Summer Fun: 5 Dog-Friendly OBX Destinations

Tavish on the beach by Jennette's Pier

OBX:  three little letters stand for North Carolina’s Outer Banks and a summer full of fun for dogs and people alike. Many locations along the Outer Banks are denoted simply by their milepost number along U.S. Highway 158.  At Whalebone Junction, the road becomes a decidedly less-congested N.C. Route 12 and is the gateway to Cape Hatteras, designated the country’s first national seashore in 1953. Beaches are dog-friendly, with regulations varying by town and season. Here are the Intrepid Pup’s picks for the top five scenic and sandy spots at this east coast playground:

Bodie Island Light Station

After wandering the grounds, be sure to follow the 1/8-mile boardwalk through the marsh for a picture-perfect view.

35° 49′ 5.30″ N,  75° 33′ 51.53″ W
Bodie Island Light Station
, Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
Open March – December

Throughout the centuries, the storms and shoals defining this stretch of coastline have wrecked more than 600 ships. Were it not for the area’s lighthouses and lifesaving services, this Graveyard of the Atlantic would have claimed even more. Don’t miss Bodie Island Light Station, the 164.4-foot black and white striped beacon whose light is visible from 19 miles at sea. Constructed in 1872, it’s actually the third light station to occupy that approximate location. Since 2000, it’s been maintained by the National Park Service, and you can even take a ranger-led tour up the tower.  While dogs aren’t currently allowed inside the light station, that wasn’t always the case. A Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Chess used to climb the tower every day, accompanying his master Vernon Gaskill who served as Bodie Island’s last civilian-era keeper (1919-1939).  According to Elinor De Wire’s book, The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie—on sale in the light station’s gift shopChess had no problem with the heights but apparently drew the line at entering the lantern room, because he didn’t like the odor of kerosene!

Tavish at the Lost Colony

The emptiness here adds to the mystery and kind of proves a point. After all, it is the Lost Colony.

35° 56′ 9.79″ N,  75° 42′ 35.35″ W
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Roanoke Island, North Carolina
Open year-round

A newly renovated visitor center at this National Park Service site interprets the history of Roanoke Island, from Algonquian homeland in the 1500s to a refuge for runaway slaves during the Civil War. But the spot is perhaps best known for what it wasn’t, namely a successful English colony. In fact, no one knows for certain what became of the English settlers who’d arrived in 1587.  When Governor John White returned to check on his transplants to the New World three years later, the 117 colonists plus White’s ill-fated granddaughter Virginia Dare (the first Christian baby born in Virginia) seemed to have vanished into thin air.  An abandoned fort and the word “CROATOAN” carved into a post are the scant clues in this unsolved mystery.

You, too, can explore the grounds of the lost colony. Pass a reconstructed version of the original earthen fort and join up with the Hariot Nature Trail for what amounts to about a 20-minute walk. We came upon a flock of ibises unhurriedly picking their way through the clearing. The wooded trail is slightly overgrown in spots and is punctuated by markers identifying types of trees and habitats. Sprinkled in are quotes drawn from accounts in Old English affirming the myriad challenges that the colonists faced. The trail provides a  picturesque view of Albemarle Sound before circling back to the Visitor Center.  Let us know if you happen to make the separate 2.5-mile round-trip hike on the Freedom Trail out to Croatan Sound—we were unfortunately thwarted in our attempt by a severe thunderstorm!

NagsHeadBeach

The Intrepid Pup officially “off duty” on the beaches of Nags Head.

35° 54′ 36.32″ N,  75° 35′ 43.77″ W
Nags Head Beaches & Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina (milepost 16.5)

Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the towns of Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Southern Shores all permit dogs on their beaches with varying degrees of seasonal access and leash laws. Team Tavish and the Intrepid Pup particularly like the beaches in Nags Head, because dogs are allowed on the beach year-round and at any time of day so long as they are on a maximum 10-ft leash and owners clean up.

Jennette's Pier

A bronze sea turtle stands watch by the pier house on Jeannette’s Pier.

