top of page


Mom’s hijinks are almost never as fun as she promises that they will be, and it’s the duty of a good life coach to distract her. Mom said she didn’t know that we were going to be passing through Albuquerque, but when my date with destiny… and a cow… brought us skipping along the outside of the city right when sunset lit the mountain behind town, I smelled her thoughts bubbling with hijinks. Then she was all like, “Gasp! What a surprise! Here we are again in the city where my favorite show in the whole wide world took place! I had no idea!”   “People don’t usually say ‘gasp’ when they’re surprised for real,” I told her. Then I pretended to interrupt myself, “Look!” I said to distract her from hijinks. “It’s the man from TV!” She looked quickly at the billboard of the pointing man with the high forehead before it disappeared behind us. “If you were an ambulance-chasing attorney in Albuquerque, you would think you would at least try not to look like a Better Call Saul ad… although maybe they get more customers that way…” Then her eyes got sucked back up to the the crown of fins on top of the mountain. The mountain looked as if it was wearing the Sydney Opera House on its head.  “I always did regret that we never made it to the top of that trail… It’s early in the season, do you think there’s still snow up there?”   “Boy oh boy! I sure hope so!” I said, forgetting that I was supposed to be discouraging her.

We couldn’t see any white from the freeway, so when we stopped for the night, Mom looked at the list of trails we still planned to visit to decide which one to skip.  “There’s this one that with the river crossing…” I said.  “The river probably won’t be a factor. I’m sure it’s low and frozen this time of year. How about we skip this one that talks about a lot of spillways where I’ll have to give you a boost?” Mom said. 

By the time I set my paws on the dragon’s back, we had a new plan that included an extra day in Albuquerque, and every now and then Mom craned her neck to look back toward the mountain’s crown to see what the weather was doing there. Since we didn’t have to drive anywhere after our hike, we had a whole afternoon to fill. Mom looked to The Witch for inspiration. “Look! There’s a road that goes to the top of the mountain!” Mom said. “We can drive up there and see if there’s any snow.” 

So, just like how the Tour de France riders spend their rest days riding their bikes, Mom and I got back in our driving positions and set off on a mini driving adventure to recon the mountain. We didn’t have to go far to find the white dirt. It was there waiting for us when we reached the back side of the mountain, before The Wagon even began to climb. After driving only a few squiggles, the white dirt stopped acting like it had been dropped there by accident and started to lie on the ground possessively like real winter. We weren’t even half way up before it started spilling onto the roadway where it mixed with the regular dirt and became a slippery mud. Past the ski resort, but not yet at the top, we saw people having a snowball fight.  “There’s white dirt up here,” I said when got out in the car kennel at the top to have a look around and stare down at Albuquerque.   “Yes, there most certainly is,” Mom sighed. Then she gazed forlornly at Albuquerque a mile below us. Albuquerque is a city the color of the desert, so all we could see were its windows flashing under the bright sun. From all the way up here it looked like a muddy and gridlike puddle.  “So what do we do now?” I asked.  “Well it’s too late for us to push on to Colorado tonight. So I guess we’re staying in Albuquerque.”  “And what will we do tomorrow?” “Get snow in our socks?” Mom shrugged. “We might as well hike it anyway. See how far we get…”

So The Witch woke us early and we set out on our expedition right before the sun turned up in the sky. This was the first place we ever saw the people potties and trash cans closed because of the boogeyvirus, and Mom was excited to see the trash cans weren’t locked anymore. Then she groaned when she saw that that potty still was.  “So glad they got the fee collection sorted out though…” Mom grumbled as she shoved her little letter into the slot. And with that, off we went. 

Much to my delight, the white dirt began nearly right away, and after a few miles it covered the whole trail. I frolicked macho-ly through it, searching for who was making the bird sounds in the broomhead of craggy cliffs above me, or the rustling and stick-snapping critters in the brush below me. The mountain was so steep and so tall that it blocked out all the sun for most of the trail, and the higher we went the darker the corners and thicker the woods so that the cold made me run even more excitedly and made Mom suck tight into herself. 

The trail was getting slippier and it sometimes swatted a paw out from under me as I ran. Mom’s feet also sometimes behaved more like wings, and she waved her arms around and said bad words until she could get her balance back.  “We’ll turn around once we get to the ridge,” Mom said. “No need to walk the last couple of miles.” But by the time we came out into the sun, Mom changed her mind and we kept walking just to see what was around the next bend. And the next. And the next.

When we could see the end of the trail about a half mile and just a few bends away, Mom decided that we’d seen all there was to see. We turned around. “Hey, Mom,” I said. “I’m glad we stayed an extra day in Albuquerque.” “Me too, bud. I like it here.” “Did you ever notice how the best adventures happen when we surprise ourselves and break the plan? And how some of the worst adventures are the ones where you try to solve problems before you’ve even seen them?” Like the time she tried to plan her own route, or the time she climbed too high, or all the times we got stuck. “That’s a fair point,” Mom said in a way that was also a warning not to lay too much more truth on her. “It’s okay,” I said. “It’s hard to see the nice things when you’re so busy making sure that what’s happening on the outside matches what your head says is supposed to happen.”

Oscar the Pooch


bottom of page