I confess: one of the many benefits of running trails in remote forests where few other humans are encountered is that when - ahem - nature calls, all I need do is step a few feet off the trail.
A week ago, while squatting and attending to business mid-run with Finn on Brundage, I happened to look up. A stunning view was framed by a nearby aspen tree.
Finishing the task at hand, I dug my camera out of my pack and re-assumed the position to take a photo of that view.
[An aside: Today I read about those black spots seen on the aspen leaves. Because of a late snow melt and moist spring, three different kinds of blight, or fungus, have hit aspen and tamaracks in this area. With more normal conditions next year, most trees should be fine. But it's sad to see.]
Running trails with dogs, off leash, is a big part of my life. The only time I'm not able to pay complete attention to them is when I'm attending to my own call of nature. So, early on, with the girls, I trained them to wait nearby, a treat being the reward once I'd pulled up my shorts/pants and was ready to resume running. Finn has been trained this way as well, although with Finn, the reward for waiting patiently nearby is "Finn - let's run!" Running is Finn's favorite thing in the world, a better reward than any treat.
|Releasing Finn after he patiently waits for me during a pit stop, he dashes up the trail.|
|"Finn, come!" I call, and he does, leaping in joy down the trail.|
I'll never forget one particular pit stop several years ago, before Finn. The girls and I were running along Ruby Meadows trail one weekday morning, deep in the Payette Forest. A couple of miles in, I stepped off the trail to pee. We were in a section of forest fairly thick with young trees and little undergrowth beyond some phlox. Meadow positioned herself behind me, about five feet; Maia was in front of me, maybe three feet, sitting. I thought, "Malamute sandwich; me in the middle." While they knew to keep close during these calls of nature, usually they moved around, smelling the ground, exploring nearby as they waited. This time, though, was different; they both seemed to be guarding me.
It was later that run, on the return leg of our out-and-back route, that we had our magical wolf encounter. I've always wondered, since, whether the girls stayed so close that morning because they sensed wolves were nearby. I also wondered whether they were protecting me, or were seeking protection from me.
I'll post the Bark Magazine piece about that magical wolf encounter in a separate post to follow. It ran in the Sept/Oct 2006 issue, before I started this blog.