Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Little Doggie

May 27: Charmin and I continued the road walk. We broke up camp, followed the dirt road back to the "official" detour, and continued walking. It seems like an unusually large number of properties are up for sale out in this part of the world. I can't remember passing by so many "for sale" signs as along this road walk, but most of the properties have "no trespassing" and "keep out" signs posted all over the place. Not a very friendly place, and I was so pleased to see one property with a "welcome" sign out front, I actually stopped to take a photo of it. Charmin asked if I planned to talk knock on their door.

"No," I said. "I just like that they're welcoming. I haven't seen a lot of that. And wouldn't the world be a better place if there were fewer "keep out" signs and a lot more "welcome" mats put out?

We reached the intersection where we now started following the official detour of the original official detour, which starts to sound confusing when you use it in a conversation. A few minutes later, we passed over a drainage ditch, when I noticed a small dog curled up at the bottom of it.

At first I thought it might be dead since it didn't appear to be moving, but then I saw it move a bit. "Hey, little buddy," I said to it, but it just ignored me. It had a red collar on the dog, so I knew it wasn't a wild animal, but it wasn't acting very dog-like either. Most dogs either bark with a particular sense of viciousness or they bark with a sense of excitement, clearly enjoying company. This dog did nothing. It acted more like a cat. Was it lost? Injured? I wasn't sure, but I couldn't just keep walking without finding out more.

I set down my pack and walked down to the dog. Charmin told me to be careful--I don't think she wanted to have to "rescue" me if the dog suddenly lunged or attacked. I walked up slowly, but the dog did nothing but watch my approach and twitch its head.

I pet the dog, talking to it softly, and it didn't seem to mind. But the dog still seemed unusually lethargic. When I was sure the dog wouldn't suddenly attack, I started to feel around the collar looking for a tag. Perhaps if there was a phone number on a tag, I could call the owner on my cell phone. But there was no tag, or any clue who the dog might be or how it ended up there. I told Charmin, who was still watching me from the road about the lack of a tag.

The dog was a little larger than a house cat. Mostly orange-ish in color. There didn't appear to be any visible injuries on the dog, but it seemed to act as if he were hurt or sick, and I still didn't just want to leave him here on the side of the road.

Charmin and I talked and decided to try giving it some water. Perhaps he's thirsty. We didn't have any dog bowls to pour water out into, so I pulled over a bumper that had fallen off a car and Charmin threw down her water bottle which I spilled out into the makeshift bowl next to the dog. The dog watched, curious, then laid his head back down and ignored it. Hmm.... Now what?

I hiked back up to the road and checked my cell phone. There was a weak signal. Who should I call? My first thought was Dezert Ratty--maybe she could call an animal shelter or something, or at least have some idea of who I should call about this dog. We had hiked a good 20 or more miles from her house, but that wasn't very far by car. I tried calling, but only got an answering machine. Lorraine had also given us her phone number, so I tried calling Lorraine next, who was home. I told her the situation, and she said she'd make some calls and call me back.

Charmin sat down and asked, "So is this a king-size break?"

I nodded and said, "Yes, I think it will be."

This was another one of our little inside jokes we'd developed over the last several days of hiking together. Sometimes, when we stopped for a break, Charmin would pull out a large candy bar that was invariably labeled as "king size" and proclaim that this was a "king size" break. She didn't pull out any candy bars this time, but this was looking like this break would be worthy of the title.

We finally heard back from Lorraine who had called an animal shelter that said they could pick the animal up, but that they could only get it later that afternoon. It would be faster if someone could bring the dog to the animal shelter, and if the dog were injured or sick, that that would be the best option. Which is great, except Charmin and I couldn't exactly carry the dog to an animal shelter on our backs. Lorraine said she could drive out and pick up the dog, however, and get it the help it needs.

Excellent! Now we just needed to wait for Lorraine to come by. I told her exactly where we were, on the Aliso Canyon Road at mile marker 2.63 outside of Acton, then Charmin and I sat down to wait.

"So what do you want to call him?" I asked Charmin.

"Orange Jews," she suggested, in reference to its color. I laughed.

"Or how about just Orange, for short," I suggested. People might get the wrong idea if they start hearing you call the dog Jew. =) That Charmin--she's a character, I tell you.

So we named the dog Orange, and just sat on the side of the road watching the dog. It would occasionally stretch, and once it actually picked itself up, turned 180 degrees, then laid back down again. Charmin and I ate some snacks to pass the time. Two hikers passed us during the wait, and we told them that we were waiting to get help for the dog.

Turns out, before Charmin got into farming, she had considered becoming a vet and even took a few courses in it. "This is great!" I said. "You should be the one to check out the dog and figure out what might be wrong!" She shook her head, though, saying they hadn't learned anything useful before she switched to farming.

