Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jones Branch to Chipmunk Canyon

Drying socks over the fire

8.4 miles

When we arrived at the eight-mile mark today, Shadow ran away. It’s something he does sometimes. The first couple of times it happened on the trail, I panicked—shouting, whistling, chasing through the shrubbery trying to find him. I’ve since learned that he always comes back.

He generally runs after deer, when he sees them. It’s got to the point where, when he does it, every other day, I take off my pack, get out a snack and drink some water and take a break. Unfortunately, I can’t do that when there’s three inches of snow on the trail, fresh snow is falling, and it’s twenty degrees out. My shoes and socks were wet through today, and standing still for any length of time risks hypothermia in those conditions.

So I kept walking. Calling for him of course, but knowing I was moving farther and farther away from where he last knew where I was. It’s an awful feeling, but a dog isn’t worth losing extremities over. Or so I told myself. Finally, I came to a big creek crossing, and that’s when the panic really set in.

Shadow’s a wolf-dog, and I knew, taking him hiking, that there’s always a risk he’ll hear the call of the wild and not come back. In fact, I want him to hike with me and stay with me because he wants to, because he loves being with me more than the coyote and the deer. But there’s always that risk, and today I thought I had finally lost him for good.

I could go any farther, once I crossed that creek. I camped right there on its banks, gathered wood for a fire, and waited. Sure enough, he came trotting along the trail, just as I was giving up hope. So I have him with me for one more day. But tomorrow, who knows?

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