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Dark Hike in Hollis, New Hampshire with my Dogs

February 4, 2013

Yesterday I rushed out at the end of the day for some fresh air and admit now that I put us all in danger.

We left the house and rushed along the trail I had forged in the woods to get out to our town forest trail system. I slashed through branches and stomped over underbrush that has reappeared with snow melt. I dodged trees and jumped over branches like a mad woman. Not leisurely… but I was laughing as I sped along.

As I zigged and zagged I decided to go to Dunklee Pond to see how the ice was doing. Maybe we could get a glimpse of sunset once out on the open ice. So I decided to risk staying out longer and got on the main trail towards the pond. But was the ice safe to step on at the edge?

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Dangerous Situations NUMBER ONE AND TWO.

The sun was setting and now we were 25 minutes from home. Then I made another decision to add to my adventure. I decided I needed to go out towards an island and around the peninsula before I started home. As the dogs raced and played it got darker and darker and I finally admitted to myself that we were running out of light in below freezing temperatures. And the thought of being out in the forest after dark with no source of light forced itself into my unwilling, overly ambitious, stubborn mind. I gave in and started walk-jogging towards shore. Jumping over thin ice at the edge went unnoticed because my heart was pounding  and my mind was racing as it began tallying the minutes past and the minutes still ahead of us to get out of the woods before complete darkness.

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Dangerous Situations  NUMBER THREE, FOUR AND FIVE.

Usually we would stick to the woods off the main trail and that had been my intention but it was getting really dark. I knew my husband was at home getting frantic so I had no choice but to jog along the main trail the rest of the way home. The jogs took it all in stride being used to jogging and sprinting on hikes but I had now jogged for about ten minutes and was not sure I could keep up the pace despite my fear. I do not jog. I hate jogging. And frankly, I am horrible at it. I don’t mind getting out of breath anywhere on a mountain. I am willing to push my body. But panting while climbing versus panting while bouncing up and down is not the same. And stopping to catch my breath was not  an option.

Shadows loomed along the sides looking like wild animals lurking there and reminded me of a hike in the White Mountains ending in the dark after running into a moose. I tried not to look because I feared I might see eyes watching me too. What was out there? All the animal tracks we have investigated this winter flashed through my mind. And of course with my adrenalin pumping my mind was playing tricks. All the bears had come out of hibernation and were congregating in that part of the forest along with their coyote, and fisher cat predator friends at that moment. my fearful mind was sucking me into all the bad things that could still happen to us while my rational mind had to try to drown out those thoughts with the chant, “Just keep jogging. Don’t slow down. You can not stop.” It demanded focus on the goal, not on my surroundings.

I thought we had made it when I saw the first lights from my neighborhood but I was wrong. That is when the scariest part of the hike occurred. We had to pass a driveway where a car with its motor running outside was ready to back out. If that car backed up it could hit one of the dogs. I yelled frantically for Cabot to get back to me because he was happily trotting over to that driveway to visit his friend Maple. (dangerous situation NUMBER SIX, dogs not leashed) Emma was not around. At one point  in the hike she had been acting odd by trotting along on land as Cabot and I traversed the ice.

Now she was missing again in the dark and the biggest risk on the hike was the time it took me to call her and get her back with me in view.

My husband who was down at the mailbox getting mail heard me calling from a couple of houses away.  I was loud because I was afraid for her. And if I am honest, I was afraid for me. Losing a dog to a car accident that I had caused would be a nightmare.

She came back and we ended that hike in the dark with both dogs by my side and my husband happily opening mail knowing we were almost home.

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Dangerous Situation NUMBER SEVEN.

How many things did I do wrong?

1. Go out too late in the day on a winter afternoon. (early sunset)

2. Made a foolish decision to go further than I had planned.

3. Risked getting onto the pond and jumped over thin ice.

4. Made another foolish decision to go further than I had planned.

5. Jumped over thin ice without paying attention.

6. Let the dogs stay off leash as we approached the road.

7. Did not take any source of light with us.

Lessons learned? Probably not. I tend to push the limits when I hike. But I don’t advise that you try it.

PS. The next day I walked the section of trail I had jogged and I was shocked at how long it was. Adrenalin does help in “survival” situations.

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3 Comments
  1. That last photo is very scary.

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