A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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Welcome to a beloved set of summits
25 Sep
By 2020Visionquest
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“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Randy, in a red ball cap and hiking gear, hikes with Swirl (black lab dog) up a rocky wooded trail.There is so much trust in friendships including the guide work I experience, but far more deeply in the sharing opportunities we create for each other. I value kindness very highly and one of the kindest things I know is to introduce a cherished companion to something I love dearly.

Recently, I had a double dose as I brought my friend Rob Webber and my Guide Dog Swirl to a pair of mountain peaks known as the Welch-Dickie Loop. I’ve climbed these many times and if I ever hope to have someone experience the things I love about a mountain hike, this is where I would choose to start.

We had a glorious weather day, and a surprise last-minute addition of two other friends enhanced the entire experience. George and Loren were companions from our Peru trek through the Andes and like me already knew the wonders of this particular hike.

Swirl (black lab dog) guides Randy up a rocky mountain cliff face with a beautiful blue sky and green trees in the background.The first 1.5 miles is a reasonably gentle forest walk, although it did provide Swirl a couple of challenges as there were more trail narrows than he had faced.

We began to learn the way to communicate when I could step over an obstacle and when I would need to step behind him as he progressed through a longer narrow stretch of boulders, trees or edges. He was thinking and learning to build both his confidence and his problem solving even as I was learning to understand what he might be doing, when to give him patience to work through it, when to give him encouragement and when to give him additional direction.

I have an important Boston Marathon race not too far away so I chose to not teach him how to guide me on the two short bog bridges, allowing Rob to be my guide then as I predicted he would be for the second half of our hike when Swirl’s brain and body might appreciate the break.

Randy (tall man in a baseball hat and hiking gear) stands on a gray rocky mountain face with Swirl (black lab dog) in a harness next to him, with a blue sky and green trees in the background.At the first ledge I always love hearing the exclamations for the incredible views which were seemingly so easily achieved. We had the entire area to ourselves and aside from getting a little Swirl posing with the background, we just savored the company and the views. One of those views is the pointy summit of our first peak which was only half a mile further and yet promised a much more difficult range of work.

We set out onto those slabs, significant steps or leaps for Swirl as our elevation rapidly increased. Four paw drive was the envy of my hiking companions and his tail told us he appreciated that terrain most of all.

As a few narrow canyons and switchbacks challenged both of us, we were inspired by the near constant exultations from the team on how beautiful the views were around us. None less so than the 360 degree views from the summit where lunch and a group photo culminated Swirl’s guide work for the day.

Group photo of four hikers (including Randy) and Swirl on a rocky stone summit with an expanse of green trees in the background.Swirl had guided me all of his previous mountain hike but this was a more difficult trail and he had clearly been working brain and brawn a fair bit more. We had a mild time schedule to keep and it made sense to let him watch as Rob guided me for the next stage. It had been a Covid-induced too long break and there was some early guiding rust we had to shake off before we quickly were in the groove of managing all the terrain while Swirl supervised and quickly found his own trust in Rob’s work.

George and Loren kept eyes on Swirl to allow us to finish the trek with an array of laughter and stories broken up by descriptions of the mountain scenes around us. I have shared this trail with so many companions through the years and each time is a unique journey. What is typical is the joy and delight we share in the experience and, when as this trip allowed, I have the rare gift to introduce such an inspirational place to someone for the first time.

One response to “Welcome to a beloved set of summits”

  1. Randy says:

    What is Swirl’s next peak? He gets a little break as I let my ankles have a break from the trails for the best readiness at the Boston Marathon but I am open to suggestions…

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