Solo Travel and Hiking with a Dog

I get asked often about hiking and traveling solo from other women, “Aren’t you scared?” with horror on their faces. Yes, I do get anxious at times on the trails when the trail doesn’t show up on my GPS and I don’t see anyone for a while but those moments don’t stay long. A little bit of fear is good for you like anything else.

wp-1489197748042.jpg

I may be little more adventurous than an average person but I am never reckless. Let me share what goes on behind the scene that you don’t see in my photos and videos. Maybe this will give you some ideas on how to start solo traveling or hiking with your pup if you’ve been thinking about doing it.

1. Life is better with a dog

To be honest, traveling with a dog is a lot harder and requires more preparation than traveling solo. Not all hotels, restaurants with outdoor seating and hiking trails allow dogs so I need to research prior to getting on the road to make sure we both enjoy our trips. However, traveling/hiking solo with a dog comes with irreplaceable benefits.

Xena attracts good people. I am lucky that she is patient with kids, not a barker and behaves well in public places. We always seem to meet the kindest people when we travel. I’ve received kind and encouraging words from older people. “It’s not usual to see a woman traveling by herself with a dog. Good for you!” and they always tell me to enjoy myself on the trip but be careful. Maybe because Xena puts strangers at ease. She makes everyone from kids to elderly persons smile when we pass by. I know for sure if I were to travel alone, I wouldn’t experience the same warm encounters.

wp-1489203011298.jpg

However, if Xena sees a person who looks suspicious(e.g., hood over their head so we can’t see their faces, refuses to make an eye contact while passing by, walking tensed, etc.), Xena stops still. Her body tight and tense, she stares at the person until the person is far from us or out of the sight. A lot of times, her fixed stare makes these suspicious grown men feel uncomfortable to move away from us instead of walking straight. “Good girl, Z”, I tell her when we are alone. She protects us from bad energies from every directions. Dogs can sense things humans cannot. I listen to her instinct without a question.

2. Common sense goes a long way

Often we travel to an area where there is no cell phone reception when we go hiking. While I love exploring wilderness, it raises a safety issue in case of emergency for sure. My biggest fear is ‘what if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.’ However, I have no interest in cars and don’t even want to learn how to fix a flat tire. I don’t even know if I can physically do it with my wimpy upper body strength. Any way you slice it, it’s a bad situation. So I religiously keep up with regular maintenance of my car. I should probably still learn how to change a flat tire…sigh..

I always let my sister know where we are going. We both use Waze, a free community-based mapping, traffic & navigation app, and we are “friends”. Before each drive, I send her an ETA from the app. She can check the app on her phone to see where I am on my route and gets a notification from Waze when I am about to arrive at my destination. This tool has been great for us especially when I am on a road trip because I am always on the go. This prevents her from worrying about us and also makes me feel safe that she can come and rescue us 🙂 or call for help for us if needed.

3. Get to know the trail before you go

Read trail stats (total distance, elevation gain, etc.), download the map of the hiking route to your GPS tracking app if you are going in to wilderness and do your homework on the current trail condition so you know what to pack.

  • Is it dog-friendly?
  • Is it exposed? Is there any shade?
  • What is the terrain? Do I need shoes with good traction?
  • Is there any water crossing? Do I need water shoes or a towel?
  • Are there any poisonous plants or wild animals to watch out?
  • Is it well-maintained or hard to follow? Is bushwhacking or scrambling required?
  • Is it shared with bikers and/or horses? How is your dog around horses? Look out for speedy bikers.
  • Is it a popular trail that gets busy during the day? How is your dog with a crowd?
  • Is there snow/ice? Do I need microspikes?

More information you have about the current trail condition, you are already better prepared to hike this trail and will be safer than someone who just shows up without proper gear and enough water. I recommend you always pack more water and food than you think you would need. You can get lost or you might decide to stay out longer. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are dangerous for you and your pup.

4. But just in case, keep the emergency kit close

Over time, my emergency kit grew. The list isn’t complete and I still have some items I would like to add to my backpack like a compass and a pocket knife. My phone has a compass but what if my phone get damaged?

So, what’s in my backpack?

medical_kit

Extra battery pack, Xena’s first aid kit, whistle, antibacterial wipes and waterproof bandages

I also have two first aid kits in my car at all times – First Aid KitAMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit – and extra bottles of water. The AMK Me and My Dog Medical Kit has a comprehensive list of wound care, sprain/strain, medication and medical instruction for you and your pup. I recommend it to anyone who is active with their pup(s). The First Aid Kit is a backup plan and it’s also for home. I have it already so why not have it in the car. Did you know your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) covers for these?

