Yay! I'm back! And boy, was that exhausting! Me and the doggies had a great time (although Deliah's really hurting now ... more on that in a bit), saw some lovely sights, played many games (The new WoW card game is actually quite fun), ate quite well, and drank to staggering excess. Staggering being literal.
We actually got the exact same campsite we had last year - the best one in the area, in my opinion: isolated, back to the lake, lots of room, great views. The only bad thing about it is that at the particular part of the lake we're set against, the first 50 feet of water is really knee-deep swamp mud. Dogs don't know this. Or care. So, for much of the time I had two really smelly, mud caked dogs running around. Pungent doesn't begin to describe it. After two nights of sleeping close quarter with them (yes, they sleep inside the tent. They've earned it.), I took them further down the lake to a more sandy spot and washed them both down with my Old Spice body wash. It only took two hours for one of them to get muddy again.
I had a lot of fun. Tiring, tiring fun. But, any year when I can get home without the National Guard's help is a success. I won't bore you all by writing about the entire trip, but here's a little anecdote about the most memorable afternoon...
On Saturday, someone suggested that we take a hike up to Ranger's Lookout Point #424, the highest in the state. Which makes it one of the highest in the country. "Bring the dogs.. It'll be fun!"
Spider Sense ... tingling...
So, we loaded up the dogs and headed on out to the Point. Here's Sarah enjoying the view:
You can't drive all the way up to the Point, or even close, really. The only access road leading directly to it is ATV only. You have to hike up there if you really want to see the view. After we parked, I couldn't immediately see the tower. But, someone was happy to point it out to me:
I gotta tell ya, that was a long-ass hard climb. I wish I'd brought my GPS, really I do, but I'd guesstimate that it was about a 2 1/2 mile trek at a mostly 30 degree slope up. Oh, and at 8500+ feet. I was gasping for air the entire way up. We stopped frequently. The dogs stopped even more often and had to be coaxed upwards and onwards. About halfway up I realized that I forgot to bring them any water. So, I was determined to get to that station if for no other reason to get the dogs some water. If they had water. And boy, do the dogs look tired. Not to mention how often you need to rest and get your breath back... Nevermind! Keep moving! One foot in front of the other! Hup! Hup!
This trek of course reminded me of the time I was in this area two years ago and the exhaustive "hike" I did then. This time, I had a trail to follow and I was able to keep moving after only a few minutes rest; that other time ... I collapsed. Often. And this time I had four other guys to spur me along. Or rather, to not fail in front of. Guys are funny that way.
After a few hours, we reached the top! 9450 feet above sea level! And the lookout tower! Although, it looked much more majestic from 1000 feet lower.
The two rangers currently posted there gave us a little history lesson, told us about the area in general, and about what they do. Their job keeps them stuck there for weeks on end; they live on only what they carry in, and they carry out everything after their "shift" is over. That made asking them for dog water a little uncomfortable for me. But, lo and behold! One of them went to storage and came out with an entire 2 liter bottle with "Dog Water" sharpied on it. Apparently, there are a lot of tired dogs with forgetful owners who visit.
As uncomfortable as their job may seem, the views outside of their office somehow makes it worth it:
After resting for about an hour, we finished the trek down, which was much easier than the trek up for some unknown reason. When we got back to camp, the dogs drank until they puked, then crashed and only woke up for dinner.
As I'm writing this now, 2 days later, the effects of that day have hit me hard; I'm completely sore from the waist down. It really hurts to go down stairs, and I'll certainly hit the sheets early tonight.
But that's not even remotely close to the soreness problems the dogs are having.
Watching them get up and walk - only when they have to, mind you - evokes a strange mixture of pity and comedy. If you've ever seen a really old dog slowly and painfully stagger around the room, then you've got an idea. It's like a drunk with a purpose. Just this morning, Deliah tried her damnedest to get up and go outside only to decide at the edge of the door frame that it's too much work, she could probably hold it after all, and she'd rather stagger back to sleep again. Like I said: Tragic, but funny. Give them a day or so and they'll both be fine.
So, great trip all things considered. But even greater to be back home again.