Intrepid Pup

Oh Shenandoah, I Long to See You

Brown House at Rapidan Camp

In visiting Rapidan Camp, Herbert Hoover’s presidential retreat in Shenandoah, the Intrepid Pup follows in the footsteps of such luminaries as aviator Charles Lindbergh and inventor Thomas Edison. Here, Tavish lounges on the porch of Brown House, the Hoovers’ personal cabin, at the terminus of the 2-mile Mill Prong Trail.

Rapidan's Outdoor Hearth

Rapidan Camp’s outdoor fireplace provides a good backdrop for photos, just as it did in Hoover’s time.

From 1929 to 1932, President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover relished their rustic fishing camp in Shenandoah. Fortunately, three of the 13 original buildings constituting their Rapidan Camp have been preserved, and you can enjoy it, too.

One option is to board a shuttle bus at the Byrd Visitor Center for a ride down a fire road as part of a three-hour, ranger-led tour. But you can’t bring your dog. And that hardly seems sporting when the second option is a moderate hike that’s dog-friendly. The trail to Rapidan winds through the very forests that so appealed to the Hoovers as a presidential retreat just 100 miles from the pressures and summer humidity of Washington, DC. The Hoovers built the camp with their own funds, the design largely influenced by the First Lady’s own experience in working with the Girl Scouts. Their personal cabin, known simply as The Brown House, had a comfortably open floor plan, welcoming hearth, and Navajo rugs. The president maintained a separate bedroom/office so he’d not disturb his sleeping wife when White House business kept him burning the midnight oil. Meals were eaten in a communal mess hall to promote camaraderie. Days were spent fishing, horseback riding, and entertaining a steady stream of official guests.

The Hoovers' Norwegian Elkhound Weejie

The Hoovers had several dogs, but it’s their Norwegian Elkhound named Weejie who most often appears in Rapidan Camp press photos like this one from 1932. This particular AP image is part of the onsite interpretive exhibit at Rapidan’s Prime Minister’s Cabin.

Hiking into Rapidan affords you the opportunity of getting the lay of the land. Outdoor signage marks where the other buildings used to stand, and the Prime Minister’s Cabin (so dubbed for Ramsay MacDonald’s visit in 1929) now contains a comprehensive exhibit about the Hoovers and how their presence shaped development in the region. In addition, a park volunteer is on hand most of the year to answer questions and provide hikers with impromptu tours of the Brown House. Our arrival was met by a very personable and knowledgeable history Ph.D. graduate student named Jonathan who was living onsite in the Creel House and serving as Rapidan’s resident caretaker for the summer. From him we learned that Hoover gifted Rapidan Camp to the government upon leaving office, and the camp was incorporated into Shenandoah National Park in 1935. The camp enjoyed use by the Boy Scouts up until 1959, when the Park Service removed all but the existing three structures. Rapidan continued to host senior U.S. officials into the early 1990s, although Maryland’s Camp David had long since supplanted Rapidan as the official presidential retreat.

The grounds and buildings underwent a full restoration in 2004 to return them to how they appeared during the Hoovers’ residence, and they remain a fascinating time capsule of a bygone era.

Dogging the Details

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter means38°29′26.49″N, 78°25′10.93″W
Rapidan Camp, Shenandoah National Park, VA (trailhead at Milam Gap)

The Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter registers an emphatic “2” for this excursion. It requires a modicum of  pre-planning, but the pay-offs include a good workout and a unique historical destination.

With more than 500 miles of hiking trails and only 10 trails on which pets are not permitted, there’s a lot for you and your leashed dog to explore at Shenandoah National Park. If you’re coming by car, there’s a $15 entrance fee per non-commercial vehicle (slightly less if it’s December – February), and your pass is good for the day of entry and the next 6 days, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. Road and trail maps are available at any of the ranger stations, and you can download a map for the Rapidan Camp area here.

