By Joyce Walkerdine
Climbing down behind the rocky outcrop, I found a perfect little nook to stop and have lunch out of the wind. The breeze was a welcome companion on this hike as it cooled the temperature of the blazing sun in the clear blue Alberta sky. My other companion on this early morning adventure was my ever energetic Australian Cattle Dog, aptly named Busy.
She was also interested in stopping for lunch, particularly to see if she could convince me to part with some of my own. Of course she did and we shared a bite to eat and a Rocky Mountain view that never grows old to my eyes.
Hiking in the mountains is my drug of choice and hiking with my dogs along is even better. Luckily we live close to the Rockies and can escape frequently to roam and explore the trails.
On this particular hike we meandered along a river, sauntered through a mixed forest of aspen and pine and broke out into a meadow to catch the breathtaking view. When we started out early in the morning, I didn’t know what to expect because I had never been here before. But that is half the fun, exploring and seeing what the trail has to offer.
Right off the bat we needed to do a bit of rock hoping to avoid a wayward stream flowing across the trail, a remnant from the recent Alberta floods that changed the previous landscape in this area. Busy loves this sort of thing, splashing through mud, unconcerned about getting wet while I danced from rock to rock to fallen log desperately hoping to keep my feet from getting soaked.
It all settled down after about five metres and the well-defined trail lead us through a cool, shaded forest and gradually down to the river bank. We weaved through Lodgepole pine and wild rose bushes. After a kilometre along the river, the trail started to climb and we found ourselves in a meadow of late-blooming wildflowers. Purple aster and harebells still hung on and reached for the sun. It was easy to imagine this area vibrant with wildflowers at their colourful rainbow peak in mid-summer.
Our lunch spot revealed itself after about another three kilometres and we ate and took a short break. On the return trip, we took a slightly different route, opting to follow the faint animal trails skirting the meadow. Heading due west we were treated to wonderful views of the front mountain range until the path lead us back into the forest.
After a slight decline, we encountered a large tree laying across the trail. Busy effortlessly jumped over it with me in tow. Just past the tree we came across a visitor, a plump, chicken-like bird resting on the trail. It was a Ruffed Grouse, a fairly common species in the area. This one, a female, slowly sauntered into the underbrush and out of sight. Busy was on a leash and didn’t follow her so we resumed our trek back to the trail head.
Shortly, we approached the water-soaked part of the trail we crossed on the way out. Some hikes have streams that are fed by glaciers and are often flowing higher and faster on the return trip as the sun heats up and melts the glacier. Not so with this little stream, which was slightly smaller. Busy didn’t miss the opportunity to find the maximum amount of water to jump in to gain the maximum amount of pleasure. I was glad I had a towel in the car.
Back at the trail head, we tidied up after a thoroughly enjoyable day in the mountains. I highly recommend hiking with your dog as a great way to share exercise, fresh air and companionship. See you on the trails!
—Joyce Walkerdine is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Dog Hiking Canada. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or doghikingcanada.com.