A Golden Afternoon

I spend far too much time working, tweaking, trying to perfect a photo in Photoshop Monday morning, only to give up in disgust and order the other photo that I liked better to begin with and call it a day. I hear the birds calling to each other outside, the little Carolina wren especially singing her heart out in the sunny blue skied world and I make a command decision. I throw wet clothes in the dryer, set it for an hour, stuff water bottles, my camera and the dog’s leash into my backpack and load up Langley, lifting her into the back of my car because she can no longer manage the big jump up, telling her that she made a really good effort and to mind her head as I slam the door shut.

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We hike for what seems like hours, playing in creeks, finding the first wildflowers of the season, exploring new trails and meeting other hikers and explorers and mountain bikers, all of us overjoyed at the beautiful day that has been gifted to us after such a long, dreary and colorless winter.

Langley runs far ahead of me on the trail, so far that I sometimes lose sight of her and just when I grow a tad bit concerned, here she comes flying back to me, bouncing around my feet like a bunny rabbit, a big grin plastered on her face from ear to ear. She loves these trails, always wanting to go further and further, nose to the ground smelling country smells, smells different than the town smells she meets up with on our afternoon walks. Here at Mt. Kessler she can run and be free and be the dog that she knows she’s meant to be. If she was younger and didn’t have such bad arthritis in her hips, then yes, I would hike as long as she wanted because I love the trails, the smells, the flowers, the fresh breezes and the freedom of all responsibilities that Mt. Kessler offers. But I also know that we eventually have to turn around and hike back to the car, and with Langley’s hips and the fact that she has no idea how to pace herself, that might take a little longer. I cup my hand and pour water into it for her to drink, her bright pink tongue slurping up the water and tickling my hand. She looks up at me, grins and runs off, back to the trail ahead and finding more smells, more crevices to investigate, more creeks to splash around in and play.

After calling after her several times and clapping my hands, she comes barreling back to me and I explain to her that we need to head back to the car, that it’s getting close to her supper time and we need to get back home. She looks a little confused, but I tell her that we can come back out another day and she falls behind me, letting me lead the way for the first time that afternoon. The sun is casting her long golden fingers through the bare branches of the trees above us as we reach the parking lot. I wipe down the dog, asking her if she had fun and what a good hiking companion she is. She sneaks a quick lick on my nose and I pick her up and put her in the back of my car once more. We’re both quiet on the way home, all the windows down so Langley can smell the smells and stick her head out the window like dogs do, her black velvety ears flapping in the wind.

She and I both sleep hard that night, both of us worn out from the day’s adventure.

A good kind of worn out.