Tips For Taking Your Pup On Your Next Adventure

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Whether you’re an avid camper or a trail newbie, wilderness adventures are made that much better when accompanied by your four-legged pals. While it’s a lot more work than simply picking up and heading out on your own, with a little know-how and preparation, your next adventure can be that much more special with your dog tagging along.

Check The Park Rules

Before packing up and hitting the trails, be sure that wherever you’re going is dog-friendly. Most National Parks, for example, don’t allow dogs to share the trails (sad face), and rules vary quite a bit in National Forests and State & Metro parks. Rules for how to conduct yourself and your pup in the parks may vary too, but no matter where you go, leashes are almost always mandatory.

Trust me when I say Park Rangers do not take the offense lightly when you forego those rules. A couple years ago Zach and I took Daisy up to Conkle’s Hollow in Hocking Hills, a place I’d taken her hiking before with no issues, and a place I’d seen other dogs (even that very day). I walked out of there with a $150 fine after a Park Ranger stopped us on the trail headed out. Always, always check the rules first.

Make Sure They’re Up To Date

This means all vaccinations as well as flea/tick medicine. Parasites, insects, and diseases are all a risk for a dog when outside at all, let alone in the open country. Make sure they’re prepared to not only protect against anything spreading to them, but also to protect the land from any foreign cooties your dog might be carrying.

A quick check-up to the vet will give you a better idea as to if your pup is ready to hit the trails with you (both with vaccinations and general stamina/health), or if preventative measures should be taken first.

Pack Their Bags

If you’ve ever gone hiking for an afternoon you know that packing a few light snacks, extra water bottles, & a first-aid kit are automatic essentials, right? Your dog deserves the same. Especially if you’re camping overnight, make sure they’re equally prepared for wherever the trails take you. Besides food and water (and bowls for both!), don’t leave the house without a few trail treats, poop bags, bedding, a spare leash, a towel, eco-friendly wipes to clean quickly and easily, and perhaps a favorite toy if your pup happens to be a little anxious about the new environment.

Ease Into It

Just as you will need some time to build up your endurance for long hikes, you can’t expect your dog to automatically have the amount of stamina needed to hike for miles and miles with you through the wilderness all willy nilly. Take your pup for a few practice hikes in some parks or trails near you, starting small and building your way up to more strenuous trails and longer distances. Be sure to check their energy level afterward - if they’re still excited and active, then you know you can safely increase the distance next time around.

Along with the hiking itself, if you’re planning a camping trip with your dog it’s a good idea to get them used to the tent and campsite set up. Do a practice run in the back yard before heading out, even sleep out there if you think your dog might need it or seems very hesitant about the tent. Make sure they have a comfortable place to sleep (if you don’t want to sleep on the ground, neither do they), and they are used to being on a leash line around the campsite.

Be Mindful Of Them

Whether or not you’ve prepped your pup for the adventures ahead of you, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the whole time and to keep in mind natural trail hazards. Dogs (tragically) cannot talk to us, but there are signs of distress that are sometimes missed, especially when you’re busy soaking up all the beauty of the nature around you. Naturally, their heart rate and breathing will be excessive during more strenuous hikes, but during breaks watch to make sure that they’re coming back down to normal levels (just as yours should). That means taking breaks long enough to achieve that.

Generally, you should also be keeping them on a leash at all times, only allow them to drink from treated, potable water, and ensure they don’t chew or ingest toxic plants.

 

Daisy and I have been on countless adventures together over the years - she’s my absolute favorite hiking companion. It takes a lot of work and awareness to safely bring her along on trails with me (then again, what part of dog ownership doesn’t take a little work and awareness?), but the extra work is welcomed by a rewarding adventure for the both of us.

 

Have You Taken Your Dog On Adventures With You? What Was Your Favorite Place?

Weekend Getaway Guide: Camping in Mohican Wilderness

 

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The Mohican area is dubbed the "camp and canoe capitol of Ohio", and for good reason. Conveniently only about an hour and a half from Downtown Columbus, it's jam-packed with more than enough wildlife adventures to fill a weekend, such as hiking, camping, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, zip lining, and much more. 

After months of window shopping for supplies and narrowing down our Amazon cart, Zach and I decided to pack-up our gear and head out for a weekend of camping at one of Mohican's numerous campgrounds, Mohican Wilderness. It's a favorite spot for families, Scout and Youth Groups, and festival go-ers (the Annual Mohican Bluegrass Festival, specifically), but we chose it for it's more secluded campsite options, and the proximity to the State Park. 

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The Guide

 

Sleeping:

We shopped around for a while for a tent, and landed with the REI Co-Op Kingdom 4 Tent for it's functionality, durability, and price. It's large enough for two people (and a dog!) to sleep very comfortably with room to spare and room to stand up. Trust me, you want room to stand up! We also packed the REI Co-Op Kingdom 4 Footprint, and REI Co-Op Kingdom Garage which seemed unnecessary to me at first, but in reality I'm so happy we had them. The garage especially was perfect for storage and extra privacy outside of the actual tent, and we ended up utilizing the hell out of it.

