earthtrekblog

Adventures of Life


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Let’s talk gear!

I have spent the past year immersed in the Appalachian Trail (AT), sleeping, breathing, and eating it (no really, I’ve eaten more trail food these past 6 months).  Now I am down to the wire and need to make my final purchases and organize my gear so as not to forget anything.

The official Base Gear!

The official Base Gear!

The first and most important part of my gear is my “Base” gear which includes my pack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and pillow.  I feel I’ve done a great job picking what meets my needs and still keeps the weight on the lower end.  It’s challenging to make a choice regarding comfort vs. necessity when you are not yet on the trail.  When it came down to my tent I wanted one which would allow me to store both my pack and my dog inside with me.  I had two tents I was wavering between, the Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL2 and the MSR Hubba Hubba NX.  It took me setting them up side by side and crawling around inside of them. Thank you once again CrossFit Bona Fide for supporting my hiking habits and providing me with space to test out my gear!

It's a 1 1/2 Person tent!!!

It’s a 1 1/2 Person tent!!!

The SuperMega UL2 was VERY cozy and very light, at 2 lbs 11 oz.  As you can see here there is room for my sleeping pad with my pack stuffed in alongside down at my feet and if Star doesn’t mind snuggling there is puppy room right at the entrance.  I climbed in and tested out the height, at 5’10” I had about an inch clearance while sitting on my sleeping pad, this was a good start.  I went ahead and stretched out and as I lay there debating all the pros and cons. Having not tried the other tent I realized I wasn’t doing much comparison and decided to rectify the situation immediately.  Feeling like a modern day outdoorsy version of Goldilocks I scrambled out of the tent.  I grabbed my gear and moved next door into the Hubba Hubba.   As I crawled in the enduring words of Goldilocks went through my mind “that’s just right!”  I had moved into a yacht of a tent, there was room to stretch out and move about.  My bag was no longer crushed between my feet and the tent wall and Star would even have room to stretch out into her favorite pretzel position for sleeping.  After about a minute of contemplation upon my green mat of unlimited possibilities I decided I wanted the yacht over the canoe.

So much space!!!

So much space!!!

Next on my list of gear is my kitchen supplies, which are still lacking (need to get out and buy a PocketRocket and a titanium spoon), BUT I am excited to say I tried out a new toy today and it works perfectly!

Pot, bear bag, water bladder, freezer bag cozy, and Nalgene storage.

Pot, bear bag, water bladder, freezer bag cozy, and Nalgene storage.

Today I used my freezer bag cozy!  I ordered this simple cozy from a fellow hiker, I have heard so many great things about cooking with this method on the trail.  You take your dehydrated food put it in a freezer bag, pour hot (not boiling) water over your food, seal up the bag and close the cozy over it.  Let it “cook” for 15-20 minutes and your meal is done!  You eat it right out of the bag meaning you have no dishes and you just need to dispose of the Ziploc when you hit a town.

Food is in the cozy ready for eating!

Food is in the cozy ready for eating!

The idea behind freezer bag food is you just dehydrate whatever complete meal you want and pack it away until you’re ready to rehydrate.

Rehydrated dahl mixed with rice

Rehydrated dahl mixed with rice

My roommate was home and with very little prompting I convinced her to take this journey with me.  I took my dehydrated leftovers from the night before and placed them in a Ziploc filled with water wrapped in the most awesome pink and black zebra stripped cozy on the east coast.   The red dahl with coconut milk rice was a delicious meal if I must say so myself, one I’d be thrilled to eat on the trail.  My roomie even went so far as to say “I would have NEVER known it was from a dehydrated meal if you hadn’t told me!”

It's important to get out and break in the gear before the big day!

It’s important to get out and break in the gear before the big day!

Because I am responsible for my dog it only seems reasonable that I spend as much money on her as I do myself (I am after all carrying an extra half pound so she can sleep IN the tent with me).  I gave up trying to adapt or modify Star’s pack to be “acceptable” for the trail.  She will be joining me on the trail because I have decided WE are doing it not because she volunteered to come along.  I splurged!  I went online to this awesome small time business called Groundbird Gear (GBG) and ordered a custom made pack for her.  We had more fun measuring and preparing to send out all the info to get this pack put together just for her.

Someone is VERY excited about the measuring process :D

Someone is VERY excited about the measuring process 😀

I couldn’t believe it when less than a week out from our order I was informed the pack was in the mail and on it’s way.  I was a giddy child running out to the porch everyday looking for the box which would contain the goods.  Yesterday was a busy day and I arrived home late and it was by pure chance I glanced down the porch and noticed the small packing envelope sitting by the stoop.  I dashed outside in my socks and grabbed the package barely making it back through the door before I started ripping it apart.  As I drew the harness and pack out I was shocked by how light is was.  It was almost as though I was holding nothing, a big treat for this young lady!  I am in LOVE with the colors!

Burgundy and purple with a splash of orange to fend off the hunters!

Burgundy and purple with a splash of orange to fend off the hunters!

I am so happy I went with this pack system.  I haven’t even gotten a chance to load it up yet but already I feel it is the proper size for her.  The roll top pouches aren’t huge so she will be able to move around comfortably in it.  We are in mid design adaptation as the harness doesn’t fit quite right so it is being sent back for one with a larger chest yolk so as to prevent any chance of chaffing.  It has been very easy to communicate with GBG and figure out what needs to be done so Star can be comfortable.  I will post pictures when we have the full system with a proper fit.

 

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SUPPORTING OUR JOURNEY PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LOOK AT MY Amazon Wish List (HERE).   
I have placed numerous food items on this list as I will be making much of my food over the next couple of weeks.  I will be shipping packages to myself along the trail so I can meet the needs of my dietary restrictions.

 

 

 


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Drunk on sleep deprivation

There is a point in time where your body hits a state of drunken euphoria, when you are trying to function off a couple hours of sleep a night. I was at this point. Walking up stairs was safer at a crawl, I had a false sense of happiness which can only be attributed to my body working as hard as possible to keep me functioning on some same level. If you tell yourself enough times everything is in order it still won’t be.
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I have been wrapped in a whirlwind of adventure over the past couple of weeks. I made it up another 4000 footer in the New Hampshire White mountains. Mt. Osceola was a fun hike which challenged me physically. The Rocky terrain kept me on high alert as I climbed, stepped, and scrambled my way up. In some ways I was thankful the trail held few distractions, there was no reason for me to stop and pull out my camera, the trail was bare of flowers, moss, or other macro opportunities.

