I, finally getting a good night’s sleep.

In the morning I take a closer look at Dog’s leg. I still can’t see a cut, so I’m thinking the pack might have rubbed the spot bare of hair. Now I’m torn about what to do. I don’t want Dog to be hiking hurt, and I sure can’t carry either him or his pack. I decide to load up and hike to the picnic area for water and breakfast and see how he does on the short trip there. He isn’t thrilled about putting the pack back on but doesn’t do more than try to squirm away from it one time.

We haven’t gone 100 yards before Logan somehow slips out of his pack and takes off into the woods. I’m not looking at him when he does this so for a second I don’t realize he has gone until he is already some yards away. I’m calling, “Dog, Dog, come here” but he disappears. I drop my pack and head down the trail, trying to get in front of him, calling him all the while. I can hear him crunching through the brush/leaves, and I am in full panic mode.

After what seems forever, his noises start sounding closer. I keep calling and head back to my pack when he suddenly appears, awfully proud of himself and his adventure. I rig the leash/pack in a different way, hoping to forestall a future episode of adventure. After that getting in to Bradley Wales was easy.

The picnic area is really nice. They have restrooms and picnic tables there! And an old hand pump. I soon realize that pumping water ain’t that easy. I’ve done it before but not recently. Either this pump is particularly hard to use, or I’m weaker than I remember, but eventually the water starts flowing, and I fill the water bottles. Now, I get my breakfast and Dog’s breakfast, and I’m stunned to find out that Dog barely touches his food. Now this is a dog that eats like a horse, and I listened to his stomach growl through part of the night. So when he won’t eat, I’m worried. I know a sign that a dog is working too hard is that they won’t eat. Iditarod mushers always say that dogs not eating are the first bad sign. Between the cut and the not eating I’m really worried about him.

As a result, I decide to try and call the outfitter to see if he will come and pick us up. I figure if I can’t get through to him, I’ll get out to the road and see if I can flag someone down. But somehow, the telephone poles nearby must act like antennas or at least cell phone towers, because for the first time in 2 days, I have one bar of phone reception. I get through and the outfitter says he will come and pick us up. So that’s what we do.

My ride arrives in the form of Chuck Dillon himself, the author of the trailguide to the West Rim Trail. He’s a man about my age, perhaps a few years older, extremely nice. Dog, who's very opinionated about people, decides he likes him immediately and is suddenly all excited again, making me question whether or not I really needed to bail out of the hike. On the drive back to my car, Chuck and I talk about hiking and writing and balancing life/work. He even stops the car a couple of times so I can see the views from a particularly good spot.

After that it was a simple matter of the 3.5 hour drive home, with Dog sleeping like a log the entire trip. He didn’t even wake up when I stopped for gas.

All in all, we hiked half of the trail and though I'm sorry I didn't finish, we had a good time, which was an important part to me, as I didn't want Dog to find it a drag. Next time I think I will bring a third water bottle since Dog drinks so much. I'll likely add some sheepskin to the pack girth so it won't rub against Dog. We can hike the second half another time.

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