Can You Hear The Mountains Calling?

OoIt has been a while since my last posting but I assume I have a good excuse. Traveling. And prepping for travels. I embarked for my 3-week European tour last week, and it probably is not a surprise that the days leading to my departure were rather hectic as I had to get a bunch of things sorted out, farrier and veterinarian appointments scheduled…. on top of my regular work.

My trip started by flying from Nashville to Copenhagen via Chicago and Frankfurt, a quick stop in Copenhagen before the 3-day weekend in Salzburg, Austria. Mountains have always had a special place in my heart as I started climbing and mountaineering a couple of decades ago, and have been involved in mountain rescue, guiding as well as teaching avalanche awareness, technical rescue and just basic mountaineering skills. My first time on Mt McKinley, or nowadays Denali, was also one of the reasons why I moved to Alaska in the first place. To get to climb more, and more of those majestic Denali range mountains. And I sure did. Quite a few times.

This time I didn’t have any major plans for Austria but decided to play it by the ear, with weather permitting. It turned out that some of my old mountain rescue buddies were around. A few Facebook messages and a WhatsApp group message got things going, and the gang was together again. Ellmau, Austria, the beautiful village on the foothills of Wilden Kaiser became our destination on Saturday: ropes were coiled, back bags packed, and mountaineering boots’ laces tightened. And just like that, we were out again. Jokes were flying, stories were being told, and old times remembered while diligently planning every move on our climb.

My heart was full of joy.

The old saying says something about no matter how long it has been since seeing your friends, the true friends can pick up the conversation like they’ve never been apart. This is how it is with these guys. It has been over ten years since our last climb together, and a lot has changed over the years. Marriages, divorces, babies, climbing mates lost on some grueling climbs in the unforgiving heights, new mountains conquered …. some of us made the climbing a professional career, other semiprofessional, others just still climb because they love it and can hear the solitude of a mountain calling their name. Days like this truly remind me how much I miss the mountains and the thrill of climbing. Did you know that I have a fear of heights? And I love that darn fear – it makes me feel so alive.

It’s A ….. Goat!?

Well, hello there little goat!

Sunday morning was a weird one here on the countryside. I was getting ready to go scuba diving, put my gear together and heard Sophie barking outside. She doesn’t usually bark so I went to see what was going on. There is my dog her eyes size of saucers, and I am sure I had an unbelievable look on my face too. A small goat was standing on my back porch.

This is countryside so it’s not unheard of to have animal visitors occasionally but I didn’t know any of my neighbors having goats. There are a couple of cow farms nearby and sometimes the cows have come to see the horses but that’s pretty much the extent of farm animal excitement here. I texted my barn keeper’s mom as they are locals and know everybody, asking if she knows goat owners in the area. A nearby pumpkin farm has a petting zoo and goats so I reached out to them and asked if their goat has taken a hike. No luck.

So I was happily drinking my Sunday morning coffee outside, kept company by Sophie, barn cat Katy Purry, and the goat. I was able to line up a few people who could have come and pick up the tiny, unfriendly goat later on Sunday. Unfriendly, as she of course rammed poor Sophie when she tried to make friends with her. As I had diving to do, I couldn’t stay and solve the goat challenge on the spot – while I was gone, the goat had taken off and went to another neighbor’s yard. Hopefully the little one found her home… But my farm is still goat free!

Breakfast company

Hiding goat

When Dogs Go Running

Way too early on Saturday morning I headed out to Nashville. With the dog. Ready to put a bib on, and run a race. Mutt Strut is a 5k running (and walking) event organized by Nashville Humane Society, a fundraiser to help the animals they take care of. So a great cause to head out with Sophie.

Running a 5k when surrounded by a gazillion dogs, some behaving better than the others, can be pretty chaotic. So no serious time goal on this run. Although thanks to the fast legs, we managed to run/jog the first two mile-long laps in around 10 minutes. After that my furry puppy got tired. Being an Australian shepherd with nice, warm undercoat, it sure is not easy to run in Tennessee weather when temperature is in mid-80’s (close to 30C) and humidity around 70%. It was sweaty for me as well. On the last mile we jogged slowly, and even walked some as I had to drag the dog behind – I kinda fell like an animal abuser but we made it without heat exhaustion!

Making new friends

Chilling after the run

It was a warm day but we did it!

Such a fun day, and great way to be social with other dogs. After the initial excitement Sophie couldn’t care less about other dogs: sniffing was overrated and playing seemed to be the dummiest idea ever. Instead, after resting a bit after the race, Sophie and I headed to Three Dog Bakery for Sophie to get some delicious snacks. Like who would say no to doggy-friendly, artisan cupcakes?!? Not my dog.

Looks so delicious!

Cupcakes!

We finished the day by taking a quick dip in a nearby creek. There is not a better way to cool down after a warm day, right?! Sophie at least had a blast – as always. If I had a pool, it probably would be taken over by the dog …. she is a true water lover.

Water fun!