Brownie & Teddy Hiking Adventures

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Mount Blue Sky, formally known as Mt. Evans, was Brownie and Teddy ‘s first visit to a peak above 14000’. Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America and delivers the adventuresome traveler to the summit of Mount Blue Sky. The road is not for the faint of heart. It is narrow with steep drop-offs and subject to severe weather without notice.

The parking lot is 3 tenths of a mile below the summit. As we parked the car, the pups were unsuspecting of the hike we would soon embark on. Mount Blue Sky is 14130′ tall and just one of Colorado’s 58 peaks above 14000′, affectionately called 14ers by many hikers. Climbing Colorado’s 14ers was a dream of mine, which I never thought would be possible.

Today’s summit was achieved with a drive and short hike, Jess and I don’t count this as earning the peak, but for the pups, it was quite a hike. They were thirteen years old and climbing at the highest elevation they had ever been at. They were rock stars. Brownie waddled his way and Teddy accepted all the praises and extra pets from other the hikers. There was lots of huffing and puffing but mostly from Jess and I. It was official the dog’s first 14er! It was several months later before Jess and I earned our first.

Brownie and Teddy ‘s hiking took place over a lifetime full of adventures. They are both Cockerpoos, half Cocker Spaniel and half Poodle. Cockerpoo’s are not know for their hiking prowess. They were not the typical hiking pups you saw in the rugged White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine our previous home state.

Teddy and Brownie

Teddy became a member of our family six months before Brownie. He is high spirited with bounding energy and did not like being alone. When we went off to work Teddy was in turmoil. We were greeted with chewed up pillows, rugs and even the mouldings surrounding our windows, when we returned home. He was a one pup wrecking crew (glad we were handy). We decided Teddy needed a buddy.

That’s when Brownie became part of the family. His dark colored hair was a sharp contrast to Teddy’s rusty brown. Even though, they were the same breed and from the same breeder, there were few similarities. Teddy is tall and slender with curley hair. Brownie was short and stout with a sturdy structure. In addition, their personalities were completely different.

Opposites almost. Teddy was so smart and he never stopped. He was not interested in playing with toys and barely ate treats. Brownie was chill. His personality was much like a big goofy lab. He loved playing with his toys, and would play chase for hours. Any wiff of food, Brownie would instantly be in the kitchen, waiting for us to drop something.

Brownie’s company did not help Teddy’s separation anxiety. Both dogs had free reign of the house, while we were working. But after returning home to Teddy chewing up several thunder shirts and more destruction of our home, we decided we needed to try something new. We discovered simply by kenneling the dogs together while we were gone the problem was solved. The kennel was large enough for both dogs to comfortably lay down and they both seemed happier.

Our First Hike

Brownie and Teddy ‘s first hike did not go as we expected. We chose a short hike close to our home. After driving for a few minutes Brownie had a problem, he was car sick. We cleaned up the car and continued to our hike. It was a good first outing, both pups walked well on leash. At the end of our hike we headed back home and poor Brownie was car sick again. This car sickness problem interfered with the dog’s hiking adventures. It took several short trips over many months before Brownie’s car sickness was behind him. That’s when the fun began.

Hiking with the dogs was much like hiking with small children. When our daughter Amber was little, it was all about the excitement and motivation to continue hiking. We played word games and recited nursery rhymes, passing the time and keeping her moving on the trail. As she tired or became impatient we upped the energy level and continued hiking.

The dogs, especially Teddy hiked the same way. As the time on the trail passed Teddy would often lay down or begin to walk slowly. Some encouragement in the right toned voice and off we would hike. A few well timed “great job Teddy” would keep him moving down the trail. We must have sounded pretty funny hiking through the woods.

New Hampshire 4000’ers!

Colorado 14ers were a new experience for all of us, but hiking big mountains was not. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) maintains a list of peaks meeting specific criteria across New England. There are 48 Four thousand footers in New Hampshire, 14 in Maine, and 5 peaks in Vermont which qualify. These lists provide a challenge which calls to many hikers.

