Long days and warmer temps set the stage for epic running adventures with friends and four-legged companions alike.
With races cancelled and an influx of people on local trails, some runners are opting for DIY summer adventures in more remote locations. These treks often require generous amounts of planning—What's the route? How many days will it take? What and how much nutrition is needed? The list goes on. Now add in (wo)man's best friend and you have an extended list of considerations. Adventuring with your dog definitely requires an investment of time and dedication, but with proper preparation we think the memories and shared companionship are worth it!
The Janji team heard about a rad adventure that a couple of our friends and their pups were gearing up for and knew we'd have to get the details when they returned. We recently caught up with Dani and her dog Vilas, a regular adventuring team, to hear all about their trip.
Janji: Tell us about your recent adventure.
Dani: We opted for a 31 mile point to point trail run across the Trinity Alps located in Northern California (Tsnungwe and Chimariko lands).
J: Why the Trinity Alps?
D: The Trinity Alps was within driving distance for both parties which meant we could maintain safe social distancing and bring all of our own supplies (food, sleeping gear etc.). It also has some of the most beautiful alpine lakes and granite scenery!
J: Who was the team?
D: The team consisted of Andy (route planner and photographer extraordinaire), Alli (co-worker, word wizard and all around mountain mogul) and Stephanie (best friend, elementary school teacher *read: saint* and former Leadville ranch hand). Our team wouldn't be complete without our three furry companions; Bea, Riggins and Vilas.
J: How'd you all meet?
D: Alli and Andy have known each other for a few years but ultimately, we all got to know each other last year through another one of Andy's so called “great ideas".
There's something about mornings in the mountains that bring me so much joy and stoke! I usually try to take a moment to ground myself and really soak in the full day of adventure ahead.
J: What were some of the highs of the trek?
D: We started off on a high, both literally and figuratively. After finishing our initial 1k+ climb to the top of the ridge, the first rays of light hit the trail and it was pure magic. There's something about mornings in the mountains that bring me so much joy and stoke! I usually try to take a moment to ground myself and really soak in the full day of adventure ahead. Another favorite moment that comes to mind was our alpine lake swim(s). There's nothing quite like jumping in some ice cold, clear water to dissolve your muscle aches and rejuvenate your mind!
J: And the lows?
D: The lows can creep in slowly. As we navigated a particularly tricky off-trail granite ravine, we realized that it had taken us almost two hours to complete a one mile section of trail. While this was disheartening, the team ultimately decided we still had enough supplies to continue on with our planned route. It was slow going but we eventually found the trail and moods lifted immediately! Around hour 13 (mile 25), we came to an intersection where we had to make a choice: take our original route, a loop around 4 lakes with more miles and significantly more vert, or cut off the loop and head straight for Long Canyon - which was our long descent back to camp. While I wouldn't call this a low point, it was a pivotal moment for our group. We had an open and honest conversation together about limitations, safety and our original intent which was to spend time together in the Trinities. We ultimately decided to stray from the original route and head straight back to camp. We arrived at camp together after 16 hours and 31 miles of fun-filled trails. Just in time to crack a beer and share a meal together.
J: Ok, we have to know more about your dog!
D: Vilas is a rescue from outside of Portland, Oregon. She has been a spotted ball of energy in my life ever since adopting her as an 8 week old puppy. She is obsessed with pinecones and shadows and is never far away from my side. She accompanies me to work at Ruffwear and joins on almost all of my outdoor adventures. She's rafted the Grande Ronde river, she's skied from the summit of Mt. Bachelor and she's now run across the Trinity Alps with me!
J: Tell us about Ruffwear, what do you do there?
D: I am the Social Media, Ambassador & PR Coordinator at Ruffwear. This basically means I get to look at dog photos all day which in my opinion is the best job ever ;) I love connecting with our online community. Their adventures with their own dogs inspire me every day. Our Ambassador Team is also full of inspirational dogs and their humans. From paragliding to bikepacking, these folks do it all with their pups by their side.
I think it is important to get your dog used to a tent that might sound and feel different or scary before taking them out into the wilderness.
J: What are the biggest challenges about trekking/camping with your pup?
D: I've found that one of the biggest challenges of trekking with your pup is acclimation. It takes time to build up a dog's endurance and paw pads for longer adventures. So starting small and working up to longer hikes together is a great way to train. With camping, I've found that acclimating dogs to the gear you want to use at home is super helpful. For example, set up your tent inside your home or in your backyard. I think it is important to get your dog used to a tent that might sound and feel different or scary before taking them out into the wilderness. Same thing goes with dog gear. If you are going to use boots for your dog during a hike, make sure to break them in at home first just like you would with your own hiking boots.
She [my dog] reminds me to slow down and take it all in. She's usually interested in sniffing flowers or taking an extra long water break at a stream crossing.
Vilas finds trail goodies.
J: What are your favorite aspects of being able to run/hike with your dog?
D: I love sharing adventures with my dog, it just makes the memories that much more special. She brings a lot of joy and laughter to everyone we meet on the trail, especially when she carries a pinecone. She reminds me to slow down and take it all in. She's usually interested in sniffing flowers or taking an extra long water break at a stream crossing. When I'm alone, I often rush to get things done and don't take the extra time to appreciate my surroundings.
I try to train Vilas like I train myself. If I get a rest day, she gets a rest day. If I am eating extra calories because of a longer/harder effort, she gets extra calories.
Dani and Vilas take a water break.
J: What are some pro tips you'd share with others who want to do something similar?
D: Start small. Vilas and I started with walks around the block together. Those walks around the block eventually became runs around the block and then runs from our local trailhead until we had enough trust and endurance built up to take on longer adventures together. I try to train Vilas like I train myself. If I get a rest day, she gets a rest day. If I am eating extra calories because of a longer/harder effort, she gets extra calories. So far, it's worked really well for us and helps me simplify her needs when they are ultimately so connected and similar to my own.
J: What did your fuel/nutrition look like? Did you and your dog share nutrition or keep 'em separate?
D: I do carry separate nutrition bags for myself and Vilas. I tend to use a combination of gels, gummies and "real food" like dried mango, peanut butter pretzels and Rice Crispy Treats for myself. For Vilas I pack high protein dog specific treats like chicken jerky, dried duck, cricket balls and peanut butter puffs. I also carry a few dog and human friendly treats like Epic Bars and certain kinds of peanut butter crackers that we share. I try to feed both of us every hour with extended snack breaks built in on longer adventures.
J: What's essential for this kind of adventure?
D: Human Essentials: Garmin In-Reach Mini, emergency bivy, filtration water bottle, headlamp, salt tablets, snacks, light jacket, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, collapsible trekking poles, map (both physical and downloaded on Gaia), more snacks.
Dog Gear: Adventure Dog First Aid Kit, dog boots for hot granite surface or injury, leash, Beacon (dog light), collapsible dog bowl, snacks, cooling vest, harness, collar.
J: What's next on your radar?
D: This summer I'll be sticking close to home and have a few volcano circumnavigations planned! Vilas and I are also planning on running the Colorado Trail (486 miles) together next summer.
Follow along on more of Andy's adventures @andrewfitts on Instagram.
For more logistics on how to run Trinity Alps yourself, with or without a four-legged companion, check out Andy's piece on Trail Runner's Blog.
A big thanks to Dani, Vilas and her adventure buddies and their dogs for sharing this story with us!