A Short Trip to Somewhere

I found myself with some time off and the first hint of a gorgeous day a few days ago so I figured “Let’s go somewhere.”  With my newly acquired Parks Canada Discovery Pass burning a hole in my pocket (OK it was pinned to my cork board but that doesn’t sound as good) it was an easy decision to make.  And as there are only five national parks in Ontario and a very limited amount of time, it was narrowed down to Georgian Bay Islands National Park.  So I loaded the dogs in the car, punched in the park name, and followed the directions from my pushy telephone.

I wasn’t really paying attention as I blindly followed the voice in the phone.  I was somewhat familiar with the route since we were headed towards Midland and as we continued north, I saw some ominous clouds ahead of us that had me worried we might have to cancel our trip.  But after a few turns, I was back facing the sunshine.

I turned down the last road and eagerly fixed my pass to the rearview mirror as I drove towards where I thought must be the gate.  Nope…no gate.  An administration building with a ton of vehicles but no gate.  Weird.  I brought the dogs out of the car and headed towards the first thing that looked like a trail.  There were no markings, no maps, but oh wait: there’s a sign that indicates the park border.  OK so at least I’m on national lands.

We went traipsing along the narrow but well-trodden trail.  I stopped at the edge of a river to let the dogs have a drink and of course they can’t just drink from the shore.  Oh no.  They have to wade in chest deep and drink that way.  All of them.  Great.  Wet dogs.  In fact, Piper wanted to go for a full-on swim and kept trying to wade deeper.  Leo dropped into the dirt as soon as he got out of the water and I cringed with every wiggle that sent more dirt into his drenched coat.  Jack, well Jack’s got that thick pug coat that holds water like a sponge so I had the pleasure of repeated shakes.  After they had sorted themselves out, back on the trail we went.

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The river.

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Can’t you just drink from the shore like normal dogs?

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Oh not you too Leo.

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Piper decided to strike a pose by herself.

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I’m always getting butt shots.

Then we exited onto a paved path.  I turned to look behind me, thinking that I had missed more trail as I was enjoying the sun.  Noooooooooo there was nothing else.  Huh a ten minute walk and I find myself on a paved trail behind some houses.  I knew that there were some small parks but this was a bit much; or not.  Oh well, we continued on.  There was a placard for the Trans-Canada Trail so obviously we had somewhere to go.  It was a nice view out over the water and we walked by some really creepy structure that I think was part of the shipping industry from a bygone era.  All I can say is that I would not have been surprised to see a clown peeking out a window, especially since I had just seen the preview for the movie “It”.

Everyone was super friendly and if I didn’t immediately acknowledge someone, like when I was stooping and scooping, they made sure to say “Hi” as they went past.  There’s no better way to meet people than when you’re trying to tie a bag full of poop.

The paved path quickly heated up and the dogs stopped pulling to sniff everything which is the universal signal for “I wanna go back”.  So we turned around and went back through the park.  Thinking the park had to be bigger, we took a few more trails but we still made it back to the parking lot in zero time.  I felt a little silly for having brought my big camera pack complete with tripod and hiking poles.  Bit of overkill with that.  So I left the big pack behind and brought only my camera as we wandered around a picnic area next to the parking lot.  There were some old stone foundations and I just could not resist stopping for a few pics.  Of course it would have been nice if I had brought my tripod for a group selfie but a wadded up jacket and nearby piece of stone will do almost as good a job.  Having said that, there are plenty for a blooper reel.IMG_0839

Feeling a tad bit peckish, we drove into Midland proper.  I had only been to Midland once before for last year’s Butter Tart Festival so I wanted to stroll the town without being run over.  It’s a very pretty little town with an outstanding coffee shop called “Grounded Coffee Co.”  I ordered my usual americano with a splash of cream and bit of sugar and got a blueberry scone because…well I wanted one.  I sat at the table outside the cafe on the sidewalk and entertained passersby as I shared itty bitty bites of scone with the dogs.  Some people would stop and get some dog lovin’.  There was one gentleman who slowly walked by with a cane and appeared as though he had had a stroke or something similar and the dogs were just so gentle, it made me so proud of them.  Especially Piper since she is a master of the full-body lean.

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You look like you need help with that.

After I had refuelled, we continued to walk to the shore where there is a nice waterfront area.  And then, I saw it.  Always looking for landmarks to pose the dogs I could not pass up the opportunity to get them in front of a giant metal goose.  Nor could I miss the seagull sitting on the head of the goose.  How cool.  Although I was distracted (and maybe a little over caffeinated) when I saw a man sitting by the lake with a red toque and red and white sweater.  Holy crap I found Waldo!!!!  It must have been quite a sight for the people sitting in their cars (I don’t know why) as I tried to pose the dogs, get a photo of the seagull, and covertly get a photo of Waldo.  I managed to get two of the three.  By this point, the dogs were bored of my shenanigans and soon sprawled out on the lawn while I snapped happily away.

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A seagull on a goose’s head! How awesome.

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The dogs are decidedly unimpressed.

