Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Highlights of the trinity alps trip...with Tess

Last weekend we all went up to Caribou lakes in the Trinity alps.

I'm sure my Mother will give a full report, so this will more about Tess on the trip.

This was going to be a nice, entertaining post from Tess's perspective.  But I'm not in the mood, so instead you get to read some little details about the trip and look at pretty pictures.

This is Tess near the beginning of the trip.  See that pack?  It's an REI brand pack that I think I may have mentioned before.  It's a FABULOUS pack - gets 5 stars from me, especially after seeing it's performance on this trip.  It's a rather simple pack with 2 pockets, one on each side of the dog with no fancy hooks, loops, or accessory pockets.  It's sized correctly for the dog - at first you may be frusterating with the lack of space, but if you weigh out what you are putting on the dog's back, you will realize that filling up the pouches already puts you at a max % of what you should be loading a dog of that size with.  

 Tess went over and through almost any obstacle you can name, and bounded up and down hills with this pack on for 3 days.  No rubbing, no damage, no rips or tears. Tess has worn the pack before on trips, but this was the first trip that she spent a substantial time off leash, and this was NOT gentle terrain!

 Tess was a good girl - In addition to taking her off leash when there were no other people around and the trail was good (ie no sheer drop offs in granite....) I would also take her off leash when I needed to navigate a trail obstacle, or help my hiking partners too.  I always keep her in line of sight......however when going around this particularly nasty burned out tree on soft ground I sort of forgot about Tess.

After "helping" (being bossy.....) my mom and sister around, I look down the trail and here comes Tess!  Even when I was distracted and not reminding her to stick around where I could see her, she was checking back in - that was very reassuring that she wasn't just going to bound off to the middle of nowhere in pursuit of a happier existance.....

 At one point I slid down a rather treacherous bank of snow, off the trail.  There was a steep cliff drop off, and as I was sliding on my back towards the abyss, I aimed my feet at a tree and managed to stop myself.  Tess was above me on the bank and I asked her to come down with me, so that we could make our way back up to the trail together.  She did an excellent job of staying out of my way and being super obedient.  There were a couple of dicey places on the trail and I found myself really really really happy that she was such a small, athletic dog.  At 35 pounds she isn't big enough to make my life difficult and I can lift and manhandle her as necessary, but at the same time, she's big enough to make her own way around trail obstacles.

 I really tried during this trip to remain in a "happy state" at all times.  At any point if I wasn't enjoying the trip I asked myself what I could do.  Put Tess on leash?  Take her off leash?  Stop and get a drink?  Pee? Eat something?  Admire the view? 
 Tess is very very very food motivated.  I always bring extra rations with me on hiking and backpacking trips because she does so much extra work, running up and down hills.  In her mind it's never enough, and especially on this trip since *I* was carrying her food.  It was bear country and I decided that I did not want her to go off spreading the smell of dog food in our vincinity of the trail, so *I* carried her food, and thus declared she would get along on 1 1/2 rations. 
 Tess was pretty sure she was going to starve the first night, even though I promised that I had brought too much food for myself on days 2 and 3 and she could share.

She was pretty sure that as a fully fledged member of the trip she should get a portion of the wine. 
 Every pic I have of her from this evening is of Tess pleading with her eyes for more calories.

 This is what Melinda looks like when she brought an alcohol stove instead of a canister stove because she *thought* it was going to be summer conditions instead of winter conditions. 
 Note that Tess is keeping her distance. Grumpy Melinda before coffee. 
 Still waiting for the water to boil for coffee.
 Tess was immensely bored by the whole "take pictures of the runamocs" moment.

 Our day hiking up by the lakes was limited by the snow covering the trail.

 Don't even look at me like that!  You finished off my breakfast AND Loreleigh's breakfast. 
 Tess was pretty sure she could do the old caribou trail, even if someone had added the commentary "if you are a goat" to the sign.

But, because of the unknown snow conditions, we decided to go back the way we came, on the new trail.
 Tess perfects the art of begging for lunch. 
 Tess and I preemptively go around the snowpack that the previous day I had fallen off of. 

 We camped the second night at Brown's meadow and Tess ran around the meadow depositing doggy scent in an effort to keep the bears at bay.
 It didn't quite work because we saw three bears that evening.  I saw out on a rock and read, and let my hiking partners know when I spotted them, while encouraging Tess to bark.  Which was a fail.  She did bark at a deer.  And a chipmunk.  And a bird.  The humans barked at the bear.  And hung our bear bags higher.  And insisted that the bear canister go further away from camp.
 It had rained the first night, but cleared up in the morning.  On the second night it rained and did NOT clear up.

