Friday, April 29, 2011

New dog, old tricks...

Today I decided to take Tephra on her first, by my counting, trail run. She's getting good with our no-leash understanding and we've done enough walking on the streets and paths of Virginia City, since her arrival about 10 days ago, that her feet might be ready for the trail.

My once-a-week Ophir Loop run is a little over five miles, a distance I thought worthy of our first test.  This short route heads through the Yellowjacket mining pit behind my office and joins a steep set of switchbacks to Ophir Grade.  I've read that Comstock-bound elephants once walked this path, but today it was only a little black dog and me.  Once we hit our pace on the grade, a cool wind reminded me of the snow last night and our good luck in the clearing day.  Tephra got the groove immediately as she settled into an easy draft just behind my heels.  She would stay there most of the run.

I had feared she might lose interest or get distracted, and yet it never happened.  Sure, she would pause to catch the scent of something, but I would look over my shoulder and see her pick it up to get back in stride.  I could hear her light feet and an occasional clink of her name tag, always there.

The single snow-fed creek on this section of the grade provides a rare sound of flowing water. Tephra wasn't really interested in it, though I paused to let her test a little pool.  Water isn't her thing, but I expect her interest will increase as the days grow warmer.

Our route turns onto a single-track at three miles out and begins a somewhat technical winding descent back to the Yellowjacket pit.  I love this section.  Where the climb and the grade is calm with wonderful, south-facing views of McClellan Peak and the Sierras beyond, this two miles of single track focuses your attention on proper foot placement among the cobbles and brush as it slices its way across the steep slope.  A grove of juniper is an immediate diversion from the sage and horsebrush that will soon grab the ankles.  And yes, there's a border collie at my heels picking her way at an easy trot; do they really smile?  Too bad our lunch break is finite and soon over.

My original canine partnership began with a run. I noticed a neighbor had begun to express her frustration with her "pet" by releasing it into the front yard. I observed a second release as I was headed out my front door for a run on Peavine Mountain on the north side of Reno, Nevada.  When I confronted my neighbor, she gave a long, sad story about how busy she was and that "this just isn't a very good dog."  So I offered to get her (the dog) some exercise and we leashed up for our first steps together.  On the trail, I broke our physical ties by releasing the leash, but with each step the connection between me and Abbey (not coincidentally, a black border collie) grew stronger.  Abbey ran the hills of Nevada for almost 13 years after that day on Peavine; and always, "she was pretty good, for a dog."

Tephra now takes up the partnership with a steadiness that can only help me improve my pace and discipline; these collies want to work, and if running is our work, then let's do it.  So when I see her ready stance, I'll reach for my shoes.  And we'll go...

Ophir Loop: 5.4 miles (+860 ft); 10.5-minute pace

Note: I'm working on creating some links to my collection of trail maps.


  1. OH my, my eyes are moist. I am reminded of working with Max before we could run, relatively worry-free for me, up Water Canyon in the Winnemucca days. Later in the Key Peninsula cedar forests near my house in western Washington, Max and got the routine and pleasant pace again--then, for me, I worked hard on the trail to combat jet-lag after an emotional trip to England. Up to that point we had been walking religiously, worshiping the scent of those forests and the always present sea air. But in that summer of 2002 and well into the brisk autumn days, I healed, with Max at my heels most of the time. Such a bond is loved and missed, but now there is my girl Lily: it is spring, and thus hope in the air and my heart ...for trails with her. Eventually, we'll see you on the grade!

  2. Very cool... I am so glad you have a willing accomplice now! It was worth every mile...

  3. I enjoyed the runs I was lucky to do with Abbey and I look forward to runs with Tephra...hopefully soon.