Finley’s Road Trip: Stop and Sniff- Part 1

Before we get too far, I wanted to address that yes, I am a dog, and when I’m not chewing on bones or hiking on the local trail, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I have determined the most dog-friendly stops (some of my favorites) from our inaugural Tin Sheets to the Wind trip along the East Coast, which I’ve broken down into three parts. Since typing is a bit of a challenge with big furry paws, I’ve asked one of my people to help with getting my words (though they sound more like barks) into writing so that I can share my first two favorite spots with you and your pets.

Desert of Maine- Freeport, Maine
You’re starting to think that maybe I’ve had a few too many milk bones or been sneaking into our remaining cases of wine, but no, you read that correctly, the first dog-friendly stop on our list is at the Desert of Maine in Freeport, Maine.  There is an actual desert in Southern Maine not too far from the famous giant boot outside of L.L. Bean. In 1797, the Tuttle Family settled in this location and began farming potatoes; however, due to overgrazing by sheep and not rotating their crop, the soil began to erode and uncover the silt that laid beneath thanks to the most recent ice age. By 1919, the family abandoned their farm and the property, selling it for just $300. The enterprising gentleman that obtained the property for almost nothing converted it into the tourist attraction that is today, back in 1925.

While the history is interesting, let’s get back to the important stuff- dogs. Not only does the Desert of Maine welcome visitors, it also has a campground. Being late in the season, we got a full lot to ourselves right next to the desert and the camels that I’m (reluctantly) posing with in the photo below. During the day, visitors can purchase a ticket and take a tour through the desert either on foot or in a Jeep. Once the park closes for the day, dogs are allowed to roam the desert (on leash, of course). The walking trail is about a half mile long and goes through the woods and up and over some of the dunes. There are tons of things to sniff and lots of informational signs to keep your people entertained. Since we were camping, we opted to walk the path at dusk and early the next morning and being some of the only people in the campground, we had the desert to ourselves.

There is also a little gift shop where the people got a coffee mug (something they love doing from the quirky places we stop) and bought me a stuffed camel which we named Humphrey (camel = humps…the people think they are hilarious). Typically, I can last 10, maybe 12 hours before I feel the need to discover what lies inside stuffed toys; but with Humphrey, I made it two whole weeks before I decided that he was better suited as a chew toy, rather than for snuggling.

Since my people are into quirky roadside attractions and I am a big fan of hiking, this is a perfect stop when traveling through Maine. Two paws up from me!

Mount Vernon- Mount Vernon, Virginia
There are many historical sites around the country, and definitely so around the Washington D.C. area. Surprisingly, there are a number that are dog-friendly. Us furry folk are allowed around the National Mall where we can see (from a distance) the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and more. Then there is Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home located across the Potomac River, a little to the south of Alexandria, Virginia. We were very excited to learn that the grounds were completely dog-friendly and I was allowed everywhere except in the buildings. With over 500 acres to explore; including trails to walk, gardens to sniff, and big dogs with horns (my people tell me that they are actually called cows) to be wary of, there was more than enough area to get some good exercise for both people and dogs.

Upon arriving at the facility, the people purchase tickets and then all folks (both regular and furry) are directed through the Ford Orientation Center that provides welcome and historical information. While the people took turns grabbing a drink of water (who knew it be so hot in the Mid Atlantic in October!), I was not just greeted but treated like royalty and fully loved on by all of the docents. Not just some absent-minded petting, we’re talking about full belly rubs and repeated confirmation of my good looks. After leaving the Visitor’s Center, I was feeling pretty special and excited to check out the grounds. We walked through the Fruit Garden and Nursery, the Lower Garden, past Washington’s Tomb, and down to the wharf where we enjoyed the views across the Potomac River. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to swim, but I loved meeting some new friends and taking a break in the shade.

I’ve traveled quite a bit and my people are always good about making sure to go to places that I am allowed, so that I rarely get stuck in the car. Of all the places that I’ve visited, this is by far one of the best in making me feel welcome! I highly recommend you (all the dogs reading this) tell your people to take a few hours and explore the grounds of Mount Vernon, if you’re in the DC area. Another two paws up from me!