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Jan 08, 2016

Hiking With Your Dog – Black Dog Journey



It was evening.  Giddy as a little girl,  I anticipated the following day of hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains .  I was so excited that I could barely contain myself, which made sleeping ever so difficult. The scenery and terrain of the Rocky Mountains is simply astounding.  In  December, the mountaintops  glisten with a shimmering blanket of powdery snow – like a picture perfect postcard.  Morning fast approached, but the excitement and lack of sleep had caused me to oversleep; however, not as long as Sleeping Beauty.

With the majestic snow covered Rocky Mountains a mere 40 minutes from my front door, I still experienced the eupDSC_0055horic Christmas morning feeling of a day spent hiking mountain trails.  Best of all, my four legged black companion accompanied me.

The Black Dog has taken some spectacular adventures since entering retirement.  Vowing not to become one of those fat neglected dogs, hanging out in the garage to reminisce of the good old days or gorging on kibble and fatty snacks, he decided to accompany me on adventures I haven’t seen since paying a mortgage, commitment, government savings, and a pension plan were ideas of old boring people.  This has turned into a weekly routine of hiking with my dog.DSC_0061
Remember To Pack A Few Items

Having embarked on close to a dozen mountain treks with the Black Dog, I’ve learned a few items can certainly make the hike more pleasurable.  Those familiar with my posts are aware that I tend to offer a wee bit of advice with a sense of humour.  I’ll try not to detour from my path today.

First, you have to get there.  This is where having an automobile actually helps.  Listening to CBC Radio today, I was educated to the fact that many young professionals have sworn off car ownership.  I don’t know if this is actually true, but it helps to have a vehicle equipped with snow tires and all wheel drive in northern climates.  Snow tires are mandatory in some jurisdictions; unfortunately, the more enlightened individuals of my home province are not convinced of their effectiveness.  When driving on winter roads, please be prepared and obtain extra training if the drive appears to be overwhelming for you.DSC_0051

Be prepared for your hike and what you may encounter.  I googled many hiking sites, and from the photos I’ve learned that I should have specialized gear.  Since I’m a cheap bastard, I decided to skip this recommendation.  I was lucky enough to have a pair of Hanwag Winter Alaska Goretex boots, with ice grip soles, essentially eliminating my need for crampons.  I was also lucky enough to own an Arcteryx winter outfit.  It layers to keep me warm and unzips to prevent overheating.  Aside from warm clothing, one can’t hit the deep snow without a pair of Gaters to keep snow from sliding over the top of your boot.  I may not be the best dressed person on the trails, but I’m warm.  Living in Canada my entire life, I taught myself to dress for the weather.

If you’re going to bring your dog, make an honest assessment of his fitness level.  For instance, The Black Dog and I hiked 15 kilometres over varying elevations recently. Would your dog travel this far without the need to be carried?  Can you feel your dog’s ribs through the fur?  If you can’t, your dog is likely too fat.

Remember that snacks and water can be a good thing, so remember to bring some.  You can check with your vet, but I don’t recommend feeding your dog before a strenuous hike.  With deep chested dogs, you may jeopardize their health by doing so.  I would suggest waiting a few hours before allowing one’s dog to engage in strenuous activity to prevent gastric dilation.  In order to avoid packing a fancy water bowl for your dog, teach him to drink from your hand or the bottle (it’s worked for me).

Is your dog up to date on vaccinations, such as rabies? Does your dog have all the necessary preventatives for fleas, ticks, and heart worms?DSC_0061

Don’t forget to bring bear bangers, flares, bear spray,  and a personal GPS.  The bear bangers can serve two purposes.  They may scare the bears but they also serve as a noise source if you miss the cars, planes, and trains of the city…they’re all noisy.



One of your most important items is a camera.  It’s fun to share your adventure with others.  I’m lucky enough to venture into Kananskis Country of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, but  I’m well aware of the fact that people travel from around the world to explore this majestic beauty.    I don’t know if it’s a low Canadian dollar or beautiful backdrop, but several Hollywood movies have been filmed in the same locations that I get to hike for a quarter tank of gas and short drive.

Life Lesson

“When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb, and to seek the mountain view.” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  Preparations aside, it’s absolutely amazing to experience the stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. Hiking with your dog is a bonus, as it makes the experience that much more pleasurable and rewarding.