5. Be your best friend and guardian

After taking care of things I can control, I try to stay calm and positive. When fear creeps in to my mind, I try to use my logical side of the brain. What is the likelihood of my car breaking down right here without any warning? Highly unlikely. What are the chances that someone will attack me from the back without Xena noticing the person first? Very unlikely. It’s more likely I will roll my ankle and sprain it or worse break it than the other terrifying scenarios. This type of self-talk works for me.

I enjoy solo travelling and the feeling of adventure. It’s a great opportunity to learn about myself. I learned to trust my instinct (and 6th sense) and especially Xena’s. At the end of each adventure, I feel more empowered and our bond deeper than ever.

Being aware of my surroundings, Xena’s guarding nature and being prepared for the possible emergency situations put my mind at ease. Hopefully, this blog helped you to get prepared for your first solo travel or hike with your pup. I am curious to know what other emergency gear I should carry in my backpack. Do you have any suggestions? Please share in the comment section below. Thanks so much!

solo_travel_2

Never stop exploring!

Introducing a New Gear to a Dog

Whenever I introduce a new gear (even mine) to Xena, I make sure it’s a positive experience for her. She is food motivated so treats are all I need usually. First I let her sniff the gear as long as she needs then give her a treat or praise. While putting the gear on her, she gets a treat before and after. In this picture, I am holding her treat between my lips so she can see her reward. Notice her tail is wagging here in a neutral way (not too high or too low, showing no stress) when she is trying on the goggles for the first time. This helps her to associate the goggles with a positive experience and she will let me put it on her again next time.

wp-1482210585134.jpg

wp-1482209952616.jpg

Photo credit:  Robinventures

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Summer Hike Guidelines

Heat exhaustion or heatstroke is very dangerous for pets but sadly I see a lot of people who do not take this seriously on/off the trail. It doesn’t mean we can’t go out and enjoy the outdoors. We just need to be mindful. As pet owners, we are responsible for our pet’s well-being.

During the month of July and August, our trail adventure reduces significantly in number and it’s always play by ear week to week. Especially with her black fur, I need to pay special attention to Xena during summer. So what are the important things to keep in mind when you are planning for an outdoor activity with your pup?

When the forecast calls for a hot day (above 80 degrees), I don’t take her hiking at all because I know her limit. On other days, here is my checklist for keeping Xena safe when we are out on the trails:

1. Watch the time

wp-1470266805032.jpg

Occasionally, we get lucky with an overcast day but usually it’s not like that in Southern California. Even if it’s overcast in the morning, it usually clears up by 9-9:30 am so we start early and complete the hike by 10 am, at the latest 10:30.

2. Location Location Location

20160803_151943.jpg

It’s not just for home buying. I research for the trails that have shades and/or water (stream, lake, river, etc.) feature before we go. This is a real challenge where we live so #1 on this list is very crucial. Luckily, we live close to the ocean so I stick to coastal trails during these months for the occasional ocean breeze.

3. Protect yourself and your pup from the strong sun rays

20160803_115625.jpg

There are other cooling vests and bandanas out there in the market. Check out the following leading brands of active dog outdoor gear: Ruffwear, Alcott and Hurtta.

I’ve been using a Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest for Xena for two years. It’s now showing a little bit of wear and tear but still in good condition. I machine-wash it in the gentle cycle and it’s ready for the next adventure. We use this vest all year around because Xena doesn’t handle heat very well. I put the vest on her on a sunny day before she gets hot. It keeps her from overheating quickly. Click here for my detail product review from last year.

A bandana comes in very handy on a trail. I have a regular bandana. Nothing special about it. Xena wears it around her neck while hiking. When her panting gets little heavier, I wet it with cool water which I carry in my Hydro Flask and tie it loosely around her neck. When we take a break, I wet it and cover her head and neck with it to help her cool down faster. She likes it.

wp-1470250185351.jpg

4. Hydration.. Hydration.. Hydration

I can’t emphasize this enough. When we are walking back to the car, I often see people just starting the hike with their dogs and carrying only a small bottle of water. That’s barely enough for the human! Hydration is important all the time, not just summer. For your body to operate in its optimal level, your body needs hydration.

Hydration

My regular followers already know that I carry coconut/water mix in my camelbak. In summer, I add ice to the camelbak to keep it cool. In addition, I carry 32 oz of cold water in my Hydro Flask which keeps the water cool for hours! I use it for drinking as well as to wet Xena’s bandana. It works for hot too. Great way to carry a hot beverage on winter hikes! 

5. Pay close attention

wp-1470268059122.jpg

Like how we have good days and not so good days? Dogs have the same kind of thing. Usually, Xena is in a good condition and ready to explore when we get to the trail but occasionally she just seems sluggish for no good reason. On those not so perfect days, I don’t push her. We take more breaks and go as far as she seems to be up for it. Luckily (or not) she is not an over-pleaser and she lets me know when she is not feeling up for it. The girl has a pup attitude. I love her for it though. She knows how to speak her mind!

