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Mar 31 2016

Backpacking with My Sister

Little brother invites big sister backpacking in the Tobacco Roots, but forgets what that entails – her dog

Featured, Voices of NexGen

Now, before I begin and get myself into trouble, I have one thing to say: I really do love my sister. She's my best friend and probably gets me better than anyone in the world. But, sometimes, I just don't get her.

Last summer, I invited her on a backpacking trip, but I forgot one thing: If she was coming, so was Ollie.

Ollie is a one-year-old yellow Labrador. You know how they say that dogs are just like their owners? Well, somehow Ollie inherited my sister's propensity for getting overexcited. And my theory about dogs is this: since their lives are about seven times shorter than ours, they have to fit at least seven times as much excitement into every second of their lives to compensate. So, when I invited my big sister on a backpacking trip, I invited about eight of her, and that was rather exhausting. Or maybe I should say it was a bit of an awakening.

We backpacked to Lake Louise in the Tobacco Root Mountains. Lake Louise is a great backpacking trip for little kids or big sisters, but honestly what's the difference? We had set up camp on the shores of the lake at around 9,000 feet, which is the perfect elevation for bitterly cold nights, warm sleeping bags, and some wild dreams. I was sound asleep in my tent, all cozy and warm, when all of a sudden something comes crashing into the side of my tent. I attempted to jump up, but I was restricted by my sleeping bag so my terror multiplied infinitely. I listened as whatever had so heedlessly crashed into my tent went scampering off.

Then I heard: "Ollie! Ollie come here!"

It was my sister's voice in a not-so-quiet whisper. I breathed a sigh of relief that quickly turned to irritation. That dog. I swear, I thought before attempting to nod off back to sleep. Meanwhile my sister continued whisper-screaming. A few minutes later, ignoring Ashley's whisper-screams, Ollie decided he wanted to finish off the night in my tent and began scratching at my rain fly. I actually let him but not out of love but because he had actually scared the crap out of me and I wanted him in the tent just in case something much more terrifying came crashing into my tent...like a big sister. As the night continued I soon discovered that Ollie had yet to figure out that tents were for sleeping and so he simply stared at me for the remainder of the night, his face a mere inches from my own.

Now, before I end, I want to reiterate something: I actually do love my sister and I do love her dog. And whatever aggravation Ollie put me through was worth discovering a lake that is as blue and clear as a Montana sapphire, worth the endless views into the mountainous eternity. It’s just hard to remember those views without picturing the face of a big, rambunctious dog.

 - Tyler Courville, former MWA intern and student at Stanford University