K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
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A brisk, cool, day greeted our group at Prince William Forest as we gathered for our third annual K9 Trailblazers Holiday Hike. This year was an extra special treat as our hike leaders for the day were Alice, who earned her K9TB hike leader hat back in October, and Jenifer, who was crowned with her spiffy hike leader hat at the beginning of the hike.
As we waited for the group to assemble, we saw Sarah, Eric, Toby and Poppy coming off of the trails toward us. We'd made a change to the start time for the hike earlier in the week. Unfortunately Sarah and Eric missed the change and showed up at the earlier start time. Not to be denied a good hike, they all took to the trails and happened to meet up with us as we gathered to start our hike! Though tempted to stick around for a second hike and the promise of goodies at the party afterward, Sarah and Eric had to bow out to attend another obligation.
With that, our group consisted of our hike leaders Jenifer and Alice, with Diva. Jeff and Cindy were also there along with Katy and Belle. It was good to see some old K9TB friends, Shirley and Princess as well as Nancy and Tester. Nancy and Tester have been busy leading their own "Hound Hikes" with Northern Virginia Hiking Club and frequently have schedule conflicts with our hikes, so it was especially nice to see them. We also had some new, old friends with us including Daphne and Sadie and Erin with Ripley and Xander. Erin and crew were festively adorned with holiday themed accessories. We were saddened that K9TB co-founder, Pat was unable to attend due to some health problems, but also determined to celebrate even harder to make up for her absence.
Alice gave "the speech" to orient the group and we headed out on the trails. For our holiday hike, Alice and Jenifer had picked a pleasant and relatively short 3 mile hike. We started down into the valley and then along a stream. With the leaves off the trees we had wonderful views of the water and enjoyed the swish of leaves under feet and the burbling of the water. Belle and Sadie were so enthused about the nearness of the water that they decided a brief dip was in order, in spite of the cool weather. But with a good, brisk pace set by our leaders, both dogs dried out quickly once back on the trail.
As the trail turned away from the river, we noticed a number of other people working near and around the water. They had a variety of rescue equipment with them, and we wondered what kind of a disaster we'd stumble on to. Fortunately, they were not responding to any emergency, but were in fact a rescue team honing their skills. It gave us a sense of reassurance to see such a group of dedicated people working to hone their skills to help fellow hikers if necessary.
After a quick water break (we could only sit around in the cold air for so long) we headed back up away from the river and toward the picnic area for part 2 of the day's events: The Party!
Dogs and people headed back to their cars to gather treats and presents. Since no one else was crazy enough to have an outdoor holiday party in the middle of December, we were able to set up in the big picnic pavilion. Cookies, crackers, dog treats, and hot beverages were spread out on the picnic table. What had started out 3 years ago as a modest treat of gingerbread cookies and hot cider has grown into a veritable feast! The hot cider and tea were particularly appreciated on such a cool day, but none of the treats went un-sampled. Once people and dogs were settled and fed, we had our doggie gift exchange. People drew numbers and picked gifts from the doggie gift table. There were toys and treats of all kinds. None went unappreciated by the furry recipients, although there were some jealous stares as gifts were unwrapped. To paraphrase the old saying, "the dog toy is always squeakier in the other dog's mouth..."
We chatted and enjoyed the remainder of the afternoon. A couple of deer hovered off in the distance, contemplating crashing our party. However, with several canine eyes keeping watch, they never moved any closer. Kudos to Princess and Belle for their dedication in fending off the potential threat!
As the day wore on and the sun grew lower in the sky, not even the hot cider and tea could keep the revelers warm and we reluctantly agreed it was time to break up the party. After picking up the dog toys, leftover food and trash, we gathered in the parking lot for final goodbyes. It had been a wonderful hike, party, and a great end to another K9 Trailblazers hiking year. Mutual holiday good wishes were exchanged and we all headed home, looking forward to the holidays and a new year of hikes with our 2 and 4 footed friends.