On the trail: Running wild in the wilderness, or not | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Running wild in the wilderness, or not

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – OK, I’ll admit it: I don’t like leashing my dog in the wilderness.

So far this summer, though, she has been faithfully tethered, though I don’t know why I bother. No one else does.

I feel guilty if I don’t leash her up, and guilty if I do. It’s like being the one responsible parent of the bunch, making her kid behave while everyone else gets to goof off. I’ve tried to explain it to her, to no avail.

A few weeks back, on a hike toward Williams Lake, I was pleasantly surprised to find every other hiker we encountered had their dog leashed up, as is the rule within wilderness areas. But a week or two later, on lower Lost Man Loop above Aspen, my dog was leashed and no one else’s was.

The owners of the loose pooches would no doubt claim their pets were under voice control, though it was apparently news to the dogs, who had to be called loudly and repeatedly before they’d leave mine alone.

Dogless, I headed up West Maroon Trail outside of Aspen last weekend, encountering a few leashed dogs and an equal number that weren’t. One tired little puppy was riding his owner’s shoulders, which is as good as leashed in my book.

The one time this summer my dog and I encountered a deer, running right across our path outside of the wilderness, she took a few quick steps forward but stopped in her tracks when I yelled “no” and then came back to me when I called. Still, I know there’s a good chance she’d give a big animal a brief chase, though it would be over quickly – she lacks the youth and speed to catch anything bigger than the small rodents that dash beneath her feet on occasion. She mostly misses them, too.

But I also know, were she not leashed, she’d romp across delicate high alpine tundra, and tromp through the spawning beds in mountain lakes – sort of like everybody else’s dog gets to do.

As a result, dog outings are usually geared with her in mind. There are plenty of non-wilderness mountain roads where she can run to her heart’s delight.

That doesn’t mean I’m not bothered by the leash rule in the wilderness though. If no one takes it seriously, and no one enforces it, why have it? If it is important, let’s act like it.


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