K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
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Déjà vu! At 8 AM, on Saturday, June 5th, it was cold and foggy and windy (again!) when we set up our K9Trailblazers information table for the 2nd annual National Trails Day event sponsored by Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the PATC Trail Patrol. Alice showed up early (this time without her corgi, Diva) to lead hikes and waited in vain for members of the public to sign up to hike (again!) Pat, who recently sprained an ankle and chipped a bone in her foot, was (again!) sitting out the hikes. Jeff left Katy home (again) but brought his laptop to show slides but had to leave it zipped inside its waterproof case (again!) And everyone had a wonderful time (again!)
This year we were on the lawn outside the Byrd Visitor Center in the Central District of Shenandoah National Park, a beautiful setting overlooking Big Meadows and offering links to the Appalachian Trail and several other trails for leading leashed dog hikes. Our planned hike to Lewis Springs Falls, an 80-ft. waterfall, was previewed by three hike leaders but they never had a chance to share the beauty with other people and their canine companions (not that you could actually SEE the falls!). They did manage to help some other hikers out with directions to the fog bound Lewis Spring Falls trail, so it wasn't a total loss.
Cheryl, who has successfully completed PATC’s hike leader certification and led several official K9TB hikes, led the early morning hike preview for Jeff and Alice, thus earning her coveted official K9TB hike leader hat-- Congratulations to you and your partner, Oliver! Cheryl is already planning a couple of possible hikes in new places.
And Jenifer brought Gigi to her first National Trails Day. Approaching from the parking area, Gigi delicately stepped up the curb, crossed the sidewalk, and paused on the grass directly in front of the K9TB table. With considerable dignity, she pooped. Jenifer produced a plastic bag within seconds! That poop was professionally scooped to the applause of everyone watching. K9Trailblazers not only preach leash and scoop, we practice it, we demonstrate it and, on occasion, we laugh long and loud about it!
Of course K9TB was only a small part of the NTD festivities. There were hands-on activities for all ages; hikes of differing length's for families, vigorous hikers, leashed dogs and others; a search and rescue dog from the Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group; displays of equipment for backpacking and safe hiking and much more. The Leave No Trace people invited visitors to vote which of 12 "irritating" situations frequently encountered on the trail was most annoying. The list included loud radios, cell phones, discarded toilet paper, etc. For most of the morning the biggest irritant was "dog off leash!" People really care about that, and we were very pleased to be able to demonstrate a commitment to hiking responsibly with dogs! (For more information about PATC, go to www.patc.org ; for more information about LNT, go to www.lnt.org)
And in spite of the cold rain and fog, everyone’s spirits were high. We took turns visiting each others' tables and displays. And everyone enjoyed turns escaping into the warmth of the Visitor Center and/or trudging to the nearby restaurant-- BBQ pork and big, juicy onion rings! Mickey and Ollie and Gigi loved the dog biscuits, their reward for being such good sports. People walking by stopped to chat, sample our chocolates, and take cards and brochures. Some even expressed interest in our upcoming hikes. And this year offered several "firsts," including the hat ceremony and doggie doo demo!
Although the event was originally scheduled from 9AM to 5 PM, at around 2 PM the organizers suggested that the since fog had become much thicker and we hadn’t had a member of the public stop by for some time that perhaps it was time to shut things down. It took less time to pack up than it did to set up, and we wound our way down the mountain road in visibility that was sometimes only a couple of car lengths. Then suddenly, at the park exit the road curved from the fog into the sunshine! It was a memorable day and we hope to be invited to participate in the 3rd annual National Trails Day next year.