It’s no secret that we’re dog lovers in the Howe household. Cholula is an important piece of our family puzzle…our first baby! It’s hard to believe it was 6 whole years ago that she came bounding into our lives, all pink-bellied and puppy-breathed with needle-sharp teeth and a tiny white-tipped tail that never stopped wagging. (See more here!)
That tail is still wagging, despite the fact that her world turned upside-down 19 months ago with the arrival of a new (human) baby. Oden’s belly was pink, too, and while it would take a few months for his sharp teeth to arrive and he doesn’t have a tail (thank God), he certainly stole the spotlight from our crooked-eared princess. She stepped up to the role of big furry sister from the day Oden came home from the hospital. They have a sweet relationship that involves Oden teasing her with cheese and Cholula tolerating him crawling on her in the hopes of devouring said cheese…oh, and playing ball.
So when Cholula’s birthday rolled around and John was out of town, I took advantage of a toddler-free morning to take her on her favorite kind of adventure- into the mountains to explore a new trail. My dates with Cholula are special because they’re more rare than they used to be. Her joy is contagious. Win-win!
The only things I’d really heard about the Iron Mountain trail was that it was steep. You access it at the top of a beautiful neighborhood that’s behind the iconic McPolin Barn. On October 11, some of the colors on the hillsides had started to fade already, but it looked like the Iron Mountain area was still vibrant. It’s been a while since I explored a new trail and, watching Cholula sniff the air excitedly out of the passenger side window, I savored the anticipation of what we might discover together.
I didn’t expect to find more than 10 cars lined up near the trailhead, but we snuck through the scrub oak entrance to the trail at the end of the coul-du-sac anyway. As it turned out, the small groups of fellow hikers we encountered were few and far between, leaving us alone to enjoy the scenery. What a day! Fall in the mountains doesn’t get much better than this. The sky was extra blue and, while it was a tad blustery, the wind made the aspens make their magical fluttering sound. We meandered through some of the oak before the trail opened into a grassy field, revealing Iron Mountain ahead and a lovely view of Park City behind us. I spied the big letters on PC Hill in the distance.
The birthday girl happily sniffed all the smells and wagged her way back and forth up the trail, which was, indeed, steep and rocky. We left the open field and entered a tunnel of autumn trees. The wind came in gusts that you could hear before you felt them, like waves in the ocean that build and build before they crash to shore. Every now and then, it would literally rain golden aspen leaves all around us. I couldn’t hear the highway and felt a hundred miles from town, despite being just above a neighborhood. It was simply magical.
We stayed cool in the shade and the breeze, even toeing our way through patches of snow leftover from an early teaser storm. Cholula wasn’t the only one using her nose; I adore that earthy aroma that you only smell in fall on a damp trail carpeted in fallen leaves.
I didn’t know how far the trail went, but there seemed to be another clearing ahead where I hoped for a killer view. Then, two women and a tiny dog came down the trail, warning of a moose a few hundred yards up. They thought it was moving off trail, so I kept Cholula close and hoped to be able to continue our hike, but it wasn’t long before I heard the unmistakable sound of an animal much larger than myself rustling around the brush. I let the big moose see us (so we didn’t scare him). Then I saw a BIGGER moose and realized this was a mama and baby situation. I know two things…first, moose always win. Second, don’t mess with a mama and her baby, be it moose or, well… ME! We said goodbye to the duo, who calmly resumed their snacking, and headed back down the trail. I’ll have to find out where the Iron Mountain trail leads another day.
The hike down a steep hill is always more challenging for me than going up. My skinny legs get tired and occasionally shaky, so we took our time enjoying the retreat. When we reached the field again, Cholula sensed that our adventure was nearing its end and tried to distract me with a stick. I indulged this sweet beast on her birthday and played fetch for a while in the sunshine. Despite not reaching a view point or hiking as long as I’d hoped, the morning was a success: exercise, fresh mountain air, gorgeous scenery, a new trail, wildlife, and a very happy dog. Cholula got extra cheese and snuggles for the rest of the day and fell asleep with a big sigh next to me in bed that night. It might have been her birthday, but I wish I could convey to her what a gift she has been to US.
Happy birthday, sweet Cholula!