The One Where the Dog Earns a Trail Name

My husband I have been helping my Father in Law complete his lifelong dream of hiking the JMT (John Muir Trail). Last year my husband, Aaron, hiked with him from Happy Isles to Reds Meadow. This year we all wrangled Aaron’s little brother to go with his Dad from Reds Meadow to the Muir Ranch.

I’ve only been to Reds Meadow once before when I hiked the JMT. And I had been so tired that I barely paid attention to my surroundings, although I do remember seeing a lot of people inexplicably dressed up and wearing cloistering perfume, looking at US like we were out-of-place (This was in 2011, FYI). So this time, even if I couldn’t hike very far, I wanted to at least see what the tourists see. A nice friend of mine had armed me with some pain killers and muscle relaxers for this trip, and although they don’t actually do much for nerve pain, they do help the rest of the body, including a nice little mind high, so I did get to do both the Postpile Loop and the jaunt down to Rainbow Falls, not to mention a walk around all of Sotcher Lake. I mean, I wasn’t making time or climbing passes, but I was hiking! That was the first week of July, and I am STILL running off the happy fumes from that trip.

Mmmmmmmmm.......happy fumes!

Mmmmmmmmm…….happy fumes!

As I mentioned, I was able to hike the Postpile Loop, but the going was slow. The In-Laws were up ahead of me, while Aaron trailed behind with our dog, Nisa, trying to teach her trail manners. The In-Laws both had on the same floppy hats and sunglasses, and they both have a stocky frame that they maneuvered on the trail in the same mule-ish way. Then they would stop to wait for us, their faces painted with the same lack of expression. They reminded me of gnomes. Like stoic, stubborn, California Republican gnomes. Kinda cute, kinda scary. “If we saw them on the trail, we would be forever referring to them as The Gnomes,” I whispered to Aaron when we made it back to the main Postpile area. It was true. And just like that they had a team trail name. The Gnomes.

I didn't take a picture, so here is a re-creation of what they looked like on the trail to me.

I didn’t take a picture, so here is a re-creation of what they looked like on the trail to me.

The Gnomes leaving Reds Meadow in their typical enthusiastic fashion

The Gnomes leaving Reds Meadow in their typical enthusiastic fashion

The next day, we sent The Gnomes on their way, leaving the three of us a day to explore the area before heading back toward Sacramento. We’ve had Nisa the German Shepherd for about 5 months now, and the rescue place guessed her age at about 2 yrs old. This is our first dog, and we may well be her first good human experience. We are all still getting to know each other. So far it seems like a great match.

Nisa on the day she officially became part of the  family

Nisa on the day she officially became part of the family

We’ve had moderately successful off leash walking sessions, so we weren’t overly concerned about letting her off leash in the area allowed on the trail toward Rainbow Falls. We explored the area, enjoying the cool breeze of the evening. Most day hikers were already back to the parking lot as we hiked our way down. We leashed Nisa at the Monument Boundary, drank water, and unleashed her to walk back up. We had seen wildlife on the way down, so didn’t even think much about it when we noticed a deer serenely munching on a leaf to our left of the trail.

Suddenly Nisa shot away, leaped over a gigantic fallen log and plunged into dry, overgrown brush, chasing this poor deer at amazing speeds. It only took a split second, and they were both just….gone. Aaron went into panic mode, started yelling, and pulled himself over the log, with the intention to try to find Nisa. I shouted at him to stop. “But she might be hurt,” he kept saying. I just didn’t want him to act rash and get lost himself. I demanded he just stay right where he was. I looked for the highest spot next to the trail and climbed to the top of it. “Nisa come!” I called. Silence. I waited. And waited. Nisa finally leapt out from nowhere in a completely different direction than she had taken off in. She bounded up to me and we quietly put the leash back on her. We walked back to our cabin in silence. It was quite scary.

It took about 24 hours to have any kind of sense of humor about it, about our crazy dog, who had just, unbeknownst to her, earned her own trail name.