Well, that sure was fun! Those were my thoughts as I walked down the trail back to my car on a warm, sunny September afternoon in Durango, Colorado. I had decided to hike up to a switchback during Todd’s Dirt Fondo and take photos of the riders. My son and a few of his friends were on the 15 mile short course but had no idea where I was going to take pictures. The riders were not expecting a photographer on the course so most were surprised when they saw me as they were racing past. I’ll write more about that soon, because it was fun to see so many smiling faces!
The section of trail I was on is generally busy given its excellent proximity to town and Fort Lewis College. Today was no different especially given it was a gorgeous autumn Saturday, the Dirt Fondo was well underway, the Skyhawks had a football game, the Durango Farmers Market was bustling, the judging had begun at the Durango Autumn Arts Festival…a typical fall Saturday for many towns across Colorado.
The Gambel oak (Quercus gambelli) in our region had begun to transition to its fall foliage. The leaves were rustling and crackling beneath my feet as I passed a few small hiking groups on the trail. As the sun slowly moved west across the stunning blue sky, the warmth on my face brought more contentment as my thoughts were drifting to how impressed I was with the wide range of both ages and abilities of the Dirt Fondo participants. Suddenly I heard panting and a friendly, playful puppy came loping up the trail. Her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth. She appeared to be alone but I knew she was not. She was way too cute to be a cast away and besides she looked really healthy and well-cared for. I stopped to talk with her for a bit. She jumped up on my lower legs and suddenly all my years of dog training skills completely disappeared and my high pitched puppy voice kicked in. This tends to happen when I am approached by pure cuteness and love. My heart was melting.
A few minutes after this puppy love-fest began, a young boy and girl, with presumably their father, came up the trail.This bundle of cuteness, whose name I vaguely remember being Stella, was a part of this family. We exchanged hellos but they were on a hiking mission and did not stop. They were all smiles and easily engaged in a few questions I had about the puppy. As they continued on their way, they called after Stella. The more they called her, the more Stella jumped up on my legs. It seemed as though she wanted something from me. Maybe I had a few dog biscuit crumbs left in my pocket from an earlier walk with my dogs or there was something yummy smelling deep in my pack that she wanted.
I reluctantly encouraged her to move along and rejoin her family. I say reluctantly because there was clearly a mutual love connection happening here. But that’s not uncommon for me. Trails bring multiple opportunity for creating connections whether for travel and getting us from point A to point B; connecting us to other people, nature, local flora and fauna along the journey; or even a temporary, chance meeting with an exuberant canine. I enjoy each of these opportunities equally!