August 25, 2015

Enjoying the Colorado Mountains with My Dogs


The leaves are changing, the kids are going back to school...summer really is drawing to a close. These past few weekends I've been taking full advantage of the last of these long, warm days and enjoying the natural beauty of my home state. I have every other Friday off, giving me a great opportunity to take Ruby on hiking trails that would be too crowded on the weekend. I wanted to decrease the number of people we encountered as much as possible, so after perusing hiking books and trail websites I decided we would make the long drive on Highway 285 to the Lost Creek Wilderness area and hike for a ways on the Goose Creek Trail (a 24 mile backpacking loop if completed). 


My dad was able to come along as well, which I was grateful for because the road was more rugged than I expected and he ended up doing some of the driving. My little Impreza got a true Colorado Subaru initiation on the steep, washed out Forest Service road and we were certain we were lost no less than five times. Two and a half hours from the city on back roads and we still arrived to a fairly full parking lot, but my remote destination was successful in that we only met a few other hikers and two other dogs at the very end of our hike. They were taking a different fork of the trail so it was easy to pick Ruby up and turn her away until they were out of sight. 


Boca seemed much more comfortable than she did on her solo hike the previous weekend - she liked having her scrappy sister along. She was my dad's charge for most of the hike, although if we were in the lead she pulled to stay close, so I took both girls at times. We crossed back and forth over the creek six or seven times and Ruby was such a champ about scrambling over the log bridges or hopping from stone to stone. Everyone got their feet wet at one time or another. I had a hands-free leash system for Ruby (along with several back-up safety measures) which was really nice. It was a warm day and we didn't have a lot of shelter from the sun due to the area still recovering from the 2002 Hayman Fire - we drove through the burn scar for much of the way. 


Ruby and Boca were both wary of the other hikers we passed - most were carrying big frame-packs and/or walking sticks and they just didn't know what to think of those unusual silhouettes. One pair of hikers passed us as we were stopped for lunch and Ruby did the most barking at them, I think because they had a lot of equipment jangling which Ruby associates with dog tags. All in all it was very manageable and we were lucky that we didn't meet anyone at creek crossings or narrow places. I made the girls some doggie "trail mix," a combination of several different kinds of treats, and we also shared our string cheese and carrots with them. They had their own water bottle and I think next time I will have Boca pack out the poop bags in our Outward Hound pack. 


The Ginger Sisters seemed like they enjoyed themselves. We hiked for about two hours and even the Border Jack was slowing down slightly by the end. Ruby did some serious digging in the rich, black mountain soil and managed to coat the entire white side of her face with dirt. I thought it was well worth the long trip and would like to explore the area again sometime. Ruby rode wonderfully in her travel crate, although she was sick on the way up (the road was so bumpy and windy, I can hardly blame her!) - that was definitely one of the best dog purchases I've ever made. Boca slept the entire way home and didn't want to move the rest of the evening - little did she know there was another adventure in store for her the next day!
 

The next day Boca and I set out for Elk Meadow, an off-leash wonderland in Evergreen, about thirty minutes from Denver. I'm not a huge fan of dog parks in general - I think they can be recipes for disaster and there are too many unknowns for this control-freak; however, Elk Meadow is a true gem. I had been there once before for last year's Colorado Potcake Meetup, organized through a Facebook group that I started. We intend to get together more than once a year, but it's hard to coordinate with everyone's busy schedules. This time there was a great turnout, and Boca got to meet more of her friends and very possibly family from The Humane Society of Grand Bahama. She knew Ellie from last year, got to see Fig and her favorite person from Pints for Potcakes last month, and met several new faces: Kenna, Judah, Finn and Abby. It was amazing to see how they greeted the other potcakes as if they really did recognize one another.


The photo above is poor quality, but I had to include it because of the sheer joy in Boca's bounding leap. I let her off-leash next to the stream with the other dogs, and she took off in gleeful circles splashing in and out of the water. Then she demonstrated that her recall was not quite as good as I thought it was in such a fun environment, and considered taking off on a hike of her own. I re-attached her leash for part of our group hike, then let her off again once we were more of an established unit, and by that time she stayed close and checked in frequently, which I praised her immensely for. After our hike we returned to the fenced area to let the dogs rest and socialize more. The number of other dogs in the meadow area ebbed and flowed - at one point it was a little too chaotic for my taste, and Boca did get intimidated by a couple of large dogs. She has very good social skills overall - no doubt from living communally with so many other dogs at the shelter yard.

