An Outdoor Interview with Gayle Brooks the President of Peakwaggers and a tale of extreme hiking backpacking from around the world

Gayle Brooks and her husband Stan are avid skiers, hikers and outdoor people who love nothing more than spending a day in the mountains. Of course a day in the mountains would include the canine members of their family. You have never seen hiking dogs as happy as Gayle’s since she is the President of PeakWaggers, a corporation that creates gourmet dehydrated dog meals for backpackers and other outdoor folks.

Being that my wife and I just added a pup to our family for the first time, I was really interested to find out more about Gayle’s Dehydrated Gourmet Pet Food for our Dog… Did I just say Dehydrated Gourmet Pet food for Dogs? Check out PeakWaggers very nice website and see what the canine members of your family have been missing out on!

Gayle Brooks

Gayle Brooks

Not only did I find out how to make my hiking pal happy, but after interviewing Gayle I learned a lot more about a few extreme hiking/backpacking trips from around the world. So if you haven’t been to Mt. Kilimanjaro or Everest lately (or even if you have) read on and enjoy the hike!

How and when were you introduced to the outdoors?

As a child my parents travelled to Europe frequently during the summer to visit family. On these trips I was generally enrolled in a summer camp in Switzerland for 4 weeks. At this camp we did a lot of hiking, camping and just exploring. Although I was a city girl, living in New York City, I found my true passion while in Switzerland. The mountains have been my “life” throughout most of my adult life even though it took me many years to actually move into the mountains.

What has been your favorite outdoor recreation area?

I live in the mountains just west of Boulder, Colorado and absolutely adore the wilderness that surrounds me. I never hike without at least one of my dogs which is how and why I started PeakWaggers. For me, carrying bags of kibble and bags of treats was too much: too heavy, too messy if wet and too much of a bother. I figured that there had to be a way to bring food for my dogs without the weight and bulk (and the mess if it got wet). Since there is a wide variety of dehydrated food for people going into the high country, I decided that there should be a way to create the same “gourmet” meals for dogs. And so PeakWaggers was born. Please check out my website: www.peakwaggers.com

My most favorite outdoor place is Telluride, Colorado. Telluride is a place for extreme skiing and extreme hiking/backpacking or just a place to enjoy the outdoor experience 12 months out of the year. Scenically it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Situated at the end of a box canyon surrounded by the majestic San Juan Mountain range, the road in is the road out. You don’t get to Telluride by accident….

Please share an outdoor story

I had an experience once while hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness with my 140lb Bernese Mountain Dog that ended up being really funny. The regulations for hiking with dogs in the Indian Peaks Wilderness are that you must have your dog leashed. If you get caught by a Ranger with your dog off-leash, you get a steep fine ($100). Well, I am a chancer, and as my big dog, Sumo, is very well-behaved, I was hiking with him off leash. He had a leash attached to his collar but it was just dragging on the ground. After 5 hours of hiking, while we were on our way back down the mountain, I ran into some hikers who warned me that there were rangers down the trail. Naturally, I picked up Sumo’s leash and continued to hike. When I reached the rangers, I stopped to chat with them for a few minutes. They both fell in love with Sumo who is just an enormous, sweet dog. As I was preparing to move down the mountain, one of the rangers said to me: “You know you are doing something totally illegal.” I shuddered wondering what I had done….so I said: “What have I done?” To which he replied: “Don’t you know that it is illegal to take bear out of the forest?”
Sumo, in case you are wondering, is probably the size of a Colorado black bear…hence the comment. Needless to say, I chuckled the rest of the way back home.

The multi-day backpacking trips:

I have had several really extreme backpacking trips. In 1998, I trekked to the base camp of Mount Everest and in 2000 I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The Everest trek was a 14-day trip with rest days for acclimatization; we ascended from 9,000 feet to 18,500 feet. Since we (my husband and I) were with a trekking company, we only had to carry a day-pack. All of our provisions including tents, clothes, sleeping bags, etc. were transported on the backs of yaks. The guides prepared all of our meals for us and even pitched our tents. On the way we stopped in villages where we were given high-altitude medical information by volunteers from several high altitude medical clinics that cater exclusively to climbers and trekkers. I think that the most important thing that I learned from that experience was that altitude sickness is NASTY. Neither my husband nor I began taking the medication to prevent altitude sickness early enough. My husband started to get sick at 12,000 feet….I made it to 18,000….but the end results were the same: SEVERE headaches, inability to sleep, nausea, loss of appetite. We finally did take the medicine, which ultimately kicked in, and since neither of us was suffering from critical pulmonary or cerebral edema we were able to stay with the group. Once we began descending all of the symptoms disappeared.

The lessons that I learned about altitude from Mt. Everest were put to good use on Mt. Kilimanjaro. I climbed Kilimanjaro with my daughter who was, at that time, in the Peace Corps in Namibia. We chose a 5-day trek: 3 days up; 2 days down. Again, as in Nepal, we were with a guide and porters (You cannot climb Mt. Kilimanjaro on your own ) and only had to carry a day pack. This time, however, I began taking the altitude medication at sea-level. Neither my daughter nor I suffered any effects from the altitude even though we went from sea-level to 19,000 feet in 3 days. Numerous trekkers who we met along the way were extremely sick; since I had an adequate supply of medication, I was able to share what I had with them.

It's cold on the glacier

The most difficult part of the Kilimanjaro trek, however, was the last 3,000 feet which had to be done between 11pm and 6am. Because Kilimanjaro is situated on the equator and is the highest free-standing mountain in the world, if you do not summit at dawn, you never get to experience a view from the top. The clouds start to roll in around 7am and once they do, all you can see is a sea of clouds below you. Well, I am not a night person so having to pull an “all-nighter” at my age was not an easy feat. To make matters worse, we ended up climbing without head lamps. My head lamp burned out after about one hour, as did my daughter’s…..and our guide, forgot to bring his headlamp! Until the moon came up at approximately 1 am, we were totally in the dark. Our guide knew the route so we weren’t concerned…..but it was quite a “grunt” moving through snow, steeps and more steeps…in total darkness. But we made it!

What is your outdoor website?

http://www.peakwaggers.com

Peakwaggers Meals for Pets

Argentina with Gavin 2009

Comment (1)

  1. Gayle is a wonderful person to work with. And what a great story! Gayle supplied my last adventure w/ Peak Waggers. Peak Waggers was our official dog food sponsor for the trip and will be on our next. The food is fantastic. My Border Collie Keegan and I did a review on Peak Waggers. To read the review and see it in action go to http://www.pawprintsthemagazine.com/?page_id=203 and click on “Peak Waggers, the PERFECT weekend travel food” . There are pic’s and a video of my Border Collie attacking his food. Something he normally doesn’t do when traveling.

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