Bandit, Buckshot and Molly

atop killington

Optimist re-making the same pose from his 2000 thru-hike atop Killington in Vermont

No, these are not names of thru-hikers. These are the names of the unexpected visitors we had to our shelter last night. Last night was one of the strangest nights we’ve had on the trail yet, where I had very little sleep and way too much excitement.

About 10:30pm last night, I was woken up by Scout, the dog that was staying with a family in the shelter. He was growling towards the darkness, and for good reason, as I heard the same rustling of the bushes and snapping of the trees that he heard. The next thing we knew, two dogs came running up to the shelter, each with collars that had blinking red lights and antennas. I almost thought they’d start talking to us through translators, just like in the movie Up, but soon found out from the other men in the shelter that they were hunting dogs. I don’t know what I was more scared of – the strange dogs at the entrance of the shelter, or the fact that someone was out there hunting at night when I could very well be night hiking or simply taking a pee in the middle of the night and possibly mistaken for a bear.

We shooed the dogs away, hoping their owner would call them or radio them in, but no one showed up and the dogs hung around. They were at least friendly dogs, and they truly looked lost and frightened, so the fear of them went away. Fifteen minutes later, after watching the dogs circle the shelter and continue to look lost, we hear the rustling of bushes and snapping of twigs yet again, and in ran a third hunting dog. At that point, we all decided to be more proactive and at least see if the collars had a phone number on them. They in fact did, so we called the number, and it turns out the dogs had been missing since 4pm that day after chasing after a bear and not coming back. The owner was relieved to hear where they were and we tied the dogs to a tree so that we could hike them out the next morning to meet the owners at the next road.

I can’t take much credit for all this work with the dogs. All I did was watch them and make sure they didn’t try and snuggle up with us in the shelter. Thankfully Optimist handled the phone calls and two of the hikers’ father handled the dogs. We didn’t end up going to sleep until 12:30am, so the regular 5:30 wakeup didn’t happen. Either way, it made for a great story after the fact and after everything was sorted out. We at least knew a bear wouldn’t come close to our shelter with it surrounded by 4 dogs, three of them trained specifically to hunt bear.

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