OUT: Haggerty’s Hikes January 17, 2009


BILL HAGGERTY/The Daily Sentinel
SNOWSHOEING HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1666 and has evolved through the years. Today’s lightweight snowshoes are incredible by comparison to the heavy, wide and long ones of the past.

One of our Norwegian Elkhounds, Peach, took us for a hike the other day. Our destination was the south rim of the Colorado River on property owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and managed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife as the Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area.

The area is much larger than it appears on a map. That’s because a long stretch of the wildlife area parallels the south bank of the Colorado River from Horsethief Canyon to the new City of Fruita Open Space Park (formerly known as Snooks Bottom), a distance of about 2.5 miles.

It’s a fabulous place to walk the dog. 

To reach this area from Grand Junction, take Interstate 70 (or old U.S. Highway 6 & 50) west to Fruita (Colorado Highway 340/Exit 19 off the interstate). Travel south across the river for 1.3 miles to Kings View Estates Subdivision. Turn right (west) and go through the subdivision.

When the pavement ends, veer to the left around the gravel pit and past Fruita’s Open Space Park, then follow the signs to Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area. It will be on the north, or right side of the road. Property on the left, or south side of the road lies within the McInnis Canyons Conservation Area once you pass Devils Canyon. Prior to Devils Canyon, property on the south side of the road is private and well marked as such.

The Horsethief Canyon SWA property was acquired and developed to replace wildlife habitat lost as a result of construction of the Grand Valley Unit of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Project.

The purpose of the Grand Valley Unit was to reduce the estimated 580,000 tons per year of salt added to the Colorado River as a result of irrigation system seepage and agricultural practices in the valley.

But I wasn’t thinking of salt, I was thinking of dogs. I’ve had a couple healthy conversations with people in town over dogs on skiing trails, dogs on hiking trails, dogs hiking around our neighborhood, dogs at the vets. You know. Dogs.

One of the most stimulating conversations was with Sarah Shaw, a board member of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council and wife of Kenton Shaw, one of the greatest trail groomers in the world. Two weeks ago, I penned a story about dogs on the Dog Loop at County Line Cross Country Ski Area. Sarah had previously written a great piece on dogs and dog etiquette for the Nordic Council, and I stole as much of it as I could, because it was good. (I gave her full credit, but I messed up her name and I’m really sorry. Apparently, I have a habit of that!)

In her article, Sarah suggested providing a hearty breakfast for your four-legged friend, at least an hour before exercise. (Longer-bodied dogs should eat two hours before exercise.

Like horses, they may bloat, which is very dangerous).

She had a number of other common sense suggestions and advised talking to your own vet about taking your pet on an extended exercise run.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Brian Wiseman at Amigo Animal Clinic, said, “Taking care of your dog outdoors really is common sense stuff. Sometimes, though, people have a tendency to go too far and don’t pay attention to the dog’s condition as they go.”

Dr. Wiseman said most of the problems he’s seen occur during the summer months because of the heat and hot rocks around here, but one issue remains the same, summer or winter:

“For every mile you go, they’ll go three.”

That means if you ski or hike seven or eight miles, your pet will go 21 to 24 miles. Think about that: Let’s say your 10-year old dog goes 24 miles on your outing, while you go eight. In dog years, that’s like taking Granny on a death march!

Sarah related that she’d been on at least six dog rescues on Grand Mesa in the past couple of winters, mostly due to people going too far with their dogs, or dogs getting injured on the trail. You’re on skis or snowshoes, but your dog is post-holing through the snow. Who knows what lies below that could cut a paw or tear a ligament?

Sometimes, too, there are just too many dogs on the trail. And too many dogs have a tendency to fight. If you run into one of those Michael Vick lovefests, call Mesa County Animal Control, get a license plate number of the vehicles those animals traveled in, and Animal Control can deal with it.

If you take your pets outdoors, take care of them, pick up after them, and don’t let them roam. Remember, they’ll go three miles to each one of yours, even if you keep them on a long leash.


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