I cooked breakfast while Tess watched.

 I occasionally *may have* glared at her.  I had yet to have even my coffee and she had had BREAKFAST already. Make this "gumpy melinda before coffee" day 2.....

 Tess is much happier on the trail than in camp.

Camp was a bit wet and cold that third morning. 

No bears in the morning, just the evening before.  Did I mention we tried to get Tess to bark at the bears?  She volunteered to bark at chipmunks in the morning but sorely disapointed that it did not result in more breakfast. 
Finally, coffee.

All in all we did about 25 miles over 3 days.  Tess probably did double that mileage, and aside from breaking a down stay in the first day to say hello to another dog, was very good!  Truly I cannot think of a more perfect dog for my adventures.


  1. That is a seriously serious hiking trip there! Gorgeous country but I'm afraid I'll have to just enjoy the view from here...on my a chair. You all must be wonderfully fit.

    I had to chuckle at Tess, doing the extra miles. What a good girl she is. Did you have to use her vibrating collar at all?

    I had a chocolate lab that we rescued from the pound, who was the same. My ex husband was an avid hiker- I went along under protest- Dakota scouted the trails, came back to lead us, brought up the straggler (me) and then headed up to blaze the trail again. I swear she did 3x what he did. I usually quit half way and told them to pick me up on the way down. When we split up I left her with him so they could still be hiking buddies. Now she is an old gal and the trails are hard on her. He says she will come retire with me. I guess I'm the canine retirement home. LOL

    Thanks for sharing the highlights of your hike. Truly truly beautiful.

  2. I kept the collar at a 1 or a 1.5 which I have trouble feeling on my arm, but when I push the button when it's on her, she will look up at me, so I know that she can feel it. I didn't have to use it very often. My ideal is NOT to have to talk to her all the time giving her orders since that's annoying for the people around me, so I'm using my voice commands and the collar (which at this point is a "look at me" or a recall) to shape her behavior on the trail so that eventually it's like the "heel" command - ie I don't have to tell her to stay at my side or not pull because she knows what to do on the leash. On the trail I want her to keep me in sight and not go too far off trail. it's like an extended heel. When she would ignore either my voice or wouldn't look at me when I pushed the button and ignored it, I put her back on leash for a while. I evaluated my options for when she's starting to zone out, and they are to put her back on leash or to turn up the collar. Because my intent is to reinforce training with the collar, not to necessarily punish or force, I think the best option was to put her back on leash and use the "brain enhancing power of the holt head collar". LOL. Also, I wanted this trip to be about my hiking partners and me enjoying the trip - not about them having to listen to me train my dog all weekend, so whenever I felt like we had strayed from a "normal" level of voice interaction and I had moved into the "training level" with or without the collar, it was time to get the leash out again.

    Hope this made sense! I just finished with one part of my capstone test this afternoon and my brain is fried!

    One of my friends told me that my Brittany dog would slow down.......2 1/2 days before she dies. LOL. I pretend to be annoyed with her constant level of activity, but truthfully, it's nice to have a dog that can keep up and handle this level of physical exersion. Hopefully we have many years and miles of trail ahead of us!!!!!!!

    2 more notes about the collar:
    - technically dogs should stay leashed in this wilderness area. I feel like with the ecollar and argument can be made that she is on an electronic leash. I also had a leash in my hand at all times ready to put her on a physical leash if she wasn't under voice/e-leash control OR if I saw anyone else on the trail. In this way I felt like I was meeting the intent of rule, and not allowing her to molest wildlife or other people and keeping her under control at all times. We came across other dogs on the trail, none of whom were on leash, but also were well behaved for the most part, so I felt comfortable with my decision.

    - I kept the collar on her most of the day so I could take her on and off leash as the moment arose.....I felt like if I had to actually unbukcle her collar every time I put her back in her head collar that I would be less likely to let her off leash which would be unfair.....but on the third day with all the wet rain etc the prongs on the collar definately rubbed a raw spot in her neck :(. I have the shortest prongs they make on the collar so I will have to evaluate whether I can do something different next time or set up the collar different so that doesn't happen. In retrospect it wasn't THAT bad, but I was pretty horrified when I saw it because you feel that guilt of "I HURT my DOG" (insert wailing and gnashing of teeth...).

  3. What a great trip! GORGEOUS country. Rugged but beautiful; love it. You've really helped shape Tess into an incredible dog. She sounds like a real solid little citizen now. Y'all make a great team.

  4. Great pics! Poor muddy little Tesseract puppy (get it? she travels far lol) Do you just bring regular dog food on these trips, or do you have a special diet for her?

  5. Kibble at 150-200% normal ration, plus human food scraps :-)