 

Boca looked at me like I was slightly crazy on Sunday morning when it was time to take a drive again - she was perfectly happy to sleep all day and recover from the Goose Creek Hike - but I think she had one of her best days yet. Elk Meadow has many different options, from fully fenced wooded areas to miles of off-leash hiking trails. The smallest fenced area is an open meadow on a hill, the perfect place to relax and wait for friends to arrive. Boca plopped down happily in the sun with her frog-legs splayed out behind her, much to everyone's amusement. Later she explored the perimeter in the tall grass with Ellie, engaged an adorable Bernese puppy in play, dug a giant hole, and chewed up a tiny stick that she found. I loved meeting the other potcakes - such a sweet, easygoing group of dogs - and a wonderful group of people. It's a beautiful thing that a group of formerly unwanted dogs from an island in the Atlantic can find loving homes and unite a bunch of strangers thousands of miles away.

25 comments:

  1. They look like they had so much fun! Those pictures are gorgeous!

    I love going on more remote hikes but you're right, getting to them can be daunting! Windy back roads are nerve racking!

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    1. I'm lucky to have my dad to go with me on these longer ventures - it just wouldn't feel safe to do on my own. I have scouted a few places closer in that I would feel comfortable with.

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  2. Love this! Happy dogs. Love Boca's smiles especially. And that she gets to hang now and then with some of her brethren from her first home!

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    1. They really enjoy the company of their own, Tip! Boca was sharing her den with Ellie but would chase off any other dogs.

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  3. Elk Meadow sounds like a fantastic place! They both look so happy. <3

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  4. What beautiful adventures! I've gone on a few adventures where my little car has had to prove herself, too. I know Colorado Springs is a little bit of a drive from Denver, but have you checked out the A Bark in the Park Colorado Springs trail book: http://www.hikewithyourdog.com/page8/page393/page393.html I've used a few of the books in the series--the Cleveland one for places near home and a few others for our travels and a lot of times they include trails within an hour drive of the title city, so there might be some closer to Denver--and they usually mention how high traffic the trails might be :)

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    1. There are definitely trails closer in - I have a book called Canine Colorado, but I figure the higher the dog-friendly rating, the more dogs we'd have to contend with, so I purposely looked for somewhere that was hard to get to. Colorado Springs has some amazing hiking areas, too - my aunt lives there so we've gotten to explore quite a bit.

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    2. We've been pleasantly surprised with the ones in the Cleveland book--the ones with the coolest trails are the ones with the least amount of traffic!

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  5. I love this! I'm so happy Ruby got to have an adventure, and love how happy she looks in the pictures.

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    1. Ruby was thrilled. Boca is a funny girl, she's not sure what all this driving to the mountains and walking up hill is about.

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  6. I've been planning to take our dogs to the beach for 2 summers. It's going to be raining this weekend so I'm playing the beach trip by ear. Next week, I have some vacation time and I think we'll go since we'll probably be alone.

    I'm excited to see Scout and Zoey's reaction to the beach.

    Thanks for sharing your experience; with Zoey's fearful reactions lately, people with big packs is something I'll have to be aware of when I start hiking with my pack.

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    1. I hope you take lots of pictures at the beach! I have no idea what Ruby would think of the beach - Boca being an island girl probably would know just what to do.

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  7. That sounds amazing! I cannot wait for the weather to cool down enough that B and I can start our hiking adventures again. We do mini hikes - but it's just too hot to go longer than 30 minutes even at 5 am.

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    1. We are heading into my favorite season and the aspens changing - I'm hoping to get up to the mountains a lot more before winter.

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  8. That looks amazing!! All of it, what a fun time!
    Next month Dante and I are hiking Broken Top Mountain with some friends, I'm super excited!

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    1. I can't wait to see your hiking pictures!

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  9. Glad you had a good hike. Like the pictures. I am looking forward to some fall hiking. It seems that our whole state is on fire so hopefully there will be trails left for us to enjoy.

    I barely dared say it but it felt like fall in the air yesterday morning. That was the first time since spring.

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    1. The fires are terrible. We had such strange wet weather in the first part of the summer that we dodged our usual fire season. The leaves are already starting to change here, fall is definitely coming.

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  10. Looks like lots of fun. I just love all the pictures!

    Still too hot here in Texas to do too much outside, I'm ready for fall!

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    1. Fall is my favorite season - I only wish it lasted longer! It always feels like a blip before six months of winter.

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  11. Elk Meadow sounds like a great place for dogs. How big is it? The dogs all look happy to be there!

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    1. Just over 100 acres - it's quite an amazing place.

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  12. I love taking Luna hiking too! We usually have to go on the weekends, so we seek out trials that are less popular or just try to go at unusual times. Elk Meadow looks fantastic! And it seems like both Ruby and Boca enjoyed these adventures!
    -Jessica from Beagles & Bargains

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  13. Looks like you had some wonderful hikes and get togethers!

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