Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tim Rowland: Hiking The Cobble With Addie

I enjoy the ongoing debate over leashed v. nonleashed dogs on Adirondack trails, not because I have a strong opinion one way or another, but because I am in the process of teaching a young pup to learn to love the mountain trails as much as I do.

Her name, reflective of the Peaks, is Addie, and her breed is a Bouvier de Flandres. This in itself is slightly problematic, in that when you are trying to pass yourself off as a rugged outdoorsman walking in the footsteps of Old Mountain Phelps, you lose a little face when someone asks the breed of your companion and you are forced to respond that it’s a “BOO-vee-yea d’ FLAWND-rah.”

So to save both of us a little face, I now tell everyone she’s a Belgian War Dog.

The Belgian part is true enough, but although the breed was instrumental in World War I, she was really bred to herd cattle. We did not pick her specifically for her hiking attributes, but as it’s turned out she’s very much at home with steep slopes, rock ledges and, her favorite, black Adirondack mud.

By the grace of God, she is the color of Adirondack mud, so you don’t notice so much until you put her into the shower, at which point it looks as if you are wringing out coal tipple.

Also by the grace of God, Addie is not so much of a hunting/chasing breed. I’ve seen people on the trails with coonhounds and beagles and honestly, I don’t know how they do it. I had an Australian shepherd once that, if she saw a fox, would yank the leash (and a few ounces of flesh) from your hand and be out of the county in three jumps exactly.

Addie is more into analytics. She has a weakness for deer, it is true, but she’s good at calculating the speed of her quarry, and figures there’s no sense killing a whole afternoon on a race she won’t win.

So in January we took her for her first Adirondack hike, on a nice little trail to the Cobble near Whiteface recently featured in the Adirondack Explorer. It was perfect for a roly-poly little puppy with limited endurance and no clear idea of whether it was acceptable to poo on snow.

My wife Beth, brother Bruce and I were the only ones on the trail, so until we got close to the bluffs, we allowed her to run at her own pace. While she did not run off, as would a hound, her herding instincts led to other issues.

The investigative type, Beth likes to take her time, inspecting various flora, animal tracks, scat and what have you and at times she would drop perhaps 25 yards behind the advance team. This clearly didn’t suit the young Addie, who would sprint back to snarl at her mother—a husky woowoowoo that sounded intimidating, but emanating from such a small creature was difficult to take seriously.

No matter, the point was made, and for the past six months Addie has been training the rest of us how to hike the trails of the Adirondacks. For those who like to lecture how we must walk through the mud instead of around it—don’t bother, she’s got that down. She makes a Tough Mudder competition look like a high tea. She’s been patient teaching us how to scamper up ledges, and although we’re still much slower than her, she’s optimistic that we can eventually catch on.

She still doesn’t like to see the group get spread too far apart, and still heads to the rear to round up stragglers. And as for the leash debate, her opinion is that, while it’s somewhat regrettable, all people need to be on one.

Photo: View from the Cobble courtesy DEC.

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Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

6 Responses

  1. Bob Meyer says:

    Wow! It’s been several decades since I hiked with [in succession] my 2 Bouvier de Flandres: Abady [named after the 1st breeder in the US] and Veisk his nephew. They were amazing hiking dogs and companions. Totally at home on Algonquin, Colden Marcy, Seward etc in mid winter, summer, fall etc. I miss then to this day but my lifestyle no longer allows for dog ownership and its attendant responsibility. 🙁

  2. adirondackjoe says:

    A weakness for deer? Really? Keep that dog on the hook please.

  3. Tim-Brunswick says:

    I love it and a refreshing change form the incessant Boreas Ponds/Wilderness debates. Our Black Lab is somewhat similar in that she does not stray from us in the woods at all ,, albeit her hunting instincts come to the fore when a Chipmunk or Squirrel make an appearance..

    She’s great with people, but not so much other dogs and unfortunately her advanced age has slowed her down just as my wife and I have in our Senior years.

    Very nice article. We need more like this!

  4. Bob Hicks says:

    Great story – we too, had a lab (mix!!) that loved to hike with us, so I can really identify with Tim-Brunswick as she would “bound” off at the site of other “critters”

    Sadly, a valiant battle with cancer caught up with her last summer. One of her last adventures was surprising a bear on our Wanakena area property. The bear promptly scampered up a tree.!!

    As for a leash, we always had one with us, but took it off when we could.

  5. W. Davis says:

    I urge everyone in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, where it is required, to keep their dogs leashed. I urge the same everywhere else too. The reason being, you don’t know what the reaction of leashed dogs (or other unleashed dogs for that matter) will be to your unleashed dog approaching them. I have had this happen several times on hiking trails. Your unleashed dog, walking ahead of you, appears to us suddenly on the trail you thought you had to yourself, and approaches my rescue German Shepherd (unless you have trained to perfect recall, which I find to be rare) who has been attacked several times and does not like strange dogs getting in her face, even if they are ostensibly friendly. Then I have a dog fight in my lap (yes I have had this happen while sitting down with a dog suddenly approaching). The leashed dog generally feels constrained and wary when confronted with the unleashed dog. Many dogs take a nose-to-nose approach with direct eye contact as a challenge. I wish you well in your hiking. Thank you.

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