The ultimate adventure dog
truths about life off leash
Adventure has become the standard. From the time I brought her home at 8 weeks old, Luna has been on the go with me. Like an energetic bunny, she’s got a jump in her step when up for the day, reminding me to always start fresh. She’ll sneeze when excited, whine when I haven’t thrown the frisbee enough, and doesn’t hold back with the sassy comments. After logging over 5,000 miles on long-distance trails with me over the past three years, she's still asking for more.
Luna pushes me to stay true to my values. But traveling with a dog doesn’t come without it’s sacrifices and logistical challenges. Though for all the added responsibility and dirt she brings with her, I can’t imagine not having Luna’s loyal, joyous energy with me.
This dog loves to move - it’s in her Australian Shepherd genes. I promised to give her a happy life. One of mud, snow, rocks, cold streams, and ever-changing circumstances. The smell of a pack of dirty hikers makes her butt wiggle to no end, and turns on something inside of her, telling her that this is her place- On the trail, with the outdoors as her playground and her people always in sight.
Three thousand miles. That’s how long it took before Luna and I dialed in a food routine that really worked on long-distance hikes. She's a picky eater. She also turns the woods into her own personal obstacle course while we tackle anywhere between 20 and 30 miles per day with little recovery.
For our recent hike of the Continental Divide Trail, the Hurtta Outback Dreamer was a welcome addition to Luna’s gear. I take a minimalist approach to trekking, opting to keep both mine and Luna’s packs light in order to avoid injury and fatigue. I typically only carry a small foam pad for her to sleep on, or the dirt if she prefers. My point is: I wouldn’t carry this sleeping bag for her if I didn’t think it's comforts were worth the added weight.
The shrinking, rolling mountains of the Divide. The winding Gila River. The remote and wild desert. New Mexico was everything I needed. I traded in warmer layers for more forgiving weather and extraordinary sunsets. While yes, there was plenty of cow shit water and road walking, but I managed to soak in all the sun and dust I could during the final leg of the hike.
Colorado was nothing short of an adventure. The high Rocky Mountains gave us rugged peaks, pristine water and knarly weather. With a knack for the unpredictable, this state tested my resilience, adaptability, and patience.
Expectations. We form them, even if we insist on trying not to. So what happens then, when winter comes? When the going gets cold, how can we readjust our expectations of what's ahead? Well, we do just that: readjust. We don't hide.
Wyoming, rich in culture and scenery, was a stunning, environmentally diverse state to hike through: Yellowstone NP, the Wind River Range, the Great Divide Basin and Medicine Bow NF. All topped off with viewing a solar eclipse in full totality from the trail. Five hundred miles and 23 days more experienced, more crisped by the sun, and more prepared for what lies ahead in Colorado.
Hiking with a dog is different. A thru hike is a unique, individual experience no matter the level of solidarity. Some choose to hike with a partner; some end up in a group. Others, bring along a dog that, while unable to express their needs through speech, will become an extension of you. So in sync that words become insignificant. A giddy, energetic, lovable presence that can change the energy on any given day.
A little over a month and 1,000(ish) miles down, our time in Montana and Idaho's mountains is finished. The Continental Divide Trail has been a series of remote, hidden gems that are peaceful and unimpacted. Quaint and quiet small towns and adventurous, happy travelers; I have not been bored.
Pleasing this dog can be difficult. Because well, her expectations are remarkably high. In the first 4 years of her life, I’ve set the bar to a level that is difficult to keep up. Which sadly, leaves her disappointed with anything less than a highly stimulating day.
It sounds brilliant: a dog who looks up to you adoringly, obediently following your every move. A dog that never wanders too far from camp and is elated the moment you walk through the door. A dog that thinks that you’re the greatest, most important thing in the entire world.