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What could be better than summer camp in the great outdoors? Spending time with a bunch of my friends, endless play, a swimming hole, great food, and a bunk house where we all stay up and tell stories until the camp counselor comes in to quiet us down.  The only thing better is hanging out with my parents. I know it’s corny, but that is how I feel. This time they went off gallivanting to places where I’d have to ride in the cold belly of a plane, so summer camp it was for me, at least for a few weeks.

But finally, last weekend, it was my turn to lead our pack and oh, did we have a doggone good time. Mom bribed me with a big old homemade pumpkin cookie so I’d tell you about their travels, first. I love my Mom as much as I love cookies! So here goes. . .


Mom is a yogi, shanti, shanti, shanti – peace, peace, peace; and Dad is a tree hugger. Put those two together and what do you get? A Sierra Club outdoor adventure building trails and doing yoga, of course. Off they went to Bonners Ferry, Idaho to help the Forest Service build some new trails that maybe I’ll get to see someday. Hint. Hint. Dad led the group of Sierra Club volunteers, who worked their butts off for a week, and Mom taught yoga at the end of each work day.

Idaho is the great outdoors – beautiful mountain air, lots of trees. . . I can only imagine. Mom said it was hard work with Pulaskis, a special tool designed by Ed Pulaski, a former ranger with the Forest Service, to help with fighting wildfires. Pulaski was famous in helping save the lives of 45 firefighters during major wildfires in Idaho in 1910. A Pulaski is an axe and an adze in one head and digs faster than I do.

Food for a Little Army

Building up hearty appetites, Pat Hart from the U.S. Forest Service cooked up yummy meals every day and Dad helped folks move humungous rocks and such. Yoga kept everyone in fine form to work yet another day. Days off were spent hiking and exploring in the woods. I think it sounds like a summer camp for adults.

Lots of the younger volunteers took advantage of a special scholarship offered by the Sierra Club Sharon Churchwell Fund, to make the trip more affordable. Pretty cool. All and all it was a lot of laughs, hard work, and relaxation. The volunteer Sierra Club crew and their Forest Service team comrades built a mile of new trail to the top of Bald Eagle Mountain!

Sounded like an awesome trip, one would think enough for the summer. But, no! Four days later they turned around and went to Europe to hike around Mont Blanc Massif, more commonly known as the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Tour du Mont Blanc

Now this sounded way more serious. 105 miles in 12 days through the Alps. They hiked along beautiful valleys, up to high cols and ancient glaciers, and then down again, only to climb another day. From Switzerland, to Italy, into France and back to Switzerland.

Espresso Like No Other

An espresso wonderland, Mom was in paradise! Especially in Italy, where coffee rules. Each night, was a new inn, refuge or small hotel. Everywhere the rooms came with breakfast and sometimes full board – since it was miles to the next village, well anything. . . In some places they even stayed in a bunk house, just like me.

The Hills are Alive . . .

Cows grazed at high altitudes, with their bells echoing through the mountains. All kinds of mushrooms grew in the lower elevations (guess which one’s toxic) and cigar-sized slugs lumped along the trail. Yuck. Spectacular mountains surrounded the path. The range includes Mont Blanc, 15,780 ft; Mont Dolent, 12,543 ft; and Grand Jorasses, 13,806 ft. There are glaciers, waterfalls, streams; hamlets, friendly locals, villages, towns, outposts, cows, sheep and absolute stunning beauty.


Along the way, the people of all three countries were exceptionally kind, generous and helpful. It seems living in the beauty of high altitudes rubs off on attitudes and brings people back to their true nature – happy, helpful, curious and spirited. People from all over the world come to bestow the beauty that is the Alps. Wait a minute, who’s the dog dude in red plaid threads? I recognize you, you, you – imposter. Can’t believe my little stuffed “brother” stowed-away again. He is so sly, what are his secrets? Size is probably a factor. . .

Mom and Dad met folks from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and all over Europe. Their favorites though were a couple of young Frenchman, doing the “Tour” in just 8 days. That’s right, 8 days. That means more miles and altitude exchange per day. Jam and Edwin were definitely up for the task, using their vacation time away from families to enjoy their friendship. Mom and Dad shared a few meals with them, and despite a language barrier managed to carry on quite a conversation, drawing pictures on the butcher paper table cloth.

In Vallorcine, after miles on the trail they were greeted with a cold beer chilled in the outdoor fountain, by Helen, Swedish & French, and Steve, British. Their beautiful Guest House was a wonderful respite with only two days left on the trip. After French press for breakfast it was on the trail to Trient, marking my folks’ return to Switzerland.

The last day was a ten mile tromp to Champex Lac. A super sweet town on a small lake. At Hotel Mont Lac the proprietor, Charles, went out of his way to make my folks feel so welcome they almost didn’t come home!

