- frenzied; agitated; unrestrained.
Labor Day weekend at the saloon was hoppin’. People loved not laboring and they waited over two hours to eat prime rib. The nights were long and I was exhausted and Pal was ready for adventure.
Finally, Kelly and I had a night off. “Wanna hike to Heart Lake?” she asks.
“Yes! We’d love to.”
We hop in the Kia and drive north, which is my favorite thing to do. Some aspens are golden now. I recently learned that aspens grow in colonies, sharing the same root system. These root systems sometimes live for thousands of years. We drive past a colony that is still completely green. Then we turn a corner and I gasp because a whole slew of aspens are bright yellow. The sun hits them just right and I am overwhelmed.
We’re drinking coffee and I am over-the-top happy to be out here near the Sawtooths and not be in the dark saloon surrounded by people. Kelly tells me we are to drive about seven more miles on a dirt road.
“This is already worth it,” I say, thrilled to get the early glimpse of autumn. “I actually have never read about this hike…”
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s in any of the books. My sister said there’s a pull off on the right with a heart carved into a tree. That’s where the trail starts,” Kelly says as she takes another sip of her coffee.
“You’re kidding me. That’s awesome.”
Pal leans out the window and smiles ear to ear.
After slowing down at every pull off to scan all the trees, we find the lovely one.
The hike is wonderful. It meanders along the creek. Pal is on a long rope and runs ahead and checks back to make sure we’re following him. If I had a nickel for every time I say, “Good boy!” I’d probably have $500 and could take a couple nights off of work.
I threw some Starry Night Zinfandel in my backpack for the destination. At the lake shaped like a heart, we sit and sip while Pal explores and I think that it can’t get a whole lot better than this.
This is my smile as I’m thinking this:
Then we head back down because it is chilly.
Pal’s rope gets away from me but I don’t rush to grab him because he’s been so good. There are no other hikers or dogs so I figure it’s a great time for him to get some extra exercise. But he sees a chipmunk or a squirrel and he is off. He is fast. I lose sight of him within the minute.
We yell for him to come. No response.
We have about 1.25 miles back to the car. I’m not too worried. I start to walk faster while yelling his name. Five minutes go by with no trace of my boy.
Now I’m slightly worried. I start to run. It’s muddy and I slip on a rock and my ankle twists and burns and I am forced to stop walking as I try not to cry.
I think there’s no way I can walk the mile back. “I’ll run to the car to check for Pal and come back for you!!” Kelly says. She is such a great friend; I believe she would carry me back if she needed to.
Adrenaline kicks in and after resting a second, I carry on. No sign of Pal. I start to worry his leash is hooked on a log. I think about it getting dark and how I can’t drive the fifty miles home without him. I think about how much he means to me. I imagine a long night ahead looking for him.
I can’t run, but I walk fast through the pain. Kelly yells back down, “He’s not at the car!” I am now in complete panic.
“Shit. We were having so much fun,” I say.
What feels like fifty minutes goes by and I’m sure it was more like fifteen. I curse the same beautiful long dirt road for being so long. We’re in the middle of nowhere.
I look up to see Pal sauntering down the creek casually, as if he’s having the most relaxing day of his life.
“THERE HE IS!” I yell. And then for the first time in a long time, I have uncontrollable tears. I am completely corybantic. I am weeping in the woods and the tears keep coming and they burn my face. I don’t know why, it’s incredibly uncontrollable. I wipe them away but my cheeks are full of them a second later.
Kelly grabs Pal’s leash and gives him a talking to. I crouch down with my head in my hands, utterly and completely corybantic. I’m taken with how much this animal means to me. He’s mine. He’s always with me. I have committed to him. It’s more than I can say about any human.
Finally, he walks up to me and I grab his face. He looks away and avoids eye contact.. “Don’t you ever,” I say in between the sobs, “ever do that to me again.”
I laugh at myself for losing it and apologize to Kelly for being a crazy person in the middle of these woods.
“I need more wine. I need so much more wine.”
My ankle is throbbing. I press on the brake and it sends shooting pain up my calf. I don’t care. My dog is in my car and we’re going home.