Once I was done with photos, and Waldo had left, we sat on the end of one of the piers just to enjoy the sunshine and each others company.  After a bit, we walked back to the car, stopping for one more picture next to a boat.  Dark clouds were hanging low over the water and the wind was starting to blow so we hustled the rest of the way.

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Leo’s trying to figure out how to get the water far below. Piper doesn’t care.

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Jack is content to just chill.

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“Oh come on. Another pic?!”

I was giving the dogs some water before loading them in the car when I heard the first rumble of thunder.  I looked up and saw that the sky had gone from dark clouds to having a green tinge to it.  Uh oh.  When ever there are green skies you know there’s a real storm brewing and no sooner had I started the car, then the first drops fell.  Soon the rain was pouring down and my poor little car was getting pelted by hail and the wind blew us side to side.  Fortunately, the worst of it ended quickly and most of the drive was uneventful if too rainy for any side trips.

Oh and the park that I was in?  It wasn’t Georgian Bay Islands Park.  I’m not quite sure where I was.  I’m thinking it’s just a small chunk of land for their administration office and where they park their cars.  So it looks like we’re going to have to go back.  Only maybe this time with no hail.  But I’m not saying I won’t look for Waldo again.

 

No Denying the Mothman

Starting Mileage: 2403.6

It was downright cold when I woke up the next morning.  Rather, it was cold outside; inside it was so warm under the blankets that it took me a while to get out of bed.  But the need to get on the road, and a boxer nose that kept making those exasperated snorts in my face, made me drag my butt out from the warmth.  I took the dogs for a walk around the grassy area but after they had quickly done their business, they were pulling me back towards the hotel.  I got the hint.

After I poured out their breakfast, I made my way to the lobby for mine.  I found the offerings to be consistent if nothing else.  I guess I can’t expect much for free and in short order I was back in my room with a waffle and some yogurt.  I was eager to get going and wolfed the food down before we were back on the highway.  I had been debating whether to take my time or push to get back home that night and figured I would let the road decide: if there was something fun worth exploring then we would explore and we would get home when we got home.

Knowing that we were entering Jefferson National Park, I had my eyes peeled for any sign indicating where we would have to go for a hike.  After I emerged from a tunnel that ran through a mountain, I finally saw a sign.  The sign told me that we were leaving Jefferson National Park.  Huh.  I thought about turning around to try and find our way back in there but I was soon gratefully that we were not in the trails when a sudden snow storm descended on us.  It cleared quickly and I decided to stop for a coffee and made my way towards Bluefield West Virginia.  Some parts of the drive were beautiful and had lovely views that I was able to sneak a peak at as we wound through narrow hilly roads.

When I stopped at the Corner Coffee Espresso Bar and Bistro, I saw some of the biggest cinnamon buns being frosted by the woman at the counter.  I debated getting one as I asked her where some good places to hike were.  She told me about Pinnacle Rock then suggested going to Pipestem Resort State Park.  I ordered a latte and passed on the cinnamon bun (I know! I’m shocked too!) and began to backtrack to the highway.  The latte was nice and warming on such a chilly day and I had planned to stop at a scenic overlook that we had driven past.  Unfortunately it wasn’t so scenic because the snow had began to fall thick and heavy in the swirling hypnotic mess that blows through hill country.

By the time we made it to Pipestem Resort State Park, the snow had stopped and the wind had died down a bit.  I drove through the gate and was surprised to see that there was no one working.  I guess it was an off-season and admission was free.  Wahoo.  I drove all the way though the park until finally stopping near the visitor centre on the way back out.  Seeing as how there was no one around us I had briefly toyed with the idea of letting them run off-leash, especially since there was a trail that headed into the trees near the lot.  But as soon as the dogs got into the forest, both Piper and Jack were on their toes.  They obviously knew that there was something out there and they were determined to find it.  For all his mismatched and unathletic-looking build, Jack is surprisingly good at tracking and has that single-minded puggy stubbornness that will keep him with his nose to the ground as he tries to pull my arm out of the socket.  Piper is also a very good tracker but where Jack is like a fish on the end of the line, she just wants to go.   Leo on the other hand was oblivious.   He just wanted to pee on everything.

I was really glad that I had kept them on leash when not one but two deer went bounding through the forest.  Thankfully it didn’t take long for their attention to be drawn back to the trail we were hiking as it was covered with slippery leaf cover and some steep climbs.  By the time we got back t the car, I think they were ready to take a break.  I never did find out where the name Pipestem Resort came from.

Now when we left the park and were back on our route, I noticed that we were going to drive by Beckley.  I was tempted to stop for a mothman but no.  I just had a coffee-based drink.  I don’t need to stop so soon.  Why would I go back to Beckley?  Hey how the heck did I end up in Backley?  At the Chocolate Moose of all places.  Well since I was there it would be a waste not to support a local business.  I had remembered the owner telling me about the New River Gorge National River when I passed through the last time and I had just finished my mothman (which was as good as I remembered it) when we arrived at one of the trailheads.

