Hello and thank you for taking time to read my blog today! I think that today is a good day to tell you the story about our big hike we went on this past Spring.  I know I’ve mentioned it in a few of my past blogs and now I will share the highlights of the hike Paul and I took Riley on.  Enjoy!

It was the beginning of April when the snow finally melted and Paul and I were itching to get outside and go on an adventure.  So we began to plan.  We decided to take Riley on an adventure to the Catskills in New York.  The trail went up three peaks and then we would turn around at the peak of the third mountain and hike back up the previous two peaks to get home.  In total the hike was about 10 miles and five peaks.  We knew Riley was pretty well conditioned because we were taking him on regular hikes but we wanted to make sure to keep an eye on him in case he needed to be carried.  We packed lots of layers to stay warm, snacks, treats, and water.  Now, the scariest part of the trip was going to be the Cornell Crack.  There wasn’t much information we could find about it so we decided we would decide how to handle it when we got there.  If we couldn’t handle it safely enough, we could just turn around. What is adventure without a little bit of the unknown anyways?!

So we left around 4 in the morning and drove three hours to the base of the first mountain, Slide.  It was a brisk morning but Riley didn’t mind at all once he realized we were going on a hike.  I was holding onto his leash as he kept up with Paul in the front.  Every once in awhile he would stop and look back at me as if to say, “Are you coming Mom?”. He was loving it!  Here is a video of us as we were going up the first peak.

The sun began to warm the air, however, we realized that the snow had not yet melted on the higher parts of the mountain!  We should have realized this would be the case and prepare ourselves for it but we had never Spring hiked before and we were clueless.  We only had hiking shoes on which are very good at gripping rocks and roots but not ice covered rocks.  A person who was prepared for this hike would have crampons, which are little spikes you attach to your hiking shoes.  It would be much safer!  For some reason we thought that if the snow melted in the valley, that the top of the mountain would be the same way! Wrong! Snow and ice weaved in and out of the trail as we ascended.  Riley learned that it is not easy to climb up when there is ice in your path and he soon walked around the ice patches.  What a smartie!  We didn’t see any people on our way up the first trail and before we knew it, we were at the top! Here is a picture of Riley and Paul celebrating!

Slide has the best views!

Although we climbed faster than we expected, we knew we were tight on time and so after a quick snack we started towards peak #2.  So down we go!  We realized that Riley is better at climbing up than he is going down.  We all took it very carefully as the back half of Slide is quite steep…hence the name I guess!  

On the way up Cornell we met a few hikers and their 50 lb dog.  We asked them about the Cornell Crack that they had just come from.  They said that it was icy but do-able with crampons.  It was about this time I really wished I had some crampons!  Riley was still doing awesome on the hike.  It is so satisfying to watch him navigate through different obstacles and figure out how to navigate around a patch of ice.  He was a natural and one smart cookie!  Of course we were there to give him a boost when needed.  Once we made it to the top of Cornell we had a snack and gave Riley some food and water and his treat!  We didn’t want to stay long once again so that we could stay ahead of schedule.  Plus we just had to see the infamous crack that was waiting around the corner!

Just after descending Cornell for a few minutes, we ran into it.  The crack.  We found ourselves looking down a 20-foot smooth faced cliff with a human-sized crack down the middle of it.  It was almost straight down.  If it were summertime, this crack would not have been as daunting, however, the whole crack was lined with a thick layer of ice.  Thankfully we found a rope that someone had secured to a tree so that you could use it to get up and down the crack.  So we brainstormed and decided the safest way to get all three of us down the crack was to put Riley inside of the bigger backpack and have Paul wear him down the crack.  Then I could focus on getting myself down.  Paul is definitely the expert out of the two of us.  Slowly but surely we made it down one at a time without any issues! What a relief!  It was even kind of a fun challenge.  Riley seemed to actually enjoy being in the backpack for a little bit.  He didn’t come flying out once we made it through the obstacle.  I kept in mind that climbing back up the crack on the way back might be a little more challenging. I wish we took a picture of the crack but it slipped my mind and I was happy to just make it out safely.  I found a picture someone else took of the Cornell Crack in winter just to give you an idea of what it is like.