My Turn. . . Off to Jerome & Sedona

I anxiously sat in the car while my human servants packed it up before we headed north. First a hike – Mingus Mountain, just a few miles from Jerome. Although most of the leaves had already fallen and made a nice bed for me on the ground, some super cool shrubs were still in color and bright pink, it was amazing. The trail started on top of the mountain and headed downhill with beautiful views of Verde Valley and the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.

We stayed in a funky B&B called the Surgeon’s House, cuz, you guessed it, that’s where the town surgeon lived over a hundred years ago. A very eclectic place, as one might expect in Jerome, a very eclectic little town. Our room had so many knick-knacks I was afraid to turn around. And you know, the whole town is haunted, with like real ghosts. Who knows what kind of spooks are in the Surgeon’s House. It creeped me out so much I slept all night wedged between my parents.

Jerome is an old mining town with an estimated 100 miles of tunnels beneath it. You can see all the tunnels at the Jerome State Historic Park, where there is an awesome 3D model. It’s a wonder how the town doesn’t just all sink to China. But, if you are into coffee, yummy food, and cool people, be sure to stop in at the Flatiron. They treat dogs and humans right.

Dog Menus, Yep!

If you want something off your very own “dog” menu, head to the Creekside in Sedona. This time I selected the Five Star Venison Stew with a Chicken Jerky Cookie to top it off. It’s a great restaurant for people, too. Sure tasted good after hiking 10 miles on the Munds Wagon, Hangover, Cow Pie loop. What were my parents thinking, we are on vacation. . . 10 miles, I’m dog tired. . . and I’m hoping tomorrow the folks will take it easy and let me smell the roses.

Next on the list was the West Fork Trail. It heads up the west fork of Oak Creek. Great fun, lots of creek crossings leading back into a box canyon, and if you want to go further, you jump in and swim. I’d think about it in the summer, but not in October, as I’d have icicles hanging from who knows where!

Just epic. . .

The last day, we went to Brin’s Mesa, one of our favorite hikes in Sedona, where I can dawdle off leash and there is amazing plants and incredible views. There is just something about Sedona, the energy Mom says, that makes us all feel refreshed. I think Mom may have fallen into a Vortex in a previous life. As we headed home after an incredible weekend, we watched as a big storm came rolling in and chased us home to Phoenix.

If you go into the great outdoors . . .


  1. Well curated!

  2. Louie, I love reading about your adventures. And seeing what your parents are up to is great, too. As always, you inspire me. XOXO -A

  3. Marilynn Windust

    Wow! What a wonderful world. Thanks for sharing your super, special summer and fall! Can’t wait to hear about the holidays. XXOO

  4. Louie, you have all the fun! And your mom and dad, too! Great photos, great accounts of your adventures!

  5. Louie, you are one lucky boy. Not only are you handsome, but well traveled with amazing parents! My dog Jack was much the same, except he couldn’t get along with other dogs, so we would not have been able to hike together. Kiss your ma and pa for me. Especially your ma! Ha Ha!

  6. Thanks, Louie, for priming the ol pump to get me arse in full gear in the travel/play mode— one more quarter of teaching ‘tis all. Be sure to thank yer ma and pa on treatin’ you real special like, gallavantin’ round the world and all like royalty. Not like Harry and Megan, mind you, they plum gotta figure it out fer themselves these here days. Give licks and hugs to yer folks for me now, Theys special. Me hopes to see ‘em sooner than later. Times a flitin real fast. Appreciate mightily yer story tellin’ an picture takin.’ Me hats off to ya, Louie.

    • Stacey Pilcher

      Time is now. Enjoy everyday! My folks make a point of it with me included. Yeah, I did good when I picked them as my parents.

  7. Deb Hammond

    Why can’t my cat write like your dog?

    • Stacey Pilcher

      Well, the simple truth is a dog, me, Louie, is smarter than a cat. Take for instance my late sister, Kili the Siamese, she always slept in Mom’s lap, when it is a proven fact that dogs are warmer that humans by a couple of degrees.

  8. Dear Louie, I have admired you from afar these many months at Hava Java and you have barely noticed me.
    All you seem to desire is a peanut butter. I even had a wash and blow dry on the off chance of seeing you this week, but nada.
    Oh well, it’s your loss! I hope that Peanut Butter gets stuck on the roof of your mouth!
    Yours almost, Riley

    • Stacey Pilcher

      I didn’t know you cared. . . you see I have so many admirers. Peanut Butter is so yummy it does absorb all my attention. You should try it sometime, you might like it as well as your Dad’s fancy cooking. It does get stuck on the roof of my mouth and that is half the fun!
      See you soon, I promise.

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