Leo and I got the band back together. 27 May 16 Reunion Tour. I put on the old Camelbak with the TP and survival gear in it. A leash and a dog treat. We headed down to the new 5.9 mile section of trail that goes south of Jay Cooke State Park. You can’t claim to run the whole Superior Hiking Trail when you haven’t hit the new section. We hit 41 days of SHT in 2014 and called it finished. They built the new section after we thought we were done. I planned to park at the very western end of the trail along Highway 23 and run to the Visitor Center at the Swinging Bridge and back. Then we’d really be done.
It’s one thing to finish a run in the rain. It’s another one entirely to start in a downpour. But that we did. We drove behind the grader up the hill to the trailhead. We got out and trudged down the road in the rain. Some people climb Everest. I go for three hour runs in the rain with my mutt.
It was good to be back on a long run where I wasn’t interested in speed. I had the point-and-shoot camera slung to my right wrist, ready to take pics. I was just out for a run with my dog. We found some puddles to swim in. We saw lots of green after immediately seeing signs for poison ivy. I found a railroad trestle all by itself over one of the gorges. Leo and I took the spur to the overlook. In 2014, I learned to always take the spur. It’s worth it. Even in the mist.
I took several pictures of the dog by just lowering my arm and taking a picture backward while I was running. One of them came out pretty good.
We heard the roar of the river. Leo took the honors over the bridge. A nice lady took our picture together. Considering the 302-miles we’ve run on this trail together, we don’t have too many pictures of the both of us. And this one was at the iconic Swinging Bridge over the St. Louis, which I hadn’t seen since the summer of 2014. This was only our second time to the bridge since the 2012 floods tore down the previous edition.
There was a neat mist upriver from the bridge as the water tumbled through the greywacke. That’s just about the coolest name for a type of rock that there is. Greywacke. 2 billion years old. No big deal.
Some apparatchik told me to leash Leo when we ran across the parking lot to link to the last section of trail I ran in 2014. A technicality to link to the previously run trail, but my OCD requires it.
Then we retraced our steps back to the truck. Leo is pretty good. He’s always within sight. So when he charged off the trail into the brush for the 50th time of the day, I didn’t think anything of it. He’ll be back before I get around the corner. Not this time. I stopped, surprised he wasn’t following. I reversed back down the trail (I’ve done this for him one time before; it’s that rare) and found him coming out of the brush with a face full of quills. Porcupine.
When I was a kid, I’d go on a cross-country ski trip with my dad. He had a sidearm. Not your typical ski trip. We’d ski through pine stands and he’d stop on his skis, draw his sidearm and shoot the porcupine at the top of the tree. I guess he didn’t like porcupines. After yesterday, I’m considering starting an annual trip like that myself.
I pulled as many of the quills as I could on the side of the trail (about a dozen). When I almost lost a finger a few times, I decided that was enough.
I pulled out the phone and called The Chef as we trotted back to the truck. Leo’s tail was wagging, but it sure wasn’t over. Now here it is, Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I need a vet. She was on her way to a dinner with Chef Robert Irvine at the Grand Casino in Hinckley. Planned for months. And I was planning to go to a buddy’s kid’s high school graduation party with the kids after the run. All of that was in the toilet now. Mama found me a vet office and left for the show. I got to the vet’s office and they were booked. Sorry. Our normal vet was also booked, via phone. I went home. Leo had a beard of quills.
I got home and enlisted the kids. I wound a leash through a metal loop in the bed of my truck. I winched Leo to the floor of the truck. I had Grace, now in tears, hold the leash to keep him pinned to the truck bed. I told Sam to put on some gloves and hold Leo’s jaw shut, so I wouldn’t lose a finger. I went after him with some needle-nose pliers with a head-lamp on my head so I could see. I would get about three quills before the dog flailed free. We did about three rounds of that. Grace was crying. Sam was apologizing for losing his grip. The dog was yelping and bleeding. I couldn’t see in his mouth to see if there were any inside. I realized I wasn’t going to remove Leo’s new beard without some professional help.
We went to the emergency vet in West Duluth which doesn’t even start until 5 PM. I got there first, but two critical cases were already known to be coming in that needed surgery. So, Leo and I waited for three hours. Everybody was friendly and helpful, but they were swamped.
Finally, they came and grabbed him. IV anesthesia and an hour later, my drunk dog came out of the back room, quill-free. I lifted him up into the back seat, because when I opened the door for him, he didn’t jump up. He just sat there looking. He slept all night. Anti-biotics and painkillers for five days. The vet tech said there were 30 quills. I’m glad I didn’t keep trying it myself in the back of the truck. The tech said Leo was nervous at first, but that, after the procedure he was, “loving up on everybody. Maybe it was the drugs.” Probably the drugs, I agreed.
Five hours later, we made it home. I think we found the exact border between Type II and Type III fun.
Leo and I knocked off Leg 42 of the Superior Hiking Trail Run. It was a good 12-miler in the 50 degree rain. Up to a point. I could’ve done without the quill-pig part.