"Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House," President Calvin Coolidge said. Coolidge himself had at least 12 dogs. Future office holders have taken the 29th American President's words to heart - every single one has shared the Oval Office with a canine friend.
How would you like to hike with your dog where Presidents hike with their dogs? When an American President leaves the White House for the presidential retreat of Camp David, there is almost always an eager dog in tow. Franklin Roosevelt's Scottish Terrier Fala was the first in a steady procession of Presidential dogs to romp in the woods of Camp David. President Reagan once complained that when he took a break at Camp David, his dog Rex would beat him to the window seat in the helicopter.
Everyone has heard of Camp David but where exactly it is? Surprisingly it is located deep inside a public park called Catoctin Mountain Park. When you take your dog there, you will never see Camp David or any evidence that the presidential compound is hidden among the trees but the trails you can hike on are of Presidential quality nonetheless. Just don't expect to see President George W. Bush and Spotty.
You could fill up a day of canine hiking at Catoctin Mountain Park just by checking off the many easy self-guiding interpretive trails as you learn about mountain culture and forest ecology. There is plenty of more challenging fare in the park as well. Three of the best vistas - Wolf Rock, Chimney Rock and Cat Rock - are connected by a rollercoaster trail on the eastern edge of the mountain. There is little understory in the woods and views are long. Many of the mountain slope trails are rocky and footing can be uncertain under paw on climbs to 1500 feet.
In the western region of Catoctin Mountain, near the Owens Creek campground, are wide horse trails ideal for contemplative canine hiking. The grades are gentler for long hikes through mixed hardwoods of chestnut oak, hickory, black birch and yellow poplar. Dogs are allowed in the campground and on all national park trails but not across the road in the popular Cunningham Falls area.
The forests deep in the rugged Catoctin Mountains provided ideal cover for a whiskey still, made illegal by the onset of Prohibition in 1919. On a steaming July day in 1929 Federal agents raided the Blue Blazes Whiskey Still and confiscated more than 25,000 gallons of mash. Today the airy, wooded Blue Blazes Whiskey Trail along Distillery Run leads to a recreated working still and interprets the history of whiskey making in the backwoods of Appalachia.
Down the road in Washington D.C., scross the street from the White House, on the National Mall, dogs are not only welcome but often celebrated. The finals of the canine frisbee disc championships have traditionally been held on the National Mall. The patchy grass squares make a fun place to play with your dog or the Mall can be the setting for a canine hike of almost two miles from the Capitol Steps to the feet of Abraham Lincoln.
The best canine hiking in the nation's capital is in the northwest part of the city at Rock Creek Parj. Although technically a national park, Rock Creek Park is more like a city park administered by the National Park Service. How many other national parks boast of ballfields and 30 picnic sites? It was the Army Corps of Engineers that first proposed the creation of Rock Creek Park when they considered moving the White House out of the mosquito-infested lowlands of downtown Washington after the Civil War. In 1890 Congress carved 1,754 acres from the Rock Creek Valley to establish the park.
Two main parallel hiking trails, run the length of the park from north to south on either side of Rock Creek. The wiser choice for canine hikers is the Valley Trail (blue blazes) on the east side. In contrast with its twin, the Western RidgeTrail (green blazes), there are fewer picnic areas and less competition for the trail. Each is a rooty and rocky frolic up and down the slopes above Rock Creek, a superb canine swimming hole. Numerous spur trails and bridle paths connect the two major arteries that connect at the north and south to create a loop about ten miles long.
President Harry Truman once famously philosophized, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Or, if you are just visiting, make sure you bring one.
No Dogs Allowed?
Don’t let this happen to you
Find a new tail-friendly trail every day at the hikewithyourdog blog...