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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn alpine hike: the story

K and I took a hike up high on the day before her birthday as a way of celebrating our years together.

I was elated that she was able to be climbing the rocky slopes with me for, one year ago, she was having a toe amputated. She seemed to feel fabulous right from the start. When we were still down in the land of green and red vegetation, she sparkled, ready to climb high.
Alas, I rapidly realized that I was the weak partner on this hike. Every step hurt like someone putting a hot iron against my back and then sending electrical jolts down my leg. Often, however, I am surprised to find that I get better as a hike goes on. So, I kept hiking upward with my girl.

I forgot everything else as I reveled in the autumn color of the tundra and K's reddish chocolate fur.
We rapidly exceeded our highest hike of the season to that point. We gazed down upon places that we'd hiked earlier this summer.
K found snow, fresh snow that had fallen in the previous few days. She stopped at each patch to cool her belly and eat a birthday snow cone.
I was feeling a familiar high altitude happiness except for that awful soul-shaking pain. My back pain wouldn't leave me alone, not for a single step. Although I tried to ignore it, I found myself emitting loud sighs of pain which evoked worried looks from K. When we reached the point in the hike shown in the photo below, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to climb to the top of the mountain. I climbed it last year with no problem. Not this year...
K didn't seem ready to give up on the climb yet.
But, being an easy-going dog, she was also happy to play on the tundra, leaving the peak for next year.
I found the mental strength to climb up to the edge of the mountain, where it appears that the far side of mountain fell off, leaving jagged and steep cliffs, covered in a glacier that feeds turquoise lakes.
K expected that we'd keep climbing, and she focused on the peak as I tried to explain to her that I couldn't go up there.
I took lots of photos of her in the glowing alpine light. You can see the fresh snow clinging to the cracks in the mountainside to the right of K.
Finally, she turned around as I pointed us down the mountain.
Oh what amazing views. I wished that I could stay there, on top of the world, forever.
We descended as the sun fell lower in the sky. I knew that we had plenty of daylight to make it to the car but I'd brought a headlamp just in case...
We chatted with a family of marmots on our way down (we hadn't seen any humans since the trailhead parking lot). They looked fat and ready for a long winter's sleep which will undoubtedly start soon. It won't be long until this mountain gets its first real coating of snow.
As the sun fell behind a pointy mountain, I captured a soulful look from K, my gorgeous birthday girl. Despite my back pain, I was giddily happy to have spent the day above treeline with her.
On that day, I wondered which of us was aging faster. It might very well be me.


  1. The color in each picture is so crisp and clear. Breath-taking!

    Boondocks & The Love Shack Pack

  2. Da colors of da mountains matches K's beootiful furs.
    I am sorry you is in so much pain. :( I will send some boxer puppy prayers to you asap!

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  3. Oh Happy Birtheay, Miss K. What a wonderful outing you two had. I'm sorry You're feeling poorly, Ms. KB.

    I love the quote from your post yesterday - I may have to steal it...

  4. I wish I looked as beautiful as K when I go hiking! lol She doesn't look like she was even breathing hard. I'm glad she had a great birthday hike, and I'm sure the important part to her was that she got to spend the day with you all to herself!

    I'm sorry your back was giving you fits. I hope it's feeling better today!

  5. We truly loved sharing your climb with K, such awesome photos. But we are sad that your pain is so bad. We so hope you see better days soon. Lots of hugs and good wishes.

  6. I guess I'd like for you to think about a large number of people who don't have back problems, who could not make that hike that you did. You and K are an amazing pair!

    Cheers and hugs to both of you,

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  7. I sit here with Berts velvety soft head laying in my lap. Typing with one hand and petting him with the other.

    Just to say, that I understand your will to suffer the pain to spend the day with K in the places you both love and respect and cherish so much.

    I am running my fingers through Berts coat and am thinking how greatful I am to have a relationship with my boy like the one you share with K.

    Thank you for working thru the pain and sharing your adventures with us.

    Bert's My Vickie

  8. I see the stars in K's eyes.
    Those are the stars that we wished upon to make K better.
    Now we will wish on the stars to make you better and strong and to have strength.
    We are happy for you and K that you got to enjoy this day together.
    I think the tourquoise lake might be cold!

  9. K, snow and marmots. The perfect anti-age paliative ?

  10. Amazing pictures as always. Glad that you did the birthday hike this year the two of you - even if you didnt reach the highest peak. Sorry for you pain, but I think you are encredble strong that you did the hike anyway. Love EM and thank you for you mail.

  11. KB...what an awesome post! I probably will never see it in person but your photos are the next best thing! Happy B'Day to Miss K! You are my hero for ignoring your pain to live life to the fullest! XO

  12. Happy Birthday K. Remember - it is not the destination that matters - it is the journey.

    And, KB, I am sorry the pain is interfering, but I think of so many people who don't bear your pain that never make the effort to have the adventures you do.

  13. you can't live in a more beautiful area. K you better help mom up the mountain
    Benny & Lily

  14. Wasn't it just yesterday when we were both commenting that Spring hadn't arrived in our parts of the country yet? And now, already, we're writing about Fall and Winter coming. That time sure went quickly.

    I've been out of touch for a bit lately, and am just catching up. I'm glad to see that you have been out and about, showing that fighting spirit of yours by pushing right through the pain. You and your K make quite the team.

  15. I'm so sorry about your pain, but years from now you won't remember that..but the walk with your girl.

  16. What a gorgeous dog you are K and gorgeous land and sky. What a great way to celebrate with your hu-dad. We sure hope his back feels better soon. Stunning photos of what must have been just a perfect day.

  17. So sorry that your pain is worse, but I'm glad you and K were able to celebrate nonetheless. Take care of yourself!

  18. Hi Y'all,

    Oh my, I'm so sorry that you were not feeling as perky as K on your celebratory hike.

    Thank you so much for sharing the amazing scenery you were both blessed with viewing. But a moment in time, a moment frozen in time by a camera's lense...a special moment.

    You are always in our prayers.

    BrownDog's Human

  19. So glad K had a slushy for her b-day! Your hike really reminds me of the second Crystal Lake - I loved your high mountain views. I'm thinking of you.

  20. what a place that you have, it's really breath taking! woof! your so lucky to be there. thanks for sharing those pictures, I really enjoy viewing it! :)

    It's all About Pet Fences | Dog Fence

  21. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SWEET K! Your special day with "YOUR SWEETNESS" is the best birthday gift anyone could have. You know how we humans feel and you know exactly what to do. Have a grand birthday week and take care of your loved ones. ~~~~~mwahhhh!

  22. It truly is amazing how K's coat harmonizes so perfectly with the autumn tundra. Spellbinding! That photo of her in front of the peak is one of the best ever. I love your marmot shot, too.

    Happy belated birthday, K!

  23. Aren't you loving that camera of yours!?! I know I am!

  24. Ooph. I'm sorry to hear about the pain, but I'm glad you girls got out and enjoyed the view from on high.


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