I hadn’t done any research (of course), so I just drove around until I started to see signs for trails and randomly picked one.  This time the dogs gave no indication of there being any wildlife nearby which was great because the footing was a bit slick from the recent snow.  The trail is an easy one to follow and I soon realized why they call it Long Point Trail: at a small off-shoot you can look over the gorge and see the bridge that spans it.  A fog had started to roll in and partially obstructed the view, which I think made it look even more dramatic.  And then the snow started to fall again and I decided to go back to the car instead of finishing the trail.  I wasn’t sure if the weather would get better or worse and I didn’t want to risk navigating tricky trails when I’m not familiar with the area.  And we would have to get back on the road unless I wanted to spend another night in a hotel.  Of course, by the time we got back to the car, the snow had stopped and the sun was actually shining.  Oh well.  The dogs jumped into the car and were curled up before we got too far down the road so obviously they weren’t upset that their hike had been cut short.

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Leo stretching his legs.

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Checking out the scents.

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Do we have to pose again?

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Piper surveying her domain.

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Always up for a hike.

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Jack has no problem with heights.

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A first look across the Gorge.

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New River Gorge Bridge.

I was driving along the bridge when I looked to my right and saw the very point that we had been standing on.  I had known that it was high but I had no idea just how high and for some reason that short glimpse of this jutting outcrop of rock that stood in stark contrast to the dark green trees that framed it, well it just got to me.  I would have pulled over if there had been a safe place to do so for a picture.  I can’t quite explain why it had such an impact on me; it just did.

The rest of the drive north was incredibly uneventful.  We stopped at some rest stops, I finished the leftover pizza, and we drove some more.

And then we got to the border.  You know there’s a story with me crossing the border.  First I picked the slowest line.  Of course.  When I pull up to the booth, there’s a woman sitting there and she starts with the “Where were you?”  South Carolina.  “How long were you gone?”  I left on Monday.  “Where did you stay?”  Red Roof Inn.  “Is that a condo?”  I’ll admit that one threw me for a bit of a loop when I replied that it was a hotel…er motel. “Did you meet anyone down there?”  Now this is the second time I’ve heard that question although the stunning guy from the crossing south was a lot more fun to answer.  No I didn’t.  “Do you have any firearms or weapons?”  No I don’t.  “Did the dogs go down with you?”  Yes I answer and offer their paperwork which she takes and shuffles through.  When she hands them back she again asks if I had any firearms and weapons.  I tried not to laugh and I probably sounded like I was choking because all I thought to myself was do you think that asking me the same question twice will trip me up?  Like I’d go yes…Oh wait ya got me.  If it sounds like I’m harping on her I’m not.  I have a lot of respect for the the border personnel and it’s not a job that I’d want to do.

So once that was all squared away, back on the road we went.  I was going to stop at duty free but I was just so tired and it was so close to home that I didn’t want to delay being in my own bed.  I stopped just once to fill up the gas tank and with it being well after rush hour, I made good time across the top of Toronto.

And at 1:41 am, I turned off the car and brought my weary pack inside.  I was so tired that I left most of my things in the car and barely pulled on my pajamas before falling into bed with three dogs and two cats curled up around me.

Finishing Mileage: 3585.7 km

The Season Begins

The weather may not be good for a road trip in Canada, but there is plenty of sun if you drive far enough south.  So with my first week of vacation this year that is exactly what I did.  For some reason, I did not prepare as much as I have in the past.  OK I’ll be honest: I think I was feeling a bit burned out and exhausted from work and just wanted to GO.  So while I packed my tent and sleeping bag, I did not have much in the way of food reserves.  I had also left my inflatable sleeping pad and stuffable pillow in my locker at work soooooooo that put a bit of damper on things.

And even though I went to bed late and completely beat, I woke up around 3:00 am.  I dozed off and on and then finally was tired of not sleeping so climbed out of bed at 4:45 am.  A leisurely breakfast of left over banana fritters (not my best work but it was a new recipe) and we were out the door at 6:00 almost on the dot.  Everything was going well until we hit traffic north of Toronto.   It really says something about infrastructure when you’re crawling along before 7:00 am.

Big shout out to Matthew Wakelee who had posted about Eternal Flame Falls (https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/44878580/posts/1318698544) and with south in our sights, it seemed like a good place to start.  But to start, we had to get there.  For some reason, when I entered Eternal Flame Falls, my phone tried to send me to Europe.  After almost throwing the stupid phone out the window, I did a bit more digging and found that the falls are in Chestnut Ridge Park.  OK so now I have a starting point.

Now anyone who has read my posts knows that I seem to have issues with getting across the border.  Don’t know why I turn into a babbling fool but this time was no exception.  I pull up to the booth and there is this gorgeous man staring back at me.  Imagine a Spanish version of Jason Statham.  On a side note, I wonder if they intentionally put the good looking staff at the border to trip you up.  So anyway, I’m trying not to humiliate myself more than I do on a regular basis as I hand over my passport.  He asks where I’m going and what I’m doing and is it just the four of you?  I almost melted when he made my dogs sound like little people.  Then “are you meeting anyone down there?” The outside voice said “no” but the inside voice added “want to change that?”  Fortunately it stayed the inside voice and soon we were through the border.