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Summit view from Mt. Osceola

This was an exciting day for Star, since she’d been left behind on my last hike. I even borrowed her boyfriend for the day and Tamarack was along for the adventure. The day became a training day for Star, it was all about trail manners, these included but not limited to, giving way on the trail, ignoring other dogs, not begging from other hikers, and learning to pose. The posing became a very serious situation both for Star and Tamarack. I don’t know if it is the fact that both dogs are absolutely adorable or if it is the dog packs they wear.

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Pup-arazzi

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Never can get them to both look at me

My days streamed one into another. Work was a constant reminder to the day of the week and the dwindling time before my trip.
Thursday came and it was time to hit the road. Hopped a bus to Boston where I met up with my travel companion, picked up the rental car and we were off. Two drivers one car and almost a thousand miles between us and our destination. Twenty hours later, meals on the road, string cheese wrapped in turkey, and too many “no public bathrooms” I was happy to find our motel.
The next days were full of friends and celebrations as I watched two good friends give their vows to each other. The wedding day was one of a kind. Running around Myrtle Beach looking for a white shirt for the groom, or ending the night with the bride tip toeing into the pool dress and all!
I can’t even start to describe the whirlwind of my trip so here are some pictures from the day.

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Sealing the deal

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Palm fronds

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With another twenty hours on the road I land with my feet back in NH. I have less than twenty four hours to repack my bag and hop a plane to CA where I will see the red woods, revel in the beauty of the world and take time to reconnect with me.
I will do my best to post semi regularly with high quality photos from my phone.


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Someone gave themself to me

I am reminded again and again to be grateful for what I have! I have a great job which allows me to make positive differences in the lives of others. I am able to share my own knowledge and wisdom or to gain insight into outcomes through others experiences.
Over a year ago my world crashed down on me. I couldn’t find the positives in my life. The pain and frustrations of my knee injury were greater than I could have imagined. I had looked forward to the surgery thinking it would happen and all would be well. It’s never as easy as it seems.

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When walking is still challenging water is a great option.

Almost exactly a year ago I was battling through the rigors of PT, fighting for a chance to go car camping in Acadia. This year I’m fighting for clearance to go hike the Appalachian Trail, departing in 7 to 8 months time.  It took my physical therapist reminding me of my journey before I truly realized where I was.  Since my surgery I had been stuck in a negative space which had become my life.  With the acknowledgement of my growth from beginning to present I suddenly found light again.  That despite my battles I had gained much, both in losses and wins.  My job reminds me over and over again, life is never easy but there is a way.

I need to thank a family. I’ve been holding onto the donor card from my surgery waiting for the right time. I want to let the family of the person know they made a difference. I don’t know how to word my appreciation. How can you recognize a family’s loss by sending a letter stating that the little ligament in your knee, which their loss provided for you, is opening new doors? Six years ago the idea to hike a trail spanning more than 10 states and over 2000 miles was nothing but a tiny seed. After my surgery I needed a goal, something to give meaning to my life again. The AT was it. I want to share my amazing journey with this family. I want to show them the bright side of their loss. The beauty of things newly discovered, of limits pushed, and strength gained. I want them to know even the little things made a big difference.

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This was my first “hike” after my surgery. I braced up and headed out onto the trail. We took our time and enjoyed the trek.


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Life takes a hiatus

My idea of life and yours may be completely different. When I think about what it means to be alive I picture time spent hiking through the woods, swimming in lakes, and kicking back at the end of a day looking up at the stars. Therefore my life is on hiatus. I was ready. The trails were calling my name and I had places to be. BUT until I get clearance, from my wonderful physical therapist, I am not allowed to do any “serious” hiking.

Sometimes you find the "trail" on the water

Sometimes you find the “trail” on the water


My days are filled with many things. Simple walks through the woods, going to work where I bowl or play on giant water slides, facilitating team building with awesome youth, photographing my best friends wedding, escaping mad wasps, or researching all the cat food in the world. Again, our idea of excitement may vary. As enjoyable as all of these things are they are either a brief blip on my radar or a constant in my life. And for this reason they do not satiate the desire that burns within me to hike to the top of a mountain and lay out to enjoy the wind, watch the clouds and relax knowing my house, for the night, is on my back.
I unexpectedly became a wedding photographer

I unexpectedly became a wedding photographer


The blips in my life usually hold quite a bit of excitement. I rarely walk away from them with regrets. Some blips last longer than others or are intertwined creating rapid fire blips or blips². For example my woods walks are a regular blip in my schedule. I load the car up and head to the woods, grab the Chuck-it and my dog and that’s that. Now let’s create some excitement.
Imagine it’s been a peaceful walk. The weather is perfect, there is a slight breeze rustling the trees and keeping the bugs at bay. If you close your eyes and lift your face toward the sky the rays of the sun peek through the leaves warming you ever so slightly. The latest, and greatest, blip on the radar is swimming for the pup. Star has just learned how to swim so it is a mandatory activity when water is near.
Nothing like a good shake after rescuing your ball

Nothing like a good shake after rescuing your ball


Today, swimming was perfect! We continue on our way enjoying a very lazy walk. There is no rushing today, it is a day of absolute freedom. As we finish up our hour plus meander we round the bend to the last section of trail. Star leads the way, an easy twenty feet ahead. Suddenly the woods are full of screeching! I look up to see where it is coming from to find Star frantically pawing at her face and biting at her legs and belly. Every muscle in my being wants to rush forward to help her. Instead I stand rooted in place calling her name trying to coax her to me. She can’t focus on my kind voice as the angry wasps bury themselves in her. I start yelling, demanding she come to me. My voice must cut through her pain because she starts moving in my direction. I turn and start jogging down the trail, calling over my shoulder, I glance back long enough to see her there then sprint forward trying to stay well in front of her. I usher her down into a stream where she can lay down and cool her body from the angry stings. I become all that drives me crazy. I coo and fawn over her, I use a baby voice and ask her questions she can’t answer.
We call it a day and make our way out of the woods, using a different trail of course. Upon returning home I take some time to turn the cooing into productive hands on investigation of the sting zones. It’s been half an hour and her poor face has started to swell.
A little ice to reduce swelling on her jaw and neck She loved this idea!

A little ice to reduce swelling on her jaw and neck
She loved this idea!

A little research and a vet call later Star is happily dosed up on Benadryl (1mg/lbs). She curls up on the couch and passes out all in good fashion. The swelling on her cheek and jaw have reduced dramatically by bed time and she seems none the worse for the blip in our day. But I know this blip will leave an impression on the radar.

