As a child, I remember ruining the pretty dresses my mom would buy for me by covering them in mud, grass stains and fur while out “exploring” our backyard with my childhood dog. I always loved being outside. Only later in life, would I realize these “nature walks” are called hiking, and that I had been doing it all my life
I didn’t get serious about hiking as a sport until 2008, when a close friend (and seasoned hiker) invited me to one of her favorite trails. I bought my first pair of hiking shoes for that occasion, but I somehow forgot to bring socks! That mountain kicked my ass, but I was hooked.
Corbin, my hiking buddy then (he’s since retired from the trails and enjoys slower paced strolls on the beach nowadays) started from scratch, learning hiking 101 from Google Search and exploring the trails with our hiking friends. With time, I learned how to breathe so I would not be breathless. I memorized the trails we visited and Corbin’s paw pads slowly began to toughen up and acclimate to the rugged terrain; and so did my body, in particular my legs and knee joints.
I was never a sporty kid. I was the bookworm that got picked last at soccer and volleyball and would most likely spend that time on a bench hoping I wouldn’t get called in. I hated gym class and I have never had much of a competitive spirit; in fact, I dislike it to this day, in every sense of the word. Not my cup of tea.
In my teens, I had what I like to call the trifecta of unpopularity: I had braces, I had acne and at 4’11”, I was a little overweight… add on to that an insecurity in math and unrequited love and you can guess why I never want to be a teenager again (for my teen, bullied friends, it really DOES get better, find your bliss and follow it).
So why hiking? And what do dogs have to do with it? Because hiking has become my sport, it has helped me discover my inner athlete. Hiking is my go-to medicine, my therapy and my most successful form of exercise. As for dogs, in my opinion, there is no better companion to share an experience like that with, other than an unconditional being such as a dog.
Hiking, to me has nothing to do with competition, but everything to do with challenging and being good to yourself; a challenge to face an uphill climb and get comfortable with being uncomfortable, through breath, movement, fresh air and the constant, soothing presence of a creature who loves you no matter what happens that day.
Saltwater is therapeutic, whether in the form of sweat or tears, and once you are at the top of that mountain, the salt disappears leaving nothing but the sweet taste of accomplishment and pride. All of this, plus those quiet moments I share with my dog on the trail; an exchange of looks, a nose nudging my hand, sitting under the shade of a tree for a drink of water and a snack, and the car ride on the way home, knowing we did something together that day… all of that and so much more, is why I hike with my dog.
Dogs and the Trail
A dog gets to use all their gloriously sharp senses when hiking. Their noses, ears, and eyes are bombarded with new experiences, keeping their minds busy. As good dog parents, we get to practice basic/and advanced obedience while doing something fun together and this is so good for a person’s relationship with their dog. Yes, the environment is fun, but we have to learn how to be even more fun to be with, in the presence of so much distraction. This exercise and mental stimulation is fantastic for dogs, and as I have heard it said, a tired dog is a good dog? In my humble opinion, when a dog enjoys hiking with their person, it makes for not only a tired dog, but a happy one too.
Every dog is an individual, and just like people, they enjoy some things and not others. Hiking may not be every dog’s cup of kibble, so if you are new to dog-hiking, do some research first, know what your dog likes and doesn’t and start gradually. I will cover everything from basics to advanced skills and tips in our field notes and highlight good hikes to go on whether you are a beginner or seasoned hiker.
365 Dog Hikes
The purpose of this ambitious personal project is to find, document and experience dog friendly trails, wherever we may find them, and share them with fellow dog hikers. Along the way, we will either hike on our own but also gladly hike with those of you who want to join us, share your favorite trail and we will photograph you and your dog as we hike together. My goal is for this site to be a good resource for dog hikers looking for a good trail to explore and provide important information about the trail itself; while hopefully creating a community of like-minded people to connect and share experiences.
Our project has no deadline, it may take us a long time to finish. Nevertheless, I am in no rush, and we look forward to savoring each trail. I sincerely hope you will join us on this wild ride.
Nat & Willow