As soon as I learned that a list existed I was hooked. Initially, it was just my daughter and I picking off the peaks as time allowed. As soon I met Jess and we took our first hike together she was also hooked. When the dogs entered our lives we were well into completing the New Hampshire 48. They did not hike every peak with us, but they hiked a lot of them.

Both dogs were mighty hikers. Teddy could leap huge boulders with a single bound and Brownie, short legs and all was sure footed and could hike even the steepest terrain. Because neither pup was guaranteed to come when they were off leash, they each stayed tethered to us as we hiked. Sometimes this arrangement was complicated and involved a dog tripping us or us tripping a dog. If only I had the ability to take videos then, I would have an entire blooper reel!

Completing 4000’ers

Our busy lives did not allow for as much hiking as we wanted, but we managed to squeeze in enough days for Amber and I to finish the New Hampshire 48 prior to her heading off to college. Jess still had a handful more peaks to complete to finish her own list. I never thought to track what peaks the dogs hiked. I wish I had.

Jess and I finished up her NH list with the boys trudging by our side. Then it was on to tackle the Maine list. We learned as the dogs tired they listened much better and were very responsive to verbal and non-verbal commands. Brownie was especially good at walking off leash and matched me step for step.

Teddy was never as good at it, he was always more interested in any sound he heard. If he spotted a squirrel then off he would go. We comfortably developed a rhythm leashed for a couple hours than unleashed practicing our healing skills for the remainder of the hike.

Winter Hiking No Problem

The boys were no strangers to winter hiking. We lived in Maine and many months of the year, it was cold and the ground was snow covered, especially in the mountains If we decided to hike they hiked with us. Jess crocheted these sweaters to keep them warm in the frigid New England winters.

They were sure footed in the ice and snow. We hiked shorter trails and visited many beautiful frozen waterfalls. Winter hiking can be challenging and the pups were up to the challenge.

Hiking After the 4000’ers

After we completed all the 4000’ers we struggled with what peaks to hike next. Fortunately, Maine and New Hampshire has an abundance of mountains and notches with many hiking trails. Evans notch became one of our favorite areas to hike. We hiked many of the peaks and trails in that area.

Camping in Evans Notch was one of our favorite destinations. On a hike to emerald pool, we found an incredible area off trail. It was a beautiful moss covered section of the stream cascading over several ledges. Because we were camping and had no plans, we decided to spend some time enjoying the beautiful spot.

As we were eating our lunch, listening to the trickling stream, we were startled by a sudden loud noise coming from the banking behind us. We turned in time to see a juvenile moose stumbling down the hill towards the stream. He seemed unaware of our presence. Jess and I both instinctively grabbed a dog, stood up and slowly backed away in the opposite direction.

Once the moose reached the stream bed he stopped, suddenly aware of us. With our eyes on the moose we made sure the dogs were looking in the other direction, hoping they wouldn’t bark. We were not sure how a young moose would respond to barking dogs. It was a few tense minutes standing much too close to the moose, then he abruptly turned around and ran back up the banking.

After our encounter we decided to finish-up lunch and leave this beautiful place to the moose should he want to return. On our hike out of the woods Jess and I were joking about our security dogs! We are pretty confident we successfully shielded the dogs from the moose and they had no idea he was there!

Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian trail is 2190 miles long and traverses from Georgia to Mt. Katahdin the highest point in Maine. 281 miles in Maine and additionally 106.9 miles of trail in New Hampshire. This hiking artery provided links to many mountains in the White Mountain National Forest. We crossed back and forth over it many times in both Maine and New Hampshire as we were climbing our 4000’ers.

Once we completed hiking the mountains, we began picking small sections of the trail we had never explored and visited many beautiful places. One place in Maine was Gulf Hagas. The Gulf Hagas trail traverses the Appalachian trail in the Katahdin Iron Works Jo Mary Forest. Gulf Hagas is described as the “Grand Canyon of the East”, its a series of waterfalls which drop 400′ through the canyon.

There were many side trails with incredible vistas to take pictures. Many ups and downs over several miles and we were rewarded with an unforgettable experience. On the completion of our hike we decided to stop at the Appalachian trail junction. Unknowingly we met Appalachian trail legends, 80-year old twin sisters who just happened to be crossing through at that moment. A few weeks later we saw a news story about them and realized they were the women we had met.

