9 Aug 2014

My original plans for the weekend had fallen through, so as my work shift came to an end hiking was looking more and more exciting.  I let Eric know I was about home and that he could meet me and we’d set off.  When we left the house I drove, unfortunately for Eric it meant we were taking the Red Rocket.  My cars name is more of a joke, it is definitely red and most definitely NOT fast.  I think once I was passed by a Vespa.  It’s 0-60 in 6 minutes flat, no AC, with old school door seat belts.  You remember the kind, the ones that open and close when you open the door.  Except mine were broken and stuck in the back position.  Which means you have to buckle yourself in at the bottom and the top.  One thing my little car doesn’t lack is character, everything else..well yeah what do you expect when it was dirt cheap.
When we arrived at the park I removed Roland’s and my gear from the trunk and set him out.  Eric and I laughed about maybe he should do something outrageous and I would have something to write about.  We loaded up and set out on our hike at Middle Run Park in Newark.  The Newark trail system is great, in that you can make any possible distance you want by taking any of the many connecting trails between all the loops.  It didn’t take long for us to start enjoying the temperature drop inside the trees compared to the heat outside.
As we walked Roland set the pace.  His pace is swift and constant, like train trudging along the tracks, no matter the terrain his pace is unchanging.  Up hills, over rocks, roots, and rough terrain he steadily walks at about 4 miles an hour before settling into about 3.5.  He is great at keeping that pace, motivating you to keep up with him, partly maybe because he makes it look so easy. I look back at eric and ask him how he is faring.  Eric reply’s he’s doing great and this isn’t too fast yet.  Keep in mind both Roland and i have our backpacks on and Eric has his water bottle. Our conversation turns into trail talk.  It can be compared to what happens on a road trip.  anything and everything is talked about.
Just to shake things up I Yell at him to watch out for the Stick Snake.  He replies worriedly “Where, Where?”  “Right there man it almost got you.” I say as I point out the long thin snake on the ground.  He doesn’t see it.  “Where is the snake?” he asked.  I then clue him on what a Stick Snake is.  A Stick Snake is when your walking and you step on a thin spry branch and it reaches up and bites you.  Usually on the calf sometimes if you’re unlucky the thigh.  The best image to describe it, is from The Simpsons.  Sideshow Bob will step on a rake and it will slap him in the face.  Same principle when you’re hiking.  You are walking along enjoying nature and then, WHACK. Oh shit I just got bit by a snake. Nope, no you didn’t, you stepped on a Stick Snake.
As we hike along the heat starts to get to Roland.  The humidity today is fairly high and impeding his ability to cool himself.  I notice how low his tongue is dragging and we stop for some water.  Opening his pack and pulling out the water and his collapsible dog bowl, Eric remarks at how chill it is.  “Yeah man, he has all his own gear.” I tell him.  It is way to hot for him now so i make a judgement call, removing his pack and strapping it to mine.  I will carry his weight now,  I couldn’t ask for a better dog.  If i hadn’t taken his pack, Roland would hike till exhaustion just because he loved it so much.  His drive, determination to put the miles afoot is truly one of natures wonders. On the way back to the car we come across his second favorite pastime, swimming in the creeks.  I can think of no better way for him to cool off and have a blast than that.  We finish our hike with no issues and I am left with a few thoughts.
Our hike was a great reminder of determination, humor, appreciation and humility.  Roland will run himself lame if given the chance.  When he pulled a dog sled I would have to physically stop him from overdoing it.  I must be very mindful at all times of his condition when we are out, his paws, body temp, hydration levels, and caloric intake. Humility will help me to not push myself and Roland too hard.  Knowing our limits and being aware and honest about them will only help us to succeed.  Nature can be cruel and unforgiving, but it is in the small things you can find humor.  From Stick Snakes, tripping on the only root in the trail, to wallowing in the only mud puddle you can’t help but laugh.  In all these things I gain not only an appreciation for nature but my dog, friends, family, abilities as well.

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