Mill Prong Trail

Tavish at one of three stream crossings en route to Rapidan Camp

Begin your journey by parking at the Milam Gap pull-off just shy of mile marker 53 along Skyline Drive. The Mill Prong Trail is the most direct route to Rapidan Camp, and the trailhead is just across the street from the parking area. The path is shady, well-groomed and well-marked with tree blazes and concrete posts at trail junctions. It’s two miles downhill on the way in. There are three water crossings, but unless the streams are running high, you can easily ford them by stepping from boulder to boulder. With the last water crossing at Big Rock Falls—a distinctive but gentle cataract flowing into a shallow pool—you’re on final approach to Rapidan Camp.

Nature-wise there were butterflies, huge millipedes, and a couple of chipmunks. Ultimately we encountered more gnats (note: insect repellent is helpful) than hikers and saw no other dogs…but we suspected that it gets more crowded on the weekends. Hiking in took an hour but included several photo stops. For the return trip, we hiked out the same way we came (for a 4-mile round trip total). But if you’re up for a longer circuit hike (7.4 miles total), the alternative is to pick up the Laurel Prong Trail at Rapidan Camp and follow it until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail, which turns northward over Hazeltop Mountain and ends back at the Milam Gap parking area.

Pet-friendly lodging:

Team Tavish enjoys camping, but for this particular trip we had sought a night’s stay in pet-friendly accommodations and were pleased to find a few choices. There are a limited number of in-park, pet-friendly rooms at Lewis Mountain Cabins, Skyland, and Big Meadows Lodge.  We opted for a traditional room at Big Meadows, as it was closest to the trailhead for Rapidan Camp. It was reasonably priced and offered adequate amenities: coffee maker,  double beds, and a small bathroom (no phones or TVs, but there is wi-fi and a TV room in the main building, if you’re so inclined). While dogs aren’t allowed inside the main lodge where the dining options are, you can get pub fare from the Taproom restaurant and eat on the terrace with its none-too-shabby view of the sunset over the Blue Ridge. We saw probably a half dozen dogs being walked on the grounds the next morning, so clearly we weren’t the only ones availing ourselves of the pet-friendly lodging.

Tavish sees a snake

From a safe distance, Tavish observes what was by all accounts Rapidan Camp’s resident non-venomous snake.  We’d read that snakes can strike at a distance up to half their body length. Had this been one of Shenandoah National Park’s pit vipers—identifiable in part by their more triangular-shaped heads—Intrepid Pup wouldn’t be posing for a photo.

Special considerations:

Mosquitoes and ticks are almost givens in any woodland excursion, but hiking in Shenandoah presents two additional cautions (yay!): snakes and bears. Poisonous copperheads and rattlesnakes do reside in the park. Read up on dog-versus-snake encounters, and you’ll be sufficiently freaked out. Dogs usually weigh less than people and thus are more readily “incapacitated” (to use a euphemism) by snake venom. That being said, the snakes in Shenandoah aren’t exactly out trolling for hikers and dogs and would much rather be left alone. In the end, Team Tavish concluded that basic avoidance was going to carry the day, and our modus operandi was hyper-vigilance about not letting Tavish stray from the main trail so he could literally let sleeping snakes lie.

Shenandoah National Park also has one of the densest populations of American black bears in the United States, and pretty much any piece of park literature you’re apt to find includes information about bear safety. They’re purportedly “skittish” and tend not to pose any threat so long as you give them a wide berth, keep food out of the equation, and don’t run away. Another oft-repeated piece of advice is to “let the bear know you’re human” (i.e. wave your arms, make noise, speak in normal tones, etc.), but our travel companion—a close family friend and fellow blogger—joked that in the event of a bear encounter she would also be readily enumerating her other human attributes like, “I can read, I have opposable thumbs, and I have relatives that care about me.” As it turns out, we were glad to have reviewed bear basics because while hiking the 4-mile Rose River Loop Trail the next day, some oncoming hikers alerted us that they had just seen a bear not 200 yards ahead. They said it had shuffled off into the woods when it heard them approaching and, indeed, we never saw it.  We did, however, catch a glimpse of a bear standing at the side of the road as we were driving out of the park.

