It’s that time of day again. The time when I rise up and attempt to make some sense out of my life by searching for meaning and purpose. Looking outside the living room window to the grayness beyond and the raindrops that are hitting the window glass does NOT inspire nor fill me with purpose and energy. I’d much rather go back to the climbing gym and repeat ascents on the yellow and green routes but I’ve done that too much already; play inside that is. What I really want to do is climb outside on the rocks or go ride my bike up some steep hills but neither of those will I do in the rain…
There is however, one thing I can do in this weather. And that is test gear. Being sponsored by several different outdoor equipment companies carries a lot of responsibility with it. The least of which is to go out with proposed new gear and see if it really does what it is intended to do. But I really don’t wanna. Go outside that is. But there is a responsibility that can’t be ignored and that is to walk my 3 year old golden retriever. Pisco simply must go play. Outside. Something that he is making very plain right now by incessantly nudging my arm with his wet snout, panting heavily and (finding my biggest weakness) looking at me directly with his big brown eyes…I guess we’re going. Outside to play.
One thing we can do together is ski. Higher up in the mountains it will be snowing. So I pack the skis, poles, skins etc and off we go to James Peak. Pisco jumps in behind me in the passenger seat and one hour later we have arrived in the parking lot, the new Mutant pack stuffed with extra clothing, doggie treats and anything thing else to add some heft and weight to the pack.
One of my favorite things about going back country skiing in the middle of the week on a snowy day is that they’re aren’t too many people to share the experience with. Today is no different and for the entire time we are outside we only meet one other person. With few distractions I fall into the familiar rhythm of going uphill at a steady pace and begin to relax and enjoy myself. The great thing about having a young dog along on a day like today when I’m testing gear is that I get caught up in watching the dog and seeing the day through his eyes. Pisco just loves the snow and the cold and the wind and the snow. Running back and forth, in and out of the woods, in front of me and then behind me. One moment he is out of sight and then the next he comes running through the mist and snow in great leaps and bounds skidding to a halt in front of me. A big smile on his face (do dogs smile?) and a look that transcends joy.
This is a dog that loves snow and all that is winter. All I ever have to do is look at Pisco and ask the question, “Want to go ski?” Up he jumps, wagging his tail in anticipation and looking at me eagerly as I collect the gear that indicates what and for how long we will be gone. Running to the front door he patiently waits for us to leave. He ALWAYS accompanies me whenever I have to test something. Besides, he blocks the door and the only way out is to step over and around him.
His advice is always solid and dependable. For instance, I’ll ask Pisco’s opinion about color. One wag of the tail and it’s OK. Two wags means it isn’t his favorite. Three wags and a bark tells me we have a winner and we shouldn’t change anything. And so it goes…me asking him questions and he giving me an answer in return.
Eventually after three hours we take a break and I bring out the dog biscuits for Pisco and the herbal tea for me. By nod of approval, Pisco lays his head on the waist belt of the pack and rests. After a few minutes the wind picks up and our limited visibility goes away.
While I sit next to him drinking my hot tea I notice a weary look on Pisco’s face. A familiar look which tells me, “now I’m tired and it’s time to turn around.” You see we speak the same language, he and I. “I know Pisco. We’ll leave soon.”
By way of an answer he looks at me again, this time tilting his head as if to say, “did I not make myself understood? The testing is over. It’s time to leave…” “Yes, you did tell me that”, I answer. “We’ll leave in two minutes.” Who’s in charge here?
As soon as I hoist my pack and turn the skis around Pisco brightens up and goes tearing off in the general direction we came from. Seemingly oblivious to trees, bushes and small rodents. But that isn’t it. He just loves to run and play and crash in the snow. The mad abandon of a Golden Retriever is a beautiful thing to watch.
As I ski behind Pisco watching him dash about it occurs to me that the real reason I came out today was to play with him. To goof off and enjoy whatever was outside and never mind the weather. I just needed some encouragement. And all this time I thought I was being productive…
Jack continues to seek out challenges in the mountains and enjoys visiting and learning about the many different cultures and people he visits. Jack currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.