"You grew up with dogs," she told me. "You know more about them than I do." Really? I mean, I know they need to be fed, and they sometimes poop in places you don't want them to, but I never really took care of a dog before. So Charmin's skills as a vet had a lot to be desired. Oh, well....

Lorraine finally arrive about an hour later, after losing the trail reroute at one point. "I thought I might have lost the trail. At first I passed seven hikers, then I turned right on a road, and didn't see any hikers after that, and I thought maybe I turned in the wrong direction." That's how you can follow the reroute--just follow the smelly hikers along the road. =)

Lorraine brought a towel to set down in her backseat, then I went down into the ditch to retrieve Orange. I wasn't entirely sure how well this would work. I've only tried to pet the dog thus far, and actually trying to move the dog and carry or push it back up to the road might be a bit tricky if the dog wasn't willing to go with me. I pet Orange for a little while, talking to him softly, trying to get him as comfortable with me as possible.... then I tried getting my right hand under him. Charmin stood on the other side of the dog, waiting to help however she could.

The weather was fairly cool, and both Charmin and I were getting pretty cold sitting there on the side of the road, so I had put on my fleece jacket and gloves. Which was nice when I finally started to get the fingers of my one hand under the dog and it yelped at me. Not really an angry yelp, but more of a "hey, that hurts! Stop it!" kind of yelp.

Charmin commented that it was a good thing I was wearing gloves--just in case it tried to get away or bite me. "Yeah, that's just what I was thinking." I had put them on only because my hands were cold, and while it wouldn't provide a lot of protection against possible dog bites, it certainly couldn't hurt!

Orange pulled himself up on his front legs, as if he were trying to decide whether to get away from me or not, and I saw my opportunity to get a good grip on his whole body. I slid my entire arm under the front half of him, pulled him up, got my other arm under the bottom half of him, and stood up. Yes! I had him!

I walked up to Lorraine's car, carefully setting him down in her backseat, then put a small blanket over Orange. I don't know if Orange was cold or not, but I certainly was sitting out there for the last hour or so.

We hugged Lorraine, who then sped off to take Orange to an animal shelter in Lancaster. Charmin and I put on our packs and continued our hike, our king-sized break finally over.

"And my hands smell like dog," I noted sourly. Wow, that dog really smelled. The smell seemed embedded in my fleece and my gloves for days after that, until I could wash my clothes in Agua Dulce.

The road walking continued through a few neighborhoods where lots of dogs in fenced in properties barked at us, and everyone seemed to own a horse (or at least a statue of a horse). The neighborhood was really a nice one, the types of place where people call their home a "ranch" rather than just a mere "house."

Almost immediately, I had to pee, but that seemed like a bad idea in such an exposed location with so many houses around. Curse my small bladder! I hurried along, hoping to get through the neighborhood as quickly as possible, which we finally did when the reroute turned onto Soladad Canyon Road. I used some brush in a dry creek to hide my peeing activities, near an ant hill that--pardon the pun--seemed to piss off the ants quite a bit.

Just before getting back to the real PCT, the reroute passed by a KOA where Charmin wanted to stop to tank up on water. I still had plenty of water, but I was more than happy to stop at the camp store and get myself an ice cream and cookie sandwich and throw out some of the trash in my pack.

And finally! The end of the detour! We found a PCT marker and the trail, snaking its way into the trees. Our road walk was finally over!

It only took less than five minutes before we lost the trail again. *shaking head* We also found Brian, who Charmin and I started referring to as "Yellow Pants" because of the bright neon-yellow shorts he wore, who was also in the area. Not a good sign, if there ever was one, for the three of us to lose the trail so soon after getting back on it. We followed what looked like a trail across a stream, then it ended at a what seemed mostly like a junk yard. Hmm..... I backtracked, eventually figuring out where we made a wrong turn, and hollered to Yellow Pants and Charmin that I found the trail and got us all back on it.

Charmin and I seem to always find something to disagree about. Nothing important, mind you, but we still had not found a conclusive answer about the difference between bunnies and rabbits, and today we spent much of the afternoon trying to deduce what the "golden spike memorial" on our maps referred to. I told her about the golden spike ceremony at the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, which I wouldn't have expected her to know about being from Switzerland. And as if to emphasis the point, a railroad did pass through the area, and we'd been hearing trails all afternoon. "It's probably where this railroad was official completed," I said confidently.

But as we got closer, Charmin noticed a prominent rock formation and said she thought that maybe it referred to the rock formation that resembled a spike, and even had a somewhat golden color to it. Which was actually a pretty convincing argument, except that I couldn't believe in the coincidence of a golden spike memorial being so close to a railroad and having nothing to do with it.