So we sit, we tally, we appreciate what we have and look forward to what we want.

anything is possible given enough time and determination

anything is possible given enough time and determination


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The journey is the destination

There are times when life takes over. I had this awesome plan laid out and suddenly I was pushed off onto a detour. It’s been just over a year since I had my ACL replaced, I had found the trails again and had huge plans ahead of me. But first it seems I need to travel some bumpy ground before I get to my destination.

It's important to enjoy the wildflower that line your path

It’s important to enjoy the wildflower that line your path

Three months ago my leg started bothering me. At first I thought it was all in my head but I realized the pain was consistent, I was allowing the pain to become part of my day to day life. I made a couple calls, one specifically to my surgeon. “My tibia is achy. More specifically, where you put a screw in my leg I am getting a deep throbbing pain in the bone. Any chance the screw is coming out on its own?”

Three weeks later I’m sitting in his office while he pokes my leg and confirms my fears. I’ve got a screw loose. Another three weeks and I’m sitting in a hospital bed waiting to have it removed. Bonus to the surgery, I’m back in physical therapy to continue focused muscle building. Surgery was quick, I walked out of the hospital on crutches and found a nice place on the couch for the next couple days while the throbbing subsided.

Guess being short a loose screw isn't a bad thing

Guess being short a loose screw isn’t a bad thing

Star and I missed the woods. Short walks at the park were all I could handle despite my hopes for more. But true to my style I found myself back in the woods by the end of the week. What would have been an easy 45 min casual walk covering 2 miles became a 2 1/2 hour walk. If it had been flat terrain I’d have had little difficulty but this section of woods housed dips and rises which slowed me drastically. Once again I was humbled by how quickly life can change.

When you've been cooped up for a week with nothing but Chuck-it time at the park it's time to branch out when you hit the woods.

When you’ve been cooped up for a week with nothing but Chuck-it time at the park it’s time to branch out when you hit the woods.


When forced to slow down you start looking at all the things surrounding you. You pause and readjust your angle, the new perspectives are worth it.  Black Eyed Susan's catching rays

When forced to slow down you start looking at all the things surrounding you.
You pause and readjust your angle, the new perspectives are worth it.
Black Eyed Susan’s catching rays


It's the little things you need to stop and take a moment to look at.  Even if it means getting low to the ground. "Corpse Plant or Indian Pipe"

It’s the little things you need to stop and take a moment to look at.
Even if it means getting low to the ground.
“Corpse Plant or Indian Pipe”


My feet were back on the ground and I was moving forward, so why stop? If you’re going to get things done you’re better off doing them all at once. I’d been dreading making a dental appointment. But the wisdom teeth were past due and I wanted them out. A simple evaluation visit turned into multiple appointments getting my teeth cleaned and cavities taken care of (until two weeks ago I’d never had a filling). These trips were just the beginning, little did I know just how much I’d detest the idea of sitting in a dental chair.

X-rays of my mouth showed how very special I am. I not only had wisdom teeth which needed to be taken out but I had FIVE!!! Lucky for me I only needed two extracted. I made an appointment as soon as possible hoping to be done with it. Just as my leg was back on the mend and I was ready to hit the mountains again I found myself only dreaming of them. While the nitrous oxide kicked in I drifted off to the great outdoors. I saw myself hiking down the AT with my pup at my side. Life was awesome! Then I came too. I was in a fog. I couldn’t believe the surgery was already done and the awesomeness of the trail was not real. oh well, I felt GREAT!

All smiles and full of "laughing gas"

All smiles and full of “laughing gas”

Almost a week out from the extraction and life is still on hold. The dry socket I acquired on day four put a bit of a damper on the quick recovery, granted I can’t complain too much since my face didn’t puff up. A bonus and yet slightly disappointing, due to lack of swelling, I had no opportunity to play the role of a chipmunk. I do feel like a holiday special though, full of spice and everything nice. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to appreciate cloves again. Not after 48 hours of having my jaw “packed” with something heavily doused in clove oil (with the likely hood of a couple more days ahead of me).

So this is life at the moment. I am planning, plotting, and bleeding minds dry while I search for information about hiking the AT. The more knowledge I can gain the better off I’ll be. To sit and read someone else’s story about their experience on the trail just makes the prospect ahead of me that much more exciting.

We've done it before and we will do it again!!! Summit of Mt. Chocorua

We’ve done it before and we will do it again!!!
Summit of Mt. Chocorua


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Planning Stages: Canine Companion Part 5; hazards cont’d

Environmental hazards cont’d
Water borne illness
While hiking most people filter or treat their water in one way or another before drinking or cooking with it. If you are planning to treat your water, do so in a way which is dog friendly. Dogs, just like people, can contract Giardia . Giardia can be contracted through infected water, soil, or direct contact with fecal matter. This parasite can wreck havoc on ones digestive system: diarrhea, bloating, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. It seems there are MANY different strains of this parasite and not all pass between species. Another water borne illness is Leptospirosis . This bacteria is most often found in warm, humid areas and stagnant water, such as ponds. Dogs with a higher likelihood of coming in contact with wild animals or urine have an increased chance of contracting this disease. BAD news is it can be passed from animal to human. Symptoms may not be immediately present or may surface and then lay dormant. Symptoms may include, fever, joint and muscle soreness, vomiting, decreased appetite, discharge from eyes and nose, and possible frequent urination. This disease attacks the kidneys, untreated it can do permanent damage. Treat your dogs water and reduce the chance of introducing the parasite to the body.

I don't see any dirt...

I don’t see any dirt… If she cleans her own legs she increases the risk of contracting a disease


Dog related illness
Diseases are ever present in our life, when we have the ability to reduce the risks there is no reason not to. I have never had my dog treated for Kennel Cough but before we leave for the trail it will be one of the shots she gets.   This will provide her with a defense in case we meet other dogs who are positive for it.  Many kennels and boarding facilities also require dogs to be immunized against it, if unexpected dog care is needed it’s one less thing to worry about. I’d rather deal with this respiratory disease preventively then have her come down with a hacking cough that is highly contagious to other dogs.

