My dog is the Bo Jackson of Long Distance Hiking
With plenty of time on our hands during our AT thru hike in 2016 my friends and I would play a game. It was kind of like 20 questions but without a limit on the questions. We simply went until someone guessed who or what we were thinking about. Answers included; Marv from Sin City, The Dude from the Big Lebowski, mostly famous people or places. Sometimes it would drag on and on for almost an hour as we hiked. My friends quickly figured out how little I know about sports.
Last week my beardy dog Quin and I set out to test her trail legs and my ability to handle her while hiking the 140 mile Horse Shoe Trail in PA. Hiking the entire HST was a goal I set for myself during my 2016 AT thru hike. Aside from completing the 140 mile trail this was my shakedown hike for Quin hiking the PCT with me in 2018. To see if it was going to work out or not. The answer quickly revealed itself. One of those goals was quickly achieved. The other will have to wait.
It started out pretty wintery with about 12-“15” of snow on the trail in Clarks Valley on the AT. You see there’s 3.1 miles of hiking before you get to the actual terminus of the HST. Fortunately a friend of mine, EJ, was able to help us out by shuttling us and hiking with us the first day.
Lucky for us he was able to hike with us the entire day. Including the 2.5 hours we didn’t get to cover any trail miles hiking. Those 2.5 hours were the time we spent looking for my dog. Yes looking for her because she ran off. I let myself get distracted dealing with some off trail issues over the phone. I didn’t have my full attention on her and she wandered off to find game. He found her lying near the trail a few hundred yards behind us, very scared. Once she realized it was him she got up and got super excited to not be alone. It was a very stressful time as you can imagine.
Quin is my 2 year old Deutsch Drahthaar. She can and will hunt anything with fur or feathers. She has zero chill when it comes to hunting. It’s what she was born and bred to do. Bo Jackson played 2 professional sports football and baseball. If he was a hunting dog he would be a Deutsch Drahthaar. He was an all around incredible athlete with an amazing story. Quin had been straying from the trail tracking bunnies and other game all day. I had to continuously keep calling her back on trail because once she finds the scent of game she goes from 0-100 in a flash. Most of the time we spent hiking was me trying to keep up with her to no avail. For every mile I hiked she must have ran 3 or more. Up and down the trail staying ahead of me and getting called back time again and time again. We hiked on and off leash. At heel and I even kept her behind me at times. We tried many things and it just kept returning to her getting ahead and me calling her back or stopping her until I caught up again.
The hiking part was not fun for either of us. She’s a very independent dog and I had become a worry stricken dog dad. Especially after having her run off trying to find game. Her nose tells her to follow any game that crosses the trail. In PA this is a regular occurrence. We saw so many more animal track than human in the snow and mud. Including deer, turkey, rabbit, grouse, bobcat and even some fisher tracks! Which was such a cool find after EJ and I had been talking about how rare they are a few hours prior.
The most fun time we had together was while we hiker trashed it up, taking naps and resting alongside the trail. Spending time crashed out in the tent, listening to the geese and ducks and even turkeys gobbling. We also had fun spending time at the Governor Dick visitor center waiting for the cars to leave so we could stealth camp. Where we had an early morning trail runner’s dog kick our tent lines out at 6 am after waking us up from our snoring contest. Before promptly falling back asleep.
A few days before I left for my AT Thru hike in 2016 Quin got into a fight with a porcupine. Needless to say she lost and I had to take her to the emergency vet after hiking 3 miles back to the car and driving an hour with quills sticking out of her face and mouth. She’s a hunting dog after all and this was her first time finding out that a porcupine smelled like game. It just isn’t game we are interested in. This happened on the same section of AT we hiked to get to the Horse Shoe Trail.
When it comes to physical ability Quin could easily hike for days on end. She’s a sporting breed and more than capable of easily hiking up and down any mountain. Her only enemy is her natural instinct to hunt and find game. The ability to hunt and find game is the reason Quin is my second Deutsch Drahthaar, and she won’t be my last. I spend as much time hunting as I do hiking.
As I mentioned I am a long distance hiker and hiking the Horse Shoe Trail was a goal I set for myself on my AT thru hike. If Quin had a goal list, long distance hiking would not be on it. It’s not her cup of tea. I am grateful for Quin’s birthday we were able to spend a few days and nights hiking together, taking naps, seeing friends along the way and passing through some very beautiful scenery near my home in South Central PA. I was also able to find out for certain that Quin won’t be joining me in 2018 on the PCT. She also won’t join me on my restart of the HST June 11th. As I spoke with my parents on the way home I said was grateful that I found out for sure I was making the right decision on the PCT while I was still in PA. Taking her to California to find this out it would be a complete and utter nightmare, not to mention potentially dangerous for her. Hiking is supposed to be fun, this was not fun for either of us. Nor was it fair to her, or me.
During my AT thru hike hike the inside joke about sports went like this.
Me: “I’m thinking of a person.”
Bullseye: “Are they an athlete?”
“Are they the greatest athlete of all time?”
There are things Bo Jackson is good at, and things he isn’t good at. Bo is not only an ex professional athlete of 2 sports he is also an avid hunter. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Bo is like Quin in that neither one of them care anything about long distance hiking.
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