The Hiking Diaries: The Bandit Factor

Bandit playing along the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS) in 2008. (Photos property of

My best friend is a border collie, and for those who are animal lovers, I think you know what I’m talking about. Dogs are loving, loyal and, if yours is anything like mine, a ray of sunshine. However, I owe Bandit a lot more than just props for being an awesome companion. My love for hiking actually started because of him.

Before I moved to Arizona, Bandit primarily lived with my parents since I couldn’t have him at my apartment. I’d go over and walk him, play with him and hang out with my fuzzy friend, and on days that the weather didn’t permit long walks (about nine months of the year), he had a yard to roam at intervals throughout the day.

Along the Arizona trail in Northern Arizona (2010).

That nice yard factor changed when we moved to Arizona in 2008. We were strictly an apartment duo, and I had to find some way, every day and not just the good-weather days (which fortunately was almost daily), to help him burn off his energy. A bored border collie is a bad border collie. It’s a working breed and borders are bred to go, go, go… My Bandit is no exception.

Scott and Bandit along the Arizona Trail (2010).

So, I started hiking the urban trails around Flagstaff. Sometimes they were casual walks, other times they were full on workouts with Bandit running circles around me. From there, we branched out to longer day hikes when I wasn’t working—up Humphreys Peak, through the canyons around Flagstaff, along the Arizona trail. And I discovered that I really loved to hike, to move, to be in the fresh air, to hear the silence only shattered by birdsong and the wind, and to be with him.

Scott and Bandit in Rose Canyon (2012).

Bandit doesn’t get to do many hikes with Scott and me these days. He’s twelve years old (thirteen in May), and his hips just aren’t what they use to be. That means that hikes like Mount Woodson, my energetic border has to stay home, while hikes like Rose Canyon and some of the flatter trails, he still gets to run circles around us. I have to admit it is hard not being able to take him on every hike, and as huffy as he gets with me about it, I know he feels the same. His heart is willing, but his body is weak.

But isn’t that the truth of it for all of us? The heart wants to go, but we always have something to hold us back.

Cowles Mountain Hike, March 2013.

I’ve chosen to hold Bandit back, not the other way around, but I’ve learned a lot from my border’s need to go. It’s amazing what you see when you let an energetic spirit guide you away from the couch and out into the open. It really does open your eyes to wonderful things.

My best friend is a border collie, and because of him, I’ve seen what would otherwise have been unseen.

Next Hike: Iron Mountain in east San Diego County, a hike that I swore I’d never do again after the last time. (May change with the weather.)