Eclipses, Pronghorns, and Bears, Oh My!
Welcome once again to the adventures on the road with K2 the Wonder Dog! K2 is my 2 ½ year old yellow Labrador Retriever. He is my second lab, named after the first one, Kojak. His full name is Kojak Version 2.0 (K2 for short). I call him the ”wonder dog” because I always wonder what he is thinking! My husband and I have been RVing and traveling with dogs for quite a few years. I hope K2’s adventures will help you learn to enjoy traveling with your dog as well.
Our latest adventure was a 35 day RV tour heading north for the total eclipse in Glendo, WY, then on to Glacier National Park in Montana, Waterton Lakes, and Banff National Parks in Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise was the northernmost point of our tour, after which we headed down to Yellowstone and Dinosaur National parks before heading to the New Mexico Good Sam RV rally at the Route 66 Casino and RV Resort in Albuquerque. Along the way, we visited my brother’s family and their dogs, Mojo and Lucky, as well as a friend’s farm in Colorado and their Labrador, Tucker.
Our first stop was in New Mexico at the Pecos National Historic Park. The historical ruins were interesting to explore. K2 was allowed to walk on the trail with us. This is sometimes true in our National Monuments and National Historic parks, but not in the US National Parks where dogs aren’t allowed.
On to the eclipse! Whenever we attend events, we like to volunteer if at all possible. It makes the event more enjoyable for us, and helps us to connect with the local community. Estimates had the attendance in Glendo, WY and nearby parks at 70,000-90,000 people – for a town with a population of 204. A total eclipse is a wonderful experience. It was the most awe inspiring sight I have ever witnessed, leaving me with a feeling of deep spiritual connection to our earth and a reverence for the power and beauty of our sun. K2 enjoyed the pre-eclipse events, with multiple walks into town from the grass airport we were stationed at in Glendo as the airport security volunteers in charge of parking.
It is recommended that dogs not be out during the eclipse itself, and if they are, to expect strange reactions. K2 was safely tucked away in the RV with the shades closed during the totality. But we heard a few other dogs barking and howling. All dog owners I spoke to before the event started were aware of the possibility of issues and were prepared, either by planning to seclude the dog, or by making sure they were firmly restrained.
After leaving the eclipse area, we spent a few days meandering up to Glacier National Park. As is true for all national parks in our country, dogs are NOT allowed to hike on the trails, but are restricted to the campgrounds and public parking areas. While in our campground at Glacier while walking K2, we saw a mother bear and two cubs. We quickly changed direction and returned K2 to the RV. Always make sure when you are in an area with wildlife to be extra careful with your dog. Always keep your pet on leash, and make sure his collar or harness is properly secured at cannot be pulled off by the dog lunging on the leash.
The next stop was Waterton Lakes National Park, just across the US-Canadian border in Alberta, Canada. Unlike US parks, Canadian National Parks allow dogs to hike on almost all the trails. Our first stop in Waterton Lakes was Crandall Mountain campground, where we had planned to hike up to Crandall Lake with K2. However, signs of bears on the trail and the berry covered bushes on both sides of the trail made us decide to return to the campground. Later, we spoke to some other campers that had seen a mama grizzly with cubs up at the lake, confirming our decision to avoid the area. Since it was huckleberry season, and the campground area was covered with huckleberry bushes, we encountered numerous black bears near our RV.
At one point, I was outside in my lawn chair snoozing, the dog restrained on his leash snoozing next to me, when I heard K2 start softly growling. Opening my eyes, I saw a bear grazing on the huckleberries about 15 feet in front of me. I immediately grabbed K2’s leash, then quietly, but urgently, asked my husband Jim to open the RV door. It turns out that Jim been quietly trying to wake me and had woken K2 who then alerted me to the bear’s presence. We scurried into the safety of the RV and watched the bear as he grazed and ambled across the berry covered field toward the trees. I never felt threatened by this bear – he was oblivious to us, enjoying his berry feast – but that can change in a split second. You can never be too careful with wildlife.
After leaving the Crandall Mountain campground, we went to the Waterton Township campground, where you can walk along the lake, take boat tours, and explore the town’s shops and restaurants. There were many deer along the lake and in the campground. I am equally cautious about animals you might not think of as dangerous – deer and other ungulates can easily kill or injure your pet with their hoofs and horns. We often think of these animals as tame and meek, but they are wild and will fight to protect themselves and their young. Whenever you are in an area with wildlife, no matter how well-behaved and controlled you think your dog is, don’t walk them unrestrained – use a leash. Your perfectly trained and controlled dog may disregard your commands and charge an animal that acts aggressive or unusual in order to protect you – and may well wind up paying for it with severe injuries, or even their life.
Our next stop was Lake Louis in Banff National Park. The campground had a lot of warnings about bears, but berry season here was over, so we did not encounter any bears in the campground. However, both in the campground and at the top of the gondola, there were electric fences and gates to keep the bears out of some areas. The campground was next to the river, so K2 had many great walks along the river with stops to swim (always staying on leash, of course!).
Our stop at the west side of Glacier National Park on our path toward home was cut short by sever fires in Glacier. The Apgar campground was very smoky, so we left and continued down to Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, we saw bison along the road, one of our favorite sites in the park. K2 viewed the bison out of the RV window when we stopped by the side of the road to watch them. In all honesty, K2 gets equally excited by cows crossing the road in front of the RV. He just doesn’t think they should be in the road. He doesn’t care if they are on the side of the road.
Our next couple of stops were at the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Dinosaur National Monument. The Flaming Gorge Lucerne Marina campground was infested with pronghorn. K2 had done well with all the other wildlife we encountered, but the sight of so many animals, all so willing to bound away from him when he simply walked too close on his leash, was truly an exercise in dog control for me. I think the way they bounce and run invoked some deep primal instinct in K2. I had to constantly watch for the pronghorn, and check outside on both sides of our RV before venturing outside with him.
In conclusion, it can be a lot of fun to travel with your dog, but it does take some forethought and planning particularly if wildlife is involved. Join me for K2’s next set of adventures.
Until next time – get on the road and enjoy some time with your dog!
Deborah Ivey is a Las Cruces transplant. She describes herself as a high-tech gypsy, having moved frequently throughout her life wherever her work takes her. Now retired, she travels with her husband, Jim, and their dog K2, both by car and in their RV. She loves to explore new places, and find fun activities for herself and her dog to enjoy together.