Special gear:

While you can count on temperatures being cooler in the mountains, you still need to keep hydrated, so bring plenty of water for yourself and your dog. Team Tavish used a CamelBak for water and snacks, and Tavish carried his own water and gear in Ruffwear’s Palisades Pack™ (be on the lookout for an upcoming product review in the near future). Remember to keep your dog on a 6-foot leash as the park’s leash policy is enforced for the safety of dogs, visitors, and wildlife alike. Finally, beautiful scenery is at every turn, so don’t forget to pack a camera!

There Be Dragons!

Tavish at Deal's Gap's Tail of the Dragon

Tavish seemingly not intimidated by the Tail of the Dragon with a motorcycle in its clutch.

Tavish the Intrepid Pup‘s therapy dog vest sports several pins, many of which represent places he’s traveled. Mostly they’re conversation starters, and by far the one that attracts the greatest attention—primarily from kids—is the Day-Glo yellow one shaped like a road sign bearing the silhouette of a dragon and the words, “At the Gap there be dragons.” Here’s the backstory:

Last July, Tavish and Team Tavish were visiting friends in Tennessee who were eager to show us the Tail of the Dragon. It’s a storied stretch of Highway 129 that straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. More accurately, it’s 318 curves in 11 miles with up to a 12% grade and 1800 feet in elevation. Hence the vivid and apt comparison to a jagged dragon’s tail. Were it a TV commercial, it’d have that impossibly fine print flickering across the bottom of the screen saying, “Do not attempt. Professional driver on a closed course.” Indeed, there have been vehicle performance tests done here, and for obvious reasons, the road is a magnet for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts.

We had visions of “slaying the dragon” Easy Rider-style, with a Doggles®-wearing Intrepid Pup in a cool sidecar. The biggest problem with this plan was that neither we nor our friends own motorcycles. So, we did this trip in decidedly less hip fashion in what was probably an affront to the road itself: our friends’ 2001 Hyundai Elantra. Eat your heart out, James Dean.

Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort's Tree of Shame

Who says that kinetic, post-modern sculpture can only be found in she-she art galleries? Deal’s Gap has a pretty good example with its “Tree of Shame.”

Our friend drove and would periodically concede to the far more intrepid bikers by easing into paved pull-offs, earning us many appreciative nods and an occasional wave. It was also blisteringly hot that day, so the Intrepid Pup was favoring the Elantra’s AC vents over lolling out the window. But even without a white-knuckled Nürburgring experience, this was still a drive we’re glad we did.

There are a handful of entrepreneurial outfits that station photographers along the Tail of the Dragon. The business model is akin to having your photo taken at an amusement park while on some giant roller coaster and then having the opportunity to purchase said photo as you exit the ride. (Editor’s note: We did go online afterwards and easily found ourselves in that day’s batch of pictures…after all, there aren’t exactly zillions of silver Elantras amid the supercars and slick Harley-Davidsons. And, as you might’ve guessed, our souvenir car shot is best left to your imagination.)

Rounding the final curves and easing down that last slope (Wheelie Hill), reward you with the gateway attraction that is Deal’s Gap. Touting its own special brand of self-proclaimed “two-lane tourism,” Deal’s Gap consists of Tail of the Dragon LLC (an outlet store and de facto visitor information center) on one side of the highway and Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort (with accommodations, a shop, and a 65-seat pub) on the other.

Deal's Gap statuaryThere are two standouts in this spectacle. One is the signature green “tail” pictured above. The other is the Tree of Shame  located in the motorcycle resort’s parking lot. This crowd-sourced totem is part whimsy, part rite-of-passage, and part cautionary tale. Basically it’s 20+ years of jetsam—smashed reflectors, blown tires, broken headlights, dented hubcaps, and shorn fenders—lobbed in frustration by those unlucky enough to have been “bitten by the dragon.”  The tree is always in flux as pieces get added or otherwise shift among the branches (a nearby sign warns, “CAUTION: Watch for falling parts from Tree of Shame”). It’s also a good reminder that riding the Tail of the Dragon carries an inherent risk; over the past 12 years, there’s been an average of slightly more than two deaths a year.

The parking lot is better than any showroom for gawking at the bikes, and it was here that Tavish made a few new friends. He plunked down in the shade by a random, concrete statue (doorstop?) of a bikini- and bandanna-clad biker and drew his fair share of affectionate pats from bikers returning to their rides. Many intended to traverse the route several times that day, and one biker nostalgically reminisced to us about his own pup that he never wanted to be away from for too long.