For this camping trip we decided to pack the REI Co-Op Kingdom Sleep System, which we knew would be a little luxurious for our small weekend trip, but well worth it for catching some solid Z's. Otherwise, the sleep system is way too heavy to carry around long-term, so I don't recommend it for any kind of lengthy backpacking excursion. 

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Cooking: 

The campsites at Mohican Wilderness do not come equipped with existing fire rings like most campgrounds, so Zach built the fire ring from rocks found in the stream next to our campsite, for which we used as a grill. In the interest of comfort and ease, we also brought a Coleman RoadTrip Grill stove-top, which is obviously a much simpler method to cook while camping or on the road, and was essential when our fire wasn't stable enough to cook on. 

Be sure to only bring the food you're going to eat, and limit any extras like spices or oils to things you absolutely need. I also recommend investing in a coffee press (something sturdy and easily cleanable like stainless steel) and an insulated mug that you can use for just about anything - it'll save on the amount of dishes you need to pack and clean. Finally, make sure you pack some kind of water container for your campsite - packs of plastic water bottles just aren't very effective (and they're a bit wasteful), so we chose a collapsible water container that we filled from one of the potable water spigots nearby. We only needed one full fill-up to last the entire weekend for all washing and drinking purposes. 

Worst-case scenario, Mohican Wilderness's main office is well stocked in case you forget anything, and the nearest store is only about a 15-minute drive away from the campground. 

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Cleaning:

Cleaning yourself, or anything else for that matter, is always a bit challenging while camping. Even if your camping trip will only last a few days, choose a multi-purpose biodegradable soap to easily clean any dish, piece of gear, or body part. Trust me, you won't need much and you can use it freely without worrying about harming the environment. I also really enjoyed having cleansing wipes on-hand (also an eco-friendly option) for quick clean-ups. Mohican Wilderness does have several shower rooms located along the main campground roads, though Zach and I chose not to venture there more-so for the sake of time. We were pretty secluded in our little corner of the campground, so taking quick spit baths with wipes or even washing off in the stream or from our water container wasn't inconvenient enough to feel the need to use the showers. Plus, it's camping, it's expected to be a little dirty. 

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Hiking: 

Though Mohican Wilderness itself offers tons of recreational activities on their campground like canoeing, horseback riding, and rifle shooting, Zach and I stuck to our tried-and-true hobby, hiking. Mohican State Park is only about a 20-minute drive from the campground and is perfect for a challenging and scenic hiking day. 

The entrance to the State Park is officially on Route 3, but it's best to follow OH-97 to find the "south entrance" of the park to get to Mohican Covered Bridge, which is where the trails begin. It's not well marked, but once you see Park Rd. that's where you where you want to turn. Once at the bridge, you will see entrances to several marked trails, all of which snake along the Clearfork Mohican River and Clearfork Gorge.

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Lyon Falls Trail will lead you through the woods and along the Clearfork Gorge to reach two waterfalls, aptly named Little Lyon Falls and Big Lyon Falls - I love this trail for it's more challenging terrain and lush scenery, and it's only 2 miles long. There's also a dam at the end of the trail which is a good rest stop if you want to go fishing or enjoy a picnic. Another favorite stop within the park is the Gorge Overlook. It sits on the South side of the river and East of the hiking trails (i.e. you'll want to drive there), and it's the perfect spot to take in the beautiful valley views. 

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Mohican State Park does allow dogs on trails, though they must be leashed and..ahem..cleaned-up after. I like to keep a small collapsible water bowl on Daisy's leash for frequent water breaks - if you're thirsty, your pup probably is, too.  

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I always feel incredibly grounded and calm after spending time outdoors in any capacity, let alone spending a weekend sleeping under the stars. I'm definitely looking forward to coming back to Mohican for another adventure soon!

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IF YOU'VE BEEN TO MOHICAN RECENTLY, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOUR FAVORITE SPOT WAS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! 

Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once

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April of 2016 was a strange time for me. I was recently single after quickly dumping a crossfit-obsessed, borderline alcoholic guy I met on Tinder (yea, who didn't see that coming?), I spent most of my weekends partying and sleeping on friends' couches, and I found myself somewhat on again with a man I'd been chronically on and off with for quite some time (but this time was different!). I was pretty lost with myself. I was at a point where life was leading me, and I was blindly following. I worked a dead-end job, my friends were horrible, my love life was horrible, and my family was seemingly falling apart left and right. Despite my determined positive appearance, I was exhausted. I needed a "restart" button.

That's when I booked a flight to California.

My parents flipped. A lot of my friends and coworkers did, too. A 22-year-old girl from the Midwest traveling to the West Coast alone?! Unthinkable. She'll get lost, she'll be mugged, she'll be raped, kidnapped, sold into sex slavery, caught up in a drug cartel, eaten by a bear or a mountain lion...I get it. (No lie, I was a little scared about the thought of bears and mountain lions.) But I needed this. I didn't even realize how much I needed it until it was happening.

