To hike the Appalachian Trail with a dog is a dream for many people and their furry hiking buddies. I never dreamed that it would be possible for me. But, in the fall of 2018, I embarked on what would become the most rewarding walk of my life.
I took my dog, or “fur son,” as I like to refer to him, Toby, with me. Toby is a 70 pound chocolate lab mix. And together we walked 900 miles of the Appalachian Trail, from the Pennsylvania / New Jersey border to Katahdin peak in the middle of Maine.
Never in my life did I imagine walking 900 miles, let alone with my pup in tow! But we successfully completed a little under half of the Appalachian Trail together. And now I can’t imagine hiking that trail without him.
As a career woman who worked A LOT, I always felt guilty about the time Toby spent alone. Sure, I hired the occasional dog walker, but I felt like I wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved.
Then the idea sparked to hike part of the Appalachian Trail. I immediately thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if I could help my dog hike the Appalachian Trail!?” It was less about me and more about us accomplishing this goal together.
Toby was a beast on the trail. We’d spent some time training together in Idaho to build our hiking abilities, so I knew he was capable. I never imagined HOW capable he would be!
Together we slowly built up our trail mileage from 5 miles to 15 miles a day. Though, even at 15 miles per day, he could easily have hiked twice as far.
Seeing the pure joy and excitement on his face kept me positive. There’s nothing worse than waking up to walk all day in wet clothes. But, no matter how unmotivated I felt, Toby’s positive energy was infectious. He helped me get through those days, which often ended with a hot shower at a pet friendly hotel. (Our favorites were Motel 6 and La Quinta, due to their low pet fees!)
The Appalachian Trail begins in Georgia, but we jumped in past the half way mark. Most hikers we met along the way had been hiking for a while and knew each other. So, in a way, we were outsiders.
Toby broke that ice immediately. He became an instant trail icon. We’d roll into towns together and other hikers would recognize us both. Thanks to Toby, we were welcomed into a “trail family” of about 8 hikers. This meant we were constantly surrounded by friends, with Toby as the mascot, motivating and bringing joy to everyone along for the journey.
Keeping Toby healthy was my first priority. There’s a saying that when you hike long distances with a dog, you are hiking “their hike,” meaning you put your dog’s needs above your own. For the most part, Toby remained healthy the entire trip.
A big part of this was making sure he ate enough food to maintain weight. Toby is a lean 65 pounds, so I was always adding olive oil to his food, and it worked!
Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire was the exception. We were both able to summit the mountain, which is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. However, the descent was brutal. For about 5 miles the trail passes over very steep, rough rocks. By the end of the day, Toby’s paws started showing signs of hot spots.
Thankfully, Toby carried dog booties in his backpack, and he wore them as soon as I discovered the hot spots. Those booties saved his paws, which was lucky, because we still had 5 miles more to hike that day!
The next day, we took an Uber into Gorham, New Hampshire and Toby stayed with a pet sitter for a week while I continued walking without him.
When his paws had healed completely, I went back and picked him up. We were both ecstatic to be back on the trail together! I needed the motivation; hiking Maine was difficult because it’s extremely mountainous in the south. Fortunately, Toby was healthy and happy the rest of the trip.
READ MORE ⇒ Which Dog Boots Are Best For Your Dog?
It’s been my dream to hike the Appalachian Trail with a dog since I was a little girl. And having Toby along completely changed the experience. He was my snuggle buddy at night, my muse for the camera during the day, and constant inspiration to keep me going.
I’d like to say we made the perfect team, but in reality HE made the perfect team. For anyone thinking of hiking a long distance with your dog, I say go for it! The experience will deepen your relationship more than you can imagine. There’s something magical about watching your dog live their best life.
See you out on the trail!
About the Author: Trisha Penrod is a recent Air Force veteran turned marketer. She spends her free time exploring with her fur son, Toby, and blogging about dog adventures at fidohikes.com.
Guest Posts on GoPetFriendly.com: We love sharing stories from people having fun traveling with their pets! And reading your pet travel experiences may be just the nudge someone else needs to pack up and head out with their own best friend. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for Take Paws, let us know!
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