While Tavish loves the water, he isn’t big on swimming, and that’s actually just fine here, because one does have to be mindful of the dangerous rip currents that can lurk offshore. But the beaches are clean and wide…perfect for an Intrepid Pup to snuffle the sand, poke at shells, crabs and seaweed, and skitter through the foamy surf. Walk the beach at sunrise and you’re sure to catch glimpses of skimming pelicans and playful porpoises offshore. Hard to miss at the heart of the beach’s Whalebone District is Jennette’s Pier (see photo at top). It’s been at this location since 1939, and  its current iteration is all concrete and extends 1,000 feet  into the Atlantic Ocean. Dogs aren’t permitted in or beyond the pier house, but you can get as far as the oversize bronze sculpture of a sea turtle. From that vantage point you can watch all the anglers heading out onto the pier to catch bluefish, cobia, skate, pigfish, mackerel, sea mullet, and more.

Tavish at Jockey's Ridge

The dunes at this state park are very cool…just be mindful of your dog’s paws, because the sand can get hot, hot, HOT!

35° 57′ 50.37″ N,  75° 37′ 59.38″ W
Jockey’s Ridge State Park
, Nags Head, North Carolina (milepost 12)
Open year-round

Did you know that this 420-acre state park represents the eastern United States’ largest natural dune system? It’s open to the public year-round, though park hours vary by season. Parking and general access are free. Dogs are allowed, so long as they remain on 6-foot leashes. From the visitor center, you can stroll a 360-foot boardwalk to a dune overlook, set out on the 1.5-mile “Tracks in the Sand” interpretive trail, take a mile-long walk on the “Soundside” nature trail…or simply scale the dunes. The shifting sands create a ridge that varies in height from 80 to 100 feet, providing spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Roanoke Sound. With fairly steady prevailing winds, Jockey’s Ridge is a favorite destination for kiteboarders and sandboarders. On the morning of our visit, hang gliding lessons were just getting underway, and the park was also gearing up for a big kite festival. We’d been forewarned that the sand at Jockey’s Ridge can get anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees hotter than the air temperature, so Tavish came prepared wearing his Ruffwear Swamp Cooler™ vest (a real godsend that made all the difference in his comfort in the dry heat), and he had his protective paw booties at the ready.  A word to the wise:  try taking off your shoes. If it’s too hot to walk on the dunes barefoot, it’ll definitely be too hot for your pup!  When we reached the ridge, the radio announcer for the kite festival approached us to pet  Tavish. Taking stock of all of our water bottles and gear, he remarked, “Wow, I can’t tell you how many people I see come up here with no water for themselves, let alone for their dogs. Big mistake.”

Tavish Wright Brothers National Memorial

The sky’s the limit at the Wright Brothers National Memorial!

36° 0′ 51.20″ N,  75° 40′ 4.40″ W
Wright Brothers National Memorial
, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina (milepost 7.5)
Open year-round

Modern aviation is indebted to two Ohio brothers who journeyed to what at the turn-of-the 20th century was a remote patch of dunes. Carefully chosen for the winds, lack of distractions, and sandy landings, Kill Devil Hills was where Orville and Wilbur Wright first achieved powered, controlled, and sustained human flight on December 17, 1903.  You can follow in the brothers’ flight path with a visit to this National Park Service memorial. With Tavish in tow, we covered a total of approximately 1.5 miles walking the grounds. A pathway with stone markers traces the trajectories and landings of the Wrights’ first four powered flights. Trek uphill to get a panorama of the site, topped by a 60-foot granite memorial; it’s the same promontory from which the Wrights had earlier experimented with glider flights. Before turning back to further explore the informative Visitor Center, head downhill beyond the memorial. At the apex of the trail loop is a bronze and stainless steel sculpture group entitled, December 17, 1903. It captures the same instant of first flight as the iconic photograph and makes for a pretty nifty photo opp all its own!

Dogging the Details

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter meansYou see a lot of dogs on the Outer Banks enjoying outdoor activities a-plenty. So at first we were puzzled by the fact that dog-friendly lodging and dining weren’t as abundant. It turns out that many dog-owning OBX vacationers rent beach houses by the week (Sunday to Saturday) so they’re not needing as many hotels and always have the option of cooking in.  That being said, there are approximately a dozen pet-friendly overnight accommodations. We stayed at the Dolphin Oceanfront Motel (milepost 16.5), finding it to be minimalist but functional, with its key attribute being that it had a primo location right on the beach. By no means inexpensive, it was still comparatively less pricey than the pet-friendly rooms at the national hotel chains and some of the local B&Bs.

