Doggin’ America’s Icons

Mount Rushmore - Black Hills, South Dakota
Few visitors to the Black Hills leave without at least taking a look at Mount Rushmore. And if you are traveling with a dog, that is about all you will be able to do. Dogs are restricted to the parking lot area in the shadow of the world-famous mountain carving that took sculptor Gutzon Borglum 14 years to complete.

The closest recreation area to Mount Rushmore National Monument that allows dogs on its trails is Horsethief Lake in the Black Hills National Forest, two miles past the entrance to the monument on Highway 244. Horsethief Lake Trail, National Forest Trail #14, is an easy 3-mile ramble that leads to Mount Rushmore until dogs are banned. Your dog will be able to drown his disappointment at not seeing the granite likenesses of Presidents WashingtonJeffersonLincoln and Roosevelt with the swimming available in Horsethief Lake.

The most stunning sculpture by nature in the Black Hills is Devils Tower National Monument, established as the nation’s first National Monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Dogs are also not allowed on the Tower Trail that encircles the 867-foot fluted monolith but there is no restriction for dogs elsewhere in the southeastern Wyoming park, including the camping area.

Dog Mountain - St. Johnsbury, Vermont
America is littered with hills and peaks named "Dog Mountain." But the name seldom has anything to do with our pets (Washington's Dog Mountain was named for starving area pioneers who had to eat their dogs to survive - ugh). The exception is Stephen Huneck's Dog Mountain at his farm in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. This is not just a named peak but a mountain for dogs.

In 1994 sculptor and illustrator Stephen Huneck suffered a fall and debilitating disease that left him in a coma and near death. He survived and with his recovery came the vision to build a dog chapel, his largest and most personal work of art. The white-steepled New England-style chapel is festooned with dog sculptures, hand-carved dog pews and the interior is lit through dog-themed stain glass windows. Visitors are encouraged to leave written notes and pictures to their dogs on the Wall of Remembrance, although there is not much room left today. