I told my dog, Fergie, to find her bandanna and get ready. We'd recently picked up a copy of "Best Hikes with Dogs, Oregon" (The Mountaineers Books, $18.95) by Ellen Morris Bishop and wanted to take it for a spin.
The book begins with dog-friendly hikes near Portland in familiar places such as Tryon Creek State Natural Area, Forest Park's Wildwood Trail and the Sandy River Delta. Deeper in its pages, the routes and hikes direct trekkers to epic trails and hikes along the Cascade Mountains, Central Oregon, and eastern Oregon's Blue and Wallowa mountains.
We had only a few hours, so we headed to Tryon Creek, a 645-acre state park located near Lewis & Clark College. A few miles south of downtown, we were quickly baffled by Terwilliger Boulevard's circles, but eventually rolled into the parking lot and left the car behind us. Spotting a corgi lying flat and drinking from a fountain, we knew the 3.8-mile loop ahead would tire us out.
We started on Tryon's Old Main Loop, an easy hike in and out on trails shared with horses, hikers, and other dogs. Fergie yearned to leave the trail for a dip into Tryon Creek, but the signs on this portion of the trail directed us not to. There are other places where a dog can get into the creek to cool off, but must stay on leash.
I was curious about the author, and when we returned home I arranged a call with Bishop.
A geologist, teacher, and photographer, Bishop is the author of numerous books about Oregon's natural areas. She lives in Joseph and recently became the editor of the Wallowa County Chieftain, a weekly newspaper where she writes about everything from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to the musicals proudly sung by the town's schoolchildren.
During our interview, I learned that Bishop came to Oregon in 1970 from rural Connecticut. She lived in Portland before moving to Joseph to get closer to the mountains she loves. The book "Best Hikes with Dogs, Oregon" came along as Bishop was working on the second edition of "Hiking Oregon's Geology."
"They were frantic to get 'Dogs' out," Bishop recalls, "because Seattle's 'Best Hikes for Dogs in Western Washington' flew off the shelves and they knew Portland is even more dog-frenzied than Seattle."
So Mountaineers, the publisher, proposed that Bishop, whose books always featured dogs posed in front of various rock formations and scenery to show scale, bring her dogs along and kill two birds with one stone.
"Seemed like a good strategy," says Bishop. "Except that on these particular hikes you don't have a lot of streams, or soft moss, or vegetation. So I ended doing both books separately and twice as much hiking to get them done. The dogs and I were in great shape."
The dogs in Bishop's life have been rescues: "I have had Meesha, Dundee, and Kyla, a 50-pound malamute I named Wolf to give her confidence." Currently she has an Australian shepherd named Diesel (loves Frisbee) and Sophie, a high-energy terrier-Aussie-cattle dog from the Madras Humane Society.
When camping, everybody sleeps in the tent, Bishop says. "Inevitably there's something wandering around outside — porcupine, skunk, bear, deer or elk — that could take them a long way away from me," Bishop says.
Bears? There've been a few. Once when Bishop was hiking along the North Fork of the John Day River, her dog Meesha refused to continue walking. "She was fine, had her little backpack on. We'd all crossed a small bridge and she just wouldn't come," she says.
So they checked her out and decided to stop for the night. "The next day we all continued across the bridge. Some ways down the trail, we found a few ripped out logs, very fresh bear scat, and scratches," she says.
A different time she was hiking in the Wallowas with friends from Portland.
"Diesel was with us. And he'd stop and look up. And then he'd stop and look up again," Bishop says. "I asked, 'Whatcha' look at? A bear?' And just then a twig snapped, and sure enough. It was sort of walking parallel to the trail about 25 yards away. And we just kept walking. It was fall, so it wasn't mama and cubs. It was just minding its own business."
One of the best trails for dogs, adds Bishop, is Hurricane Creek. The trailhead into the Eagle Cap Mountains is close to Joseph. "It's one of the better trails for dogs because they can enjoy the water," she says.
While some people feel dogs shouldn't go in the water because of giardia (a parasite), all her dogs know the command "go water."
Stay in tune with your dog, she adds.
"Pay attention to what your dog is saying and keep dogs on a long leash," Bishop says. "The wilderness is not really the wilderness anymore. I don't want to scare people or have a lawsuit. When I have the dogs I let the other hikers have the right of way."
Like a compass or water, a dog's nose can save your life.
"Call it a bear or just a very large squirrel, the dog will know about it long before you do," she says.