Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting A Pet, Earning A Friend

There has never been a hike Cullen and I set out on that wasn't special. Each time we are together, roaming through the woods, my mind is also allowed to roam. This grants me the opportunity to understand, better understand, or accept certain aspects of life. A lot of the times it is he who shows me the answers. Throughout these three and half years spent with my friend, he has been able to help guide me through some of the hardest times in my life, but he has also helped me see the greatness in the happiest times as well. In times of darkness he was the light that led me back to me, and that is one of the greatest gifts a friend can give.

Animals have an innate instinct to love and trust far beyond our abilities. They are able to give to us gifts far more valuable than any materialistic present. However, these gifts don’t come wrapped in a pretty box with a bow, because they are not meant to be oblivious. Having the patience and the ability to see past what is simply already there is where you will find greatness.


These gifts are earned through time and dedication. Our animals are able to award us with the purest forms of trust, strength, and contentment; true friendship. The worst thing is to ignore this. To think that getting a dog means owning a pet, instead of having a friend.

Don’t just pass on the fact that there is a lot more to our animals. They are able to give us a lot more than just their presence. Take the time to build an eternal friendship, and make the effort to care for their health and well being as much as you do your own. In turn your eyes, mind, and heart will help you see and feel a connection between man and animal that is worth the time, effort, and unenthusiastic judgment others offer.

Don’t just get a pet, but earn a true friend.  


Sunday, August 4, 2013

River Adventures

The day started out just the same as any other, with Cullen taking advantage of the long mornings. Waking at a pace that best suits him for that day. Moments like these are when you wish you lived a dog's life. 

However, in no time at all we were up and more than ready for our next adventure. This time it would be experienced by water instead of land, and our views would be from the edge of the canoe rather than the cliff's edge of a mountain.  

"Look Dad geese!" Our trip was full of beautiful wildlife. Our first sight was a small flock of geese calmly coasting down river, feeding as they went.

Shortly after the geese, we got to  visit the crane just across the river. However, the visit was only for a moment, due to the the bird's extreme cautiousness.   

No visitor that day was as great as the Bald Eagle we saw fly overhead, and capture its fish from the river's current. As it sat upon the water-spoiled log that rested at the edge of the river, we slowly and carefully approached to watch it indulge in the treat it desired.

Although Cullen was thrilled with all the sights of the watercourse, he couldn't have been happier to run full force through the soft white sands of a vacant beach. 

Cullen met one friend that day, Penny. She and her human friend Bob were just up river a little ways. Cullen found them during one of his investigations. Penny and Cull liked each other so much had decided to leave Bob and come back with us to our beach, where they played a thrilling game of chase.

However, Penny would soon have to go home and we were left to the company of each other, more than thankful for the time spent with her. The sun was hot and all that paddling wore me tired, so having the energy to run Cull down would have been a challenge. I got the chance to read some of my book, and soak in the sunshine. 

After a long while spent at the beach investigating, napping, and running like mad, Cull dog was more than happy to be on the river again headed towards home. Our day ended with a calm night filled with music, food, and the company of our happiness. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013


We started this journey in response to the early passing of my mother. The goal was to take her with us as we journeyed to the White Mountains 48 highest peaks, and on our final summit we would spread her ashes. I always thought that this would be a symbol of understanding, a way to accept the ill-timed circumstances and let go. However, as we sat atop our 48th mountain I realized then that throughout this passage I found that the destination was not meant for a good-bye, for during our travels I had already found my acceptance. This final summit was meant to reconnect with memories and feelings I was not yet ready to handle; it was meant for an embrace. As I spread some of her ashes in a small split on the rock where we sat, and tossed the rest to a strong east wind I expected tears to come next, but instead a smile. 

The photos are of our final hike and our night spent in the mountains (click on photo to enlarge).

The morning's light and river's rapids were a perfect blend creating a sense of needed peacefulness. This is exactly how we like to start a long hike off.

After hiking a little over 7 miles we finally caught a quick view of the first out of our three summits we would be reaching that July 4. This is of Bondcliff and the other two mountains that are not in sight are Mt. Bond and West Bond.

