Sometimes it is wise to follow the advice of a dog, especially when slippery, spring snow is involved.
Several inches of new snow from a late April storm laid on top of the remaining crust from a long winter in a deeply shaded valley. All of it was as hard as ice from a few days of chilly nights. My dog Rainy and I knew just how cold it had been, because we had camped in the back of the truck along the river the previous night. Now the sun was just starting to rise, which pushed the cold down to ground level in the valley.
Rainy advised not walking on this stuff, especially on the steep trail leading down to the river edge. He backed away from the slippery trail and refused to go down to the river. I called him a chicken and continued fearlessly forward. Rarely is a Lab a chicken. Far more often, they are smart. Perhaps smarter than their human companions.
Going where the Lab wouldn’t go, I bravely walked on, believing my fishing waders would find a grip where he did not. I lost my grip on my first step down the slope, landing on my back and falling downhill head first. I went quite a ways without anything to slow my descent. The dog watched from the top of the hill, clearly unwilling to join this madness. Eventually, my descent was stopped by a tree in my way. I was happy that I hadn’t broke my fly rod or some part of my body as I slid down the hill. But just as I contemplated this good fortune, the tree gave way and I was off again, still upside down and on my back. This time I didn’t go very far, but the fly rod didn’t survive.
By this time, Rainy had found a safe route down the hill, but we had to go to the truck for another fly rod before beginning the day’s fishing. This time, I followed Rainy to the truck, having learned a lesson for the day. No doubt it will need to be relearned again on a future fishing adventure. I sometimes wonder why the dog keeps coming with me, other than because I have the truck keys and the kibbles. Then again, we also go on fun adventures and enjoy each other’s company.
This was not our only dangerous outing. When Rainy was young, my fishing partner and I decided to fish opposite sides of a river running high with extreme spring runoff. The flow was perhaps as high as I have ever seen it. Rainy followed my friend across the river and then attempted to return to my side without using the snowmobile bridge he had used to first get over there. My friend stopped Rainy’s first attempt before he went beyond the point of no return. However, on his second attempt, Rainy passed the point of no return as he tried to join me on the far shore. The current was so strong that it pulled him to where a tangle of downed trees lined the bank and made it impossible for Rainy to reach the shore.
It was also impossible for me to reach the bank through timber left from clearing a power line. Rainy was pulled underwater several times; it was horrific. On what would undoubtedly be his last attempt, he fortunately found his grip among the downed trees and somehow found the strength to make his way to the bank. I laid with him on the bank for at least 10 minutes until he slowly regained enough strength to get back to the truck. That day I learned my lesson. You should not risk your life or that of people and creatures you love.
Most of our treks are simple adventures. Usually, we visit places where few others go. There are still some of these places left, but they are getting increasingly difficult to find. As more people seek the quiet, the quiet gets harder to find, but we have to keep searching for it. Because once we stop searching, we’ll lose it forever.