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.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Life Worth Living

When Cullen came to us he was nothing more than 4lbs of bones and fur, not that he wasn’t cared for, but being the runt of the litter didn’t give him the chance to thrive at his start. For that reason alone I never envisioned him being capable of hiking all 48 4,000ft. mountains in NH. However, we currently only have two hikes left until Cullen is officially the smallest dog ever to have accomplished such an overwhelming task, and we’ll get nominated into the elite AMC 4,000 footer club.

There was a point in my time when I lost the true meaning of this life. Not that I was depressed, my support system was top notch, but I was eager. I knew that there was more to life than the average day-to-day lifestyle most of us fall into; waking up, working, dinner, and bedtime. As I continued to spend more time with Cullen he and I would go for hikes that led me to unspeakable beauty, excitement, and enchantment. As we both continued to grow I realized our hikes turned into journeys, I was starting to live a life I was content with.

I was no longer bound to a schedule that choked my happiness, and I was breathing deeper than I ever had. The mountain air filled my core with purity and gratification. After Cullen and I had hiked our first 4,000 footer, which at the time was truly challenging, we were hooked. So, Saturday January 7, 2012 we took on the challenge to stand atop all 48, and as of Thursday May 30, 2013 we have stood on the summit of all but four of them, leaving us with two hikes to go. The experiences we have shared in those mountains are beyond the words I could write, and no right adjective, sentence, blog, or book will ever be able to justify or grasp what we have been through together. All I can do is write down the truth and hope that gives enough insight on how special our time spent together is.

We are all capable of overcoming such empowering and testing challenges. We all have the control to make whatever change we want, and make whatever dreams reality. What’s required is the courage to accept the change that comes along with the journey. I know now that I am much changed from the person I was before these mountain tops. I am able and comfortable to live my life the way I want to remember, and not be blindsided by society’s distractions.

This would not have been possible without the courageousness of a particular Min Pin. His love for the outdoors has led me to peace and understanding. We are all meant to live a life of adventure and exploration, just having the bravery to reach out and grab this thrill is the hard part, due to the stagnant lifestyle so many have come accustomed to living.

We will soon be finishing with the 48; this is something that has been weighing heavy on my mind. What is next for us? I only hope that we are able to embark on another journey together, where I am able to grow and learn from the time spent with Cullen. To trail him as we travel through another challenge many would think too great for him.

There is much more to this life than just living. We are not doing ourselves and this world any good unless we find a friend of great value and make memories that brighten the darkest of days. Trust in friendship and be certain that the bond made will withstand even the harshest of hits. Go live the life you dream of with the ones that mean the most, for that is a life well lived…

A life worth remembering.