Maybe, just maybe, Tavish will get that ride in a sidecar yet!

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

35°27′59.77″N,  83°55′9.99″W
Highway 129
(a.k.a. Tail of the Dragon),  Tennessee/North Carolina, with a stop at Deal’s Gap

35°18′22.87″N,  84°00′46.45″W
Cherohola Skyway (Routes 143/165), North Carolina/Tennessee

This excursion rates a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter. It was a fun, scenic outing and, aside from the driving, was not very strenuous…particularly if you’re a dog! In all, we covered 113 miles that afternoon, but this represented three hours of actual driving time, because speed limits are just 30 mph on the Tail of the Dragon and 40 mph on the Cherohala Skyway.

Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway is the “mile-high legend.” Tavish proves it by standing at the Santeetlah Overlook, the route’s highest elevation at 5390 feet.

We had started out just south of Knoxville, snaking southeast on the Tail of the Dragon. En route we passed the Cheoah Dam. Besides holding back the water of the Little Tennessee River, it’s also famous for being the dam from which Dr. Richard Kimble—portrayed by actor Harrison Ford—swans dives in the 1993 thriller The Fugitive. It wasn’t easy for us to pull off the road right then, so there’s no Intrepid Pup photo…you’ll just have to take our word for it. We decided to extend our drive by daisy-chaining from the Tail of the Dragon right onto the Cherohala Skyway, a 60-mile, high-elevation road running west from Robbinsville, North Carolina, to Tellico Plains, Tennessee. But be sure to top off your fuel tank at Deal’s Gap as there are no gas stations on this segment. The route takes its name from the two national forests (Cherokee and Nantahala) it transects.

We made a couple stops along the Skyway to check out some pretty amazing vistas. From the sheer elevation, it’s easy to see why much of the highway gets closed during wintry weather.  Before a passing thunderstorm hit, we were also able to stretch our legs and get in a short 0.75-mile hike with Tavish along a roadside trail with interpretive signs about railroads and timber harvesting.

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Journey to the Edge of Shangri-La

Catoctin Trail

That got your attention, didn’t it? OK, so while Tavish the Intrepid Pup technically didn’t stumble upon the mystical paradise described in Lost Horizon, he came pretty close to a Shangri-La. In Thurmont, Maryland, that is.

Catoctin Mountain Park, administered by the National Park Service, is some 10,000 acres of hardwood forest interspersed with recreational areas and a lot of history. Its past is interwoven with that of sawmills, whiskey stills, tanneries, charcoal production, and pig iron. In the 1930s it was shaped into the Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area by the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Of this expanse, the Hi-Catoctin Camp for families of federal workers caught the eye of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a viable spot for a presidential retreat. Roosevelt hadn’t been too keen on adopting his predecessor President Herbert Hoover’s retreat (Camp Rapidan) in Shenandoah, in part because its remoteness presented challenges for Roosevelt’s physical condition. But Hi-Catoctin was just an hour northwest of Washington, DC, and refreshingly cooler in the summer to boot. Roosevelt first visited Catoctin in April 1942, and the existing camp was quickly converted to a presidential retreat he dubbed “Shangri-La” after the utopia in James Hilton’s popular 1933 novel. It became a true haven for the president during World War II, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill even came there for the Third Washington Conference in 1943. After Roosevelt’s death, President Harry Truman recognized the importance and significance of Shangri-La and preserved it through an arrangement with the National Park Service. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower came into office, he readily embraced Shangri-La but with one significant modification: he renamed it Camp David after his grandson! It’s kept that name ever since and has seen several historic moments, from visits by Leonid Brezhnev, Nikita Khrushchev, and Margaret Thatcher to the 1978 summit with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin culminating in the Camp David Accords. As you might suspect, Shangri-La (a.k.a. Camp David) is neither visible from any of the park roads nor open for visitation by the general public even if you do find it.

