K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
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Happy Birthday to K9Trailblazers! On March 20, 1999, Jeff and Pat hiked Sugar Loaf Mountain with Katy and Mickey. After waiting for several people who replied to our first hike announcement but didnít show up, we hiked the "Northern Peaks Trail" by ourselves.
Today, the 5th anniversary of our first official club hike, we repeated that hike. We left from West View Parking and hiked the Northern Peaks Trail around 4 peaks of Sugar Loaf Mountain and back to West View with 12 eager hikers and their canine companions!
After much rain, we were delighted with perfect weather on hike day. When we assembled at West View Parking, the temperature was about 40 but warmed to the high 50ís as the day wore on. With enough wind to keep us cool but not cold, we hiked at a good pace and enjoyed many views that will later be obscured by foliage.
Hike leaders today were Pat with Mickey and Jeff with Katy. We welcomed newcomers: Marcos with Peanut; and Caron with Ed. They and their dogs were enthusiastic and friendly and we hope to see them again soon. Among the "old friends" who came today were: Ruth and Mike with Shu; Daphne with Sadie; Lisa and Chuck with Jester; Alice with Diva; and Sarah and Eric with Toby and Poppy. Alice brought Dove dark chocolate for the people and Daphne brought some homemade liver brownies that went over well with all the dogs!
After introductions, we discussed the hike rules and safety on the trail. Then everyone collected Tootsie Rolls and Blue Dog biscuits and maps before setting out. As usual, the hike started slowly as each dog stopped to sniff and mark the most important spots. But itís a K9 hike! People used those special moments to chat, adjust packs, remove jackets and eventually we picked up the pace. Trails were clear but there were huge piles of debris along the sides from Hurricane Isabel and various winter storms.
Within the first mile we encountered our first challenges. One hiker, who had recently recovered from a bout with the flu, wisely decided the hike was more than she was up to and accepted Jeffís escort back to the parking area. Pat, who was leading, waited for the group to assemble since our sweep was turning back. After 10 min. our group began retracing our steps to look for the two hikers who had not yet caught up with us. They had taken a wrong turn onto the red trail but when they realized their error they retraced their steps and we found them on the blue trail. Then we all waited together for Jeff to catch up with us. Everyone joked that itís a good thing radios and cell phones work on Sugar Loaf Mountain. The rest of the hike was uneventful but full of good humor. One attention-getter was Jesterís ability to do handstands and then continue walking on his front paws while peeing on the bushes! He also amused us by crawling on his belly like a Marine and jumping through Lisaís arms, but it was the handstands that garnered the most attention and provoked the most laughter.
As usual, all the dogs were offered turns being "lead dog" and walking just in front of the hike leader. Most took a turn, but Peanutís sled dog heritage made him especially well-suited for this task and he held a good pace up over the peaks. We stopped for snacks and water at White Rocks, where the view includes the cities of Frederick and Buckeystown, and the Catoctin and South Mountains.
Sugar Loaf Mountain is a favorite hiking area, and we always say a little thank you to Gordon and Louise Strong. The Stronghold Corporation was formed by the Strongs to hold Sugar Loaf in trust for public use. The mountain is open every day; there is no admission charge; and Stronghold provides maps, portable toilets, well maintained trails, paved roads to large parking areas, even trash bins for our dog poop bags. Trail maintenance on some trails is also provided by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. PATC overseers regularly check the trails and send work crews out when needed. This mountain is a gift to those of us who live in urban areas and love to hike with our dogs!
We saw very few people on the trails today, and the forest was quiet except for bird calls and rustling of the dry leaves. We encountered the same two off leash dogs twice on our hike, but their owners managed to catch them. Our leashed dogs took it in stride, looking only slightly indignant at the repeated violation of Sugarloaf leash rules!
When we returned to West View, we shared lunch and Jeffís birthday cupcakes at the picnic area. Nobody took Pat up on her offer to lead an ascent to the main peak after lunch, but everyone agreed it was great to celebrate 5 years and weíll look forward to the 10th anniversary Sugarloaf hike in March of 2009! If you can't wait that long, check our schedule page for hikes to Sugar Loaf and other destinations coming up soon.