Every morning, me and my dog Sable go on a hike. It’s not a trek, but just an early morning walk up our favorite hidden canyon which lies in plain sight. We set off from our house right about 8 o’clock and drive up the hillsides to the canyon mouth. We weave out of our little town and into the next, winding up and up, past the houses that weren’t here 15 years ago, then 10 years ago, then 5. We rise higher than any business, home, or other building as we approach our morning trailhead. It’s good, that above all of the buildings we’ve constructed over the years, still lies the land eternal. I like that.
As we get out of the car, Sable springs and sprints immediately, starting up the berm just past the parking lot. She lives for the forest and the canyons. Up here, as nowhere in our small town’s limits, she can let loose off leash, be wild, go running after squirrels (which tree and evade her each time,) smell the logbook rocks of dogs before us, and be a very happy free dog. And if you believe that dogs smile as I know, then she beams radiant like the sun as she runs like the wind. I like that most of all.
At the top of the berm lies a retention dam, just in case anything should happen up our little canyon as to not damage the new homes below. But on top of this lies our first view of our valley floor home. Only from the edge of things can we first see them truly. The valley and the mountains on her other rim are a sweeping view in every season, in every weather, in every light or dark. I stand, breathe deep seeing the world below like an astronaut, and turn my back on this beauty, for that is the only way up the canyon.
We begin our journey up, up, up. We meander along the trail past picnic tables and illegal fire rings. We move past small open fields where Sable leans into full sprint, and into the maple and juniper thickets, dense with the quieting effect of treestands, allowing our canyon to cease being just at the edge of town, and to become the morning wilderness heartbeat we both seek. If we hear a branch snap, we’ll both stop dead in our tracks, hold our breath, and listen long. I love these moments. A man and a dog, two species in one moment sharing how we approach the world of the unknown. Then, in our united journey, we set off again through the morning wild.
On our morning walks, we do not go far, certainly less than a mile. It usually takes us just 15 minutes to get to our turnaround point, a Forest Service gate meant to keep cattle from running into the retention dam and the town below. Sometimes when I am feeling slow or want to soak up the canyon a bit more, there is a small cavelet just off from the gate. I’ll go and sit on the rocks within, observing how the mosses grow on the seeping water and listen to the invisible birds around me.
From our turnaround gate, I always stop and let Sable run a bit further up trail before she comes back. She’s good at checking in, even after some of her more worrisome decisions of scaling the canyon sides into its cliffed faces in search of ground squirrel chatter. After she comes back, we turn back towards town in knowing silence, descending to the world in which we live.
Going down always takes less time, too little time it seems sometimes. On the descent, Sable is like a bobsledder: an unstoppable force of energy hugging the luge of the trail. It’s truly beautiful to see such athleticism paired with boundless joy in running. It must be the greatest fun to be a dog in the forest.
When we both finally pop out of the trees back at the retention dam, the town below opens into view. I don’t stop this time. I keep on trodding to the car with Sable. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the view of town on the way down, it’s that I don’t need to dip my toe in in order to be brave enough to plunge by now. Back to life’s duties and hullabaloo.
Driving down, I drop Sable off at home to sleep in the sunny backyard or chew on an elk bone for the day, and I head off to my own work. All day though, I can keep thinking back to our shared morning walk, not even half an hour, but worth its more than its weight in sunrise gold. All day I feel good and alive, and I know Sable does too from just a short jaunt. I know that she loves living in a beautiful, wild place just as much as I do. We both know the goodness in such places and in living in such places. Two species, one shared love for this land and our favorite hidden canyon which lies in plain sight.
My name is Patrick Kelly and I am Wild About Utah.
Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright Patrick Kelly, Photographer, all rights reserved
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text: Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org
Cache County Trails, Cache County, https://trails.cachecounty.org//a>
Hiking Trail Guide, Cache Valley Visitors Bureau/Logan Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, https://www.explorelogan.com/assets/files/brochures/hiking.pdf
Cache Trails, A hiking guide for the trails of the Cache Valley, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/publications/