Ambassador Field Notes: A Two Week Road Trip With Dogs
Story by Dani Wyeth, written from her dog Ranger's perspective
Note: This story is from a road trip Nate, Dani, Tanner, and Ranger took last fall. Please be mindful of current restrictions set in place – we hope this serves as inspiration for your future road trips.
It brings me so much joy to see how our dogs, Tanner and Ranger, respond when one of us asks, “Who wants to go for a car ride?” Last fall, as we do every fall, we headed out for a two-week road trip to some places we’d never been but always wanted to go.
We plotted out the route – a 2,545 mile trip from our home in Bend, heading east through Idaho, into Wyoming, up to Montana, and back down through Idaho and Washington before returning to Bend. We’d visit bucket-list campsites, national monuments and national parks, riverside hot springs, mountain summits, and friends in far-off towns. It was important to us to make sure to include plenty of dog-friendly destinations, knowing that most national parks (including the three we planned to visit) are not super dog-friendly.
I’ve always wondered what goes on in Tanner’s and Ranger’s heads when they hear us. Dogs, of course, are quick to associate words with feelings. I’m no dog translator, but there is a language that develops between every dog and their humans. If they were to write this blog post about one of the best road trips ever, it’d probably go something like this...
"Want to go for a car ride?"
Whenever we see our humans loading up our Haul Bag™ and Kibble Kaddie™, it’s our first sign that we’re about to have a good time. It’s pretty soon after that that they ask us if we want to go for a car ride. We can’t believe they still ask, because we’d never say no. We have no idea where we’re going when we hop in, but we know it’ll be fun.
Although the national parks were some of the highlights on this particular trip, our humans made sure to find a variety of places that were dog-friendly so that we could join them on their hikes and adventures.
Photos by Nate Wyeth
Our first stop from Bend was Leslie Gulch in Eastern Oregon. We swam in the river here, but as beautiful as it was, we didn’t stay long. It was too hot for us, and we had a long drive to the Sawtooths, in Idaho, the next day.
When they can, our humans like to find places to camp that are off the beaten path, giving us plenty of room to run, swim, and play without rules. Our next campsite was along the Warm Springs Creek, just upriver from Frenchman’s Hot Spring. They told us we weren’t allowed in the hot springs, but we swam and chased sticks in the creek. After an exhausting evening of playing in the Sawtooth National Forest, we crashed hard before waking up early and setting our sites on Jackson, Wyoming.
Once we got to Jackson, we visited our first national park of the trip – Grand Teton National Park. We weren’t staying overnight there, as we had campground reservations further north in Yellowstone, but our humans stopped at several roadside pullouts so we could take in the views and get out to stretch our legs. Pullouts are nice for dogs, because we’re allowed to get out of the car and walk around, even though we’re not allowed at many other places within the park.
What to know about visiting U.S. National Parks with your pup: Generally speaking, pets are allowed in national parks, but they are fairly restricted by what they can do. Pets are allowed in developed areas (think parking lots, sidewalks, the areas around the visitor centers), on most paved trails and in most campgrounds, and in some lodging facilities. They must be on a leash no longer than 6’ or in a crate. Specific regulations vary by park, so please be sure to check the rules for wherever you’re planning to go.
We woke up the next morning to rain in Yellowstone, so we decided as a family to get back in the truck and go for a scenic drive to visit some of the park’s geysers and waterfalls. Because the speed limit through the park was slow enough, we got to have window time the whole day. There were plenty of paved paths that we were allowed to go for some walks on, so we got out to play a little bit, too. We kept hoping we’d see a wolf so we could see some of our distant relatives, but it never happened.
The next day, we packed up to spend a couple of days with our friends in Bozeman. We were happy about this because we knew we’d get to go on some hikes where we could run and play! As a bonus, our friends had a golden retriever named Josey who had a great big backyard for us to play in. We took a hike in Gallatin National Forest in Hyalite Canyon to some waterfall, and we ran, played, and got muddy. It was great.
After a couple of days in Bozeman, it was time to head north to Glacier National Park. Nate and Dani were excited about this park, because from our site at Apgar Campground, there is a nice hiking path that is 2.5 miles long and dog-friendly. Our humans also set up the Knot-a-Hitch campsite system and leashed us up to it so we could roam a little and get some space.
We spent a couple more days in Glacier before pointing the truck west to begin our journey home, eventually making it back into Oregon. After crossing the Grand Ronde River, we continued south to Wallowa Lake State Park. We hiked in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, dipped in some creeks, and chewed on more sticks.
Our final stop of the trip was at the Elkhorn Mountains. We camped at Anthony Lakes, and set out the next morning for a summit attempt on a nearby mountain. It was a beautiful day and we hiked past alpine lakes and towering pines, eventually making it to the top of one of the tallest pieces of granite in the area at over 8,600 feet high. After some summit treats and a few photos, we headed back down the trail to get in one last dip in the lake before it got dark.
On our final day, we woke up to fresh snowfall in the campground with signs of winter’s arrival closing in on us. When we pulled into the driveway at home, we didn’t want to get out. We were ready to go again. So what do you say, shall we do it again?