The Boys New Packs

The boys loved their new packs. As the pups aged some of the rocks and jumps were too big for Brownie to navigate, this pack with its handle allowed us to easily pick them up at any time. It was especially helpful when we had to cross streams and rivers. The only thing they ever carried in their pack was an occasional dog poop bag!

Hiking with Senior Pups

As the pups continued to age, Teddy’s willingness to hike long distances diminished. He was a strong able body hiker but, like a mischievous child, he understood how to play on our sympathies. Brownie on the other hand was riddled with issues. From a young age, at every veterinary appointment they informed us of the multiple joints which showed signs of arthritis.

One day Brownie and I were playing fetch with his favorite ball, when I threw the ball and it landed on the carpet. He took off running towards it like usual and then stopped only a foot or so from it. He circled a couple times and ran back to me without the ball. I went to pick up the ball and threw it again, the same thing happened. Jess and I were concerned and we scheduled a vet appointment.

Our first appointment lead us to another appointment at a dog eye specialist. They determined Brownie had a degenerative eye disease common in his breed. They informed us they suspected he had been compensating for years and had very little vision remaining. After learning this new information it made sense as to why Brownie was such a great hiker and heals so well.

He had been using me and Teddy as a guide for years showing him the way. It was a sad day with many tears shed. Whether babies or fur babies it is upsetting and frustrating knowing you cannot fix your kids. As there was nothing we could do we just continued our normal routines.

K-9 Sport Sacks

K-9 sport sacks made a huge difference in our life! After a few years of limited hiking a move to Colorado allowed us to once again hit the trails in earnest. We were concerned with Brownie’s abilities and didn’t want to leave him behind. Jess began researching different options and she discovered K-9 sport sacks. Their packs are made specifically for dogs. There are several sizes available and are made from rugged materials, with a comfortable fit.

Many years of trekking through the woods of Maine and New Hampshire, Jess and I were both accustomed to carrying heavy packs. Our standard pack weight was typically forty to forty-five pounds, we were excited about carrying Brownie as he only weighed twenty-five pounds. Not only would both dogs now be able to explore with us again we would get the added benefit of carrying the extra weight.

The above picture was a hike into a couple high elevation kettle lakes in Guanella Pass, Colorado, one of several hikes the pups accompanied us on above 10000′. Brownie was an immediate fan of his new pack. He sat in the pack as relaxed as he would lay in his own bed. He basked in the sunlight and enjoyed all the new smells in the air.

Teddy also thrived with this arrangement. He appreciated showing off his hiking prowess, and miraculously became the hiker of his youth bounding from rock to rock with endurance for many miles.

Appalachian Tail Virginia

The opportunity to hike with a friend on the Appalachian trail presented while we were in Colorado. A couple of years before, we had met a new friend who was hiking the entire Appalachian trail in sections over several years. The previous year I had the opportunity to accompany him on a fun hike through a section in Virginia.

I enjoyed my first hike so much, I wanted to share the experience with my family. Jess worked her magic and found us an Air B & B in Roanoke, VA. This location was in the heart of the trail sections we were hiking. While Jess assisted Chuck and I with logistics and rides, her and the pups were living close by. I was especially excited when the pups and Jess were able to join us for an overnight hike.

It was a wonderful experience having the opportunity to hike on this trail together with my family. Over a few years I have had the pleasure of hiking many miles with my friend and family, an experience I will forever cherish.

Returning to our Roots

The pups are now both almost fifteen years old. We have two K-9 sacks and both dogs now enjoy the sights and sounds of our adventures from their packs. Well specifically Brownie enjoys the smells and sounds, and because Teddy can no longer hear he spends the hike looking from side to side taking in the views.

Over the years the hike up Mt. Hale in the White Mountains of New Hampshire has been a special hike to me. This past year we were able to hike it one last time as a family. Prior to completing this blog Brownie has recently passed and Teddy is adapting to being the only pup in the family again. He has hiked countless miles in many states and summited more peaks than most. Unfortunately we know his time is also limited and are enjoying the days we have. Live Simple Live Happy

For a video of how to use the K9 Sport sack:

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