This morning, my Parson Russell Terriers Scout and Abby and I were excited about meeting new friends for an arranged hike at Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Proctor Staging Area in Castro Valley, California, with the meetup.com group Hikers and Hounds.
Regrettably, my pups and I wound up hiking alone. Yet the result was I discovered confidence and courage I never knew I had.
The hike started off badly. During introductions, Scout growled, snapped, and lunged at the other dogs. After about 10 minutes, Scout settled down and played nice, but it was too late. The vibe turned seriously sour. I didn't have much to say at this point, though the others kept a constant banter going among themselves. Then, to add to the tension, my hiking pace was about 2 miles per hour while the other hikers' pace was about 3 miles per hour (even their 12-year-old mini-dachshund Greta was faster than me). The hikers and hounds jetted up Brandon Trail at a break-neck pace without us, putting a good mile or so between us in a matter of minutes.
At first I felt abandoned and rejected. Then it occurred to me that a wilderness hike is enhanced when you slow down and when you stop on occasion to watch vultures soar, ants crawl, and lizards slither. Now touch the wheat-like foxtails, sit with ancient coastal oaks, hear a crunch and see a puff of dust at each foot step, and contemplate how nature effortlessly choreographs this eternal dance. Even when witnessing a red-tail hawk snatch a sparrow from the sky, there is a majesty to wilderness hiking that, when given sufficient time, enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with kind regard.
The hike on Brandon Trail today was disappointing on some levels--no new friendships were formed and Scout's outburst embarrassed me. But, it built my confidence and courage to hike alone with my dogs and to embrace nature on my own terms, at a leisurely pace, without the distraction of forced conversation and awkward situations.
That's why we will hike alone.