Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, the heart-warming tale of how the Peanut came to be my son.
So, on December 3rd, 2006, five days after he joined our family, I took Peanut on the first of what would become a virtually uncountable number of hikes; though, thanks to my unforgivable hubris, it very nearly proved his last hike with me.
“Deek, what the hell did you do? In what sheer buffoonery did you engage with this precious little beast?”
Okay, FAIR. I deserve that.
So my friend Sean and I headed up to the back (north) side of the Bay Area’s awesome Mt. Tamalpais (yes, the same one David Crosby wrote a song about on his 1971 solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name), with the Pean in tow. Poor bastard had never been on such a series of hairpin turns, a point he drove home with a backseat full of liquified dog-treat puke.
We parked at the Cataract Falls Trailhead, along Bolinas-Fairfax Road, just west of the Alpine Reservoir Dam, and hit the trail.
The Cataract Falls Trail, if you catch it at the right time of year (which early December, incidentally, is most definitely not, due to the typically low water levels at that time of year- low water levels for which, in this case, I would be immeasurably thankful later on ), is easily one of the Bay Area’s most aesthetically rewarding river trails. Over the course of a little under two miles, Cataract Creek plunges more than a thousand vertical feet through a dense redwood canyon, rich with Jurassic ferns and other stunning greenery, around, across, and over various granite benches, in a chain of highly-photogenic waterfalls. It was uphill along the course of these tumbling waters that we set off to climb.
About a half mile into the hike, the trail crosses a narrow wooden footbridge, a crossing utterly non-intimidating for any human being over three feet tall, but far less so for a six-month old hound who still hasn’t even mastered the basic art of ascending and descending stairs. Pean was having NONE of it. So I picked him up, carried him across the bridge, and we were on our way once again.
We climbed alongside the tumbling waters, as filtered rays of sunlight pierced the canopy above, illuminating various choice stands of shrubbery and collecting pools of swirling runoff, and soon reached the top of the falls. All the while Peanut frolicked in this newly-revealed world of his, relishing the cornucopia of interesting and unfamiliar smells all about.
Since, so far, everything had been going so swimmingly, Sean and I decided to press onwards towards the summit of Mt. Tam, turning left onto the High Marsh Trail, which traces a relatively level track across the backside of the mountain, contouring along its northwestern flank.
This is where the fateful hubris took me.
In a catastrophically gross over-interpretation of the level of bonding that had transpired between myself and Peanut over the five days of our co-habitation, I deemed it a legit call to let him off leash for awhile. As soon as the shackles were withdrawn, my furry son exploded into the adjacent meadow in a fit of unbridled excitement heretofore unseen (by me, anyway) in his short life, loosed as he was upon an open wilderness for now only the first time.
For awhile everything was cool, Peanut responding with dutiful immediacy to all summons, treat offer or no. Okay fine, I offered him a treat every time he came to me. Still, though, it all felt right at that point.
Sometime later we turned onto a new trail, climbed a few hundred feet, and came upon a picnic area called Barth’s Retreat, at which, on our approach, we could hear an all-American family enjoying a nice Sunday lunch in the great outdoors. This picnic area boasted a reliable water source; so we were heading straight for it to refill our water bottles, and to let the Pean drink from the through-running creek.
Just as we were walking up to the spigot, the baby of the family let out this blood-curdling scream- not a scream of terror or anguish, mind you, just a young kid being a loud little fucker, as I always was myself (still am).
Regardless of the actual benignity of the child’s scream, however, it was apparently a sound that Peanut had never heard before; and to him it sounded just plain wrong. Thus erupted he into a full-out sprint back in the direction from which we’d come, racing up to the top of a nearby rise in the trail, and on his way out of the immediate vicinity.
Naturally, I gave chase at once, struggling mightily to balance my sudden extreme panic with a sufficiently reassuring “Hey buddy, everything’s fine, it’s not scary, want a treat?” voice of comfort.
It almost seemed like it might just work, as Peanut stopped periodically, turning around and appearing to momentarily consider trusting me, before at last disappearing over the hill and out of my site.
An urgent 45 minutes of comprehensive area-searching came up fruitless; and so I powered up my phone to call my girlfriend Katherine, Peanut’s newly-adopted mother, and my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, as it seemed.
To be continued…