However, you have the whole rest of the park at your disposal, and with 25 miles of available hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous, you can readily assemble an itinerary that strikes your fancy. We ended up covering about 5 miles during our visit by hiking the out-and-back Cunningham Falls Nature Trail (2.8 miles round-trip, with a nice view of the falls), the Hog Rock Nature Trail loop (1.5 miles, featuring 14 kinds of trees and nice vista of the Monocacy Valley), and the Blue Ridge Summit Trail (0.6 mile round-trip, with a rocky overlook at an elevation of 1520 ft). Just to manage expectations: at no time did Bo, President’s Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog, come bounding up to us. In fact, we were kind of surprised by how uncrowded the park was, but we chalked it up to the fact that rain in the forecast was keeping folks away. We’ll definitely be back to tackle some of the other routes!

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter meansDogging the Details

39°39′1.54″N,  77°27′50.65″W
Catoctin Mountain Park, Thurmont, Maryland

39°37′5.79″N,  77°24′56.46″W
The Cozy’s Camp David Museum, Thurmont, Maryland

This excursion is a solid “2” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter. Catoctin is a great natural setting that welcomes leashed dogs, and the hiking trails are very well marked and maintained.

Catoctin Mountain Park

Tavish on the lush and shady Cunningham Falls trail. We passed a total of six other dogs on this popular route.

Make the Park Service’s Visitor Center at Catoctin Mountain Park your first stop. There is no entrance fee for the park, although rates do apply if you’ll be availing yourself of any of the four cabin camp rental sites. The ranger can outfit you with a trail map and recommend what hikes will best suit your group and the time you have available. Particularly neat is the park’s current initiative, the “Healthy Park | Healthy People Challenge.” You’re given a pamphlet listing a combination of 13 interpretive trails and scenic overlooks in the park. With each destination attained, you have a ranger record it on your sheet. Make it to all 13 spots and you’ll earn a special Catoctin Mountain Park carabiner!

The Visitor Center contains restroom facilities, outdoor trash receptacles, a small museum covering the cultural heritage and natural history of the region, and a park bookstore/gift shop that even carries collapsible water bowls and pet bandanas stamped “National Bark Ranger” (um, yeah, we bought one).

After truly enjoying hiking in the park, our next stop was the historic Cozy in downtown Thurmont. Established in 1929, Cozy is Maryland’s oldest restaurant still run by its founding family. That in and of itself makes the Cozy noteworthy in this day and age, but it’s the Cozy’s other claim to fame that had Team Tavish intrigued. In addition to the Cozy Country Inn and Cozy Village Shops, the Cozy complex is home to the nation’s “only museum of Camp David history.” You come upon the outdoor painted plaque that says that Mamie Eisenhower and Babe Ruth are among the notables who’ve dined here, open the door to the family-style restaurant,  and boom:  there’s the Camp David Museum.

Camp David MuseumA modest-sized room off the main dining area serves as the gallery chock full of photographs and memorabilia highlighting the Cozy’s Camp David connections to 13 presidential administrations and counting. There’s a perfect photo opp beneath a rustic “Camp David” sign, but sorry, no dogs allowed inside.

For security reasons Camp David doesn’t show up on the Park Service trail maps, but area residents are accustomed to Camp David hubbub and seem happy enough to demystify things for you. One nice lady we met (alas, didn’t catch a name) recalled how broadcast journalist “Barbara Wawa” would hike up her skirt and vault a fence so she’d be the first out to the helicopters that used the parking lot of a local car dealership as a  landing pad. Time was that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secret Service agents stayed at the Cozy. JFK’s cabinet members often dined there, and the Cozy was the lodging of choice for guests attending President George H. W. Bush’s daughter Doro’s wedding at Camp David in 1992. And then there were tales of television reporters who had their favorite yards or trees downtown that they’d always use as backdrops for reporting “live from Camp David”…even though all the locals watching the evening news knew better.

Yet, despite the G8 Summit being held at Camp David just two months ago (May 2012), Team Tavish detected a hint of wistfulness in our new-found Thurmont-er friend. “It’s not quite like it used to be,” she said. “Now all those world leaders just Skype and email each other, you know. And President Obama really seems to be more of a beach kind of guy, so I don’t think he gets up here as much as some of the other presidents did.”

