I love having a multi-dog pack. None of my dogs are ever lonely or bored. They always have a playmate or a sibling to snuggle with, even when I’m not at home. Our pack has a really awesome dynamic. They are each very different but also compliment each other really well. When we go camping or on vacations, we try to bring all 4 mutts with us whenever possible. We love having the whole family together.
The Fearsome Foursome
The one thing that can be really hard is getting adequate one-on-one time with each individual dog. I do a lot of solo hiking, where I just bring one dog at a time. The extra bonding time is priceless and it also allows me to focus on the individual needs and wants of just one dog, instead of the pack as a whole. I plan different outings depending on the preferences and personality of the dog that I’m bringing.
For example: Boomer is the fish of the family, so I try to take her places where she can swim. The others aren’t huge on swimming, so she doesn’t often get the chance to swim as much as she’d like. Roxie LOVES meeting all the dogs and employees at the pet store, so I usually take her with me when we’re running low on food or treats. Helo loves car rides and Ringo loves to run off-leash deep in the wilderness where there are no other dogs or people around to make him nervous. As much as these hikes and short outings are great, sometimes it’s nice to get even more bonding time with just one dog.
Ringo gets a lot of extra “mom time” out of necessity. He was very fear aggressive (reactive) when we first adopted him. With training, structured introductions, and practice, he has come a long way and is a much more confident dog. But, he relies on me as his safety net and can be territorial at home with strangers if I’m not there. So, leaving him with a pet sitter is kind of complicated. Long story short, it’s easier to just bring him with me when I go out of town most of the time. Like our last trip north to PA.
Solo Bonding Trip
I didn’t realize it, but Boomer has been getting really depressed when I would go on these trips without her. After talking to my husband while I was away, I decided a mini solo bonding trip with just my baby girl was in order, so I booked a cute little cabin in the mountains for a girl’s getaway. It was such a success that I’m going to make an effort to do these solo bonding trips a lot more often.
Pretty sure those are “Thank you” kisses
As soon as Boomer saw me packing, she started becoming hesitantly excited. She wanted to go with me, but wasn’t sure if she was invited. As much as I wanted to tell her she was going (yes, she understands when I tell her “We’re gonna go”), she gets SO excited that it makes it hard to load up the car. Once it was all loaded up, I asked her, “Boomer, wanna go?” and there was no question what her answer was! She ran, she spun, she nosed at her leash and she stood at the door with the most wide-eyed happy face I had ever seen. She ran straight to my truck and jumped in, somehow knowing this trip was different. This was just for her.
I had just taken a few recent trips, so my budget for this last minute adventure was minimal. When I found a cute little cabin on airbnb for $29 in the tiny mountain town of Balsam Grove, NC, I was sold. We got to the cabin in the early afternoon and met our host, Carrie, and her labrador. I knew I liked this place already. It turns out that there was a slightly larger (nicer) cabin that was vacant that night, so Carrie graciously offered to upgrade us free of charge. How sweet was that? She also said that Boomer could run off leash on the property and told us how much her own dog loves to swim in the creek. Excited, we headed to our cabin to unload and check out the property.
The cabin was perfect for what we needed. It had a comfy bed, air conditioning, and a sweet porch overlooking the creek. Just enough creature comforts to relax and enjoy the beauty of the area. When we arrived at our cabin, we found a list of local outdoor attractions that Carrie had prepared for her guests. It was full of local waterfalls, hikes, and outdoor adventures. As if I didn’t love this place already!! According to this list, there were some gorgeous waterfalls less than 2 miles away, so we hopped back in the car to find them. Ready for adventure #1 with my trusty hiking partner.
Waterfall Hike #1: “Bird Rock” Falls
The first destination on the list was “Bird Rock Falls,” which is actually the first of series of waterfalls on a tract of land that has been purchased by Living Waters Ministries. There are MANY “Private Property, No Trespassing” signs at the entrance, as well as along the trail. I was assured by a local (who is also on the fire department) that these signs are simply to protect the church in the event that people get hurt hiking to the falls, which apparently is a common occurrence. After having several sad stories of unnecessary injuries and death recanted to me as I stood in the mini mart, I feel the need to pass along these words of warning should you ever go here: PLEASE BE SMART. WET ROCKS ARE SLIPPERY. BE CAREFUL NEAR LEDGES. KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS. MANY PEOPLE DIE HERE EVERY YEAR FROM NOT USING COMMON SENSE!
If you can’t tell from the picture below, Boomer had an absolute BLAST hiking at the falls. She walked great on leash, slowed down and waited when I asked her to because the rocks were slippery and I needed to be careful with my footing. She was just perfect, all around!
Anyway, where was I?… The hike, yes. After parking, we hopped over the guardrail and followed the little trail past the red building (and all the “don’t come here, stay away” signs) and after a super short walk, arrived at Bird Rocks Falls. This first set of double waterfalls used to be known as French Broad Falls and Mill Shoals, but has been collectively renamed Bird Rock Falls by the church. The falls were gorgeous, but nowhere near as beautiful as the ones to come. Personally, I like my view a little more well-earned and less developed. If you do too, you won’t want to miss these next falls.