Photo Credit: https://www.mountainpeakfitness.com/blog/2013/2/1/winter-hike-in-the-southern-catskills-of-ny

After beating the Cornell Crack, we were feeling pretty great!  We knew at this point that we could make it to our final turn around point and make it home at a decent hour.  With our endorphins surging, we marched on to the final peak, Wittenberg, before turning around and doing it all again.  This mountain turned out to be the mildest mountain with the least amount of elevation to climb.  We met a sweet little 7 lb dog that was off leash and clearly a professional mountain hiker!  She was as cute and as happy as could be!  We were shocked to see another dog Riley’s size tackling the same mountains.  We asked her owners how they got her through the Cornell Crack and they said they just tossed her up onto the ledge!  What a brave pup and owners!  Needless to say, we didn’t try that with Riley on the way back.  The climb up Wittenberg seemed to fly by.  I knew that if I’ve done it once, I could do it again in reverse, right? We let Riley drink to his fill and then Paul decided to give him a break and he carried the little dude in the dog sling I made for him.  He looked to be in heaven.  Ollie had worked himself hard and soon fell asleep in the sling as we were hiking not minding the mild swinging and bumping!  Our little angel. 

Now it was time to turn around and do the same trail all over again to get to the car.  The trip back home in theory should be a little bit easier because we are starting at the top of the mountain instead of the bottom and therefore only have two peaks to climb.  I say in theory because we already hiked three peaks and I was tired!  I could feel it in my knees and man, could I go for a juicy burger.  We met a group of people in their 60’s who were continuing their journey on the same route as us back to the parking lot.  They came prepared.  They had crampons and ice picks…(okay the ice picks was a little over the top).  But over prepared is better than under prepared!  They were very nice and they hiked about the same speed as us!  As we were hiking, we kept catching up to them, passing them, taking a break, and getting passed.  They were a very friendly group!  Soon we approached the Cornell Crack again.  As I suspected, it was harder to climb up than it was to “safely” slide down.  Paul took Riley in the backpack again and had no issues. I call Paul the mountain goat. I was scared.  I couldn’t get a good grip with my shoes on the icy rock and I didn’t trust my grip strength to hold onto the thin rope if my feet slipped.  Soon one of the hikers from the friendly group, June, caught up and was kind enough to share her crampons with me.  I put them on over my hiking shoes and climbed up without any issues! I am a firm believer in crampons now!  Then I tossed them down for June to use.  The rest of her group arrived at the crack as soon as we got to the top.  This was the scariest part of the journey.  One of the hikers in their group struggled to get up the crack and slide back down a few times.  In the end, Paul ended up helping him by lying on the side of the ledge and partially pulling him up!  How scary!  Everyone made it without any injuries. The teamwork up there on that mountain was unlike anything I had ever experienced! I will never forget working together with a group of strangers to all make it home safely!

Honestly from that point on, I was hungry and aching and ready to get to the car!  Most of the trip back just blurred together and we didn’t even stop at the peaks to celebrate.  The goal at that point was to get to the car before the sun set.  I almost reached my breaking point when we stopped to catch our breath.  I wanted to just lay down for 5 minutes but Paul said we should just keep going.  Turns out we were about ¾ of a mile away from the car and so he was right in pushing us a little bit further.  Riley slept peacefully in the sling and protected by Paul’s arms the rest of the way. 

Finally the car was in sight! I was looking forward to doing a celebration dance in the parking lot and peeling off my hiking shoes and socks before we got on the road, but unfortunately there was a sketchy man in the parking lot who was trying to talk to us and so we ended up jumping in the car at our first chance and flew out of the parking lot.  We soon found ourselves enjoying a celebration burger at Wendy’s on the way home and that was great! Riley slept sounds the whole ride home.

The view of Riley from inside his crate on the car ride home.

Overall we had so much fun on this adventure.  Riley impressed Paul and I and we will always cherish the memories we made that day.  Sometimes it is scary to decide to tackle big adventures but I know that it is always worth it in the end.  We had a fantastic time and we can’t wait for an opportunity to do something like that again.  Next time I will make sure to consider the weather on the mountain and come with crampons! 

Please tell me what you think about our adventure and if you have ever done anything like this with your dog!  I would love to hear about your adventures with your dog. Also let me know if you like this kind of story-telling blog or if you have any suggestions on blog posts!  Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have a great day!