Fast-forward another month, and I'm boarding an American Airlines plane early on a Wednesday morning heading to Oakland airport. Once landed, I frantically searched for my bright red, hard-shell suitcase I'd recently found at Goodwill for $15 (can we all agree that Goodwill is amazing?) in the endless line of other suitcases since I was convinced the airline had lost it in the layover (they didn't - turns out they know what they're doing even if I don't). Once picking up my rental car, which was another panicked event that really doesn't warrant going into, I was off.

The moment I hit the highway due south, I never felt freer in my life.

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My itinerary was pretty hurried given the time I had available: drive down Highway 1 towards LA, stop to sleep somewhere along the way, get to LA and spend a night there, then head back north to Yosemite and spend the remaining couple days there hiking and exploring. I had a motel reserved for the first night along the highway in a tiny coastal town called Pismo Beach, and Airbnb's reserved for the other areas I'd be staying (here, and here). Otherwise, my days were thoroughly unplanned. I explored where I wanted, ate what I wanted and when, talked to whoever I wanted (or rather, didn't), and answered to no one.

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I gained an entirely new perspective during and after this trip on who I was and who I was becoming. More-so, I began to understand who I could become. I very suddenly no longer wanted to be the girl who kept letting life drag her by her hair through the mud. Every mile I drove, every step I took, and every decision I made was my own, and the epiphany it caused me to have made my blood vibrate through me with a new kind of energy that was very unfamiliar.

I was always rather independent by nature, even as a child, but this new sense of freedom I had was like a roaring fire in my belly. I was so drunk off of it I'd considered quitting my job, selling everything, buying a fifth wheel, and adventuring wherever I could drive, just me and my dog, Daisy.

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Of course, none of that happened. I landed back in Columbus the following Wednesday and listlessly settled back into life, as lukewarm as it felt comparatively. But the lessons I learned about traveling that week in the Golden State stuck with me. Such as:

  1. Prepare to spend more money than you've prepared. I'm not kidding. I don't care where you're going, that shit adds up.

  2. If you plan on hiking anywhere, buy a pair of decent hiking boots (link to my suggestion below), and definitely wear them in before trekking in them for a 15-mile hike in Yosemite Valley...

  3. Bring Band-Aides because if you're like me, you'll forget #2. Actually, a first-aide kit, a knife, and a compass are generally a good idea, too. You just never know.

  4. Do your research. I didn't just plan this willy-nilly, despite how it might sound. Draft 1 of my itinerary had me sleeping in a hostel in San Francisco in a neighborhood I'm not sure was even inside city limits. Then I figured out what a hostel was...no thanks.

  5. On the note of research, read all the reviews you can. On everything, and everyone. Especially if you're booking Airbnb, but even for restaurants and things to do and whatever else you bump into along the way. Because trust me, it's pretty embarrassing stumbling into a 5-star French restaurant in the middle of a mountain town dressed in denim looking for a "quick bite". (True story. Thank god the owner found me charming.)

  6. If you're going to a National Park, read the material they give you when you get there. These places are legit wildlife, and bears and mountain lions do appear from time to time, even in the daylight. Read up.

  7. TAKE PICTURES. I seemingly took a million pictures on this trip (yea, I was that gawky tourist with a camera swung around my neck 99% of the time), but even going through them today I still wish there were more, or that they captured more vividly how it really was.

  8. Call your mom. Or your dad, or grandparent, or partner, or friend, or neighbor. They're probably thinking about you, and probably wondering if you've been eaten by a bear or mountain lion yet. It's fine being independent, but not a recluse.

  9. Unplug. Especially during my hikes, I was very unattached to my phone, and it made the experiences that much more enjoyable. Snapchat can wait.

  10. Get comfortable with the idea of spontaneity. For me, structure is everything, so I had to get over this rather quickly. But some of the best adventures on this trip came from my plans unraveling (or a new plan arising that was more appealing). For example, I would've never seen San Fransisco at all had it not been for the earlier than expected check-out time at my Airbnb in Yosemite.

I know this is titled "why you should take a solo trip at least once", but I'm really not here to tell you what to do. Maybe you'll find some of my tips helpful or this story somewhat amusing, but my main point here is this: find something that brings you back to your center and reminds you that you are worthy and that you are able to do whatever you set your mind to. Because moving through life with that mindset is how followers become leaders, settlers become dreamers, and how failures become achievements. You don't have to be as independent as I am, but you also shouldn't feel pressured to be so involved in the cluster of society to the point that you forget who you are. Maybe hiking in Yosemite isn't really your thing, and that's fine. I didn't really think LA was my thing once I got there, so now I know.

For me, this solo trip allowed me the things I needed to grow, and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Whether you're flying across the country or driving across town, take time to do things for yourself and by yourself, learn to enjoy it, and allow yourself to grow in those spaces. You might surprise yourself.