Well, we crossed over the railroad, and both of us walked pasted a small monument without even noticing it until Yellow Pants pointed it out. It marked the completion of the Pacific Crest Trail in 1993. I looked at Charmin. "We were both wrong. This is the golden spike memorial." Nothing to do with the railroad or the rock formation. Damn, I was so convinced it had to do with the completion of this railroad the memorial was next to!

Light, "non-measurable" sprinkles of rain hit us off and on all afternoon. The weather forecast called for a 30% chance of "measurable" precipitation, and we'd feel the occasional drop of water, and Charmin would say, "It's raining!" And I'd say, "No, that doesn't count. It's not measurable." Like that really made any difference at all. =)

I picked up some sticks to form my homemade umbrella. When it rains, I really like hiking with an umbrella. I don't like carrying the weight of an umbrella, however, when it's not actually raining. So I got this idea in my head to just carry the fabric for an umbrella, then find sticks on the ground when I need it to provide structural stability. Charmin laughed at it the whole afternoon, saying it would never work, and calling it my "shield."

Even Yellow Pants commented on it, saying that he was surprised everyone wasn't carrying one. Obviously tongue-in-cheek. And I told him, "Yeah, well, it takes time. Give it a 150 years or so, and everyone is going to have one of these babies! You'll all wonder how you ever lived without them!" *shaking head* =)

Yellow Pants pulled ahead, and Charmin and I continued plodding down the trail to Vasquez Rocks, where we lost the PCT for a second time this day. In our defense, the trail was poorly marked, and a sign pointing to a "footpath" pointed us in the wrong direction. We didn't go far before we figured out our mistake and got back on track, however.

Vasquez Rocks fascinates me because apparently it's been used in a lot of movies and TV shows, including one episode of the original Star Trek episode involving a Gorn. I wanted to try recreated scenes from that show, but admittedly, I didn't remember any scenes well enough to try recreating. It was late in the afternoon, however, and we had already hiked over 20 miles and were pretty tired.

We found a water spigot there, hid in some bushes nearby, and set up camp. Technically, I'm not sure camping at Vasquez Rocks was legal, but we had no intention of hiking any more that evening. Strange, finally done with the road walk, and here we are trying to stealth camp again.

At the end of the day, I like to take off my shoes and give my bare feet a good rub. It feels absolutely wonderful, and it gets a lot of dead flecks of skin off my feet. It seems like my feet sheds a couple of layers of skin every single day, and it's nice to rub it off. I did that today, just like any other day, then wiped the dead skin off into the dirt beside my groundsheet.

And a few minutes later, I noticed an ant carrying off a particularly large hunk of skin. I almost wanted to take away the skin from the ant. "Hey, that's my skin! You can't eat it!" But really, what did I expect to happen with it? I warned Charmin that there were man-eating ants in the area, and to have a good night. =)


Grumpy Grinch said...

Promise this old retired doc that you will never again grab a carnivor that is not acting normally. That was very risky, Ryan.

Anonymous said...

As I was reading that I was worried that the dog might sick like foaming at the mouth what not... I hope Lorraine is okay!


Anonymous said...

You're a peach, Ryan, caring for that poor puppy. I hope you'll be able to find out what was going on with him and give us a happy ending story.


BOOTY said...

The PCT "golden spike" monument was obviously a reference to the railroad golden spike event, which occurred at Promontory Point, Utah. They actually used gold, silver, and bronze spikes in the Utah ceremony, which were removed after about five minutes and regular steel spikes driven in before the train was allowed to run across the track joining. Apparently the precious metals are too soft for railroad safety.


Unknown said...

My brother actually does carry an umbrella when he hikes -- and he uses it virtually all the time! He keeps it open and jams the handle into his backpack so it's held over his head so he's always hiking in the shade! When other hikers see it, they often ask where he got that nifty special hiking umbrella that mounts on a backpack, and he points out there's nothing special about it, it's just a regular umbrella jammed into the backpack.

Dezert Ratty said...

I just drove past Vasquez Rocks, on my way home from Simi, and they were filming today - all kinds of trucks and equipment everywhere!!!
Folks have been asking about news of the "little dogs" fate, and I have to be honest and say I'm not sure. I am going to try and call the LA County Animal shelter and see if I can get any info from them.
Dezert Ratty

Okie Dog said...

I'm way behind, but would also like to know if you find out about the little dog. Sweet of you, Ryan.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Noticed that the Welcome sign was beside double horse shoes. Have to say that horse owners are usually a friendly bunch. ;)

I was going to guess either a twisted gut, hit by a car, or rabies.

That was a kind but generous thing to do for that little dog...

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers