Finn and Bronson tell us a bit about exploring together
This is ostensibly a hiking guide for dogs, but any good guide has to begin with a little backstory. Ya know, like when you look for a simple goddamn recipe on how to make turkey meatballs because you just want to find how long you need to leave them in the oven and you find a good looking blog that has the proper Google SEO setup for “how to make the most delicious meatballs,” you click on it, only to get a 6,000-word-intro on how Kevin’s grandfather smuggled this recipe underneath his big toenail during WWII after meeting his grandmother in an Ally hospital and vowed to make this recipe for her as soon as they met again but he was captured by German agents and had to keep the recipe given to him by an Italian cook on the tiny island of Pianosa secret at all costs…and you get the point. I’m going to do the same thing because…dogs are the fucking best and I’ll write as much as I want to about mine, who’s obviously the actual best.
Finn has been closer to me than my cell phone pretty much since I adopted him from a shelter in Manhattan in 2010. From walking him across the Williamsburg Bridge to Epstein’s as a pup, then moving to Atlantic Beach, and back to Montauk and Brooklyn, and finally to Washington State, Finn is always there. Sometimes he’s up to join on that day’s adventure, other times he just wants to be sleeping in his bed by the cooler in my truck, knowing I’ll be back for a beer soon enough.
There was that time he went a solo adventure in the woods and we didn’t see each other for a few days. All points bulletins were put out and the story had a happy ending, of course, but it’s a story for another time—a time maybe we’ll get back to what really happened in Pianosa.
As I write this now, I’m looking out over sunset on Lake Powell, the Mars-like rock features bouncing the light onto the crystal blue lake, and I’m without my partner in crime and something feels off. Tomorrow I start a lifelong goal of rafting the Grand Canyon, not exactly a light trip and something dogs are not allowed to partake in obviously. After a 5+-year permit process, then nearly a year of detailed group planning, logistics, gear hunting, and other prepping activities involved with this nearly 20-day adventure, as I sit here on the eve of it, I still keep looking in the back of my truck or at my feet for my “Carolina brown dog.”
OK. Maybe you are thinking that’s enough already…but I miss my dog ok? Give me a break. But I do have some good advice here, just wanted to make sure you knew where I was coming from like how that meatball-making story made you know that Kevin really had a personal investment in the most delicious meatballs. Point is, there’s a proper gear and planning protocol when it comes to dog adventures, and I feel that after 10 years of adventures with Finn, I’ve gotten it down to a pretty dialed science.
Below are the three main activities I take Finn on regularly (OK maybe not as much mountain biking because he’s getting older and that’s a recipe for disaster—but still a good activity), and some slightly biased approaches to where and how to make it an epic adventure. Also, assume water is essential for all—but don’t assume you have to carry it every time. Depending on where you’re at, a flowing creek or lake will be just fine. And if I have camping snacks (also known as beer), Finn has got snacks—also known as BIXBI jerky treats.
Skiing or snowboarding or snowshoeing. No judgement.
What you need: Rad dog collar from Nite Ize is a must. For those off-leash dogs who need to be on leash when heading up a skin track.
Lots of snacks: High-protein dog snacks are critical for keeping the little dude’s energy up because the downhill is tougher than the up for a dog. Maybe if your pooch is getting on years like Finn, joint supplements to help recovery.
Where: Mt. Baker is my home mountain so the side country and Artist Point area are my standard dog lap. Obviously in bounds is not really your friend. Find a good wide open logging road and skin track with few folks on it—especially coming down. Don’t have the dog compete or get in front of someone coming down…won’t be a fun afternoon for either of you.
Mountain Biking or Hiking
What you need: Again on the rad stuff from Nite Ize, with a dog leash. Even if your mutt is like mine and stays close—this allows that “on leash-off leash” capability especially on trails you’re sharing with hikers and runners.
Rule 1: Dog carries his own water unless there’s plenty of creeks or snowmelt nearby. Snacks after are critical here but trail nuggets always help. The downhill here can be more tiring for the dog running at full tilt.
Where: British Columbia and the PNW obviously has me biased. Plenty of wide open trails with few people for your pup to do as he pleases. Also the dirt is soft—ferns are forgiving—and the temps are cool. You won’t wanna overheat either of you.
Paddle boarding, swimming
Pro tip: Best thing I’ve ever done to wear out my dog is getting a little rubber buoy that floats. Toss it way out so your dog starts swimming, Paddle board up to it, grab it and keep tossing it. Finn loves nothing more than swimming nonstop for hours. I find that keeping him in a straight line while I get a paddle in is about as good as it gets.
Gear? That thing that floats and snacks at the end. And probably a beer for you. Dog does not need a swimsuit.
The trips are endless, the options to make your dog have the most fun while you do too just depends on your comfort level. But just know this—the downhill is always tougher on your dog than the up. And bring snacks.