It has been so hectic around here that I can’t believe our coastal hike was nearly a week ago. I recently started a hiking group on Facebook called Central Florida Hiking With Dogs and we try to have group hikes twice a month and a larger hike somewhere further away (like further north where there are mountains and a change in terrain and scenery) once per year. This past Sunday was our first group hike and we were headed to Smyrna Dunes Park in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. It is one of our favorite dog-friendly spots.
As we are trying to get in shape for some more rigorous terrain than we are used to here in Florida, I thought the beach would provide a pretty good workout. Ever tried to run (or even walk quickly) through the sand on the beach? Whew! I think if I did that every day my legs would look awesome. So between walking through miles of sand and carrying our gear, I hoped to get some decent exercise.
The night before I packed the dog pack and my own pack, readied the water and made room in the van. Even though we have never been asked for it, we brought proof of rabies and our county tag. You should always be prepared to provide proof of rabies, as some places will not accept just a tag. This is for your dog’s protection as well as the protection of every dog there to enjoy the park/beach.
My pack for day hikes is not a large one, but it does have a water bladder in it. This is a must here in Florida, where it is often quite warm even before sunrise. Other things I pack in my pack are:
*Extra clothes (if there is room)
*Tie out stake and cable (clipped to my pack with a carabiner)
I make the dogs carry their own stuff plus first aid items in their pack(s). Sassy was the only dog I brought this time, so her pack contained:
*First aid kit
*Water (on both sides to balance pack)
Other items we brought were a large carry bottle with water and cool vests for the dogs, as well as bamboo mats for us to sit on when we reached the beach. We tried to keep it as light as possible, but having to carry so much water adds a lot of weight. It is almost 4 miles round trip just getting to and from the beach, with no restrooms (they are located at the park entrance) or fresh water access. I may invest in a collapsible beach wagon for our next trip.
At the entrance near maps of the park there were sunglasses and even beach toys (I am assuming ones that had been left behind) for the kids that you could borrow and return before exiting the park. There is a lovely boardwalk that dogs are allowed on before 10:00 am. We decided to take the more scenic route, however.
We got out there pretty early so as to avoid the sand being as hot as it is later in the day. We met friends and hiked out together. I brought the good camera and took many other photos, the sad thing is, the camera had no card in it so I was only left with what I took on my cell phone.
After we made it through the trail and around the Ponce Inlet, we found our spot on the beach. The pups were tired. Sassy was snoozing sitting straight up! After a good rest and some refueling (more water, snack), we headed to the water. Unfortunately this is where I used my good camera. I hate that I missed all those great shots of the dogs playing in the water. Guess that means we have to go back!
When it began to get a bit hot we broke out the cooling vests and decided to pack it up for the day and start the trek back to the cars.
As we rounded the beach toward the inlet we were chatting and accidentally passed the trail. There was another trail that led back to the parking lot past this area of brush that jutted out into the water. Depending on what time of day you happened to be there, the water could be ankle high, waist high or even higher. As we started around the tree limbs, it wasn’t quite so bad. By the time I was waist high I surmised that we could not make it around without swimming, and we were carrying too much gear for that. The dogs were splashing along beside us and Sassy was beginning to panic so as we turned to go back, a pretty good wave hit us, and before I knew it I was chest deep. We quickly headed back the way we came. Nope! Not going that way! On a side note, I have to say I discovered that the Lifeproof case I bought for my iphone does work. Thank goodness!
A park ranger was kind enough to tell us that there was one boardwalk we could take that led back to the original trail, and thankfully, it was within feet of us. We were soaked, tired and ready for a nap! When we made it back to the parking lot we took advantage of their dog bathing area and cleaned up the dogs before heading home. It was a good outing. I can’t wait to go back.
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