When dogs get close  -  Sharing is caring some things shouldn't be shared

When dogs get close – Sharing is caring
some things shouldn’t be shared


Weather Hazards
Weather effects dogs just as it effects people. If you get caught in a snow storm you’ll want to be sure you have the proper gear to keep both yourself and your dog safe and warm. Dogs may originate from wild animals but they have been bred to fit specific needs, transported across the world to new environments where their genetic design doesn’t mesh with the climate. With no warning of where they are going they don’t pack the proper coat and are often improperly dressed. If you are hiking through snow with a Jack Russell or some other wirehaired breed, I hope you have a coat for them. They don’t have the undercoat which provides them with insulation against the cold. If your dog is shivering than they are in the beginning stages of hypothermia, just like a person. A dog’s normal temperature is between 100-102°F, if it is below 95°F for an extended period of time you run the risk of long term organ damage.
Warming a dog on the trail may seem like a difficult task. Dogs and humans alike need to have their body temperature brought up gradually. The first necessity is shelter of some sort where they can seek warmth away from wind. If being wet is part of the equation than drying them the best you can is a must. Wrap them in a dry blanket, space blankets are perfect for redirecting heat back to the source. Heat water and place it in a water bottle WRAP IT in fabric and place it near the body, under the legs against the belly is a good place, be sure it won’t burn. Provide warm water for them, adding sugar or broth of some sort may entice them to drink. If they won’t drink don’t force them. Be aware, hypothermia and frostbite can go hand in hand. Look for signs of frostbite, the most common places on dogs are the: ears, tail, pads of feet and scrotum. The skin will appear pale white or blue. As circulation returns it may become red and swollen, skin may even peel off. Due to lack of blood flow through damaged tissue the area will turn black and may eventually fall off. Do NOT attempt to rub or massage frostbite area to bring warmth back to it, instead use warm compresses. If EITHER of these, hypothermia or frostbite, occurs you should seek medical attention for your dog (or you).

This pup was designed for snow!

This pup was designed for snow!

Maybe snow isn’t a problem for you, instead you’re plowing along with horse flies buzzing you and wishing the temperatures would dip below freezing. Your dog may be thinking the same thing in between their attempts to eat the flies dive bombing their head. Dogs run a higher risk than people for hyperthermia, overheating. Dogs do not sweat, their main method of cooling their body is to pant. The lining of their lungs act, just as our skin does, as a surface to evaporate and carry warm moist air away from their body. Dogs with short faces have a harder time breathing and therefore more difficulty bringing their temperature down. Some dogs will naturally try to cool their body by seeking shade or laying in water, encourage your dog to do these things. If your dog is carrying a pack or has some sort of layer on their body that may be trapping heat be sure to remove it. Dogs who are overheating may be: panting heavily, acting sluggish or confused, be looking for shade or a cool place, gums may appear red or blue, may vomit or have a seizure. If their core temperature goes too high the possibility of permanent damage or death is present. Normal temperature is ~ 100 – 102°F, if their body temperature rises to 105 – 106°F heat exhaustion is a possibility, above that you are looking at heat stroke with can lead to brain damage or death.
Bringing the body temperature down gradually is very important. Get your dog into a shaded area. Pour cool water over their body, DO NOT submerge them in cold water as this may shock their system and cause blood vessels to contract making it more difficult for them to cool themselves. Pay attention to their feet and underbody as a means to cool them. Offer them cool water to drink, you may add an electrolyte solution* into the water to help them recover. Talk with your vet about appropriate amount of electrolyte for your specific animal. If your dog has suffered heatstroke take them to a vet. Although they may not be showing any discomfort they may have internal damage.

Star is notorious for digging finding comfort in a newly dug hole.

Star is notorious for digging and than finding comfort in the newly dug hole.

*Homemade Electrolyte Solution for dogs
1 Quart clean water (chlorine free)
1 Tablespoon Sugar or Honey
1 Teaspoon Salt

Having a premade mixture of sugar and salt in your first aid kit is an easy way to have electrolytes on hand for your dog


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Hiking in the Whites – Cliffs and Falls

I was tired and a little crispy from a long day in the sun and water, standing in lines, and managing a social outing. It was 3am and I was just getting settled into bed when I realized I had the day off. Much too late to start calling up folks and seeing who wanted to do some crazy adventure thing in 5 or 6 hours so I made the only rational decision. I had a car, a dog, and myself.  I logged onto http://www.hikenewengland.com and started checking out local hikes. I wanted something new. I plugged in criteria, between 3-8 miles, easy/moderate difficulty, in NH. By 3:30 I found one I thought looked good. It fell just short of 5 miles. I’d never heard of it, didn’t even know how long it would take to drive there, just that it was in the Whites. Set the alarm 5 hours out and called it a night.

Mornings are rarely a quick endeavor for me, even in the best circumstances. I’ve managed to take half an hour just to put on clothes, brush my teeth and walk out the door. With no one waiting on me this morning and no deadline other than the sun I slowly pulled together a couple travel bags. Yes, multiple. When I head out for a day hike or simple car camping I do indulge myself. I packed a bag with comfy clothes for after the hike, PJ bottoms, flip flops, a clean top, and sweatshirt. I also put together a day pack. My pack always has two emergency bags, one with a mini first aid kit and one for if I get stuck or lost in the woods (whistle, headlamp, water purifying caps, extra batteries, lighter). The weather report said 70’s with possible showers throughout the afternoon. Lightweight warm layer and a rain jacket, my camera with a couple dry bags just in case the rain came down and a small bag of snacks. Filled my camel pack and my dogs two platypus’s, tossed her treats into her pack and we were ready! Took me less than an hour to prep our gear.

"Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!" ~Dr Seuss

“Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”
~Dr Seuss

We were on the road and headed north by 11:30am. My GPS said we’d be at trail head by 1:30pm and the hike was estimated at about 4 hours. I’d be home by 8pm! It’s never how you plan. The drive north felt like it took forever. I spent the first hour trying to tell Star about our big adventure, all she wanted to do was put her head out the window and listen to the wind. Next I blasted the radio and sang along with it at the top of my lungs. I got some odd looks, I think many of the people understood why Star had her head out the window. And then it happened! I whipped into a scenic overlook and realized the truth behind what I was doing. I was about to spend a beautiful day in the woods, hiking a trail I’d never seen, with no one but my dog, and I couldn’t have been happier! I launched myself out of my car, looking the part of total tourist, ran over to the guardrail, pulled out my iPhone (didn’t bother with my very nice camera) and snapped just one picture. This was the image that concreted what a great decision I’d made at 3am!

In that moment I knew!

In that moment I knew!