Less than 30 minutes later, I pulled into Chestnut Ridge County Park.  I put leashes on everyone then we set out looking for a map.  Hmmmm there was no map and no signs for these falls.  Finally I met a couple out walking their dog and it turns out I was at the wrong end of the park and I had to go to Seefort Road.  So back in the car and we continue on.  The next road we saw didn’t have a sign so I figured this was Seefort Road.  I drove into the park and there were signs for all kinds of things but nothing for a waterfall.  I get the dogs out of the car and head towards trees and finally I found a map.  And Seufert (not Seefort) Road is the next one down.  So back in the car we go.  Finally I see a sign for Eternal Flame Falls and I park the car.  The dogs looked at me with the “Are you sure this time?” look as I opened the door for them.  Can’t blame them for that I suppose.

The warning signs at the trailhead were encouraging (sarcasm).  The trail is an out and back that is only 0.56 miles each way.  I had read reviews about it being a tricky hike and not well marked.  At first it was muddy and rooty, just the kind of trails that we hike at home.  I found that the trail was extremely well marked with little numbered flame placards but they looked as though they were fairly new.  The trail leads down a ravine, then back up, then cuts back and down long the river.  You have to cross the river a few times which would be no big deal in the summer but in the winter, the water had frozen on the rocks leaving a slick sheet of ice on everything.  I’ll admit that I almost went down a few times and trying to navigate with the dogs on their leashes was a bit tricky.

We were picking our way over some fallen trees when we rounded a corner and there it was.  I had seen photos but actually being there left me speechless and standing awestruck.bigfallblurgroup

I stayed for a while taking photos (of course).  I loved the fact that we were the only ones there.  It is such a magical place that I wanted to imagine that we were the only ones that knew about it.  But I’m glad that we left when we did because we passed a woman and her dog who were going to the falls.  I was a little irritated that she didn’t put her dog on a leash meaning I had to pick by her across slick rocks but I was in too good a mood to be bothered much.

After that, I was in need of a cup of coffee so after a quick Yelp consult, we made our way to Bean Coffee House in North East Pennsylvania.  Yes the town is called North East.  I ordered an americano and then decided on a roasted red pepper hummus sandwich with cucumber and black olives.  The sandwich came with kettle chips and a pickle.  I was looking for some place to park and was dismayed to see parking meters everywhere.  A shame because the park would have been a nice to sit.  I had my eyes peeled for a parking lot when out of the corner of my eye I saw “Little Shop of Donuts” as I drove by.  I almost slammed my brakes right there but the car riding my rear bumper would have put an end to the trip fast.  So I drove the block wondering if my eyes had deceived me but no…there it was.  I was so excited I ended up missing the parking spots in the front and drove around the building before I launched myself at the front door.

Here’s the scoop: they have vanilla and chocolate donuts and put toppings on them to order.  I felt a tear form at the corner of my eye as I examined the menu.  A donut shop with a menu.  I decided to get two donuts and both were going to be chocolate: a Peanut Butter Cup and a Happy Camper.  One donut was covered with chocolate and peanut butter and the other got a smear of marshmallow, some chocolate, and graham crackers. Yes I know it’s selfish to get chocolate because the dogs couldn’t have any but I think the unopened pack of treats in the front seat would buy me out of any guilt they may throw at me.donutparking

I was so fixated on donuts, that I didn’t think to eat my lunch there and continued on down the road.  Or maybe I didn’t want them to watch me as I laughed maniacally while I shoved chocolate and peanut butter and marshmallow into my mouth.  After a short drive to the outskirts of town, I found an empty church lot and parked there to have my food.  The sandwich was kind of disappointing.  I really wanted to like it but the bread had that almost-toasted or slightly-stale feel to it and the toppings were pretty much piled in the centre of the bread so the edges of the sandwich were just bread.  The best part about it was the pickle.  The americano was excellent however.  I had the Happy Camper donut first.  The donut was good: light and cakey and not overwhelmed by the toppings.  I was going to save the other one for later in the day but later turned out to be less than an hour.  So it wouldn’t get stale…yeah that’s it.

Because I was limited for time, I spent longer on the interstate than I normally like to which meant that we visited a few rest stops.  For the record, Montana still has the best rest stop pet areas.  By far.  We stopped at one in West Virginia that was so thick with poop that the dogs didn’t even want to walk there.  Although I did notice that the silhouette they use for dogs is a boxer.  Strike a pose Piper.

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Not quite the same stance on the sign.

I booked a room at the Travelodge in Beckley, West Virginia.  I’ll admit that the room was cleaner than I had expected it.  Not a big fan of carpet but it’ll do.  My room was on the ground floor at the end of a hallway with a door to the lot.  The door opened to a rather secluded and concealed area that was surrounded by trees and next to a cemetery.  All of that was no big deal but the fact that the door didn’t lock was a bit concerning to me.