Everything in the Cozy’s various displays has been donated over the years by visiting White House staffers, dignitaries, and members of a generous press corps. It seems that the bus tours that stop for repast at the Cozy are a pretty discerning bunch, and it apparently hasn’t gone unnoticed that the Obama section of the Camp David Museum is a little sparse. Don’t blame the Cozy, however, as they know their audience and aim to please. They’ve submitted requests for items through “official channels” and have even improvised by adding a few generic images of the First Family. But at the end of the day, Team Tavish had to concur with the assessment of our casual acquaintance: “Photos downloaded from the internet somehow just don’t cut it.”

So, if someone at the White House happens to be reading this (and we know hope you are!), the Intrepid Pup encourages you to  “throw a bone” to the Cozy’s Camp David Museum in the way of some Obama swag and a few recent photos of the president at Camp David. Who knows? It might just translate to some key votes from Thurmont-ers and Cozy-philes in the November elections.

Monticello, Dogs, and the 4th of July

Monticello Thomas Jefferson’s name gets bandied about quite frequently on the fourth of July. Famously linked to this date first for his role in writing the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson also made history by dying on July 4th fifty years later…the exact same day as his Declaration co-author and former political adversary John Adams.

So, on this our country’s 236th birthday, Intrepid Pup shares a recent visit to Thomas Jefferson’s hilltop home of Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was a young nation’s first Secretary of State, second Vice President, and third President…a veritable trifecta that meant he was indeed a busy man whose home—despite being started in 1768—took forty years to complete. Today, the distinctive plantation with its Palladian architectural influences is the only U.S. residence that’s also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

Moniticello

Tavish overlooks Jefferson’s gardens from the airy pavilion, much as Bergère and her progeny might have done more than 200 years ago.

Historians are always quick to cite Jefferson’s intellect and endless fascinations:  natural history, architecture, gardening, cooking, viticulture, farming, literature, politics. But dogs? This founding father seemed to take a purely utilitarian view—not uncommon in late 18th-century America—of the canine species. Jefferson opined that, in general, the dog population should be highly controlled (and even regulated and taxed) as dogs often proved to be carriers of disease and a scourge upon livestock. A comprehensive article on this topic appears in the “Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia” section of Monticello’s website.

That all being said, Jefferson also felt that certain birds and animals from the Old World should be introduced to America. Among these was a “shepherd’s dog,” and Jefferson took it upon himself to import three such dogs from France (a female named Bergère and two puppies she whelped during the trans-Atlantic passage) in 1789. There’s been much speculation as to just what kind of herding dogs these were, since Jefferson’s archival records lack this particular detail. The experts’ best guess? Large Briards. Jefferson’s farm animals included sheep, cows, and various poultry, and it seems that Bergère et al were kept as true working dogs. More of the “chien de berger” came to Monticello in 1790 and 1809, with the latter dogs personally selected by the Marquis de Lafayette! As Albemarle County landowners increasingly acquired sheep, Jefferson’s dogs came into high demand, and correspondence indicates that he carefully bred his dogs and supplied the puppies to relatives, friends and neighbors.

Bergère’s happy—but, presumably, purely coincidental—legacy is that Monticello remains a dog-friendly destination. So long as you keep your dog leashed and outdoors, dogs are welcome to explore Monticello’s historic grounds.

 

Dogging the Details

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter means 38°0′35.34″N,  78°27′9.85″W
Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia

For Monticello’s pet-friendly culture and sheer number of things to see and do, this excursion ranks a “2” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter.

Your visit will begin in the parking lot. Don’t miss seeing the African-American graveyard. It’s near the picnic area and entrance to the 2-mile Saunders-Monticello Trail (important note: dogs are permitted only on the section that runs through Kemper Park at the opposite end of the trail). From the parking lot you’ll approach the Visitor Center for your tickets. There’s a theater showing a 20-minute introductory film, an educational center, a cafe, and a well-stocked museum shop (sorry, no dogs in any of the buildings). Though your dog also can’t accompany you into the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery, you’ll want to check this out, too. This compact museum space addresses diverse themes—from slavery to Monticello’s design—and tackles abstract concepts like Jefferson’s words and ideas in a creative way: see for yourself!