Not 5 minutes down the road I drove past a hitchhiker. I hauled over and did a frantic clean of the front seat so he’d have a place to sit. My day was going from “small adventure” to “holy shit it’s taking off”. I don’t often pick up hitchhikers. As I’m sure you can imagine: woman alone in car + unknown person = uncertainty
Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. This poor guy was trying to get back to his car, he’d just left his buddy at the hospital after a kayak trip gone wrong. The least I could do was get him up the road and drop him at the next intersection. We enjoyed a quick discussion about my upcoming hike. He spoke highly of the trail with beautiful views and winter ice climbing. My destination was only twenty minutes away!

The Arethusa Falls trail and parking area are so clearly marked that if you manage to miss the sign don’t even bother with the hike, blazes are small. The parking lot was packed. I’d been told to expect this and wasn’t bothered by it. This would be my first solo hike, EVER. I wanted this hike specifically for the fact it was well traveled and if anything went wrong there was a good possibility I would meet other hikers.
Geared up and ready to go, I spoke with another hiker who suggested enjoying the falls at the end of the hike as a way to cool off, if so desired. Off to the cliffs I was headed. I don’t like to admit to my lack of map skills but it is a fact that I don’t do well reading maps. And because the guy suggested it, I stood in front of the map at the trail head and tried to get an understanding of where I was, where I was going, and what to expect. Eventually I moved on. About all I knew was I wanted to walk up the trail in front of me. I figured the map images I’d uploaded on my phone would serve me well when I needed them.

My compass rose assists me in finding my way when lost.  At least that's the plan. Haven't gotten lost since I got it.

My compass rose assists me in finding my way when lost. At least that’s the plan.
Haven’t gotten lost since I got it.


I don’t have much nice to say… the first half mile of trail was boring. Just as I started my way towards the slope of the mountain I met my first hikers coming down the trail. They didn’t have much to say either, said there was some steep section, but the view was beautiful. Yes I’m about to rant.
I don’t know who decided to rate the trail as “Moderate!” When you’re scrambling up the side of a mountain, leaning far enough forward that you are wondering when you’ll kiss the hillside, then maybe, just maybe this should have been under “moderate/difficult”. The footing was scree, loose rock, sand, and leaves, crushed and mixed together to create a great base for sliding down a mountainside. I know I speak unkindly of this footing but this is my third hike since having my ACL replaced and for some reason the idea of tearing it out again just doesn’t appeal to me. And maybe I exaggerate a little so as to not seem weak. See, Star had no trouble on this section, and as you know she’s recently recovered from Lyme. She plowed through all 0.7 miles of scree scrambling, climbing over rocks and roots, and along a cliff edge. I wasted more air than I should have cursing myself over this foolish notion of going on a hike, not just a hike but a solo hike. As I pushed myself up the last section of rock, my fingers finding holds on a boulder I paused, I looked ahead, I took a deep breath, and I listened, there was no sound of my dog, her bell had fallen silent. I let my breath out in a shaky whistle. I power up over the last little ridge and scramble up some wet rock and Star bounces over to me, all wiggles. She doesn’t understand what I am so worried about she just settles down to watch me. We hiked the last 50 feet, Star bounding ahead, impatient to see through the trees where the sky was visible.

Star is content to lay still  for just a moment.

Star is content to lay still for just a moment.

Every step up the mountain. Every curse out of my mouth. Every drop of sweat shed. Was worth standing on the top of those cliffs. The view was beautiful and serene. I plopped down and enjoyed some much deserved jerky, and a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. I was relaxing physically but mentally I was on high alert, Star couldn’t understand the idea of a break. I’ve always believed she was part mountain goat and as I watched her creep closer and closer to the cliff edge I prayed she was. I kept calling her back but all she wanted was to know what was just over the edge. During my 30 minute break there wasn’t a single point in time where she stopped moving.

When I got back to the parking lot I looked up and realized just what the cliff edge was like where Star wanted to be a mountain goat...

When I got back to the parking lot I looked up and realized just what the cliff edge was like where Star wanted to be a mountain goat…

I met some truly wonderful people on those cliffs. An older woman who has been section hiking the AT. We sat and talked about the fun and the challenges of the trail. We discussed having a dog as a companion and what it meant, that I would be sleeping in a tent. I talked photography with a couple who lives 20 minutes from me, on the seacoast. And last, the high spirits and antics of a group of friends, who had traveled from all over to meet up and enjoy the outdoors. Then it was time and we all parted ways. I’m a better person for the thirty minutes spent talking to these folks.

As I moved forward up the trail I again questioned this idea of a solo hike. But this time it was with excitement and a sense of understanding. I was out here to be with myself. To take time to let my mind quiet down, to put fears, concerns, and doubts on the back burner and to trust in my ability. I had just hiked one of the steepest sections of trail I’d seen in a long time, I’d done it with my own two legs and at my own pace. I had met people, learned from them and provided knowledge in return. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I was moving through the woods, just me and Star, and I was completely at peace.

I'm content with just the two of us

I’m content with just the two of us

We continued our climb up. My legs were screaming for the ascent to end, my calves were burning, my knee was giving little creaks and groans, and we still hadn’t found the summit. We came to an intersection where I stood staring at the signs trying to make sense of what I knew in my head and what the signs said. I finally pulled out my phone and looked at the map. Remember earlier when I mentioned maps don’t always help me, this was a prime example. The trail “merged” with another. Everything in my mind said stay left but the arrow to the right spoke of the falls and the road I’d come in on. Next I pulled up written word, the directions for each trail intersection etc. Thankfully it clearly stated the two trails met and to stay left. I must argue my point just a little here. When looking at the map the trail to the left and right were clearly labeled “Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail”, the sign pointed to the right to follow “Arethusa-Ripley FT” and to the left to follow “Arethusa Falls Trail”. I knew I wanted “Arethusa Falls Trail” it just wasn’t where it said it was and it didn’t make sense… not when I was standing there all alone getting slightly panicky as I had to make a decision on my own. I made the right decision and onward and upward we went. I don’t even know when we summited, there was no bald peak, or stellar views, I just know we did. Then suddenly the trail sloped downward just enough ease the burning in my legs.

I had made a decision. It wasn’t about if I wanted raisins or craisins in my GORP. It wasn’t about whether or not I should pack my rain pants. It was all about where I was going. I had used the resources I had, trusted my instincts, and moved ahead. This was what the day was about. It was this combination of things which really got me thinking. In about 9 months, I would be on a trail making these decisions constantly. In the beginning I’d been excited about planning for the AT and then the excitement petered out, my research declined, my experimental dehydrating of foods decreased, even discussing it was overrated. But here walking through the woods it all started coming back. The desire to be on my own, to not be limited by others or distracted by technology, where time means nothing (although this isn’t always true). Where every chipmunk rustling through the leaves held the possibility of being a bear. Yes my wild and crazy imagination was running on full tilt.  This was where I was and this is where I wanted to be.