Tavish at the Front Porch Cafe

Chillaxing at the Front Porch Cafe

Foodwise, we stopped at a couple places with patio dining only to discover that dogs weren’t allowed.  We hit the jackpot, though, in finding the Front Porch Cafe for breakfast. We ate at their locations in Nags Head (milepost 10.5) and Kill Devil Hills (milepost 6). In addition to making a good cup o’ joe, they have a wide assortment of muffins, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. We sat outside in roomy Adirondack chairs, and the staff was quick to offer Tavish dog biscuits and a bowl of water.  Pigman’s Bar-B-Que was our other find. We took our order out to their picnic tables, and Tavish happily sampled our Carolina-style Que, hush puppies, fries, slaw, baked beans, and cornbread. OBX ranks a “2” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for providing enough canine fun in the sun, sand and surf to blow Tavish’s ears back! Grab a leash and go!

Ahhh-zaleas!

Azaleas

Tavish smiles at the sight of the Arboretum’s azaleas, spanning the color spectrum from to pale pink to deep purple.

Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms are justifiably famous, but don’t be fooled…there’s a rival bloom in town! By late April the cherry trees’ delicate pink petals have long given way to tender green leaves. But a mere 4 ½ miles from the oft-photographed Tidal Basin, some 15,000 azaleas are just reaching their peak at the U. S. National Arboretum.

Established by Congress in 1927, the National Arboretum’s 446 acres are managed by the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). And while there’s admittedly way more to the Arboretum than the Azalea Collection, there’s no denying that it sure makes one heck of a first impression. Visit on a sunny spring afternoon, and you’re in for a retina-jarring display of deep magentas, purples, corals, oranges, and ruby reds.

National Arboretum

Picture perfect: Tavish, boxwood, and vivid azaleas fill the frame in this shot of the Morrison Garden.

The core of the Azalea Collection  is comprised of hybrids that were carefully cultivated at a USDA research facility in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and planted in 1946-47 to blanket the slope of the Arboretum’s Mount Hamilton. Rising just 240 feet, it’s a pretty meager mountain, but as one of the higher elevations in the nation’s capital, Mount Hamilton’s real street cred lies in being a living wall of color. Over the course of more than half a century, the historic Glenn Dale shrubs have matured, sprawling outward and reaching towering heights. A strategic pruning  in 2012-13 has  rid the area of invasive plants and dead branches, improving growing conditions so that this floral legacy will continue to flourish for years to come.

Tavish the Intrepid Pup visibly enjoys romping along the Henry Mitchell Walk in this section. When he’s not literally snuffling the azaleas, he’s absolutely entranced by the bees methodically inventorying the buds. The casual landscaping that otherwise characterizes much of this hillside is punctuated by two garden settings. The Lee Garden features Japanese azaleas set amidst stonework and a pond, and the compact Morrison Garden is even more formal with manicured ornamental hedges interspersed with samples of the Glenn Dale hybrids. The latter was designed by Benjamin Morrison who was not only the Arboretum’s first director but also the USDA plant breeder responsible for creating the Azalea Collection. Take note:  the Morrison Garden seems to be a magnet for folks wanting to take pictures of families, babies, and dogs—and we were no exception!

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

Dogging the Details

38°54′30.65″ N,  76°58′18.95″ W
U. S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC

With free admission, 9.5 miles of roadways and 14 distinct garden “collections,” the Arboretum is ideal for exploring with a canine companion, and you’re bound to see several other dogs during your visit. Just be sure to abide by the rules:  you must keep your dog on leash and out of the plantings. You’re also required to pick up after your pet, so bring those bags along. Finally, no dogs are allowed in either the visitor center pavilion or its adjacent National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

National Arboretum

These koi aren’t coy! Tavish is mesmerized by these guys. And with good reason: the largest are upwards of 18″ in length!  A nearby coin-operated machine dispenses handfuls of pellets for feeding the fish, and boy, do they know it. The koi charge to the surface in a burst of color and nearly launch themselves onto the patio!
Note: The ornamental pond surrounding the Administration Building is being restored in 2013, so the fish aren’t there at the moment. Look for them to return when renovations are complete.