After a quick check on Yelp, I noticed there was a Mexican restaurant close by; just a few blocks away and on the other side of the street.  Rather than wait for the lights to cross the street, I stayed on the hotel side on what appeared to be a wide grassy strip in lieu of a sidewalk.  Well soon the grassy strip started to slope.  Next thing I know, we’re picking our way across a grade of more than 45 degrees.  So I guess I can turn a walk around the block into a hike.

By the time I walked into Campestre, I was hungry.  The kind of hungry where you don’t want to talk, you just want someone to put food in front of you.  After some quick questions, I ordered the Tapatio.  I had to wait another ten minutes so I took the dogs and we continued walking.  And then I saw something.  A sign emerging from the pools of light cast by the streetlights and passing headlights and the glow of nearby stores:  Chocolate Moose Coffee.  I was tempted.  Really tempted but decided that would be a visit best saved for the morning.

We went and picked up my food and decided that we had had enough hiking for one day so we stayed on the sidewalk and crossed at the lights at the hotel.  I sat on the bed and after toasting the days safe travels with the Road Trip bottle (Jack Daniels Honey), I opened the container to reveal chicken and ribeye steak and mushrooms and cheese and beans with flour tortillas and salsa and a sour cream with some kind of spice and fresh tortilla chips.  It was so good I barely stopped to breathe.  I would definitely go back there again.  For some reason I found the sour cream to be intriguing; perhaps because I could not quite identify the flavour.

Sleepy and satisfied, I squeezed myself between the dogs and drifted off to sleep.

Maybe Tomorrow…Until Tomorrow

You couldn’t have grown up in Canada without having heard of “The Littlest Hobo”, a show that has been on the air since October 1979.  I don’t remember it for the somewhat nebulous plot of an extremely intelligent dog that wanders from town to town to help those in need;  I remember the theme song.  I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself singing it, especially when I’m itching to get on the road.  Right now I can’t get it out of my head.

There’s a voice that keeps on calling me
Down the road, that’s where I’ll always be.
Every stop I make, I make a new friend,
Can’t stay for long, just turn around and I’m gone again

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

Down this road that never seems to end,
Where new adventure lies just around the bend.
So if you want to join me for a while,
Just grab your hat, we’ll travel light, that’s hobo style.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.

So if you want to join me for a while,
Just grab your hat, we’ll travel light, that’s hobo style

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.

There’s a world that’s waiting to unfold,
A brand new tale no-one has ever told.
We’ve journeyed far but you know it wont be long;
We’re almost there, we’ve paid our fare with a hobo song.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find what I call home,
Until tomorrow, you know I’m free to roam.

So if you want to join me for a while,
Just grab your hat, we’ll travel light, that’s hobo style.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down,
Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.

  • Terry Bush (Maybe Tomorrow)
  • Lyrics by John Crossen

I Need a Suggestion Box

Well my friends, the days are slowly getting longer, it isn’t quite as cold, and I have more fur on my floor which means it’s almost time for Road Trip Season!

I have a few trips already (kind of) planned out but I’m looking for your suggestions.  It could be an awesome town, a great cafe, or the must-do hike.  Anything and everything you have I want to know but with one condition: it has to be in the contiguous United States and Canada.  As good as my little Corolla is, it doesn’t handle water crossings well.

If we visit a place you suggest, I’ll make sure you get a shout out.  Now if it’s a secret that you don’t want broadcast (and I get why that would be), send me an e-mail (3adventuredawgs@gmail.com).  We can go and keep the location on the down low.

I have been waiting to hit the road since last year and I cannot wait to see what suggestions you have for what is out there.

Cheers all.

P.S.  I couldn’t resist sharing some pictures of our trips over the past two seasons.

Looking to “Ruff” it?

I love to camp.  I love being outside in nature and having the chance to explore the wilderness.  It’s also cheaper than a hotel so financially it helps on cross-country trips.  I’m lucky the dogs like to camp as much, if not more, than I do so I try to spend as many nights camping as possible.  The only times that we stay in a hotel is if the forecast is calling for rain or if the temperature looks like it’s going to drop too much for my delicate little ones.  Wet dogs in a small tent is something that I try to avoid as much as possible as well as frozen pup-sicles.  And there have been a few times when I haven’t been able to find a campground so we hotel by default.

So if camping is in the plan, here is some of the gear that you’ll want to pack.

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The trunk all packed up clockwise from top left: towel, sleeping bag, bins of food, safety kit, sleeping pad, tent and poles, poop bags, bug spray and sunblock, backpack, camping stove and fuel (in the bag), nalgene bottles, gas can, bag with ropes and spare leashes.

Tent:

You need to sleep somewhere.  There are so many options for tents these days that the only limit is your imagination and finances.  Most stores with a sporting section sell some kind of tent and you can get one for cheap if you just want something to use once a year but if you’re looking to use it often or in more rugged areas, I’d suggest going to an actual outdoor store.  I find that the quality is usually better and they often have some set up which means you can climb in and feel it out.  I once spent close to an hour crawling in and out of tents, laying down, and kneeling to see what they were like.  It’s one thing to read the base measurements but when you actually experience the size, you get a whole different sense of it.  If you go with friends it can be really fun (I’m serious about both trying it out and having a tent party in the store).