Arethusa Falls, second highest falls in NH at 140'

Arethusa Falls, second highest falls in NH at 140′

As the trail became smoother and I had to focus less on my footing the hike became more and more enjoyable. I spent time working on new, hiking specific, commands with Star. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the woods, minus all the chipmunks taunting Star. I saw very few hikers along this trail, apparently the well traveled part of the trail is the Arethusa Falls section, not the cliffs. Star and I enjoyed the hike down to the falls. We had the view all to ourselves, 140′ of falling water! I sat back and immediately became a buffet for all the starving black flies. With little blood to give I wrapped up my sight seeing of the falls and headed back to the main trail.

Star and I had a mission for the final leg of the hike. It was to find the next steepest part of the mountain. We were successful. The map I was following showed this great little loop option which would have us hiking an additional 0.2 miles and place us next to Bemis Brook. I couldn’t see any reason not to do it, in fact a family I met on their hike up also suggested it with much enthusiasm but did warn it was a “little steep.”

Bemis Brook Trail It's just a little steep

Bemis Brook Trail
It’s just a little steep

It was like walking down, really steep, natural stairs and if your foot caught than you would be plastered to the bottom of the brook when you landed. My fear of heights actually made the hike down more difficult than it needed to be. But we made it and the family was right. Bemis Brook was beautiful. Waterfalls littered the length of it. Star and I hiked along stopping briefly at each one, feeding the fly hordes.

Bemis Brook Falls

Bemis Brook Falls

The final 50 feet of trail was covered in the company of a couple from Finland. Star was at the top of her game, having been allowed to roam with little direction from me, and was on a serious chipmunk hunt. The gentleman joked about how happy Star would be if she had “a belly full of little chipmunks.” A very astute and accurate observation. While Star continued her frenzied hunting I spoke with the couple and we shared stories of hikes and life. It was the perfect way to end my hike. To meet people from so far away and yet create a bond over the shared experience of this trail.
Thank you to all the wonderful people I met this day!!!

Star was not so sure about this footing. "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." ~Ernest Hemingway

Star was not so sure about this footing.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~Ernest Hemingway


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Planning Stages: Canine Companion Part 4; Dog accommodations? What are hazards?

A couple days ago the weather had me thinking really, really hard about what a day on the trail might be like when it ends by climbing into a tent. Granted it was the smell which hit me first as I opened my car door and my drenched pup looked at me, pleading to stay in the car where she wouldn’t have to get her toes wet again, she can be such a little princess when it comes to her toes. I wasn’t concerned whether or not she had enjoyed our hike in the rain, her running, frolicking and puppy grin had already answered any concerns I had. Instead it got me thinking of what it would be like to have an overnight and how would I deal with wet dog. rain storm
What special accommodations do you need?
Depending on the trip this could be anything from sleeping accommodations to boarding or shuttle services. Lets start small and work our way up.
You’re headed out on the trail for a couple nights and want to be sure your dog is going to be comfortable. Everyone will have their own preference for how they set their pup up for bunking down. Some believe dogs, like wolves, are designed to sleep outside on the ground. Dogs aren’t wolves. Unless you have raised your dog outdoors and they understand how to settle in where they will stay warm, dry, and safe please provide them with what they need. That doesn’t mean bring the bed. But do provide them with a space where they will be safe and comfortable.

A comfortable place is important

A comfortable place is important

As I look at hiking the AT there are considerations I have to make, not for my dog but for the other hikers. During my research I discovered that dogs sleeping in shelters is not looked kindly upon. Yes, you can ask if people mind having a dog in the shelter but remember you are putting them in a position where they may feel pressured to be polite, especially if no one else minds. Instead pack accordingly. Plan to have either shelter for you and your dog or something for your dog. My personal preference is to share a tent with my pup. I may regret this after we hit the first big rain storm. My dog has the wettest wet dog smell ever!!! After just 15 minutes in a car everything stank of wet mutt. Now imagine climbing into a tent after a long day in the rain. You stink, they stink, your tent stinks!
Dog friendly accommodations
Some hostels along the AT allow dogs, just as some hotels do. But you can’t rely on this being the case. You need to be ready to bunk down with your pup if necessary. Dogs are allowed on almost all of the AT, but there are three sections of the trail where you cannot take them. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park through Tennessee and North Carolina is about a seven day hike. During which time you’ll need to have accommodations set up for your dog. Whether you know someone in the area who can take your dog for the week or you reach out to one of the shuttle and boarding kennels in the area. Current cost runs between $240-$300 for shuttle and kennel stay. I have contacted Standing Bear Farm via email and spoke briefly with Curtis, what an amazing resource he is.  If you are planning a trip along the AT with or without a dog I would recommend checking out the hostel and the people.
Standing Bear Farm Hiker Hostel: http://www.standingbearfarm.com
Loving Care Kennels: http://www.lovingcarekennels.net
If you are leaving your dog with a kennel get in touch with them and find out what paperwork you need to have with you.
Bear Mountain State Park Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center in New York is another place where you can’t hike with you pup. This is a small section and there is an option to hike around via a road walk on U.S. 9W.
The third and final place where you are unable to take a dog is Baxter State Park in Maine. This means if you are hiking North Bound (NOBO) that you cannot peak out on Katahdin with your dog. For me this is the most heart breaking. If Star and I have truly made it all the way from GA to ME there is nothing more I would like to do then to take my final steps on the trail with her. Who knows maybe in a year they will allow AT dogs to hike the final steps. The hike through Baxter takes 2-3 days. Options are to kennel your dog or have a friend or family member meet you before you enter the park and take the dog. Many of the hotels in the area allow dogs for a small fee.
Yup keeping a dog happy on the trail isn’t all simple solutions of give them some food and call it a day. Planning is in order.

And since we are having such fun talking about sharing space with your pup let’s get into the truly friendly stuff. Dogs like to collect things. Maybe it’s a dead animal they just couldn’t resist rolling in, the ticks they gathered just for you, or maybe the giardia from the untreated water. Let’s take a moment and think about these things.

Tasty crunchy dead wild thing!

Tasty crunchy dead wild thing!

What are the environmental hazards?
Dogs are susceptible to many of the same illnesses and diseases that humans are.  Dogs are able to contract diseases through ticks, mosquitoes, animals, and water. Dogs are also effected by the weather.