The Arboretum scores a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter as a truly accessible place for all seasons. Crocus, daffodils, magnolias, redbuds, and flowering cherries greet spring visitors. Summer gives way to water lilies, herbs, crapemyrtle, and wildflowers. Hosta, hibiscus, and ornamental grasses are the stars of autumn, and winter showcases holly and the conifers.

Though trails and roads are well-marked, it’s easy to lose track of time and distance at the Arboretum. Even the most casual of wanderings will quickly add up to a few miles, so be sure to carry water for you and your dog and/or seek out the bubbler by the National Herb Garden—it has a pet-accessible reservoir and a special tap for refilling water bottles. When the capital’s infamous humidity hits, head for the grass and shade of the National Grove of State Trees.  Tavish never fails to take a breather beneath the boughs of the eastern white pine that is the official tree of his home state of Maine. Another refreshingly cool spot just beyond the grove is Fern Valley, a naturally wooded area rife with native plants. A half-mile trail loops through a meadow and past a small pond.

National Arboretum

Veni, vidi, vici! Tavish surveys the National Arboretum’s sweeping landscape from the vantage point of the Capitol Columns.

Bring your camera to zoom in on the blooms, but go for the wide angle shots, too. The Capitol Columns make for a particularly dramatic backdrop. Completed in 1826, these 22 sandstone columns were among the 24 that once supported the east central portico of the U.S. Capitol Building. They’ve witnessed every presidential inauguration from Andrew Jackson’s through Dwight D. Eisenhower’s. Modifications to the Capitol necessitated their removal in 1958. With marble replicas going into the Capitol facade, these columns were subsequently restored and permanently sited at the Arboretum in 1990.

National Howl-iday Scene: Part III

Tavish at the LDS Temple's Festival of Lights

Even raindrops can’t keep Tavish from basking in the glow of 600,000 lights at the Washington D.C. Temple.


Tavish the Intrepid Pup
continues on the howl-iday trail throughout the greater Washington metro area.  Stops so far have included the Capitol Christmas Tree and the  U. S. Botanic Garden’s “Season’s Greenings.”  Next on his itinerary:  the annual Festival of Lights at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The site is a study in juxtapositions. Called the Washington D.C. Temple, it’s actually physically located in Kensington, Maryland. The maelstrom that is the Capital Beltway is just a stone’s throw away with more than 250,000 vehicles a day passing in the Temple’s shadow. And yet the Temple sits upon 52 beautifully wooded acres—in the midst of a residential neighborhood, really. The glistening facade of white Alabama marble looks like nothing else in the area, but it still manages to blend in harmoniously.

When it opened in 1974 it was only the 16th operating Temple; today there are  more than 140. Six spires rise to 288 feet, making this Temple the Church’s tallest. While the adjacent Visitors’ Center is free and open year-round, visitation soars during the annual Festival of Lights celebration.

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

39°0′56.07″N, 77°3′56.21″W
Festival of Lights, Washington D.C. Temple – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kensington, Maryland

The 35th Annual Festival of Lights runs  from November 30, 2012 through January 1, 2013 with the lights coming on at dusk. Free concerts are offered nightly in the Visitors’ Center at 7pm and again at 8pm, with tickets available 90 minutes prior to each performance.

Tavish at the LDS Temple's Festival of Lights

Tavish gazes upon the life-sized crèche outside the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center.

Team Tavish had the misfortune of timing this visit with a torrential downpour, so we didn’t stay nearly as long as we would have liked. The up-side to the weather, however, was that all 600,000 lights looked extra-spectacular reflecting off the drenched pavement.  Tavish wasn’t too keen about getting rained upon but kept still long enough for a few photos as we gawked at the lights and stopped at the life-sized crèche.

