Larry Ayala regards the moment five years ago when he slipped and shattered his ankle while hiking in the Superstition Wilderness as a stroke of luck. Laid up at home recovering and killing time on the Internet, he spotted a photo of an Australian cattle dog/German shepherd mix sitting on a ragged sofa in a California backyard. The post stated that if nobody wanted to adopt the young male canine, he’d be sent to a shelter. Drawn to the pooch’s potential as a hiking partner, Ayala made the long drive from Phoenix to claim his new best friend, whom he later named Rowdy.
“I really had no idea on how much hiking Rowdy could do,” says Ayala, a native Californian who lived all over the Northwest before settling in the Valley to retire.
Turns out, Rowdy is quite the hiking beast. “Before I got Rowdy, I was hiking 500 miles a year. My first full year of hiking with him, we broke 1,200 miles and he never slowed down.”
Since then, the pair has become hiking community celebrities of sorts by logging an incredible number of trail miles each year. “I track my hikes on an app called Route Scout [and] will be breaking the 10,000-mile mark this month [October 2019], and Rowdy will finish 2019 with just over 9,000 miles.”
Outfitted with proper gear, lots of water and supplies tucked into both human and dog backpacks, the determined duo hits the trails at least six days per week. They are regulars on Phoenix-area trails like Lookout Mountain, Piestewa Peak and, of course, on the rugged routes of the Superstition Wilderness Area east of the Valley. They’ll take extended hiking trips in Utah and Colorado in 2020.
Hiking is evidently the perfect outlet for Rowdy’s active nature and always-ready spirit. “As they say, a tired dog is a happy dog,” Ayala says.
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