The trail started out skinny, winding, unfenced, and downhill. I've mentioned how I feel about going downhill at the beginning of a hike, and this was no different--except that with the other factors, it was also scary. Going down stairs with Barley is always a challenge; she likes to charge down stairs and that doesn't work when she's on a leash that's attached to my arm.
Luckily, this summer we've been working on, in the words of our favorite song of summer, putting "the us in trust, baby." We had our first breakthrough at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park when we went off the trail in search of the elusive Buttermilk Falls and had to do major rock hopping and a little bit of climbing on tree roots. Barley sat patiently while I found my footing and then heeled instead of charging ahead on the slippery parts. Today, she was just as good. There were parts of the trail where it wasn't wide enough for me to have both of my feet beside each other and I had to have Barley sit and wait, while I wrapped my arms around a tree and inched my way along the rock wall to a place that was wide enough for both of us.
We passed some of the best waterfalls we've seen yet, but I was way too busy trying not to fall to my death in the falls to try to get out my camera and take a picture of them. Eventually, though, we made it to Squaw Rock.
|There's a woman, a serpent, and apparently several other objects, including a dog, but I didn't see that one.|
There was a nice big, flat area near the rock, so we took a few minutes to regroup and decide where to go from there. The skinny trail seemed to continue beyond the rock, or we could have turned around and gone back the way we'd come. The memory of clinging to a tree was still too vivid in my mind to turn around, so I decided we should continue on and see if there was another way out.
The stairs kept going and going. Every now and then, there was a nice wide spot to stop and look out over the river. We even passed a dad (or uncle? big brother?) going down the stairs with 3 small children. I figured if they had survived the trail, Barley and I could, too. They were counting the stairs and were on 70 when our paths crossed, so I kept my fingers crossed that we were nearing the end.
Finally, we made it to the same level our car was on and everything seemed less scary. When we had a choice to stay on the path back to the car or continue into the woods a little farther, my courage kicked back in and we explored the woods. Barley was awesome--we came across an off-leash labradoodle (who was also very well trained and went right back to it's owner instead of approaching us when I had Barley sit) and she kept her focus on me and we passed without incident. I am, however, very glad this encounter didn't take place earlier, though. I probably would have had a heart attack just thinking about how we were going to pass each other on those skinny trails and then fallen to certain death.
When we got close to the car, I decided that I needed to take a chance. Barley was worn out, so the stairs down to where the waterfalls were visible wouldn't be quite as scary and my camera was already out, so I felt confident I could take a picture this time around.
|Even though I was brave enough to go partially down the stairs again, I still decided to rely on my camera's zoom to get close enough for a decent picture.|
|See how tiny the waterfalls actually were from where we were at?|
In A Dog Year, Jon Katz said something about how border collies shook him out of his comfortable routine and reenergized his life. This summer has really proven to be the same for me and my darling border collie mix. Even though we were together last summer, most of our summer was spent in training--and essentially training Barley isn't all that different from my regular life in the classroom. This summer, thanks to Barley, I've done things I wouldn't have done before: gone hiking (ask my family about the amount of exploring nature I did in the past--they will tell you that I sat in the car in the parking lot), bought hiking shoes (these are significantly less cute than my Fergie heels), climbed on tree roots (my mom said she wasn't sure she knew who I was anymore when I told her about our adventures at CVNP), left the house without showering in the morning (because sometimes that's the only way to get out of the door before it gets too hot for hiking--plus I've learned I'm just going to have to do it again when we get home). So, even though she's exhausting and, at times, exasperating, I can hardly even remember what my life was like before this neurotic dog came into it and I wouldn't have things any other way.