Monticello

Dogs can’t take the shuttle (left), but the walking trail (right) begins just across the road from the Visitor Center shuttle stop.

To cover the distance between the Visitor Center and the house with your dog, you won’t be able to ride the courtesy shuttle. Not to worry: there’s a gently sloping, shady 0.6-mile gravel path through the woods that only takes ~20 minutes. Allow more time if you stop to linger en route at Jefferson’s gravesite.

We were pleased to find trash receptacles placed throughout the grounds (though not on the woodland trail), and we were conveniently able to refill water bottles for Tavish from restroom facilities and from the drinking fountain at the Museum Shop adjacent to Jefferson’s extensive vegetable garden.

Monticello beer cellar

Tavish cools off in Monticello’s beer cellar. Jefferson’s wife Martha (1748-1782) oversaw the brewing of 15-gallon batches every two weeks. A British brewer visited Monticello in 1813–due to being detained in the War of 1812!–and, based on his input, the estate switched to producing biannual 100-gallon runs of ale.

Since dogs aren’t allowed inside the main house, Team Tavish took the timed-entry guided tour in consecutive one-hour shifts. This meant that Tavish had a full two hours to explore Jefferson’s estate, and there really was plenty to hold his (and our) interest. We’d been informed that Tavish could accompany us on any of the seasonally-offered “gardens and grounds” tours included in the general admission fee. While we saw many of these in progress, we opted to explore on our own and even encountered a few other visiting dogs. The beautiful flower beds on the west lawn were in full bloom, and from the north terrace we could just make out in the distance the Jefferson-designed rotunda at the University of Virginia. We surveyed the orchards from the vantage point of the garden pavilion. And when we needed some shade, we took a self-guided tour through the cool cellar passage that runs the full width of the main house and terraces and gives you a peek at Monticello’s dependencies .

Plan on spending a minimum of 3 hours at Monticello to savor the history and the views!

 

 

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A Rewarding Moment

One excited Intrepid Pup

What’s Tavish all excited about? Intrepid Pup is now an AWARD-WINNING blog!

There’s rarely a dull moment where Tavish is involved. The latest case in point: Intrepid Pup has been honored by BlogPaws as Best New Blog. Wow!

BlogPaws was founded in 2009 by Caroline Golon, Yvonne DiVita, and Tom Collins. It’s the go-to resource for pet enthusiasts, pet bloggers, shelters, rescues, and the brands who serve them. BlogPaws offers online and offline opportunities to partner on projects and campaigns, be educated on social media, and meet people all over the country. Its annual conference unites hundreds of attendees from around the globe for professional development, networking, and cause marketing. Introduced with this year’s BlogPaws conference was the first annual Nose-to-Nose Pet Blogging and Social Media Awards, officially sponsored by Halo, Purely for Pets and Freekibble.com.

As BlogPaws states, “This is the only awards program where pet bloggers (and pet people who “microblog” on Twitter and Facebook) are being judged by a panel of distinguished professionals on their expertise, creativity, and performance.” Team Tavish was notified back in mid-May that the Intrepid Pup had been nominated and was among the finalists for 2 of the 12 possible awards! Intrepid Pup was humbled to be with such talented company in the categories of Best Blog Writing (“judged on overall writing skill”) and Best New Blog (for blogs “less than one year old, with good content and engagement”).

Then came the waiting.

Unfortunately we couldn’t make it out to Salt Lake City to be on hand for the red carpet gala on June 23, 2012, so we were really grateful that BlogPaws was live-streaming the awards ceremony on UStream. Leading pet lifestyle expert, endangered animal and rescue advocate, best-selling author, and TV personality Wendy Diamond was the emcee, and the ballroom was filled with two- and four-footed guests!

