Independence from Fear: A July 4th Hike on Mt. Hood

A shady patch along the face of Bald Mountain
in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Independence Day is frightening for a ton of animals, and Rain is no exception. Since Rain started habitating with me a couple of years ago, I’ve been experimenting with different solutions to soothe her fear of fireworks.

This year I decided to take Rain on a long hike. My hope was to wear her out enough physically and mentally that once night fell she would be too tired to be afraid. In the days leading up to July 4th I also discovered videos and music on YouTube that were specifically created to help dogs relax when fireworks were happening.

Steven joined us in the morning and we made our way to the Mt. Hood National Forest. Our plan was to do a short loop around Bald Mountain and then perhaps take a fragment of either the nearby Pacific Crest Trail or Timberline Trail.

After a bit of a climb from the trailhead, we made our way to the steep meadows of Bald Mountain, which were covered with wildflowers.

I tried to take a couple of good photos of Rain with Mt. Hood towering behind her, but she was antsy and getting warm. It wasn’t until I noticed her lifting her back feet up alternately that I realized the dirt and rocks were making her paw pads hurt.

Immediately I started walking and didn’t stop until I had found a small patch of trail that was in the shade. We continued along this meadow portion by rushing to the next modest patch of shade and then waiting for Steven to catch up behind us. A squat yellow dog hotfooted along past us, panting, followed by his human who was walking fast to only sort of keep up with her buddy. They reminded me of the time in Montana when Atticus decided to descend Mount Jumbo at his own pace, and then patiently waited for me in the shady grass at the bottom until I had caught up with him.

The trails were hopping with people and animals. Unlike our first hike with Rain on Labor Day 2015, Rain was doing great when she encountered people and dogs on the trail. For the most part.

Once we were back in the wooded area, a gentleman coming the opposite way got the bejeezus scared out of him when he passed us. There are certain people that Rain just doesn’t like for some reason. They’re always men. This guy had two trekking poles, a hat with a shade that went most of the way around his head, and big sunglasses. I’m not sure if any of those are why Rain didn’t like the cut of his jib, but she barked at him. A LOT. 😳

After that I started warning people that Rain was noisy. Just in case. Another gentleman we encountered later said “oh yes, I’ve heard…from a guy up the trail!” Or something to that effect. I looked back at Steven and grimaced. This meant the previous gentleman had complained to at least one person—likely more. Naturally, Rain didn’t give this fellow a second look as we crossed paths.

One thing she did more consistently is what I think of as Rain “needing the final word.” If we pull to the side of a trail to let others pass, Rain will be perfectly silent until the people are walking away. Then she’ll give a couple of barks as if to say “let that be a lesson to you!”

We ended up taking part of the Timberline Trail, which circumnavigates Mt. Hood, a few miles down to the glacial riverbank of the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River. We noticed the river emanating from large waterfall higher up on the mountain—one that appears to be nameless on Google Maps.

Including a short break on the way back, our hike took four hours. Was it enough to wear Rain out? She was on leash the entire time so she didn’t get to run quite as much as when we were at Sandy River Delta Park for three hours. She was certainly subdued—but about as peppy as ever when we got back to the trailhead.

Heading down the mountain we stopped at a special spot with a cool waterfall we had discovered in the past. Rain got to splash around and cool her paws before the long haul back to town.

She had over an hour to nap as we traveled back home but once there, I noticed a lull in Rain’s activity level. When fireworks started cracking she got anxious and stuck to me closely, but once we were settled inside the house on my bed it wasn’t long before she was dozing off. There were lots of great things about our outing, but if we even just took the edge off of her anxiety around the neighborhood war zone that night, it was all worth it.

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