It’s a thousand-mile round trip over the Cascades through Willamette Pass, running south with the Ponderosas bordering the high desert, skirting Klamath Lake down to the California border, south further, weaving through the Modoc. We stop to buy gas and ice cream sandwiches in Susanville. I ask the clerk where we can run the dogs, and he directs me to a city park where community softball teams gather for a game. My dog won’t jump into the back of the car when we load to drive.
Mercy balks, unsure of her footing, distrustful of the plastic bumper on the Outback, though she can clear five feet over fallen logs. We back the left rear tire into a pothole on the gravel road to lower the gate and wrangle her back inside by improvising a lasso from her leash. Emmy, the German Shorthair and smartest dog in the world, rides in the back seat with Dad like a boss.
We wait for the flagger to flip the sign as the paver smooths the road licorice black on the highway into Reno, licking ice cream from our fingers, a billboard on 395 advertising a Counting Crows concert at a casino. We blow through Carson City up the pass on 50 to Lake Tahoe, weaving out of Nevada, back into California, south from the lake up further into granite mountains at dark.
There are black bear and mountain lion, aspens, sequoia, juniper, and pine. I scent these shadows before settling to sleep on the back porch in the open air with the skittish dog, trespassers that we are in this place. Each day I spot a sable coyote silhouetted up atop the steep ridgeline, dancing over golden boulders and windfalls, watching.