We had just returned from an exhaustingly fun Conestoga Vizsla Club event, and Tavish was getting  comfy on the living room sofa while we were frantically tuning in to the live video feed and concurrent “BlogPawty” on Twitter…all seamlessly orchestrated.  And shortly after 8PM EST, here’s what we saw:

Amazing. When we first launched the Intrepid Pup’s interactive website at the end of January 2012 and then the blog—a mere 5 months ago…what a blur!—we were prepared for the journey but uncertain where it would lead. In inviting you to “Come! Adventures Await”, we combine imagery and narrative to promote lifelong learning and an active lifestyle with one’s pet by chronicling Tavish’s own adventures at national parks, natural wonders, museums, historical sites, events, and attractions throughout the country. From time to time, the blog also reflects upon Tavish’s inspirational experiences as a certified therapy dog working with children and the elderly in a variety of settings. It’s pure enjoyment: part wonderment, part educational, and all about being out and about in the world with one intrepid pup.

So, it’s an extremely special combination to be new to the pet blogging community and to be recognized in BlogPaws’ inaugural awards as the “Best New Blog.” Making it all the sweeter is the fact that the award comes with an opportunity to give back. Sponsors Freekibble.com and Halo, Purely for Pets have teamed up to allow the BlogPaws award winners to donate 5,000-meals apiece to the organizations of our choice.

If you’re not already familiar with these two companies, you should be! Since 2008 Freekibble has donated more than 7.7 million meals to dogs and cats at shelters, rescues, and foodbanks by featuring  daily trivia questions on its websites Freekibble.com and Freekibblekat.com. Visitors to the sites submit their online answers and—right or wrong!—automatically contribute 10 pieces of kibble to homeless pets. Halo, Purely for Pets has been Freekibble’s official pet food sponsor since 2010 and annually donates upwards of one million meals of Halo Spot’s Stew that Freekibble then distributes to shelters and rescues throughout the United States. What a winning combination! Halo, co-owned by animal advocate (and comedian/television host/actress) Ellen DeGeneres, has been making all-natural pet food since 1986.

So, what is the Intrepid Pup’s charity of choice to receive the 5,000 meals?

AWS logoThe Animal Welfare Society (AWS) – West Kennebunk, Maine.
Although Tavish didn’t come from a shelter, we at Team Tavish truly believe that Tavish owes a good deal of his sociability, confidence, and training to the many classes— puppy, obedience, agility, rally—that we took at AWS, our local shelter while we were living in Maine. It’s for this reason that we want to award 5,000 meals to AWS and give a special shout-out and thank-you to our former AWS trainers Kim, Amy, Maryjane, and SaShell. It’s especially important for folks to realize that through various outreach programs, quality shelters like AWS can and do play a vital, continuing role in fostering a positive human-pet bond beyond initial adoption services.

About AWS
AWS is a private, non-profit humane society. Begun in the early 1960s by a group of caring individuals, the AWS incorporated in 1967 and today is a vibrant 13,000 s.f. facility which in 2011 added its own in-house spay and neuter clinic. AWS currently provides municipal shelter services to 21 contracted towns representing a population of nearly 150,000 people throughout southern Maine. AWS is an open-admission facility and accepts every animal—strays, transfers, and surrenders—regardless of health, age, or perceived “adoptability.” Through its day camps, school and museum visits, classes, presentations and other community-based initiatives, AWS actively promotes kindness, the elimination of cruelty to and neglect of all animals, and the lifelong commitment of people to their pets.

As Nose-to-Nose winners, we were given one final opportunity to “pay it forward.”  Collectively the awardees from all 12 categories were asked to vote on which pet-related organization should receive one of BlogPaws’ traditional closing ceremony donations. Happily, a $2,000 donation is going to World Vets, a non-government organization founded in 2006, which provides veterinary aid in developing countries and veterinary disaster relief worldwide. Its primary focus is to make veterinary care accessible to the 99 percent of animals in developing countries that never see a veterinarian. This North Dakota-based non-profit has deployed more than 3,600 volunteers to 36 countries on six continents and collaborates with animal advocacy groups, foreign governments, US and foreign military groups and veterinary professionals abroad.

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter meansMany thanks to BlogPaws, Freekibble, and Halo for their generosity and support of these awards and animals the world over. We’re truly honored. And finally, thanks to the Intrepid Pup’s friends old and new. As many faithful followers of the Intrepid Pup already know, one hallmark of Tavish’s adventure-related blog posts is a “Dogging the Details” section with a Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter reading…and this one definitely tops out at a 3!

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