Last week, we climbed a mountain. It was Schoodic Head and it was quite the challenge. I climbed with my guide dog, Quan, leading the way. Jim had our pet dog, Soldier. Soldier is getting up there in age and petered out as we neared the summit.
“Want to go to the top on your own?” said Jim.
It seemed perfectly logical at the time so I nodded, picked up the harness and said, Quan, forward.” And off we went.
Totally focused on getting to the top of the mountain, I was puzzled when Quan stopped. Reaching forward with my hiking stick I discovered a wooden step. This was something I had never before encountered on a hike, a wooden flight of stairs. Thankful for the assist on what was obviously a very steep part of the trail, we continued.
On through the woods we went. And then Quan stopped again. This time it was for a plank bridge over a wet part of the trail. Again, probing with my hiking stick, I could tell the bridge was too narrow for me to walk beside Quan. I dropped the harness so I could walk directly behind Quan, feeling along the edge of the plank with my hiking stick.
Okay, we made it to the end of the bridge. And on we went.
Then the woods started opening up and I sensed I was getting close to the summit. I encountered some other hikers and asked if I could follow them. I heard one of them say, “We’re there, this is the top.”
I wanted proof I had made it so I asked which way I should point my camera to get a shot of the view. One of the other hikers offered to take a picture of Quan and me so I handed over my phone and he took some pictures.
Imagine, if you will, encountering a blind woman on her own, at the top of a mountain! I have to smile at what I imagine they said to each other when I was out of earshot.
Then I headed back down the mountain. Then I started to worry. This was not a well-defined path through the woods. There were open rock ledges and infinite opportunities to go astray. But what choice did I have? So we continued with Quan pulling strong and steady.
There was absolutely nothing to let me know I was on the right track until we hit the plank bridge. Sighing in relief, I employed the same technique to cross the bridge I had used on the way up. The next portion of the trail seemed to last forever! The next landmark would be that flight of stairs. But where was it. Surely I should have encountered it by now. And there it was. Sighing with relief and joy, I said, “Quan, forward.”
And there were Jim and Soldier. I had done it!