Skye’s the Limit
Two humans and one happy dog on the Appalachian Trail
Photos and Story Contributed by Kayla Norster
WARNING: Those who take life too seriously, don’t believe in animal character, and hate rainbows should not read this. You should immediately call a doctor if you do not spark a smile while reading this (even if you do not show your teeth). You may turn into a unicorn while reading this. If this happens, you are probably high.
How do you tell a dog’s story? Where do you start?
I’ve waited to write this because we have been trying to figure out ways to get Skye to talk. We watched re-runs of Bill Nye, tried finding the trainers for the cast of movies such as Beethoven, Bingo, and Homeward Bound. We even tried watching the Secret Life of Pets to see if we could figure out the secret of getting her to talk. Unfortunately, we have not yet gotten her to talk. Therefore, I will do the best I can to tell her story.
Let’s rewind almost 6 human years ago. Skye is a rescue pup from Alabama, who now resides in Maine with her humans (my husband and me). Her life started out similar to most Lifetime movie plots. Her mom was a feral yellow lab, her dad, not so sure (probably part mountain goat, possibly part energizer bunny). Skye was the runt of the litter, and she also had the most energy. Those characteristics steered most adopters away from her, but it was challenge that my husband and I were willing to accept.
Since moving to Maine with her humans, Skye has been quite the outdoor adventurer. She has been swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, canoed and kayaked many rivers and lakes, climbed some pretty big mountains, and has seen some pretty cool things along the way.
In January of 2016, the place Skye knew as home was slowly starting to disappear. First went the furniture in the living room, then the kitchen and bedroom. Skye used to have multiple beds consisting of couches, chairs and beds. By March, all of these things had been traded in for a packable, lightweight, synthetic insulated bed (Ruffwear’s Highlands Bed). Her nice stainless steel bowls with the fancy bowl riser were replaced by collapsible bowls.
March 20, 2016, was the start of what Skye may have considered her longest car ride and longest walk ever. My husband, Skye and I rented a car and drove from Maine to Georgia. We arrived in Georgia March 22, 2016. On March 23, 2016, we set out by foot (and paws) at Amicalola Falls, Georgia and went north along the Appalachian Trail.
We were together pretty much every day for about 7 months straight, and each one of those days was some place new and outdoors. Everything we needed was with us, whether it be within us or on our backs. It was amazing walking around knowing that no matter what, we were always together and always had a home.
The three of us would snuggle in our MSR Hubba Hubba tent, Skye either at the foot of us, above our heads, or right in between. By morning she would be on one of the sides, sitting on the door, practically pushing the door out with her body. Sometimes we felt like our dog was trying to kill us. Why else would she fart in the tent?
Skye would typically be the first one up and out of the tent all ready to go. She would make sure everyone knew that by going around with her collar tags jingling. She would start to sniff around other tents. She would sniff so much that she would cause herself to sneeze. Okay, if you’re not up by now then you will be by the time our dog decides to do something she really shouldn’t be doing and we have to yell across the campsite.
There weren’t many doors along the trail. We were surrounded by many different types of trees, creatures, terrain, and super-fast squirrels and chipmunks. The only time doors would really come between Skye and her humans was when one would go to the privy. However, it wasn’t until this adventure that Skye started witnessing her humans going to do their business outside like she had been doing for years. The bond was strengthened, Skye knew at that point that she was one of them, or were they one of her? Skye eventually earned the trail name of Skye Stalker because she would follow people to privies.
We met so many different people every day. We would learn their names but not always remember. However, one particular individual would always be remembered, Skye. Skye didn’t even have to say a word, people would introduce themselves to her, and still everyone remembers her.
Never knowing for sure what the pace would be each day, Skye would often run to the bright, pretty, young human or to the prince magically transformed into a werewolf. Wait, I think that may be the description for Beauty and the Beast. Correction: Skye would typically run from long-haired human, to almost-as-long-haired human.
Regardless of how many awesome campsites we all stopped at, we always kept going. It was never clear to Skye what was wrong with each place we stopped and why we had to keep going. Although every day was much the same, it was always different as well. Treats were more frequent, and there was much more peanut butter and cheese.
It was like living a live taping of Animal Planet when walking through cow pastures, chasing rabbits, hiking with wild ponies, seeing a baby deer and many snakes and bears. The views, the sunrises and sunsets never got old. There was always a cool stick to bring back to us humans.
Skye was getting attention from more than her original two humans. It seemed her family had expanded. The longer they were outside, the more family they gained, and smells developed.
Skye was typically in the front while hiking, often stopping right in front of everyone to take some time to observe something or smell the flowers. She would also be sure to run to the human furthest away to make sure everyone was all right. It is estimated that Skye probably did at least double the miles as everyone else. It is also estimated Skye’s finish date would have been in April rather than October without any distractions. But, it was all about the smiles, not the miles.
Skye was always sure to go the extra mile, literally. And if we took a break, Skye took a nap. I could not count how many times Skye would practically fly down the toughest spots on a mountain, then stop and tilt her head as though she was confused as to what was taking us so long. Nonetheless, if we weren’t paying attention and Skye found a new smell, we could easily get off the trail.
Skye was happy to see everyone. She always gave them plenty of kisses and would leave them with some fur as a gift. Skye took the chorus of Paul Young’s, “Everytime You Go Away” to heart.
She’s a good listener and doesn’t criticize. Even if she’s not listening to you when you talk, she makes it look like you’re less crazy talking to yourself.
No matter how many times she would attempt to get a squirrel, or chipmunk – and fail – she never gave up.
The thunderstorms were not fun. No one wants to hike in the rain, but when it’s your only way to get someplace, you have to hike. Sometimes if you put up enough stink about not wanting to hike, you can get carried – well, only if you’re as cute as Skye.
Skye took any opportunity she could to run through pretty much every form of water and to roll in the grass (among other things we don’t care to share). The Ruffwear Palisades Pack she was using had definitely seen better days.
When I follow Skye, my heart is always pumping. Whether chasing her up a mountain or trying to figure out what to do when she decides to eat a bee – in the middle of the woods, 20 miles from the nearest animal hospital – it’s never a dull moment.
For someone who never packed her own pack and probably had no idea what we were doing each day, she was the best backpacker I knew out there on the trail. She was always the happiest backpacker I saw on the trail, too.
14 states, 3 seasons, and over 2000 miles. Dogs aren’t allowed in Baxter State Park, where the Appalachian Trail ends. We did make sure Skye was with us in spirit.
By going on adventures together, we learn so much about each other and life. Always enjoy those simple pleasures of good company and a walk. Live in the now. Be loyal. Drink plenty of water and take the time to swim, or even just float. Follow your instincts. Keep chasing and digging for whatever it is you’re after. Don’t forget to stretch. Always get excited and love unconditionally.
Life’s ruff, get a dog.
As always, Happy Tails and Trails to you.