The distance only made for more excitement!

However, as soon as we hit our first summit Cullen instantly found his way to the edge and took in what he worked so hard for. One of the reasons I left the Bonds for our last hike was due to the truest forms of beauty the views offer.

By the time we hiked the ridge to Mt. Bond, our second summit, Cullen was in need of a little break. This was my outlook as I sat and ate a PB&J and apple for lunch. Not once did he take hide that smile, which only made my view more impressive.

As we sat on the top of our 48th and final peak I began to feel a sense of hesitation more than excitement. A tornado of emotions began to take hold. However, before all could get too deep Cullen found a perfect way to clear things up.

BondCliff, our first summit of the day, is in the background. 

Cullen resting under the exact rock where my mother's ashes were spread. This is the closest I will get to having a picture of him with my mother. There is much joy for me to be able to have captured this moment!

We spent the night at Guyot Campground, which is just about half mile from the the summits we stood on earlier in the day. Cullen quickly took a look around, made some friends, and found his way into bed.

This was the view from our platform that evening. Not a bad sight to see before falling asleep. 

That next morning we woke early to watch the sun rise from Mt. Bond. This was the first view my eyes got to see from the comfort of my sleeping-bag.

As we made our way through the mornings shadow we found our place at Mt. Bond once more to watch the sunrise together. There is no better moment we have shared then sitting side by side watching the sky turn to fire and lighting up the valleys of mountains that conquer these lands.

We conquered what we worked so hard for. We hiked together over 48 challenging peaks, hiked together through some terrible weather, and hiked together through some very hard times. However, the important part is that we always hiked together. The end of this journey is only the beginning to so much more. We embarked on this voyage, as you are aware, for more personal illumination and self accomplishment, and although we have navigated our way up all 48 of these peaks I believe we have now just found our bearings. Our next journey will not be as convenient and will be for a cause much greater than my own. Keep trailing us to discover what is to come! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Day In The Life Of a Hiking Dog

 During every hike we embark on together there is a moment of enlightenment for me. There are so many great lessons we can learn from our dogs if only we make the effort to open our eyes and see. This day provided me with a greater understanding of what I have already come to know. This being, our lives are not meant to be lived in a cloud. We are meant to explore and wander with the light of happiness and friendship shining vividly. Never hesitate to find your way out of that grey, and into that shine. 
(click on photos to enlarge)

On every hike Cullen has such a need to lead, and I am more than accepting towards his eagerness. This gives me the ability to keep a close eye on him. 

However, there are several times during our trips where he will voyage off out of my sight, but as soon I a turn the corner he is always sitting looking down towards me waiting patiently. It is such a gift to have a hiking partner whose abilities are much greater, but has the patience to sit and wait. 

Strike a pose!.The mountain you see here is Mt. Lincoln. One of the three peaks we reached that day. I love it when the expression on his face says it all! 

As we continued our trek through the Pemigewasset Wilderness we reached a pair of old forgotten hiking boots. The pair of boots have become nothing more than mold and rotten grass, which must have given off an unpleasant scent because Cull wanted nothing to do with them. 

The last half a mile or so until Mt. Lafayette's summit is well above treeline, and as we decided to take a break we also decided to take a quick photo. The building you see below us is Greenleaf Hut. The smell of the food being cooked was almost unbearable to take. Dogs are not allowed in the huts, so we had to just pass by. However, not before Cullen tried his best to find his way in, but the lady at the front wasn't having any of it :)

On almost every summit Cullen finds his way to a spot where he likes to take a moment to rest and gaze. As I was unloading my gear I saw him looking out over the Franconia Ridge. It was almost as if he was assessing the journey ahead. Sizing up the hike over to Mt. Lincoln; the peak you see in the distance.

The view we had during our lunch break was worth a million words. Although, Cullen didn't seem to enjoy it as much as I did. We sat together for a short moment and then he was off in search of new friends and their food! 

Cullen once again takes the lead as we began to make our way to Mt. Lincoln, across one of the most spectacular ridges the country offers. 

