Dog-gone tricky on Thompson Creek |

Dog-gone tricky on Thompson Creek

Some of the fabled fins of the Thompson Creek hike. (Janet Urquhart/The Aspen Times)

CARBONDALE ” Thompson Creek was a great choice for a weekend hike, but for what turned out to be a couple of unanticipated hurdles.

It had long been on my list of hikes yet to do, so I jumped at the chance to check out the area’s legendary fins ” improbable, rocky outcroppings that jut from the hillsides on either side of the creek, as if the crumbling foundations of long-gone castles lined the route. Some of them are huge; others are no wider than a hand-made stone wall might be.

Farther downstream, the trail drops into a canyon-like ravine, replete with enough red slickrock to give sections of it a Utah-ish feel. We figured the water would be running low at this time of year, making the creek easy enough to negotiate when the trail essentially disappears, leaving hikers to pick a route along the water.

Lulled by the warm days, we hadn’t figured on the shelf ice that lined the creek banks and the treacherous coating encasing many of the rocks and boulders.

We were perhaps 30 minutes into the hike when it became apparent we’d have to cross. I’m not sure who required more coaxing to make the tricky leap ” me or one of the three dogs in our company. Newly adopted after being transplanted from the Gulf Coast, the pooch was less than thrilled with the whole cold water and ice thing. I know exactly how she felt.

I wavered on a boulder, one hand on a hiking pole and the other extended toward my exasperated, would-be savior on the far bank. Encouraging words ” “C’mon, you can do it” ” were directed at both me and the dog.

In the end, we both made it. I opted for a landing on the slick shelf ice, figuring there was no way I was going to leap to an upright landing on an uneven boulder. The ice held.

Nearby, the dog followed suit, getting a dunking in the cold, but shallow water. Her canine companions waded back and forth repeatedly, apparently impervious to the water temperature.

A few hundred yards later, it was time to cross back to the other side. I managed, with two sticks and two conveniently placed boulders and a minimum of whimpering. The dog steadfastly refused.

Our party was split ” two people and two dogs heading downstream on one side of the creek; the skittish dog and her owner picking their way down the other side.

When we reached a spot where the hesitant pooch could easily leap from the far bank to our side, she still refused. Not even peer pressure from our dogs, who kept leaping back and fourth across the water to fetch a stick, could sway her.

Ultimately, we all turned around. At some point, the apprehensive dog’s owner was forced to pick up all 65 pounds of her and rock hop across the water to get her back on the trail.

I was chuckling until we got back to our respective vehicles. He had a clean, dry dog and we had two soggy ones with a generous layer of dirt caked to their underbellies. Dog baths are a regular end-of-hike routine at our house.

If only they’d stay out of the water.

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