Kissing Horses and Hiking Mountains with My Dog in New Hampshire

“The mountains are calling and I must go,” said John Muir about finding peace among the towering trees, silvery cliffs, and crisp mountain air that breathes freshness into your being. It was this desire that carried me away from my concrete jungle to the White Mountains of the Granite State over Memorial Day Weekend. The best part of the trip? I brought along my best friend: my adopted dog, Indu.

Indu, a five-year old Border Collie/Shepherd mix, comes alive the second she spots the trail. With her bushy tail wagging and ears flopping, she runs over tree roots sniffing at pine cones, barks, and leaves strewn on the ground. She is in her element, and watching her live in the moment brings me tranquility.

“Indu, don’t go too far,” I warn, but soon she’s far ahead of me. Unrestrained by the leash, she savors every breath of pine-scented air and the soft auburn tapestry of fallen pine needles under her paws. We are in White Mountains National Forest, on the Oliverian Brook Trail, a two mile trail dotted with sapling pine trees and their ancestors, and bursting with verdant vegetation from the spring rains. Although there are cars belonging to other hikers in the lot, they are nowhere to be seen.

When we reach the brook a mile into our hike, I hear a splash. Before I know it, Indu is hip deep in the water, trying frantically to return to higher ground. Panic sets in and I run towards her, though she doesn’t need my help. With just a few attempts, she’s back on the trail with that familiar grin on her face, vigorously shaking off the wetness. My anxiety melts away and turns to joy at the sight of her strutting on the trail. With the scare behind us now, we head back through the now familiar woods, Indu leading us all the way back to the car.

Refreshed and famished from our hike, we visit North Conway, a quaint little canine-friendly town with a Railroad Museum, a strip of family owned stores, and friendly people who leave water out for dogs. After a delicious vegan meal at A Taste of Thai, where Indu snoozes under the table in their outdoor patio, we make a quick stop at White Birch Books, where the owner gives Indu treats.

Indu on Cathedral Ledge

Our next stop is Cathedral Ledge: a lookout point where we are greeted with stunning, panoramic views of mountains in the distance and granite cliffs dotted with daring climbers. I look straight down at the breathtaking landscape of fields separated by adorable houses with colorful roofs and winding roads. Indu, with her nimble feet, eagerly climbs over boulders, dragging me behind her (I leash her to abide by the rules). Perched at the top of an expansive cliff, we feel accomplished and take a sip of water before heading back down.

The day isn’t over yet. Within a short drive lies the trailhead to Diana’s Baths, a mile long hike to a beautiful waterfall. With rain approaching fast, I put Indu in a rain coat and grab my hat, but the trees shield us from the droplets. I wish I could say the same for the mosquitos, who swarm us like bees to flowers. Unfazed, Indu marches on, never once fatigued or bothered. The view of the falls is worth getting a few bites and Indu is finally done for the day. She takes me straight back to the car and snoozes in the back seat all the way home.

That night, at the Lazy Dog Inn, Indu snores the night away. Little does she realize she has another exciting day ahead, this one involving horses.

“In New Hampshire, everything is 20 minutes away, and if you think you passed it, keep going,” advises the inn keeper Steve, when I inquire about visiting friends in another town.

We head south towards Barrington to meet Carolyn, George, and Gene. I met them years ago on Facebook through my dear friend, Melanie Sue Bowles, who runs the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary in Georgia. Upon arrival, I am pleasantly surprised to learn that these new friends own horses that they rescued. Another short drive (by New Hampshire standards) takes us to white fenced paddocks where a Shire horse named Manny and a Quarter named Cooper gallop towards us. Manny is a majestic black and white horse weighing almost a ton. Despite the weight, he trots like a giant puppy, searching for fresh grass with his black mane flowing in the wind. Cooper shines in his copper-colored skin, and has the softest lips (I should know, because I kissed them). He also gives the best hugs.

Indu, who is normally a bit reticent around big dogs, has no problem getting up close to these giant equines. I, on the other hand, am in utter awe at their beauty, jubilant after hugging and kissing them (a first for me). As any horse lover would attest, being around these animals gives one a sense of serenity. It must be their earthy smell, flowing hair, soulful eyes, and the gentle demeanor that draws you in. Indu, too, falls under their spell, and naps on the lawn as they graze under the New England sun.

Later that day, we have the pleasure of meeting animal lovers, Nancy and her husband Marc, in the town of Deerfield. With five dogs, two cats, and three horses, the owners have their hands full. I am overjoyed to greet more horses, including the popular Mister Buddy – a miniature horse known for his mischievous ways and his love for Maggie – his paddockmate rescued from a life of servitude as a carriage horse. Indu, of course, is just as delighted as I am to be around happy and healthy animals, living as they should—free and loved by many.

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In Nancy’s house, a sign near the door reads: “Live Well, Laugh Often, and Love Horses.” That couldn’t have been truer for the weekend Indu and I shared in New Hampshire. I am thrilled to travel with my four-legged companion, meet like-minded, caring people, and spend time with amazing animals in such an inspiring, bountiful state.

 

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