The views were priceless in every direction. Especially when Cullen looks as adorable as this! 

And although most of the time he has the lead, there are moments where a particular scent, view, or object will detract him from the quest ahead, and there is some catching up to do. 

There is a feeling of great joy when you realize we were made for these mountains as they were made for us.  The man who took this picture claimed to be not as brave as Cull. Stating to us there was no way he was stepping out onto this cliff.

The view now from Mt. Lincoln to Lafayette. The summit we just hiked from.

As we reached the summit air craft flew right over our heads. The only way I got Cullen to see it was to ask him if he saw the bird, for he knows what the word "bird" means and has no clue what a plane is.

"To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was PEACE." --Milan Kundera

A little detour we took was to a place called Shining Rock. I didn't have a tough time figuring out why. 

As we descended a trail called Falling Waters, we passed by several glistening waterfalls and swimming holes. We found a spot right in front of a waterfall where we decided to take a quick nap. Nothing beats these kinds of moments.

Even at the end of an all day hike Cullen still leads the way, and still takes a moment to appreciate the beauty all forests have to offer. Throughout my days spent with him there have been many valuable lessons I've come to understand. 

Just before departing for home I always make sure he is all buckled up and safe for the drive ahead. Also, I provide enough blankets to rest comfortably. He loves sleeping with a piece of my clothing so there is always a sweater of mine for him to rest upon.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Under Our Feet and Over Our Heads

Somewhat recently I had a conversation with a woman who seemed almost eager to find her way to heaven. She shared with me her thoughts about this world, and most of them lacked enthusiasm and appreciation for all the wonders this world has to present. It was as if she was finding her way through this world blind folded; her enlightenment caught in the shadow of despair. It seemed as though she believed heaven to be her safe haven from all that is wrong with the planet. It is not that I completely disagree with her, but you should understand I see the flip-side of the coin, and the opposing side has much more to offer.

The suns generous warmth and the trees cooling breeze made for a perfect contrast as we spent our day hiking Mt. Isolation.  Almost all the way up the mountain we were consumed by such beauty. The forest had almost a mythical feel to it, as if we were walking right through a fairytale. There were points where the overgrown greens displayed the step stone walking path perfectly, and with the help of the sunshine it gave parts of the trail an illuminating glow.

We spent a little amount of time relaxing by the shimmering rivers, well I relaxed and Cull Dog investigated all that he wanted. I find such enjoyment in misplacing my train of thought riverside and focusing on nothing more than the crashing rapids and Cullen’s inquisitiveness. However, our duration of time spent there wasn't much; after all we were there with direct intent.

As time continued so didn't our pursuit for the summit. After just a few hours we had made our way almost 7.5 miles to the pinnacle of Mt. Isolation. Even though Isolation is one of the shortest peaks it did not disappoint. The mountain offered panoramic views that would stop you dead in your tracks. As soon as Cull Dog found his way to the top he was off in search of anything and everything. Once again swept away by the powers of curiosity. However, as soon as I found the place I wanted to settle down to write and gaze Cull found his spot by my side.  


I found myself thinking much of this particular conversation I had with this woman. I know there are some serious issues this world is facing and has yet to face, but to fall victim to these pessimistic characteristics is to lose sight of what can change a beaten down life into a prosperous one; true happiness. As we sat together a top of Mt. Isolation I found a state of perfect equanimity staring upon the shadows from the cotton soft clouds gliding along the mountain’s side. I then realized what true happiness was. It’s not the moments where you feel the need to state how amazing the circumstances are, but when you know there is no point to saying such words; for sitting in the silence screams a million. Even now as I sit on a rocky ledge with Cullen at my feet I know moments like this are when we have shared some of our happiest times, and mostly all have been in accepting silence.

With the help of Cullen I now believe that there is too much beauty in this life to rush our way to anywhere else. Take in each moment and appreciate it for what it is; a great gift. Focus on now because that is all that matters, and have the strength and awareness to see all the magnificence surrounding you. Lose yourself in life’s great adventure and find your way to a fulfilling end.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.