Finally, finally – we’re at the trailhead! All week long, Joey’s been taking me out after dinner to walk around the neighborhood with Mom and Dad. Dad calls these “shake-down hikes.” He wears a pack and leather boots, and says we should all notice anything that rubs us the wrong way. Nothing rubs me the wrong way when I’m walking, I’m glad to report! I loved those trots around the block, but Joey said I’d love our hike even more. That does seem likely since I love things that involve the RV almost as much as I love beef jerky.
Now that we’re here, I’m taking a minute to scope things out while the family gets their packs on. I mark all the way around the parking area, so other dogs will know how far my family brought me for this hike, then I check out the other cars. Some of them smell hot like ours, but others have been sitting here for days. I wonder if we’ll be hiking for days. It really doesn’t look like Dad has enough food in his pack for dinner and breakfast. I start to whine – I can’t help worrying about these things. But then Dad says, “I’m with Buster, let’s get going. We’ll have to keep moving if we want to get to the lake and back by dinner time.”
Off we go on the trail. I take the lead, nose to the ground. The woods smell SO GOOD, almost as good as Joey’s Halloween candy. Or maybe better. I smell animals of all sizes, centipedes and mosquitoes, bird feathers, fern fronds, mushrooms, and flowers. Mom gets all excited about one she finds—a trillium. Our trail is heading up, up, up. It isn’t too long before we all have to stop for a break.
“If this goes uphill much more,” Joey says, grabbing my tail, “I’m gonna get Buster to pull me up.”
Not by my tail! I give him my most worried look.
“It should level out pretty soon,” Dad tells us, handing around a water bottle. Whew. Joey pours some for me in my fabric travel bowl, and I take a drink. Water’s good, but going is better.
We keep hiking uphill through the dark woods, then suddenly the trees thin out and sunshine lights up long patches of the trail. Mom and Dad start exclaiming over the view, but I’m too busy chasing birds and sticking my nose into all the bushes. Joey keeps up with me really well, and whenever we stop for too long, he picks up a stick for us to play with. Have I ever mentioned that he’s a really smart boy?
It takes a few more water breaks—and a lot of hiking—for us to get where we’re going. We round a bend in the trail and suddenly everyone stops and gasps. I stop too, even though I can’t see what they’re looking at. Then Joey gives a big whoop and starts to run. “Come on, Buster,” he shouts. “There’s the lake!”
I may not know what “lake” means, but I know enough to run after Joey when he’s racing away. I fly along at his heels, and a second later I see what all the fuss is about. Flat water, as big as a baseball diamond, stretches out in front of us. There are a few other people at the lake—a man fishing, two people swimming, and a family having a picnic lunch. For a second I consider investigating their picnic, but Joey’s splashing brings me back to what’s really fun. In seconds, we’re both in the water.
Joey throws our stick for me and I bring it back to him over and over and over and over again. He wades in to his knees while I swim. The water feels so good after all that hiking. I don’t even notice Mom and Dad reaching the shore—that is, until Mom says something about “having a snack.”
We’re out of the water in two seconds flat. Mom gives Joey a bag of something, and we climb on a big flat rock, so we can look at the lake while we have our snack. There’s water for me, and one of my dog biscuits. Joey has something called “trail mix” that smells incredible. He gives me a few peanuts, but keeps all the M&Ms for himself. Something about chocolate not being good for dogs—yeah, sure. But I forgive him completely for the M&M thing because a minute later he opens the end-all, be-all of treats: BEEF JERKY.
He gets a bite and then I get a bite. Mmmm. I could hike every day of my life.
After a while, Dad tells us it’s time to pack up. We have another drink of water, then we check our picnic area for garbage and set out. This way is downhill and we can go much faster, but even I’m too tired to race way ahead. I stick close to Joey, even when we come across another dog on the trail. She’s a yellow lab named Moxie, a little bit older than I am, with something weird stuck to her back. Her man is with her, and he tells Joey that Moxie wears a backpack when they go hiking—that’s what the weird thing is. They hike for so many days in a row, he says, that she needs to carry her own food to lighten the load.
Moxie seems like a pro at this hiking thing. She must be pretty happy to have a pack, so she can go hiking all the time. I’m going to have a little talk with Joey about this. Maybe I can get one for my next birthday.
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