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Fat Dog Fitness Club

The vet chose her words carefully.

"Does she get lots of treats?" she asked, as she studied Lucy's hindquarters. "I mean, how often is she eating?"

She was trying to be tactful. But I got her point. The hound has put on a few pounds.

Not many, mind. The vet suggested Lucy could lose two pounds. But every other time I've brought her in, we've been complimented on her level of fitness.

Clearly, two weeks in a truck had its effect on both of us.

So with fitness at heart, I decided it was time to get back into the mountain climbing regimen that bonded Lucy to me when I adopted her four years ago, when I would walk her ten kilometres a day, and we'd find some epic hike on the weekend, and both of us had legs and thighs of steel.

(Also, I just wanted to get up into the alpine with her again.)

I picked one of my favourite hikes to get us started, the Eagle Bluffs hike on Cypress Mountain in North Vancouver.

Cypress is full of awesome hikes, including my absolute favourite of the Lower Mainland, Mt. Strachan, which is an oft-overlooked gem with some fun scrambling/bushwhacking and an unbeatable, nearly 360-degree view from the summit.

Strachan is a bit higher than Eagle Bluffs, though, and I could still see snow up there, so I figured we'd put it off until later in the year.

(There's also the fact that I was planning to propose to my partner on the north summit of Mt. Strachan, because we'd always had such wonderful experiences up there together, and I wasn't really ready to reclaim that space for my single self just yet.)

It was cool and overcast in Vancouver, but still 10C and dry at the parking lot atop Mt. Cypress. The forecast called for rain, but we were prepared: I brought raingear, winter gear, an emergency blanket, waterproof matches, a whistle and flashlight and plenty of food and water. Oh, and a knife and some bear spray.

The trail's only 8-10kms and reasonably popular, but you learn pretty quick to be prepared when you go into the mountains around here.

The first few kilometres of the Eagle Bluffs hike are a series of semi-gruelling switchbacks up the side of a ski hill, and about halfway up, we ran into snow covering the trail.

I had my good hikers on, though, and Lucy loves snow, and we could still pick out the trail, so we kept climbing.

After about a half-hour of those switchbacks, the trail evens out and the next hour or so is just really pleasant meandering up-and-down through the alpine and subalpine.

We made good time, Lucy found lots of sticks, and the rain held off. And within ninety minutes of setting out from the truck, we'd reached the bluffs, a spectacular lookout over Vancouver and the Salish Sea all the way to Vancouver Island.

On a clear day, anyway.

Today wasn't so clear, and there was rain moving in. So we ate a quick lunch and Lucy chased a few chipmunks, and then as the rain picked up in earnest, we packed up again and turned back.

The return leg was interesting for a few reasons. First of all, it was a big of a slog through the snow, and with the rain falling, it became an experience that bordered on the unpleasant.

I was reminded of how my default setting when I'm tired and hungry and lonely is to get self-pitying and down on myself. I heard the little voice in my head try to tell me, You're a piece of shit.

But one of the good things about therapy is you learn to pick out when you're starting to get down on yourself and hopefully figure out what's causing it, and I knew I was tired and hungry and cold and wet, and this is my default reaction.

So I didn't go too hard on myself.

Anyway, something else interesting happened.

There was a guy at the bluffs when Lucy and I arrived. He'd come up on a different trail and was planning to take the trail we'd taken and then bum a ride down the mountain from the trailhead.

We exchanged a few words and then he headed off, and Lucy and I stuck around to eat and chase chipmunks.

I ran into him a short ways up the trail when we started our return leg. He'd gotten turned around somehow and boy was he surprised to see us.

I pointed him back in the right direction and he took off again. He was faster than us, so he was soon out of sight.

Except this happened twice more. With the snowy conditions, he was having trouble following the trail.

The final time, he told me he was just going to sit and have a drink of water and chill out for a bit, and I offered to hike down with him and he declined and said he was all right.

I kind of reluctantly left him there, though as soon as I walked past I realized I should have stuck around to check on his mental wellbeing and whether or not he had provisions and people who knew where he was.

People do underestimate these hikes a fair bit, and the North Shore Rescue people are kept pretty busy.

I didn't check in on him. I should have.

Anyway, luckily, he caught up with me again near the trailhead, and I wound up giving him a ride down the mountain to a bus stop.

His name was Dylan, he was from Newfoundland, and he was actually pretty outdoor experienced. He was just exhausted and hadn't eaten much and was disoriented from the snow.

I'm glad he made it down the mountain. And so did I, and so did Lucy!

Lucy was plum tired; she spent the rest of the day fast asleep, but I think she enjoyed herself.

A tired dog is a happy dog, as they say.