Admission to the grounds is free. Non-Mormons are not permitted in the Temple itself, but all (well, excluding dogs) are welcome in the Visitors’ Center. When we arrived, crowds of people were streaming in to hear the first concert of the evening and see the displays of decorated Christmas trees and more than 100 nativity scenes from around the world. Had the Intrepid Pup not been with us, we would have ventured in as well!

The Festival of Lights earns a “1″ on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for illuminating the joys of the season!

Save

Save

National Howl-iday Scene: Part II

Tavish with the holiday lights at the US Botanic Garden

“Season’s Greenings” from the U.S. Botanic Garden! The colorful holiday lights outside merely hint at the wonders that lie within.

Throughout this series, Tavish the Intrepid Pup has been providing an insider’s guide to the national “howl-iday” scene. In his quest to find the most iconic—and dog-friendly—holiday spots the capital region has to offer, Tavish’s “pick of the day” is the annual Season’s Greenings display at the United States Botanic Garden. The institution falls under the auspices of the Architect of the Capitol. Dating to 1850, it has been in its present location on the wedge of land between Maryland Avenue and First Street, S.W., since 1933.

Okay, let’s just start by saying this place is beautiful year-round and is especially so during the holidays. In a city chock-a-block full of monumental and famous structures, it’d be easy to lose this one in the mix. But to do so would be a big mistake. The Botanic Garden takes the lead on horticultural education and issues of sustainable landscape design. With elaborate outdoor terraces and indoor habitats ranging from desert succulents to exotic orchids, there’s something for everyone. Not too be missed is the unique perspective from atop the canopy walk in the tropical rainforest that grows within conservatory’s 93-foot dome. And be sure to check out the magnificent Bartholdi Fountain set upon two acres of rose gardens just across Independence Avenue.

Tavish under the kissing ball at the US Botanic Garden

Will sit for kisses: Tavish has strategically planted himself beneath the mistletoe on the northeast terrace.

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

38°53′17.90″N, 77°0′45.46″W
United States Botanic Garden’s “Season’s Greenings”, Washington, DC

Season’s Greenings is on display from late November through early January; check website for exact dates. Admission is free.

Pups aren’t allowed inside the Botanic Garden’s buildings, but fortunately you can lap up pretty good views of Season’s Greenings by peering through the conservatory’s picture windows after dark. One glimpse of the Enchanted Forest in the east gallery is enough to make you want to return on your own to explore inside.

Tavish looking at the train display at the US Botanic Garden

Tavish gazes longingly into the “Enchanted Forest,” just one part of the Season’s Greenings display. Model trains, decorated trees, and fairytale lighting make this a feast for the senses.

Planning for Season’s Greenings takes nearly a year, with the Enchanted Forest alone requiring approximately three weeks to install. It shows in the details. A carpet of poinsettias in 17 varieties. A towering 24-foot tree—one of the largest indoor decorated trees in the region. Eight hundred feet of track for the model railway. A line-up of live music on select evenings. And a mind-boggling assortment of DC landmarks created in miniature and entirely from natural plant materials!

Parking out in front of the Botanic Garden or at meters off Independence Avenue shouldn’t prove too difficult after hours. What’s more, it’s a “two-fer”: soak in the splendor of the lighted gardens and then make the three-minute  stroll across the street to take in the Christmas tree on the west lawn of the U. S. Capitol (read the Intrepid Pup’s earlier account here).

A trip to the grounds of the Botanic Gardens earns a “1″ on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter as a free and pretty spectacular photo opp for you and your intrepid pup!

Out & About in Vacationland: Part II

Earlier this year Team Tavish wrote about the first Great Maine Outdoor Weekend (GMOW), a new bi-annual event that promotes physical activity and encourages folks to revel in all that’s great about Maine’s natural resources. September 28-30, 2012, marked the second GMOW, and with it, Tavish the Intrepid Pup promised to offer “Part II,” revealing three more stunning destinations in Vacationland. He enjoyed frequenting these places in the 5½ years he lived there, so he’s pretty confident that you and your dog will enjoy them too. So, without further ado…

Dogging the Details

wag-a-meter set at 2

Though in three separate regions of Maine, the excursions described below all rank “2” on the Wag-a-meter as being active, outdoor adventures requiring a little bit of planning. As always, be sure to bring along water for your dog, a snack, and some doggie bags.

