The Solitude Sundays Series: Abby and I Take on the Sacramento Mountains
With additional responsibilities at my job this year it became more difficult to for me to avoid working on Mondays, so Sundays became my solitude day, the day when I could ensure there’d be no calls from inspectors, no need to go into the office to meet with co-workers, no deliveries from suppliers, no required meetings with incoming volunteers, no demands made by subcontractors to meet on site, and no requirements to make sure houses would be unlocked for access. As an introvert who requires a great deal of alone time I took these Sundays very seriously and made sure that not only did Abbs and I get out to hike but that we traveled to the tallest mountains within a days drive where we could walk under the canopies of tall fir and aspen alone without being disturbed by any other hikers.
Thus for the remainder of October and much of November Abby and I spent time exploring the trails, old logging roads, and meadowed canyons of the Sacramento Mountains where I quickly discovered it was always possible – with a little planning – to avoid encountering anyone at all, leaving me to have many restorative hours pacing across the ridges and valleys that comprise the range. As an added bonus I rarely have cell coverage in the Sacramentos, making it impossible to reply to potential calls or texts. Abby, who lives for a good hike anywhere in cool weather, discovered herself particularly happy here as well since the density of elk and mule deer gave her plenty to smell. Unfortunately for me the dead members of that group give her plenty to chew on when she decides to take a side trip – which has occasionally resulted in some tummy upsets (notably in a bout of yakking in my backseat) – but her enthusiasm for these mountains cannot be discounted.
Abbs and I are fantastic hiking companions in the best of times but I’d claim unequivocally that we excel at the kind of hiking that can be done in unpopulated places such as these: I hike at a relatively-steady and meditative pace, stopping occasionally for photos, which allows for some good thinking and processing, while she stays mostly within hearing distance, doing whatever dog stuff she deems essential. As I’m unconsciously attuned to the sound of her dog tags we can thus hike our own hikes, together but separate: I only stop if I haven’t heard her for 15 seconds or if we reach a trail junction. She provides the same courtesy by stopping to wait if she gets too far ahead, if she reaches a junction first, or if she senses a dangerous animal (rare). I would say the only problem with the system are those occasions when she takes a turn to go sniff out something and I don’t notice in time to call her back before she gets on the mission. Though credit for this general way of hiking must go to Tom who spent the first 7 years of her life walking with her, Abbs and I definitely have our own special bond and our own ways of doing things when we hike together alone which is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. Point is: her presence with me on these hikes, and me being able to hear the sound of dog tags softly clanging in addition to the wind and crunching leaves is priceless. Invaluable. Incomparable. Having her as my hiking companion has made all the difference in the world between those walks being a stroll in the woods and something more indescribably vital to my well-being.
I know it’s impossible that my photos do this description justice but they are, at the very least, representative of the solitude.