July 13, 2015

The man who went up a mountain

At 2651 feet, it’s a small mountain. Since the parking lot is up a steep road, you’re only hiking up an elevation of 1520 feet in the course of about a mile and a half. Hugh Grant movie jokes aside, however, it is a real mountain.

We hiked it this weekend—Lilah, J, Marley, and me. I hike it regularly enough to know not to go after a big rain and where along the trail one is least likely to be happened upon mid-pee. I’d never, however, come upon the trail’s resident golden retrievers. I’d heard about the two dogs who live somewhere near the trailhead, but I’d never encountered them till yesterday, when they joined our party ten minutes into the hike.

“Oh, yes,” said a woman coming the other direction. “They live nearby. Every day, they take themselves on a hike.”

“They’re pretty annoying,” her companion put in, sounding a bit smug about the fact that we got stuck with them this time.

Stuck with them, we were. They accompanied us, at first cavorting with Marley, but then just sort of ambling in the general area of our group, like when you’re standing alone at a high school party and you go over to be kind of near another group and laugh at their jokes so people will think you’re part of the clique and not some loser who showed up at the party but doesn’t actually have any friends. Not that this ever happened to me…

When we came upon other hikers, the dogs treated them as outsiders. When we stopped so Lilah could have a snack and I got out Marley’s treats, they sat, too, looking at me with clear expectations. These dogs were totally Timmy from next door who comes over every day to ask if your kid can play and your kid doesn’t want to but she’s too polite to say so and now Timmy thinks she’s his best friend but really Timmy spends most of his time sitting at your kitchen island telling you about Pokemon.

It’s a moderate hike, but enough to build up a good sweat. For my husband, who hasn’t summited a mountain in the two decades I’ve known him, it was a significant challenge. For my daughter, who’s six, it was a lot of little steps. But climb it we did, with Lilah’s sturdy little legs leading the pack and setting the pace and J bringing up the rear. One of them complained considerably more than the other. Although it probably didn’t help that I kept saying things like, “This is the easy part” and mentioning that I’d once seen someone hike the mountain barefoot.

But my husband wants to get into shape, and plus he kind of had no choice in the matter, and Lilah wanted to bag her first summit, so they plodded on, my husband sometimes grumbling, “How come she gets to have two snacks?”

Now and then, other hikers would ask how old she Lilah, and when we told them, I’d add, “It’s her first mountain.”

“Good for you!” they’d exclaim, whereupon I’d feel obliged to tell them that it was my husband’s first mountain, too. “Good for you, too,” they’d say, albeit somewhat less enthusiastically.

With some huffing, some puffing, a bit of scrambling, and possibly a few inaudible curses from my husband, we made it to the top. Also with two dogs that don’t belong to us. I lined up Lilah and her dad to take some pictures in front of the view, but the two goldens kept wandering into the picture. Yes, we were photobombed by Timmy the dog.

When J had finally got to have his snack and we had spent some time identifying places in the view below, we started down the mountain. Well, after waiting for other people to come up and distract our wannabe dogs while we snuck back down the trail.

It’s a popular weekend hike—good for dogs and kids—so we met more hikers on the way down, plus one fraud who hiked up the mountain but then ran down to convince people how badass he is. We also met a good number of dogs who dutifully sniffed a bit with Marley. I took a good look at the hindquarters on one old guy and then turned to J. “OK, you can’t complain anymore. Not only is our six-year-old doing the hike, but this dog is doing it on three legs.”

I’m not sure, but I think he might have responded, “Well, that’s one more than I have.” Once we saw the pregnant woman on her way up, however, he conceded. He’d lost all right to kvetch if she was hiking the damned mountain while carrying another person inside her.

This is the problem with Vermont. Just when you think you’re being all fit and outdoorsy, you run into a six-year-old or a pregnant woman or a barefoot lady or a three-legged-dog hiking up the same mountain you are.IMG_7901

Timmy the dog taking the spot at the very top with the best view.

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