There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re going out to buy a tent or you have a few to choose from:

The number of people (and dogs) in your party – most tents will say how many people fit in the tent but I would suggest using that only as a guideline since that has everyone squished right next too each other and you may not want to get that close to your travel companions while you sleep.  It also does not account for any gear or other things you would keep in your tent.

The size of the people in your party – if you have someone that is very tall, make sure the tent is long enough to accommodate them with some space on either end to allow for the inevitable shift that always seems to happen overnight and so they are not pressed directly against the tent walls.

Duration in your tent (staying put or moving every day) – If you’ll be setting up your tent as a base of operations for days at a time, you’ll likely want something a bit more roomy than just a place to lay your head every night before packing back up.

Weather – While most tents are good for three seasons, if you’re heading out into the snow, you’ll want a tent that’s a bit more robust.

Ease of set-up – I remember the tents of my youth being heavy fabric and multi-piece tent poles that you had to assemble before several people had to work together to actually pitch the tent.  Most tents that I have seen lately have shock cord poles that snap together and allow a tent to be set up in no time.  I have seen some tents that only require you to throw them out and stake them down.  I’m a big believer in the less complicated the better.

Packed size/weight – if you’re just moving the tent in your car, there’s more leeway was far as size but if you’re heading into the back country, you’ll want the smallest and lightest tent you can find.  If you’ll be sharing with other people, you can divide the various components between you to share the load.

I have the Wanderer 2 from Mountain Equipment Co-op.  This is a two-person tent that has enough room for me and the three dogs with a little bit of extra space for my pack.  There are pockets on either side of both doors, a loop in the roof for a lantern, and loops to attach an extra storage sling.  The fly forms two vestibules over the doors which allows for extra storage.  Some tents have a footprint that acts as a base layer, adding an extra level of insulation and protection from the ground.  I usually use the footprint which provides a sort of floor in one vestibule which helps to reduce some of the dirt that the dogs track in.  I’ve had this tent for about six years and it still looks like new.  One of the best things about it is how easy it is to pitch by myself since the dogs aren’t very helpful.

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Our site in Blue Mound State Park in Minnesota.

Sleeping bag/pads:

I recommend getting a sleeping bag that is rated for lower temperatures than you think you’ll encounter.  You can always unzip and hang parts of your body out but when you’re putting every article of clothing on just so you can sleep, it makes for a very unpleasant night.

Sleeping bag styles are highly personal and there are a lot of options out there.  I have several sleeping bags but my go-to is a synthetic down mummy bag.  The dogs don’t like this one so much because it doesn’t allow a lot of space for snuggling.  When we’re staying in an area that’s going to be warm for the duration of the trip, I have a larger rectangular sleeping bag.  Because it is bigger, I usually have at least one dog sharing the space with me which makes it even warmer.

I have an inflatable sleeping pad that I use for me and a foam sleeping pad that I put down for the dogs, mostly for their comfort but also to protect the floor of the tent from sharp nails.

Stove:

Stoves, like tents, can be as simple or as complicated as you like.  I only have one stove since I’ve only ever had to feed myself.  It is by a company called Trangia and what I like about it is how simple and compact it is.  The entire unit packs small and there are no parts that I have to worry about breaking.  It uses methylated spirits as fuel which is cheap and can be found anywhere.  All you do is pour some fuel into the fuel cup and light that.  A simmering ring fits on top of the cup that controls the temperature.  It’s quiet and foolproof.  And I can eat directly out of the cooking pot so there’s less dishes to do.  It’s a win-win situation.

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Breakfast in Minnesota.  We had to use bottled water because the camp’s water was not drinkable when we were there.

Utensils and dishes:

If you’re going to be cooking, you’re going to need things to manipulate your food in the pot and get your food into your face hole.  I have a set of camping utensils that are light weight and have a clip to keep them together but I usually only break those out if I’m going in the back country when weight is a serious consideration.  I usually just grab a fork, spoon, and paring knife that I don’t mind if I lose or damage and put them in one of the food bins.  And I pack a folding spatula for cooking.

If you’re cooking for multiple people, you’re obviously going to want to bring at least one plate for everyone.  You can get deep plates that will do double duty as bowls as well.  I know that camping instantly brings up thoughts of metal dishes but if you have young ones with you, you may want to avoid metal as little fingers tend to forget about hot surfaces.

I would suggest packing one plate, one fork, one spoon, and one cup per person.  A bowl if you’ve planned for soup or cereal unless you’ve got the deep plate.  As far as knives, you can get by with one big knife that everyone uses to cut their food with if you don’t want to pack a knife for everyone.  I also like to pack light in the dish department because it makes clean up a bit easier.  I’ve found that if you bring it, you’re likely to use it.

Since some campgrounds don’t have a washing station, you’ll want to bring a basin of some sort to clean your dishes as well as biodegradable soap and a scrub of some kind.  If there is a designated cleaning area, please make sure you use it as it limits contamination and helps to protect wildlife.  Yes you may have to lug your stuff but imagine if the person who used the site before you dumped their dirty wash water within spitting distance of where you would be camping.  Food particles rot and that rot can smell and that smell can attract animals.  Need I say more?