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11 Comments

  1. Joel Says: January 10, 2016 4:10 am

    Hi Shawn,

    I have always wanted to go to Canada and do exactly what your doing. Maybe one day I can see the Rockies with my own eyes.

    I was just thinking though do you guys have wolves over there?

    How do you protect your dog from a wolf pack?

    I’d be interested to know how you would deal with the situation.

    Reply
    • Shawn Says: January 10, 2016 5:28 am

      Hey Joel,

      Yes we do have wolves, cougars, bears, lynx, moose, etc. I think that more people are injured through moose encounters than the predatory animals. From what I’ve read, wolves don’t actually attack people. Hollywood wolves are good at hunting people, however. I believe there was a recorded case in Eastern Canada but it’s believed those wolves had cross bred with coyotes. Making lots of noise assists in preventing a surprise animal encounter, so I talk to my dog as we trek along. Common sense and situational awareness assists a great deal.

      Take care,

      Shawn

      Reply
  2. Adam B. Says: January 16, 2016 9:43 am

    Hi Shawn,
    This is great-your site. In fact I already have many similarities to you and I just basically met you. I think your writing style is great and is very descriptive of what I can truly understand as I was born and raised just up the road from you…sort of. A little north in the rockies in a small town called Grande Cache- born and raised there. You have probably heard of the Canadian Death Race and I’m sure you have already done a leg or two in it and that is where I was born and raised. I can’t say enough about the outdoors and I miss them dearly, especially having them in my backyard like you do now….
    Anyhow, great site and great advice! I like the name too, its unique for sure which makes it all the better. I think people will greatly benefit from this outdoor advice here.

    Reply
    • Shawn Says: January 16, 2016 8:58 pm

      Hi,
      Thanks for the compliment. In the grand scheme of things, Grande Cache isn’t that far. I’ve heard of the Canadian Death Race, but haven’t participated. It sounds intriguing though. My adventures aren’t as exciting without my sidekick. We’re on the same page as far as the outdoors go. It’s the next best thing to a magical pill that uplifts the soul. The issue with this pill, however, is that it becomes very addictive…that’s not so bad though. Since my site won’t accommodate all the photographs, I’ve also recorded our adventures via Instagram at blackdogjourney…had to stick with the theme.

      Shawn

      Reply
  3. Tar Says: January 16, 2016 10:52 am

    There’s always risks in spite of the good things of being adventurous. The risks could be those like encountering bears and unbearable climate.

    I appreciate with the tips you give, like having the importance of gear. I think it’s worth of investment of having all these.

    Last but not least, not only it’s a hobby, doing such activity is a stress reliever. I mean walking with you best friend (dog) for beautiful landscape/natural view.

    Reply
  4. tatihden Says: March 5, 2016 4:19 am

    I admire your courage. Hiking in all that snow and up that scary looking mountain demands a lot of courage.Snow looks white and pretty but cold and tricky(cold is my worst enermy). It is a good thing you prepare for the worst. I am happy all that exercise is keeping black dog in shape.

    Reply
    • Shawn Says: March 6, 2016 1:32 am

      Thanks, I’m not a big fan of the cold either. If we were meant to live in this climate we’d all be harry beasts, but we might as well make the best of seven to eight months of cold in Canada.

      Reply
  5. Joon Says: March 10, 2016 10:02 am

    Man it looks like an awesome place to live. To be surrounded by nature, fresh snow, and a loyal companion. I envy your lifestyle. It’s something that I kind of picture myself to be in when I’m done with all my pursuits and my things on my bucket list. Also I liked your little movie trailer…very dramatic. lol.

    Reply
    • Shawn Says: March 10, 2016 10:09 am

      Hi Joon,

      I appreciate the positive comments. The fresh snow, mountains, dog, and no people for miles is a wonderful distraction. It’s a natural medication for the brain. Yours is the first comment about the video, so thanks for watching it.

      Take care,

      Shawn

      Reply
  6. Marg Gilks Says: May 29, 2016 4:02 pm

    My dog and I have been hiking 20 km or more a week for the past year. I’m self-employed so I can only sneak them in here and there, so they’re short, maybe 5-8 km. In the summer we go farther afield and go to the Niagara Escarpment, the closest thing to the Rockies, here in southern Ontario. I dream of taking Hudson to BC (where I was born!) and hiking in the mountains and forests of BC. You are very fortunate to live there!

    Reply

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