Forest Thrones

"Finn! Come!"

And he usually does. With enthusiasm! (That's him, middle of photo, sun highlighting his ears as he flies around a bend in the trail.)

Finn and I went for a hike this morning. I'm nursing a sore calf and taking a weekend off from running. But Finn's not injured. He wants - needs - to run. So off we went to Tiger Mountain, to a trail I haven't been on since I moved to Idaho in 2005. This trail is open to mountain bikes in the summer, so I figured it would be a good training opportunity for Finn, to teach him to avoid cyclists.

After Finn came back to me, he took the opportunity to mark our route.

We started out just after 8:00 AM. The sun was filtering through the trees yet it was dark under the thick tree cover. I had trouble finding the right camera setting.

Early on, we passed this downed tree turned into a mountain bike obstacle course. I asked Finn to sit and pose. Little did we know that this type of pose would become the theme of the morning: Sir Finn and his Forest Thrones.

Ferns and moss-covered tree limbs. Tall pines and cedars. Birds singing. All good.

Morning sun highlights the moss.

I think Finn was confused by my slow pace. He kept running ahead, then dashing back to make sure I was coming. I didn't discourage this, since I wanted him to run, even if I couldn't.

Big trees.

Our first mountain biker. Finn did great: as soon as he heard someone coming, he'd run straight back to me, then sit/stay when I asked him to. Good boy. Although, when a trail runner went by with two happily enthusiastic Vizslas, he couldn't resist romping with them briefly.

After two miles of trail, we popped out onto an old logging road that I knew eventually crossed a stream. While there was one decent stream still flowing along the trail, I wanted to make sure this one was running as well. You can barely see him, but Finn's enjoying the cold wild water; the temperature was climbing throughout the morning, which made me glad I wasn't trying to do a long run.

As we headed back the way we came, a couple of trail runners passed us. I was jealous.

Slowing my pace, walking rather than running, I was more aware of my surroundings. I took more photos than when we're running. But I didn't achieve that runner's high I always enjoy.

Another mountain biker passes. Note the root ball of an up-ended pine tree to the left. I'm always amazed that these giants have such shallow root systems; it's amazing they ever achieve such stature, but not surprise that a stiff wind can knock them over.

All the cyclists we saw this morning were incredibly polite, making sure Finn was safely out of the way before proceeding, saying hello, commenting on what a nice dog Finn is.

Just to prove the old saw (pun intended) that the same trail looks very different going the other direction, I didn't even notice this chair carved out of an old tree stump on our way out. Coming back, though, I couldn't resist asking Finn to pose. He happily complied.

I never tire of the sight of sun filtering through tall trees.

Yet another man-made throne, a couple of large pieces of a downed tree cleared from the trail.

Finn dashing out of the one creek still running in the two mile section of trail we traveled.

Through the mossy canopy again. Almost done.

The final throne, this one nature-made. The word "hobbit" kept flitting through my mind as Finn posed.