If you’re in a place with no designated area, perhaps back country or public land, make sure you dump your wash water far from water sources and your tent.  If you’re not sure about proper back country etiquette, there are plenty of sites to do a bit of research.  And if you are, it may be a good refresher at the start of the season.

Hatchet:

Yes it’s good for the obvious chopping of wood but turn it over and you’ve got a hammer for driving tent pegs.  Scrape your wood and you’ve got tinder for your fire.  Heck it’s good in an emergency if you need to smash glass to help someone in an accident or cut branches for a splint which is why I keep my hatchet right at the front of my trunk for ease of access.

Lighter/Matches:

Why chop wood if you’re not going to light a fire?  I don’t usually have fires but there have been a few times when I’m glad I did.  There is something so soothing about sitting in the growing dusk with a fire crackling away.  And if you’re in a place with no cell service, it gives you something to do until bed time.  And you’ll need some source of ignition if you’re using a stove.

Lantern:

When it gets dark out, you’ll want some means to find your way around your site.  Or it can be a surrogate if you don’t start a fire.  There are even little ones that can be hung from the ceiling of a tent.  Lanterns aren’t strictly essential since you can use a flashlight for the same thing (which of course you have packed in the car) but I like being able to plunk it down on a table or in the tent and read or write out the adventures of the day.  And if you have people with you, can you beat it for a game of cards?

Tarps or screened tents:

If you’re going to be stationary for a bit, these are invaluable for covering your area in case of rain that will keep you huddled in your tent.

Other stuff:

A deck of cards is pretty much mandatory if there’s more than one person.  Flip flops for the shower.  Spare toilet paper because…well you never know.

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You didn’t want me to move did you?

Because this post got a bit long, I’ll do my camping routine in a separate post.

If Everyone Else is Doing it…

I guess it’s that time to look back at the past year and reflect, and blah blah blah.  You won’t see any resolutions here my friends since I think they are a waste of time.  But just for a laugh, let’s take a boo at what we’ve done this year.  OK I’ll admit that it’s a chance to share some of my favourite pics of the pups.

It’s been almost a year since I started this blog.  Wow.

I had the chance to go to The Bahamas for my brother’s wedding (Click here for the story).  That was pretty spectacular and I definitely want to go back again.  A longer visit and more cash to really explore the islands.  If anyone has any suggestions for places to go that are off the beaten path (or beach), I’d love to hear them.

After The Bahamas, the dogs and I drove the North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail.  This was our second trip through North Carolina and an exercise in gluttony.  I mean from the first stop at the Skylight Inn in Ayden to the last stop around 500 miles away in Murphy at Herb’s Pit Bar-B-Que I ate only at the 23 restaurants listed on the trail.  Breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid-afternoon lunch, dinner; every day was fuelled by chop pork, coleslaw, hush puppies, some french fries, and even a banana pudding.  I had the opportunity to experience Southern Hospitality and the beauty that is North Carolina.  That’s part of the reason why I love reading coach4aday .  There are so many things that I have learned that I would not have even thought about before (state dirt anyone?).  We had the chance to drive the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee which isn’t as impressive in a Corolla as I imagine it would be on a bike. (Want to catch up on the trip that I called The Road to Q-Demption?  Click here: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8)

As if the pig out (haha get it?) wasn’t enough, after that we destroyed a ton of butter tarts, that most totally Canadian of all desserts, at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival in Midland, Ontario.  I ate a lot.  They did too so it was a good day. (Get our scoop on the day here: Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival)

Then there was a little drama with Piper (of course).  See she’s not the healthiest dog in the world.  In fact, I call her my million-dollar baby because I’m pretty sure that she alone is putting my vet’s kids through college.  I had come home one morning after working a midnight shift and found her all messed up.  Turns out, she appears to have had something like the doggy version of a stroke.  I was so worried about her and that she would never recover.  Not so much physically but that she would be all depressed.  After a few days she was just like normal and now you’d barely notice anything is amiss.  Well she does have a slight head tilt to the right and her eye doesn’t open fully but at least she’s not doing that weird “shark bite” thing anymore.  And when people comment about “Ah how cute with her titled head”, if I’m in a shit-disturbing mood, which is usually with people who irritate me, I just look at them and deadpan “she had a stroke” then try not to laugh at the reactions.  Maybe some people would think that’s mean but I have then had very good conversations about people that want to know more and it becomes an educational experience, especially when they see that a dog can have something like that happen and still live a full and happy life.  Piper will let me know when she’s not happy and until that day comes, we’re going to keep doing what we do.  (Poor Piper:  A Sick Dog and a Missed Trip)

It just so happened that I had some time off around Canada Day and with Piper somewhat back to normal, I decided to take a small trip to see how she would handle travelling again.  We stayed close in case it was too much for her so we ended up in Georgian Bay and then wandered around the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario.  I had what still stands as the best burger I think I have ever had at a restaurant in the literal middle of nowhere, we had fish and chips from a stand that gets their fish from the lake that’s a stone’s throw away (how’s that for fresh), and we hung out at a cidery.  (If you want to check out our Georgian Bay trip, click here: Day 1Day 2Day 3)

Unfortunately I did lose one of my cats, Martini.  I intercepted her and Toby as they were en route to a shelter a few years ago.  She was a sweetheart of a cat and because her heart was so big, it eventually gave out.  I stayed with her at the vet’s because as hard as it is for me, I just can’t imagine leaving them there alone.  This was really the first time I mentioned it and I hardly told any of my friends about it.  Considering that’s really been my only loss of the year, I think we came through pretty good.