Tick borne illnesses
Some of the known tick borne diseases are, Lyme, Anaplasmosis, Hepatozoonosis, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis.  These diseases are transferred from either deer ticks or dog ticks.  Lyme is the one most often heard about but all of these are present and can cause harm to your dog and some may be passable to you. Reduce the risk of ticks by treating your dog and yourself with repellant and doing frequent tick checks.  Carry a flea comb with you as a way to check for creepy crawlies.

Deer ticks are tiny!

Deer ticks are tiny!


Insect borne illness
Next most aggravating and pesky issue is the mosquito. Not only are mosquitoes extremely annoying due to their itchy bite and extensive buzzing! But more important than how they annoy us is how they can be dangerous. Mosquitoes can infect a dog with heartworms. Being ahead of the mosquitoes is the way to go here. Doing preventative treatment is much less costly than treating after the fact. Heartworms like to breed and grow in the heart and lungs and can cut off blood supply to your dogs brain. Symptoms show up as the worms take up more space in the heart and lungs making it difficult to breath or circulate blood. Treatment is very costly and the dog must be kept calm while the worms die and clear out of their system.

Star bundled against the mosquitoes.

Star bundled against the mosquitoes.


Other critter dangers
Next up on the food chain are the animals which your dog might interact with. These may be anything from snakes to bears. Remember dogs are instinctual animals, the idea of investigating an exciting smell will probably outrank anything you can offer them. Star lives by her curiosity and this has definitely lead to some interesting situations. Snakes are fascinating to her, they slide along the ground vanishing into holes or under logs, they leave a fabulous scent trail and are totally unpredictable. Star loves hunting them! For me, in NH, this doesn’t raise any red flags as there aren’t poisonous snakes in the area. But once we hit the AT the curiosity could kill her. Rattle snakes, Cottonmouths, and Water Moccasins are all prevalent on the southern end of the AT.  I have allowed Star to investigate snakes because I’d rather she see them than be so curious I can’t call her away from them. You should consider what would work best for your dog.
Knowing the terrain and what things are present will be important. If you store any gear outside your tent be sure to check it before putting it on or handling it. Again the Southern states provide us with delectable poisonous spiders. Not one but two! Black Widows and Brown Recluses are known to call it home in the mountains.
Now I don’t know if I should consider it a blessing or a curse that Star is curious but cautious. She wants to know about the other animals in the world but at her own pace, no racing into the path of danger, instead she just prods it.  At any point she could run into a raccoon, skunk, or porcupine. Each of these animals are hazardous in their own way. All can carry rabies, skunks stink, and I personally don’t want to be on the trail with a skunked dog, and porcupines, well that’s just obvious.  Quills although they may seem a small inconvenience while near a town could be extremely dangerous on the trail.  A dog whose mouth is full of quills runs the risk of infection, dehydration, and other serious side effects.  Getting them to a vet becomes a priority.

"It was just a little poke mom!"

“It was just a little poke mom!”

Anytime your dog is interacting with wild animals they are putting themselves and possibly you in danger. Dogs should not be chasing animals. A dog distracted by a small animal could get caught up and distracted by a new and more interesting smell. What started as chipmunk chase could end as a bear cub meet and greet or a wild run through the woods after a deer. These are opportunities for injury.

Will continue this post at a later time. Need to get away from fact finding and enjoy the present time!


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Planning Stages: Canine Companion Part 2; Is your pup happy? Ready? Allowed?

As you get ready to venture onto the trail with your dog remember what you’re out there for. The trails are a place to reconnect with nature, to enjoy the fresh air and get some exercise. A place to encounter wildlife, pick up ticks, and get dirty. IF you or your dog do not enjoy these things you are probably in the wrong place.

Sometimes you find yourself in the wrong place!

Sometimes you find yourself in the wrong place!

Does your dog enjoy hiking?
Something to consider before you get too far into your adventure. I have been lucky enough to have adventurous dogs both past and present. A pooch who is happy on the trail will make all the difference. They will look forward to the next bend in the trail just as much as you will. Summiting a mountain and catching all the scents being carried to them on the cooling breeze. A dog who gets excited when they see the tent being pitched or packed is one for the woods.

Is your dog physically able?
I’m not questioning the size of your dog. I don’t care if you have an 8 pound Chihuahua or a 180 pound English Mastiff. My question is, is your dog physically in shape. Choose a hike accordingly. If your 8 pound Chihuahua wants to, and is able to, carry a pack then by all means strap two pounds of hotdog to them for a snack later on. I am talking about the real issues: Age, injury, illness. These are things to consider. Is your dog to old? To young? Dogs under a year should have less strain and physical demands put on their joints and bones as they are growing. I’m not saying don’t take them out for a hike but be smart. Don’t load them up with a pack with too much weight (more then 50% their body weight, I’ll talk more about pack weight in gear) or take them for extended hikes (the AT). In the same respect think about how an older dog will handle the trails. Are their joints in good condition. Are they at a healthy weight. Think about that last question hard. Our view of perceived healthy weight and the truth of it are usually two different things. This link gives one of the best outlines for measuring healthy weight

Click to access AdultBodyCondChart.pdf


If your dog has a history of illness take that into consideration. Lyme disease is common in areas with a high concentration of Deer ticks. Many dogs test positive although it may lay dormant in their body. When it surfaces, physical symptoms may be: lameness, joint soreness, lethargy, and lack of appetite along with other symptoms. These symptoms may show up for 3 or 4 days at a time and then vanish. If out on an extended hike you may not associate lameness with illness but instead as a repercussion of the exertion of the hike. Left untreated Lyme can cause kidney or even nerve damage. Remember your dog is your responsibility. They rely on you to make the right choices for them and care for them.