The next falls we reached as you follow the trail downstream are Cascade Falls. They’re really more of a series of cascades than “falls.” I was told the locals often slide down these falls in the summertime. Again, use caution and common sense, as this is actually where most of the injuries occur. The water was a bit cold for my taste, but Boomer enjoyed a few dips in the calmer pools along the river.
After Cascade Falls is the main attraction (and my favorite waterfall), Cathedral Falls. The walk along the river is absolutely stunning and there are plenty of perfect picnic spots along the way, so we took our time and enjoyed every minute! I brought Boomer’s long line to let her swim and explore a bit without having to worry about her wandering too close to the top of the larger falls. She had a blast playing in the ice cold water. It was really nice that it was just the two of us… no other people or dogs to urge us to move along, no time schedule, nowhere better to be. We stopped when we wanted for as long as we wanted and got to just “be.”
We even found a cool little cave for an escape from the heat along the way!
The trail ends at the top of Cathedral Falls. There is a large flat bedrock that you can walk out on to get a picture perfect view of the falls below and the gorgeous rocky cliffs on the side of the river.
Cathedral Falls is only about 15′ tall, but it’s the huge rock face behind the falls that makes this such a magical place!
To get to the bottom of the falls, you need to do a bit of rock scrambling. The rocks were wet from the rain and ridiculously slippery, but definitely worth the effort! Pictures don’t do it justice, so check out the video below to get the feel of this gorgeous place!
Downtime at the Cabin
After our waterfall hike, we headed back to the cabin for some downtime. Boomer enjoyed her pig ear and a nice big bowl of cool water while I ate my lunch. This may have been my favorite part of our trip. Just hanging out in the sunshine, relaxing, listening to the birds and the stream. Ahh… I could have stayed right there forever!
After we ate, it started to get a bit overcast and looked like it was going to rain, so I decided to stay close and spend some time exploring the property. The cabin is one of 3 rentals at the campground, plus a few RV hookup sites. (They’re building a 4th cabin as we speak). Being mid-week and still the beginning of “season,” we had almost the whole place to ourselves. Boomer ran around and sniffed everything, eyed up a horse, ran away from a horse, and chased some ducks in the stream. It was great to be in such a dog-friendly place where she could run and play off-leash! She had so much fun!
Standing tall and proud after a fun duck chase
Staring at the horse from afar
Waterfall Hike #2: Courthouse Falls, Pisgah NF
The sky brightened a bit and we decided to take our chances hiking out to one more waterfall. This one takes a bit more effort to get to via a winding forest road full of potholes, but the hike itself is a pretty easy one. We stopped a few times along the way to check out some pretty areas along the creek and eventually ended up at the trailhead.
I think it’s safe to say Boomer was PRETTY excited to do some more hiking! And so was I.
Can we go now??
That happy face makes it all worthwhile!!
The descent down to the falls
Dog on a log on a blog
Just after we took this final picture, the sky opened up and started to POUR! Luckily, it’s only about a half mile back to the trailhead, so I threw my camera and phone in my pack, put on the rain cover, and we high-tailed it out of there.
What a long day! Boomer and I were both drained from a day of hiking and exploring, but in the best way possible. We went back to the cabin and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Boomer ate up all the snuggles and belly rubs. I could tell she really needed this and so did I. Boomer is such a good dog and really doesn’t ask for much. Because she’s so easygoing, it isn’t hard to overlook her (however unintentionally) when one of our other dogs is being particularly needy.
The rain stopped for a while in the evening, so we got to hang out outside for a little while. Boomer was a faithful watchdog, protecting the cabin from forest creatures!
Change of Plans
I had big plans for hiking the next day at nearby Gorges State Park, which has been on my list for years. We woke with the sun and by 6:30, we were loading up to head to the park. It was already raining, but I hoped it would clear up by the time we got there. Not the case. We drove in the rain for 30 minutes and when we got to the trailhead, it was pouring rain. Boomer wanted NOTHING to do with being out in it. So, we got back in the car and headed home. Our solo bonding trip may have been cut short by the rain and we may not have done QUITE as much hiking as I wanted to, but it was a huge success in my book.
Why you should do this…
If you aren’t as crazy of a dog person like I am, you may think I’m insane to take a solo bonding trip to the mountains with my dog, and that’s fine. But the truth is, it was absolutely perfect and I can’t wait to do it again. Boomer was my first baby and it was truly special to get to spend this time with just her. We reconnected on a deeper level than we have in a long time and left totally in sync. She listened off-leash like she never has before, happily following me around and checking in constantly. She was SO much more loving and affectionate than she usually is. She even shared my tiny camp pillow with me at night. And the best part is that it didn’t end when we got home. We’ve been back for almost a week now and you can still see the positive effects of our extra time together.
Grab a tent, rent a tiny cabin, go on a road trip, book a hotel room. You don’t need a big group of people or even another soul around. Take your dog, reconnect, recharge. See the world through their eyes and appreciate the beauty in the simple things. Play in a stream, act like a little kid, have fun. If you aren’t a big nature person, check out a new city, visit some dog-friendly restaurants. Do something you and your dog will both enjoy and come back refreshed and reconnected just like we did. You will NOT regret it!
Thanks for reading,