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The longest trail

Since we fell out of Oregon and landed in a familiar place in California, Mom said that it was okay for us to go on without a plan. According to Mom, when you find yourself in a place 5 times in a year, and your soul gets treats on every visit, then you ought to sniff that place very closely to see what it’s trying to tell you. She said that maybe it was trying to tell us that we should buy our house up here. I looked around and wondered if I would be the same Oscar if I lived in a place with cows and mountains in my back yard, rather than a place where 8 cars share my driveway and I have to bark at all of them when they come home.

When Mom saw a sign that said that there were views, picnic tables, and hiking trails in the same spot, she decided that that would be our adventure place for the day. Another reason that we didn’t have a plan was because the last weather report we saw before the air stopped feeding The Witch in Mom’s phone said that it was supposed to rain, but the first good surprise that this place gave us was that it was a perfectly sunny, clear, warm day. The sky was so clear that when we looked left we could see a pointy white mountain far in the distance that looked just like the mountain emojis on Mom’s phone. When we looked in the opposite direction, there was another pointy, white mountain emoji. I felt like we were living in an Instagram caption. We knew that the first was called Mt. Lassen, but we were surprised to find out that the other one was Mt. Shasta. We had tried to see Shasta twice (at the beginning of both this trip and the last one) but it had always hidden from us until now, when we were in our happy place.

The trail left right out of the parking lot and went toward Mt. Lassen. It wasn’t the toughest trail we’ve ever done, but we weren’t looking for tough today. It would have been easy running, but Mom kept stopping and walking, even when she didn’t have to. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to run so you can see as much as possible?” I asked. “My legs are tired, Oscar, and today they would enjoy the trail more if we walked.” “But we might not get to see the whole thing. I know how much you hate that…”

“There’s no way we could finish this trail, Oscar. It goes south all the way to Mexico, and north all the way to Canada. In fact, we’re only a few miles from the midpoint right here. We’ve crossed this trail a bunch of times in our travels. We were near it in Washington on your Gotcha Day, and that day we got lost and had to drive 7 hours to the Devil’s Punchbowl, and that day that my hydration bladder exploded, and even yesterday in the enchanted wilderness.” My imagination lit on fire when I thought about that. “Has anyone ever walked the whole thing?!” “Oh sure, hundreds of people hike the whole thing every year, and even more people hike the whole length in stages over several years.” “But then where do they leave their car-house? Do they have to go back for it every night?” “They don’t use a car-house. They carry everything they need on their backs, like a turtle.” “Is that something that we could do?!” I asked, staring off into the distance and imagining walking all the way to Mexico, or Canada.

“Unfortunately not,” Mom said, looking sad. “A lot of it goes through National and State Parks where they don’t allow dogs. That’s why we couldn’t go to Glacier or Yellowstone in Montana… or Yosemite, or Big Sur, or Olympic State Park, or Crater Lake, or lots of the other places that people recommended.” We both sighed when we thought about all the places that I can’t go just because I’m a dog and I poop in the bushes, bark at people, and chase bunnies. It really doesn’t seem fair, because Mom does all those things except chase bunnies. “Anyway, it gets really hot in some of those places and you have to hike in the middle of the day. You probably wouldn’t like it,” Mom said. Then she pointed at an old dead tree that had its butt sticking up in the air. “Look! That tree looks like an octopus’s cloaca! Go stand on it so I can take a picture.” “Mom, don’t be silly. Octopodes don’t have cloacas. Where did you learn biology?”

Another reason that Mom was walking was because her phone worked on this mountain. It was the first time in 24 hours that we could get our questions answered about where we were and where we should go next. “Do you want to go to Tahoe tomorrow?” she asked. “What’s Tahoe?” “It’s a lake with mountains around it. It’s real pretty, but it would take us another 3 or 4 hours of driving to get there. Either that or we could relax here and then just go home and recover.” I thought about it. “Is Tahoe close to home?” I asked. “Yeah, it’s only about 3 or 4 hours’ drive, same as here.” “Then let’s come back when your legs aren’t tired of running, and your eyes aren’t tired from mountains, and the white dirt has soaked into the mountains a little bit more. We’re not going to stop adventures, are we?” “No, let’s promise not to stop adventures.” “You swear? You promise that if we go home that we won’t stay there forever and get bored again?” “I swear on the covered wagon that cost me so much that I will not be able to buy a mountain bike that we will not stop having adventures.” “Okay, then let’s relax.”

So we drove not a very long way to our maybe future home, where Mom threw sticks into the river so that I could bark at them, and then she set more sticks on fire while she wrote in her thinking book.

-Oscar the Pooch


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