Another “neighborhood trail,” like Bishop’s Lodge, we drove down residential dirt roads until one came to an abrupt end at a small area for cars and an entrance to the trail.
There were a few people milling about, and it appeared the three groups of people were together. We spoke, negotiating a way to place our cars so they all fit and no one was blocked in. While we played Tetris with automobiles, I noticed a woman holding the collar of an Australian Shepherd puppy standing next to the trail. I hoped she was holding the collar because someone else was looking for the leash in the car. Probably not.
Tucker wanted to greet the young pup, and the woman held onto the dog’s collar. Luckily the cacophony of smells emanating from the trail made Tucker abandon his quest for friendship and pull me hard onto the path. The group with the shepherd had three kids, a dog and a few adults. It would take them some time to get coordinated and start on the hike.
As is normal for Tucker when he’s excited, not far along the path he had to stop and take a dump. (What can I say? The boy holds his emotions in his intestines.)
These few moments is all it took for the large group to catch up. I saw the shepherd leading the way, and since there was barbed wire on one side of the trail, I hauled Tucker up with the side of the mountain on the other side of the trail to let them pass. They did call their pup back and he responded, but I politely told them they should go ahead. I didn’t want to be rushed.
There were a few awkward minutes of Tucker balking at the leash to meet up with the pup, but once we stopped for a long enough time, they were far enough ahead that the present smells of nature were far more interesting than a dog up the path.
We were finally alone on the trail—just the way I like it.
Although most likely easier to do with a dog off leash, I still kept Tucker tethered to me. The river was really a deep gorge in a canyon, and we couldn’t see around the bend.
Nature provided quite a climax. The canyon walls suddenly opened up and there before us was a waterfall.
Tucker kindly let me take a picture of him, but it was difficult to get his attention when he just wanted to be friends with the Aussie (who is obviously off to my left.)
Tucker pretended to be king of the waterfall, overlooking the scene and then fantasy completed, we returned to the trail.
The woman warned me of an off leash dog up ahead, and I thanked her.
I’d like to believe that the number of responsible owners is far greater than the number of people who let their dogs run off leash with no regard for laws or for the safety of others. At least I hope that’s the case when it comes to hiking. After all, this is my sanctuary and my church. I imagine it is the same for others. It deserves respect and reverence. Yes, it is a place to play and have fun. But it’s also a place of peace and solace. It can be both simultaneously.
Remember that when you start down a trail, you have entered a sacred place for many. There are trails where your dogs are free to run and pounce. If that’s the kind of experience that is sacred to you, please go to those trails. For those of us on on-leash trails, we’re here for that experience, for that sanctuary. There are more churches in nature than there are religions in the world. Find yours, visit yours, and if you visit someone else’s, please be mindful and respect their traditions.