As summer comes to a close – much to my sadness and Dipper’s relief – it’s time to get in all of that last minute adventuring. So, we ventured out of the city for a day and visited Kilgore Falls at Rocks State Park in Maryland with our best friends from New Jersey, Brooke and Pippin.
Living in Philly, Dipper and I don’t get the opportunity to hike much, so I jump at the opportunity to get my dog around some greenery whenever possible. My friend Brooke and I had planned to bring Dipper and his best friend (her dog), a Pomeranian mix named Pippin, to Kilgore Falls since the beginning of the summer. It’s been a hot and wet one, so our plans kept getting postponed. But early on a mid-August Sunday, we decided today was the day.
I came away from the day with a greater appreciation for both nature and my little dog.
Brooke is an outdoor enthusiast, and she’s raised Pippin on long hikes and camping trips. To him, the trail is his second home. But Dipper is definitely, well, more muttropolitan. He stops to sniff (and mark) every twig, blade of grass, and rock he encounters. Meanwhile, Pippin knows the prize is down the path. For us, the prize was a beautiful waterfall at the end of a pretty easy, approximately half mile hike.
Dipper enjoyed his journey down the trail until we hit a small but fast moving stream, the outpouring from the falls. That’s when I think he started to realize what he was in for. Water. If you know me, you know I live to swim. Dipper avoids it at all costs. Our summers consist primarily of me trying to get him to like the beach. It’s been three years, and he hasn’t budged. I carried him across the stream.
Once there, we dashed to get up close and personal with the falls. Dipper probably wishes we hadn’t. While beautiful, the sound was a bit much for my dog, who spooks easily at the sound of a loud truck. There were also a fair amount of people jumping from the rocks into the pool below – the only area really deep enough to swim in – so we moved downstream a bit to eat our lunch.
We eventually hiked away from the falls entirely to a quiet area far downstream, where we spent about two hours by ourselves. Dipper chased Pippin along the dirt bank (without entering the stream himself, of course) while I skipped stones in the water. It was peaceful, and we could barely hear any of the crowd back at the falls.
Prepare for weekend warriors. The falls and Rocks State Park are about an hour from our hometown in South Jersey. Access is limited to the number of cars that can fit into the parking lot. Once the lot’s at capacity, you’re waiting in a line of cars outside until someone leaves. We got there early enough to avoid that, but we saw it on our way out. Brooke’s been going to the falls for some time, and she said she saw the number of visitors skyrocket after a Facebook video spotlighting the falls went viral.
Wear sneakers, Despite what has seemed like weeks of nonstop rain, the falls and park weren’t very muddy. However, the rocks surrounding the falls were slippery and wet. While I recommend wearing a pair of shoes with good traction, I did see plenty of people hiking in flip flops. I kept my Keds on even in the water.
Finally, think of your pet. What are your intentions in visiting the falls? Is it actually because you think your dog will enjoy it? I often try to convince myself that Dipper likes water more than he does. But even at the calm stream, he did everything he could not to enter the water. Pippin has his limitations, too. He hates kids. Despite regular interaction with children since puppyhood, he still can’t stand them. And there were lots of kids at the falls.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our dogs are just the way they are. All we can do is love them for it – even if we do wish they’d just take a swim with us.