Hiking the trails near our home is something we have done for years. We rise early in the morning (5:00 for me) and hit the trail by 6:00.
In the summer months, the light is already in the sky. Sometimes we get to watch the sun rising in the east as the moon sets in the west. In the fall and winter months, our journey begins in darkness. We wear headlamps to find our way, and one of my friends commented that we look like a bunch of miners trudging to the mines. But even in the winter we get to see the sun rising and casting it’s glow over “our” domain.
There are benefits to hiking so early. Most of the year we have the trails to ourselves, which is incredibly peaceful. It’s a chance to talk with our good friends—with whom we have been taking this excursion for some 20 years or more.
We’ve changed locations a time or two due to extenuating circumstances. We used to hike on the property of the United States Air Force Academy, which is only about 2 miles from our home as the crow flies. You can see a view of that particular trail above. That came to a rather abrupt end when Spenser the Wonder Dog (who looks like he’s a mix of Great Dane, German Shepherd, and a brick wall) decided he was a herding dog. Spenser is a member of our good friends’ family and I think I’m his uncle—although we’re still trying to work that out.
Unbeknownst to us (at least initially) is that the property on which we were hiking was also where some members of our Air Force pastured their horses. We saw gates and occasional “evidence” that horses had been on the trail, but we never actually spotted them during our walk. That is, until one day, when we caught a glimpse of the horses on a hillock in the distance. We ignored them and they ignored us and all was good.
Spenser, however, didn’t ignore them. The next morning, Spenser went walkabout in search of his equine friends. None of us noticed it at first. After all, there were approximately 7-8 people and an equal number of canine companions swirling around in a clump. Who was going to miss one large 3 ½ legged (yes, Spenser has certain limitations) going off on his own?
The short answer to that question is that the horses noticed. When we noticed that Spenser had gone missing, we began calling and whistling. As the best whistler in the group, I just about blew my brains out until—there in the distance, with the rising sun at his back—Spenser appeared . . . with a small herd of about half a dozen horses in front of him.
We all stood dumbstruck as Spenser (obviously very pleased with himself) drove the horses right up to us and awaited praise for his good work. Spenser was quickly leashed and we moved on down the trail as quickly as possible. The unfortunate outcome is that we were invited not to visit the Air Force grounds again any time in the future. While we were not confronted directly, the fences and gates that were erected within days were a pretty strong clue that we personas (and dogs) non-gratis.
So it was that we shifted the location of our morning constitutionals to a semi-wild city park in our neighborhood. Our morning excursions moved to Ute Valley Park, not far from our home. We would meet in the parking lot of the middle school (where some of our children had attended) that abutted the park and set off at our normal time. We always returned long before the students began arriving so that wasn’t an issue.
We enjoyed many of the same pleasures here that we had grown to love about our previous hiking spot. The sun still rose in the east. We often saw simultaneous sunrises and moon sets. The trails were challenging (the vertical climbs were the equivalent of climbing a 40-story building each morning). Although, when it would rain, we would often end up with 3-4 inches of mud on the bottom of our boots, it was still a delight.
In the meantime, however, Spenser had acquired a new family member. Chip, who is part pit bull and part a sweet tempered Yosemite Sam, had joined our ranks. Chip is a sweetheart who loves to play with everybody—rather vigorously. One day as we were finishing up our walk in the parking lot, we encountered some teachers coming in early to get ready for their day with the students. This was a common occurrence that we actually looked forward to each day. But on one day, Chip (in his excitement and eagerness to say hello) jumped at a teacher to greet her. Although he was on leash and never got near the aforementioned teacher, Chip was reported to the Principal’s office and we were summarily banned from the parking lot.
So it was, that with a heavy heart—and a few more drops of gasoline—that we moved down the road to approach the trail from a different starting point. But our adventures were not over!
Lest you think that all of our hiking trails led to trouble and sorrow, I need to make mention of the matter of the unmentionables. Unmentionables they were, and yet, mention them, I must.
One dark Monday morning we hit the trails before dawn, equipped with our headlamps and well-worn boots. With only one cup of coffee under our belts, we were not yet in fully functional mode—but we pressed on.
I followed my wife up the first hill in the dark. Our friends and their dogs were in front of her. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something drop at my wife’s feet. The deep shadows of early morning, of course, made it difficult to tell for sure. I thought it might be a pair of gloves or a headband, or something of that nature.
I called out to my wife, “Did you drop something?” She turned—her headlamp searing my eyeballs and temporarily blinding me—and said, “No! Why?” By this time I had caught up to her, and I reached to the ground to retrieve what I had seen fall to the ground.
As I plucked it from the ground, it revealed itself to be a pair of women’s black underwear. Not slinky or kinky, but certainly not something a red-blooded male would ignore. And while I have seen a lot of things out on the trails, this was certainly not the kind of thing I normally encountered in the wild. I held them out to my wife and asked, “Are these yours?”
My wife looked at me as if I had asked her how many legs she had. “Of course they’re not mine! I don’t even own anything like that!” I glanced back at the item in my hand and said, “But they’re the same size, color, and brand that you wear.” As the person who has done the lion’s share of laundry in our household for the past 20-some years, I have a certain amount of knowledge of what passes through our washing machine and dryer, and I was sure I’d seen these errant underwear before.
“Absolutely not!” exclaimed my wife. “What in the world would my underwear be doing out on this trail?” She had a good point. As I pondered that question, our friends (who had been ahead of us on the trail) returned and asked what was going on.
As I attempted to explain the situation (while my wife vehemently asserted that she had had no sartorial relationship with those panties) my friends looked at me with horror in their eyes.
Their horror soon became mine as I realized that I had stumbled upon a scene of sexual violation, and now my DNA was all over the evidence. On top of that, I was standing in the dark with what most assuredly was a handful of kooties! I quickly dropped the item in question and we marched on.
As we finished our hike and returned past the spot where I had initially noticed the unmentionables in question, I looked at them again. Having laundered certain items many, many times, I had a certain degree of confidence that I’d seen this particular garment before. But being the wise man that I am, I left the article draped over a convenient cactus and moved on.
Later, after we had been home a while, my wife had a chance to look in the drawer where she keeps certain unmentionables. In her defense, she came to me and said, “You know, I think those actually were mine.” We deduced that (due to that evil force known as “static cling”) the aforementioned unmentionables had lodged themselves inside her hiking pants and had dislodged themselves during the vigorous trek up the first hill.
The next morning as we hiked, we made a concerted effort to retrieve the errant underwear—to no avail. They were nowhere to be found. My wife dissuaded me from posting signs of the lost item and asking helpful citizens to call us with any sightings.
As you can imagine, this is not a subject we discuss in much detail anymore. Still, I wonder . . . where did those unmentionables end up?