Monday, June 23, 2008

Watch That Last Step

I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised last night at the ball park. The Greenville Drive (that’s a baseball team not a racing team) had partnered with the Greenville Humane Society to allow “Bark in the park.” You buy your dog(s) tickets and that money is donated to the society. I had thought this might be a really bad idea but it was pretty cool and done properly except for the fireworks after the game and during a grand slam. Poor Buddy almost had a heart attack.

So it was my mission for the weekend to get the dogs so ridiculously tired that they would just want to lay down at the game. There were a few phone calls made on Friday night and I had a small crew on mission to help me with the first step of “tire the dogs.”

Leaving out of North Mills in the morning, the dogs were on fire and Dennis, Clay and I were enjoying the show. I tried to tell Shade and Buddy to slow down because it was going to be a long day. We had met early enough so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the dogs on our only short gravel climb of the day on FS1206.

I watched as Shade would take a sharp turn and fly off into the woods with Buddy following on his tail. It is a classic “What are we going to do today George” scenario. At one point, they had ran up a steep grass embankment ahead of us when quickly we heard some brush rumble and then looked up to see Buddy hucking the six foot drop back to the road. It is quite funny to see how nimble Buddy is while his head smacks the dirt and gravel as his legs give out on impact and just drag behind him. He looks the same way I would imagine Pete Rose diving into home plate drunk. As always, he is up in a flash darting toward the next adventure. There is never a dull moment with these boys around.

Since we were doing a “short dog loop” I left the 34X21 on for some tough Pisgah riding. We were headed straight to Laurel Mountain and I knew the gear would push my limits on some of the steeper climbs. This is one of those make or break you type trails where you can really rail if you have your wits about you or you can really suffer.

I was feeling quite confident and strong and pushed the pedals to the highest RPM’s I could muster while floating across the rocks and roots instead of struggling to turn the wheel over them like I have the past few climbs on Laurel. The first day of summer was crisp and cool unlike the past few weeks so we relished the conditions by taking long breaks so the dogs could rest. You can really witness the effects of the drought as the two spots I thought the dogs could drink on the way up were too dry even for the dogs.

Some steep descending and switch backs with my chest on the seat opened my eyes and took me to my happy place. As Clay and I discussed later in the day, taking the dogs into Pisgah has inherent risks but to leave them forever banned to my yard has consequences too. Therefore I choose the former and let the dogs “live and learn.” The dogs were ecstatic when we arrived back to the reservoir on Big Creek. I watched as Shade lumbered into the deep waters and warned him not to drop the six feet into the reservoir.

We walked across the creek and were chatting when I thought I heard a bird. Then Dennis said “that sounds like Shade.” I immediately ran back to where he was and saw him in shock whimpering. There were no apparent broken bones or blood but he was obviously extremely frightened as he yelped when I touched him as though he were dying. I was immediately distressed and thought he had broken some ribs as Clay and Dennis noticed that the water in the reservoir was disturbed. The only solution we could surmise was that he had slipped and fallen in the water knocking the wind out of him. After a few minutes, he was fine and smiling again. Please cancel that doggie extraction, whew!

Phase one of “tire the dogs” was complete. Let Phase two begin.

Sunday Morning Kristin and I were headed on a “short hike” to rainbow falls. The dogs had us in tow and were ready for another adventure. Last time I hiked/ran up to the falls with the dogs I had noticed a spur trail close to the waterfall. I wrote it off as a quick steep climb to the top of the falls and told Kristin that we should check it out this morning. After our quick visit to the falls and watching buddy bust face against some slippery rocks, we took off up the unmarked spur trail.

Jones Gap never ceases to amaze me. There are some highly technical trails out there ready to enact Darwinian Theory on anyone who isn’t paying attention. Kristin always impresses me with her ability to take these quick steep spots in stride. We worked as a team to move the dogs from ledge to ledge tethering them individually when the trail turned downright scary. Only the best of behaving dogs could muster this trail as a misstep would involve certain death.

I was wrong about where the trail went but quickly figured that at the rate we were going up, we were headed to the top which meant Camp Greenville. Sure enough after a few more feet of steep trail, we popped out about a mile from Pretty Place. We took the easy walk to the Chapel and stopped in to take in the view and discuss future big “W” plans. However pretty “Pretty Place” is, it just doesn’t seem worth it at $1,000 for two hours. It was nice to finally see this place as we had really earned it. As we were headed down I mentioned to Kristin “The only other way up here from South Carolina is 276 and it takes just about as long (in a car) as it will for us to hike down.”

We made quick work of the trail headed down. The dogs were zonked when we made it to the car and both slept silently on the way home, mission complete.

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