There is a lot of good information on internet regarding heatstroke/heat exhaustion in pets. Please take a moment to read this and educate yourself if you are not already familiar with it. I’d love to hear what precautions you take for your pet. Please do share!

Hope you have fun and safe rest of the summer!

Xoxo~

Road Trip Day 2: Pet-friendly SLO

This is a sequel to my previous entry Road Trip – Spring Edition

Next Stop: Lunch at Santa Barbara

5 things you should know before going to a restaurant with your pup if you desire an enjoyable dining experience:

  1. Check on Yelp (or other website you rely on) ahead to make sure the restaurant outdoor patio is dog-friendly. When in doubt, call the restaurant and confirm.
  2. Pick a time when it’s not the busiest time. After rush lunch hours or before the dinner crowd fills the restaurant is the best. You will get a better service and your dog will be more relaxed since it’s not chaotic.
  3. If you can find a table away from the high traffic area, grab it. When your dog is relaxed, you can also relax and enjoy your meal.
  4. Be courteous to other diners in the restaurant. Keep your dog near you and have him under your control at all times.
  5. If your dog does not have a good table manner at home, you might want to re-consider…at least for now until he is trained. There will be more people to beg and more food to steal. 🙂

We arrived at State & Fig around 1:30 PM. The cozy outdoor patio was inviting. We got a table in the back as I hoped. I asked for a water bowl for Xena. She drank some water, sniffed around then settled under the table. After the awesome hike, we were hungry. We relaxed and enjoyed our meal. I recommend their burger with fig jam! 😋 Don’t worry, I gave Xena after-hike treats so her belly was happy too.

wp-1463175412010.jpeg

I love driving through scenic Los Padres National Forest on route 154. Xena feels little uneasy when the altitude changes and the pressure in her ears bothers her. I wonder if her ears pop like ours. How else would they release the pressure? Me talking to her nonsense during that time seems to help her.

Next Stop: Pismo Beach

We arrived at Pismo Beach around 4 PM. We would be staying here for next 2 nights. Best Western Plus Shore Cliff Lodge received 5 bones on BringFido.com and it did not disappoint us. We got a dog-friendly room with an ocean view. There was a plenty of parking spaces close to the building entrance and conveniently, there was a Pet Relief Area (a small grass area) near the entrance. So far, so good. Then, we entered our room and found this welcome package for Xena. Pawsome!🐾  Now, I was impressed.

1462819148550-1.jpg

and Xena was impressed with the view from the patio and the pet play area below. The pet play area rocks! It is clean and very spacious. We played fetch there before dinner both evening. A poop bag dispenser is available as well.

20160513_143507_1861951122.jpg

 

Next day, after the free continental breakfast at the hotel (they have non-dairy options. Just ask!), we got on the road.

Destination: Justin Winery in Paso Robles

Justin Vineyard

Justin Winery is about 50 miles north from Pismo Beach. Another pretty drive. Outdoor shady patio and dining area are dog-friendly. Our wine steward brought out a water bowl and a treat for Xena.

wp-1462819733227.jpeg

wp-1462820026835.jpeg

Never been to a wine tasting room and would like to try? Here are some tips for wine tasting room etiquette if interested. Most wineries have dog-friendly patios. Some of them even allow dogs in their tasting rooms which is awesome! Just make sure to confirm by checking their website or calling them before you go. Here is a list of dog-friendly wineries in the Pismo Beach area if you’d rather stay near by the beach.

By the time we got back to the room, we all needed a nap. 🙂 That was pretty much the 2nd day of our trip and it was a nice day. I will continue with the last day of our trip in the next post. I can’t wait to tell you about the trail we explore! Best coastal hike with incredible views!

xoxo~

Whatever Wednesday: Hydration

Everyone knows hydration is important for your body. This is especially important when you are adventuring in outdoors.

Coconut water is my go to hydration source on the trails. It’s tasty and has many health benefits. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. Each coconut water brand tastes slightly different to me. My personal favorite is C2O.

Low in calories, naturally fat- and cholesterol free, more potassium than four bananas, and super hydrating – these are just a few of the many benefits.

It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

Now, did you know that coconut water is also good for dogs? Xena absolutely loves it! I fill my 2L Camelbak reservoir with a mixture of cold coconut water and water (about 70/30 ratio, just personal preference) and we share on the trail. This seems to be enough for us for 5-7 mile hikes during winter. For hikes longer than that, I take one more liter.

Not only is coconut water safe for dogs, but it has many potential health benefits, too. When coconut water is fed to dogs, it has been shown to clear skin conditions, sweeten dog breath, condition their fur and even ease arthritis.

After switching her over to the coconut water mixture, she is no longer sluggish toward the end of long hikes and she now asks for water breaks! You want to know how much your dog should be drinking water? Please click here for more details. Stay hydrated my friends. 🙂

Hydration

Happy Hiking!