New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 Footers – Trail Dogs in Training

dogs on trails

We’re in training!  Next year, we’re going to attempt to climb all of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot mountains.  The AMC lists 48 of them in the White Mountains.  Some people have successfully climbed all of them in a year while others take years to finish.  We’ll probably be in the latter but that’s OK.  It’s not a race; it’s a goal.

Sophia and I aren’t in any condition to blunder off half-cocked on this new adventure.  Actually, it’s more like I’m not in any condition to attempt them.  Sophia just needs to wait until her growth platelets are fully fused.  Until then, we can’t really do too much intensive exercising where there’s a potential for serious injury (or unseen stress on muscle, joints and bones that can result,  years later, in arthritis or hip dysplasia).  So this year, we’re going to concentrate on training, conditioning and stamina.

Every morning over the last month, we’ve been hiking different trails in the Blue Hills Reservation, starting with simple walks around the parking lot and gradually increasing our distance, at Sophia’s pace, in half mile increments.  The majority of our walks are on a 30 ft. long line so that Sophia can self regulate her exercise.  On rocky terrain, where the long line gets caught up, I’ll temporarily switch to a flexi-leash attached to my backpack so that I can be hands-free for my own balance and Sophia can still have some freedom to self-regulate without getting jarred by a caught line.

I give myself a good two hours in the morning so that everything we do is at her chosen pace.  She walks when she wants, stops to sniff for as long as she wants and runs when she wants.  To my surprise, when given the opportunity to self regulate, she has stamina for days.

Currently, we’re up to two miles but I’m hesitant to allow her to go any further.  On paper, two miles for a four-month old puppy seems like way, way too much.  In reality, as I watch her on the trail, she trots along with her head up, tail high, brain and body fully engaged.  She never shows signs of fatigue and turns back often to “check in” or wait for me.

Yesterday, we accidentally did 3 1/4 miles.  Yes, you read that correctly.  If we’re not doing a two-mile loop, I’ll usually hike out a mile and then back track out.  In this case, I stupidly underestimated the distance of the trail on the map (REI’s Map and Compass class is in my near future).  The point in which I had planned to break off the original trail and cut back to the way we came, took longer than I calculated.  When my GPS said we were at the 2 1/4 mile mark, I put my foot down and picked her up.   She was OK being carried for maybe a minute until she started squirming to be put down again.  Against my better judgement, I put her down and let her keep going.  I worried the whole way back and was constantly checking the GPS and watching the distance continually increase.  I began playing yo yo with her; picking her up, walking 10 or 15 yards, putting her down for 10 or 15 yards, repeat.  When we got back to the car, she didn’t crash like I thought she would.  She sat up for the majority of the drive home, ran in the  house looking for the cats, and after about 30 minutes, she FINALLY settled in for a nap.

This morning she was ready to hit the trails again (though we took it very easy and kept it to a little over a mile, mostly because it was my legs that were achy).  I think Sophia is going to be ready for the Whites much sooner than I will be.


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