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.