 

MAINE LAKES AND MOUNTAINS

44°56′08.58″ N, 70°32′13.24″ W
Rangeley Lakes, Maine

Montage of Rangeley Lakes

Rangeley. The region is virtually synonymous with northern New England, and place names like Mooselookmeguntic and Height of Land simply reinforce its remote and wild allure. It’s the backdrop for Maine’s logging history. The playground for countless generations of sportsmen. The muse of the legendary Carrie Stevens (1882-1970) and her streamer fly. The setting for author Louise Dickinson Rich’s (1903-1991) best sellers, and the thirty-year summer retreat of iconic photographer William Wegman and his famous dogs.

To enter Rangeley is to embrace Maine’s great outdoors. Team Tavish and the Intrepid Pup  have twice stayed at Town & Lake Motel and Cottages; once in late May and again in October. Located on the shore of Rangeley Lake, next to where the sea planes dock, the motel is pet-friendly and a more than adequate home base from which to explore the area. In-room reading is a binder chock full of historical ice out dates, leaving no mistake that this is definitely a place for hard core snowmobilers and ice fishermen.

While Rangeley rightly promotes itself as a four-season wonderland, summer and fall are really the best times for visiting with your dog. Come prepared for great hiking, amazing scenery…and the near certainty of seeing moose.  But be equally prepared for black flies, cool nights, and rapidly changeable weather. Tavish made good use of his Ruffwear™ pack to carry extra food and water for the day. Wearing blaze orange was a must during our autumn hikes as hunting season was in full effect. (Click here to see some of his gear).

The Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway is a 35-mile ribbon incorporating sections of Routes 16 and 17. It’s also the access corridor to a number of trail heads of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty.  Tavish-approved highlights include:

  • The short 0.5 mile trail at the 2000-foot Cascade Stream Gorge, with views of 16-foot waterfalls and deep pools.
  • The roadside turnoff at Smalls Falls, with a walkway to see the 54-foot falls.
  • A 1.75 mile trail to the summit of Bald Mountain (2443 feet), with its 30-foot lookout tower.
  • The Appalachian Trail, with a 1.4 mile section to the impressive Piazza Rock.
  • Miles of trails on the 4120-foot Saddleback Mountain. This ski resort permits hikers on base area trails and ski runs during the off season. The chair lifts aren’t operational in the summer, but parts of the main lodge remain open. With wide open spaces, lots of birds to watch, and plenty of evidence of deer and moose, this was probably Tavish’s favorite to explore.

 

GREATER PORTLAND AND CASCO BAY

43°49′14.47″ N, 70°04′54.05″ W
Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, Freeport, Maine

Montage of Wolfe's Neck

Even if you’re otherwise unfamiliar with Maine, you’ve likely heard of Freeport, thanks to it being the venerated home of  outdoor outfitter L.L. Bean. The  flagship store is so touted as a Maine destination that you pretty much have to stop by. While you’re there, sneak a peek at the store’s doors. They’re notable for what’s missing, namely locks.  Since the facility is open 24 hours a day/365 days a year, there’s simply no need for them. That’s what we call a good dose of Yankee practicality. Seriously, check it out…and be sure to snap a photo out front with the 16-foot replica of the hunting boot that launched the company and secured Leon Leonwood Bean’s legacy in the annals of retail history. While your dog can’t accompany you in the store, there’s plenty of dog gear (hunting and otherwise) to be found inside. And you and your dog can always chill in Discovery Park; in the middle of the L.L. Bean retail campus, this compact greenspace doubles as an expo area during Bean’s product demo days and also has a stage on which the company presents its free summer concert series.

But if you can extricate yourself from the constellation of outlet stores downtown, you’ll find that Freeport “beyond the Boot” has a lot to offer in the way of natural splendor. Just a 5-minute drive and you’re quickly away from the 3 million visitors who flock to town each year. Take Bow Street to Flying Point Road, and make Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park your destination.  L.L. Bean’s Paddling Center is just an inlet away from this easily accessible state park.