Solstice at 2 months old

Solstice at 2 months old

Here is the reason to consider those things~
I had the most amazing dog growing up. His name was Solstice and he was a mix of who knows what, but I always claimed he was Pitbull, Rottweiler, and Shepard. Made him seem like a total bundle of badass (which he was). He was 45 pounds of pure muscle and love. I took him everywhere with me. Hiking, swimming, rollerblading, horseback riding. If I was off on an adventure so was he. This was true from the time he was 3 months old until he was 13 years old.
It was one of those days, the air was hot and stifling, a thick blanket of humidity covering every inch of your body. It was a day for swimming. I packed my car up with towels and my dog, called up my friends and headed out to our favorite swimming hole. The best part about this place was the island about a third of a mile out into the pond. We headed for the island, Sol’ swimming along side, no problem keeping up. We were just past the halfway mark to the island. I rolled over onto my back to take a moment and just appreciate the water and the sun, to look up into the sky and watch the clouds. I’d only just turned over when Sol’ attempted to climb over me erasing the sense of calm. He was struggling. Exhausted. Unwilling to leave my side. I had just led my dog to his death. This dog who had followed me anywhere for 12 years and was still following me, but he just didn’t have it in him. To turn around was pointless, the distance back was about the same as if we continued. I battled with ideas, trying to find a solution. How to keep my muscle bound dog above the water and get us BOTH safely to a shore. The bond between us was so strong, it was obvious he trusted me with his life. I called him to me as I floated on my back and I invited him to climb partway up onto me. I started swimming, slowly moving along and allowing him to “hitch” a ride. He would take breaks using me as a docking station while he regained his energy and then he’d swim along side me. It didn’t matter if I was on my back or stomach I’d feel him sneak up alongside than rest his front paws on my shoulders so that he’d be dragged along, a turtle propped on my back. That day he became known as “Super Dog”.
One of the single most terrifying moments of my life, when I believed I’d sentenced him to death. I had not taken into consideration the physical ability of my dog. The year before he had contracted Lyme disease and I wasn’t aware of how much of a toll it had taken on his body. He lived another 3 years. They were tough years as he lost his sight and hearing, he was arthritic down to his toes. Our joint adventures stopped as he enjoyed sun bathing and relaxing for his final years.

Solstice giving a "play bow" with his favorite toy 11 years old

Solstice giving a “play bow” with his favorite toy
11 years old

Are dogs allowed where you’re going?
In my mind dogs should be allowed everywhere; on buses, at work, on every trail and every mountain, even in restaurants. And then I pause and think realistically. My dog, Star, would not survive if I brought her to those places. She hasn’t had a bath in almost two years so I know I shouldn’t have her near food. She would probably pee in the bus. oh, not true. She would release her anal glands. A much more embarrassing and horrific experience for all involved. She would be grumbling at every person who came through the door at work. Yeah, needless to say my dog shouldn’t be in all those places. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t do great on the trail. Star is amazing on the trail. She enjoys meeting people and dogs. Seeing the sights and smelling EVERYTHING. She tends to stick to the trails but then again she does have this uncanny teleporting skill. One moment she’ll be on the trail ahead of us and the next I hear her behind me. Little Miss Stealth who uses the trees and undergrowth to her advantage of moving unseen off trail. And it is for this reason that some places ask that dogs not be brought into them.
National Parks usually fall into the category, dog free zone. It may be hard to understand that your dog may damage the ecosystem but when you realize everyone else and their dog is also out doing the same thing, you start to realize just how large an impact the dogs can have on the environment. Parts of the AT are off limits to dogs. The Smoky Mountain National Forest in NC, a 5 mile stretch in NY and last and most painful, Baxter Park where the completion of the trail and everything you’ve been through comes to an end as you summit Katahdin, without your dog. In NC there are Kennels who will pick up and care for your dog while you are in the National Forest and then return them to you after (I’m sure you’ll hear more about them as I learn more).

Many trails will list they are dog friendly and to please keep your dog leashed. Carry in carry out (poop). Respect their wishes. There are many different reasons they may be asking you to keep your dog leashed. Maybe it’s a breeding ground for an endangered bird, or the undergrowth is fragile. If you want more info about hiking areas check out “Best Hikes with dogs” http://besthikeswithdogs.com/best-hikes-with-dogs-guidebooks/ . They rate trails based on terrain and how it can effect your dog. Is the trail dog friendly but not a good choice because the terrain is risky to your dog; sharp rocks, steep climbs, ladders.

Some places are meant to be explored

Some places are meant to be explored

No matter where you go or what you do remember to have fun and be safe!

to be continued…


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Planning stages: Canine companion Part 1

The moment when you first feel inspired to go do the unthinkable is breathtaking, you have it all under control until you realize planning was not included in the moment. I announced my intentions of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) well before I had done any REAL research or planning. Did I know what the AT was? Of course I did. Or so I thought.

With a year to go before I will make my way up Springer Mountain in GA I have plenty of time to start planning. There are some BIG things to be planned. I am not the only one undertaking this experience, although I am the only one doing it by choice. I will be taking my trusty sidekick and companion Star along for the trip. A young pup with a sense of adventure. Star was rescued along with her siblings from a shelter in Arkansas and made her way up to NH where I saw her adorable face staring at me through her web profile. Love at first sight!

A face worth loving! Star at 4 1/2 months old.

A face worth loving!
Star at 4 1/2 months old.


For anyone who is thinking to take their dog hiking I wish you the best in finding all the information you need. After hours of scrubbing the internet looking for one piece of information or another I have come to an understanding, there is NO ONE PLACE to find what you are looking for. Keywords, phrases, websites… so much knowledge and so little organization. Opinions. There are a lot of those out there. And since there are so many I’m going to put one more out there.

Dogs on the trail are AWESOME!!! They require work and time! My dog is happiest when she is running free. But hike days with a dog are not just about the dog. They are about yourself and others on the trail. When I first started hiking with Star I didn’t think this way. It was for her. So what she was bombing up the trail, chasing squirrels, meeting other dogs, not coming back when called, she was having the time of her life! These were her puppy days.

Three years later I realize just how naïve my perspective was.
When on the trail ALWAYS have your dog under control. Star has taught me MANY things in the three years I’ve had her. She doesn’t love every dog she meets. Not all dogs love her. She’s better off leash than on. Treats make everything better. Even though she ignores people it doesn’t mean they feel comfortable around her. And you never know what they’re getting into when you can’t see them.

Down to the nitty gritty of things you might want to consider before going on the trail. I sat and made a list. It was a short list. I started searching and suddenly my list got longer and longer, to the point where there was no easy way to find the information. I will try to provide as much insight into the topics I’m covering. Much of what I say may be my own opinion or based off select facts that I have found.

1) Does your dog enjoy hiking?
2) Are they physically able?
3) Are dogs allowed where you’re going?
4) Does your dog play well with others?
5) What supplies does your dog need on the trail?
6) Are you willing to take care of their poop?
7) Special accommodations?
8) Environmental hazards?
9) Nutrition
10) Veterinary care
11) Are you ready to put their needs before yours?

All it takes is one misstep to find yourself stuck in the mud.

All it takes is one misstep to find yourself stuck in the mud.