Mission: The impossible dream

Every dog has its day. This was Wyatt's.
Every dog has its day. This was Wyatt’s.

The operation was planned for maximum stealth, the details plotted to their finest points. Preparations were executed under the shroud of darkest night. Everything was ready.

There was just one problem. Reese was on to me.

Wyatt in the dawn's early light.
Wyatt in the dawn’s early light.

At 14 and 13 respectively, Reese and Miles can no longer endure the dawn-to-dusk hikes we took in younger days. Though their spirits remain strong, Reese is slowed by arthritis and a dysplasia-stricken hip, and Miles suffers from diabetes and hypothyroidism. Just a week shy of his eighth birthday, however, Wyatt is in his prime. Long after Reese’s and Miles’s batteries have drained, Wyatt’s remains charged. We have what in Dr. Strangelove parlance may be referred to as a vitality gap.

So a plan was hatched for Wyatt and I to escape for a full day outdoors, just the two of us. Friday night, as the dogs made their final marking circuit around the fence and foliage, I packed the food, water and outdoor gear, and loaded the car. Saturday morning, I would stick to my routine; make coffee, let the dogs out, get dressed. Normally, Reese and Miles take advantage of my absence from the bed to curl up next to my better half, while Wyatt stretches out on the couch.

Frosty mountain grass in the morning..
Frosty mountain grass in the morning.

As the dogs congregated at the back door and I filled my travel cup with steaming, hot consciousness, I ran down the checklist in my head; every element had been orchestrated with symphonic precision. All I had to do was wait for the old hounds to head to the bedroom, then coax Wyatt out with me.

The best laid schemes o’ mutts an’ men…

Miles trotted predictably to the back, and Wyatt made a beeline for the living room. But Reese stopped cold, his senses putting a CSI investigation to shame; he huffed, then unleashed a pointed howl. It was the pants.

The trousers of choice that morning: a pair of flannel-lined, Carhartt dungarees that I favor for cold-weather hikes. Reese, like many dogs, associates certain articles with specific activities (running shoes and walks, Camelbak and hikes, cutting board and vegetable samples). I did not know his cognizance had grown so acute as to recognize slacks, especially in the context of an otherwise common morning. Clearly, these were the wrong trousers for the occasion.

Pike National Forest, still in the shadow of winter.
Pike National Forest, still in the shadow of winter.

Reese’s vocal observation spurred Miles and Wyatt into action. Chaos reigned for a good quarter-hour as soft, pink light filtered through the windows. I had hoped to be on the trail by dawn; my partner, and likely our neighbors, had probably hoped to still be asleep.

Finally, Reese and Miles settled in bed, and I coerced Wyatt out of the house with a piece of Swiss cheese that metaphorically mocked the holes in my plan.

A rare, restful moment.
A rare, restful moment.

Ninety minutes later, Wyatt and I rushed into the crisp, mountain morning. We ran until I thought my heart was going to explode. Which was probably about five minutes, but felt like an hour.

We walked leisurely up a rocky incline, still patchy with snow after a week of weather more reflective of late spring than late winter. From somewhere in the distance, the crack of antlers and the bullish call of elk bulls.

The clash....
The clash….

We crested the ridge, and there, in the snow-encrusted meadow below us, they were. Five male elk, four of them paired off and sparring, the fifth roaming and grazing between them. Wyatt and I paused to watch the magnificent creatures trade partners, lock horns, and nibble on shoots of grass protruding through the ice. The elk soon returned to the sanctuary of the woods, and we moved on as well. We hiked like it was our job.

As we returned to the car under the unseasonably warm afternoon sun, I felt thankful for the day-long lack of gunfire, a sad rarity for this stretch of the woods despite its proximity to a branch of the Colorado Trail; I had no sooner finished the thought than a barrage of rifle shots erupted from an uncomfortable distance. Some missions, it seems, are impossible.

Let's keep going....
Let’s keep going….
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7 thoughts on “Mission: The impossible dream

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  1. I have just read some posts on blogs new to me. All dreadful; badly written, egocentric, boring. I came back here to remind myself that there are blogs that improve my life.
    Thank-you. I have no idea how I came across your blog, but it was a happy day.

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    1. I can’t thank you enough for the kind words; as you noted in your post about blogs last year, you do these for yourself foremost, but what makes it rewarding is when you’re able to connect with others on a deeper level. And I’m glad you came across this blog too, because it allowed me to discover your blog! (Speaking of which, I have some catching up to do over the weekend; my work schedule has forced me into blog binges.)

      I am always amazed, though, at some of the dreadful blogs that seem to have massive followings. Then again, this is a culture in which someone like Donald Trump is a viable candidate as a world leader. Sigh.

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      1. It is interesting how we find each other to create an online community. You might like this from the Guardian re Trumpspeak http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/04/genius-donald-trumpspeak-steven-poole-words
        I am also amazed at bad blogs with huge followings, but then I shouldn’t be, just think of the number of people who think Dan Brown is a great writer. I am equally amazed at the dedication some people have to blogging, and the way they connect with every challenge going. That seems to me like a lot of work.

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      2. That was a great piece; his followers gobble that swill up. It’s scary to me how many there are (though Bernie Sanders has way more, and he is getting screwed by the establishment). And on the Dan Brown note, a former coeditor of mine with sound literary tastes was vacationing with her husband some years back, forgot her book, and picked up “The DaVinci Code” thinking it would, if nothing else, be a breezy, diverting read. She said for a few chapters, it was the funniest thing she ever read; then it started to make her sad because the writing was so atrocious. I remember her railing about the “white albino” character: “What other color would an albino be?”

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  2. I love the elegantly crossed legs in the first picture. Is he auditioning for Vogue?
    How were the other two when you returned from your trek? My aunt used to breed and show wire-haired dachshunds. Not all went to each show, and there was always some coolness when the party first returned before they relaxed in each other’s company again.
    Wyatt looks in great shape for an eight-year-old. How did he react to the elk?
    Reese and Miles are quite old now aren’t they? It’s so tough seeing your pet age, watching for the signs of pain and infirmity.

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    1. The leg crossing kills us; he sits like that all the time. And Reese gave me a sound lecture when we returned, though all was quickly forgiven. I hate leaving them behind, but Wyatt and I both needed a day like that, and the other two had company and got a walk around the park while we were away (Reese and Miles have pretty good energy for 14- and 13-year-old dogs, but their outdoor adventures have to be capped at a few hours or so these days).

      Wyatt was OK about the elk; we were a good distance above them, and he just sat and watched them (his leash was clipped to a bush). I hoped to get closer for some better pictures, but when I dropped below Wyatt’s eye level he started to whine, and I didn’t want to interrupt the nature spectacle.

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