While you won’t likely get short of breath walking at Wolfe’s Neck, the views will most certainly take your breath away. Within steps of leaving the parking lot picnic area, the Casco Bay Trail slopes gently to where emerald conifer forest meets azure sea and sky. The stolid outcrops that dot the bay are whimsically called the “Calendar Islands,” because surely there are 365…one for every day of the year! The closest is Googins Island, an osprey sanctuary, and every time we’ve visited during the summer we’ve seen nesting osprey. The trail skirts a pebbly coastline before linking up to the Harraseckett and Hemlock Ridge trails to form about a mile-long loop returning you to the parking lot. Do note that there are no receptacles along the trail, so bag any waste for disposal back at the picnic area.

MAINE BEACHES

43°14′42.43″ N,  70°35′31.14″ W
Marginal Way
, Ogunquit, Maine

43°13′24.49″N,  70°41′30.11″W
Mount Agamenticus,York, Maine

Montage of Ogunquit

Not far after crossing Maine’s southernmost border you reach Ogunquit, a town whose apt Chamber-of-Commerce-tagline is “Beautiful Place by the Sea.” Park anywhere you can. Be forewarned that this is a particularly challenging task during the summer months, though a good place to try first is the pay lot just down Shore Road on Cottage Street. If you’re successful in finding a spot in the upper part of town (near the intersection of Route 1 and Shore Road), walk along Shore Road until you come to the Sparhawk Oceanfront Resort; a narrow walkway bordered by tennis courts and lush gardens leads to one of the best coastal trails you’ll ever come across: the Marginal Way.

Dogs are not allowed on the Marginal Way between April 1 and September 30 but are welcome on-leash from October 1 through March 31 (and you can take in the October “HarvestFest” and the December “Christmas by the Sea” activities then, too). The Marginal Way traverses Anchorage by the Sea Resort’s sprawling oceanfront before gaining elevation and hugging the rocky coastline for approximately 1 mile. The 39 benches dotting the paved path offer ample opportunity for quiet contemplation and gazing upon the oft-painted vistas of Ogunquit Beach, the Atlantic Ocean, and a small lighthouse. Marginal Way’s terminus is at Oarweed Cove; a narrow spit of land separates it from the compact yet equally picturesque Perkins Cove. Fishing charters depart from the wharf, and visitors flock to photograph the harbor, browse the cluster of art galleries and boutiques, and enjoy lobster rolls and chowder. While you can always retrace your steps—Marginal Way never gets old!—an alternate way back is to walk along Perkins Cove Road and then Shore Road, passing numerous shops en route.

A nearby point of interest is Mount Agamenticus, just 6.5 miles southwest of downtown Ogunquit, in York.  Take Route 1 south a few miles, make a right onto Agamenticus Road, and another right onto Mountain Way. Just when you start to think you’re lost on this curvy back road, you’ll see signs for the Mount Agamenticus summit. Rising only about 700 feet, Agamenticus is clearly no Everest, but its proximity to sea level makes it a prominent fixture on the horizon. The surrounding 10,000 acres are managed as a conservation region, thus preserving vernal pools, a superb vantage point for watching migratory hawks, a unique coastal ecological habitat, and a good bit of history. The first radar tower in the nation was placed atop Agamenticus in the 1940s, and the expansive view of the southern Maine coast made it strategic for spotting submarines and warships during WWII. In later years, wildfires became a greater threat than enemy vessels; the radar tower was supplanted by a fire tower still actively manned today. Agamenticus even enjoyed a brief and more benign stint (1964-73) as a ski resort. The summit lodge remains, and many of today’s multi-use trails (hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing/cross-country skiing) were once ski runs.

Intrepid Pup loves the ruggedness, summit view, and relative solitude. Like giant calluses on the landscape, the smooth outcroppings of bedrock  on so many of the former ski slopes can prove slick for the two-footed (particularly during spring run-off and mud season), but scrambling over the terrain is what Tavish most enjoys about  a visit to Agamenticus. Choose from among three loop trails that vary in length from 2 to 3.2 miles.  Dogs must remain leashed, and all waste must be packed out, because there are no trash bins onsite.