Then there was our trip to Prince Edward County.  It is a gorgeous and rugged part of southern Ontario that is exploding as a food and wine centre with amazing restaurants and wineries popping up all the time.  We spent a few days just aimlessly wandering The County and even visited with some old friends that had retired there.  (Links to our Trip to the County are here: Day 1Day 2Day 3)

And then there was the big trip.  I take one big trip out west to see my grandparents but I usually take the scenic route.  This year the scenic route was via Arizona and Nevada by way of Colorado.  Ahem a very scenic route indeed.  I think this trip covered the most diverse scenery in one single expedition: from prairies to mountains to desert, we saw it all.  It was truly an amazing experience to have had.  And if you want to see for yourself, the links are here: Time For One Last TripThrough Michigan and BeyondIn Search of the Yellow Brick RoadOut of the PlainsRocky Mountain HighIs There Life on Mars?Watching for Lights in the SkyLeaving NevadaWell Hello IdahoCrossing North DakotaBack into CanadaHeading Home, and Last Day on the Road.

As I sit on my couch with a fire roaring away and snow falling outside, I realize that this has been a good year for me.  I’ve stayed healthy, my dogs are snoring around me as I type this and all of them are in relatively good health (I’m looking at you Piper), I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and gas in the car.

Goodbye 2016.  Not too sad to see you go but hey 2017, you don’t have to do much to be a better year.  Just leave Ryan Reynolds and Channing Tatum alone.  Thanks a bunch in advance.

Your friends,

AdventureDawgs

More Than The Sum of Their Parts

So now that you’ve gotten to know about the dogs on their own, there is a certain dynamic that occurs when dealing with them all at once, especially when we’re out on the road.

When we stop to talk to folks on our travels, they always seem to assume that Piper is the boss.  I guess it’s because she’s the biggest of the three.  Not the case.  You see, I’m the pack leader and we all know it.  They may get excited and feel the need to mug anyone that gets close enough, but when I start to move away, they come with me.  If I make the growly  “hey” sound, they will all turn and look at me or stop what they are doing.

But when left to their own devices…

Leo has brought a spark of life to old Jack and he is more active than he has been since he was a puppy.  Leo figured out that all he has to do is pick up a toy and Jack is there to join in a game.  Or a stick and then they have a crazy game of keep away.  It must be a Boston Terrier thing.  Leo is the firecracker of the pack, that’s for sure.  At least he has two other dogs to help him burn that energy.

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Brothers ready to hit the road.

When we are in the house, Piper is the most laid back dog and has been known to take up the entire couch.  But when we leave the safe confines of our home, she is switched on.  No one can get close without a 65 lb boxer leaning on their legs.  And she she has been known to join in the odd game of tug too.  It’s really funny to watch her instigate: she’ll grab a toy and shake it while she growls, then pause and look around.  If that doesn’t get any attention, she’ll shake even harder and growl louder.  She’ll repeat this until someone joins in.  If she’s digging in the sand, then Leo will come and help her excavate.  Often he takes over her hole.

Jack would be quite happy to sit on the couch all day and sleep on the bed all night.  And he has no problem with sitting out the odd walk.  But if he wants to play, there is no denying him.  And if he hears the jingle of his harness, you better believe he’ll be the first one at the door.

The funniest part is what happens when someone comes to the door: Leo will be there first and bark his fool head off.  Jack will be next and he’ll join in the barking.  If you don’t know my animals, you would assume that there were only two dogs.  Then Piper walks around to the door and stands and just stares with that intense boxer stare as she puffs her chest out.  The boys are the mouth and she’s the muscle.  Even though I know she’s a big suck, even I have to do a double take sometimes when she has that “look”.

Want to see the mutts in action?  Here’s Leo being the little pest: The games continue.

Or when we found ourselves on a beach in Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia

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A quick game of tug at a rest stop in Minnesota.  Want to see the video? Click here.

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Down the trail

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Snoozing the miles away.

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Ferry? No big deal.

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At Wild Horse Pass in Washington.

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On the beach in Nova Scotia

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Posing in Quebec City.

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I don’t know why Leo always claims the pillow.  Or where I’m going to fit.

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Looking majestic at Childress Vineyards, North Carolina.

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The Marsh Boardwalk.

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Monument Valley Arizona.

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Family selfie in Arizona.

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Montana sunset.

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Looking out over the valley in North Carolina.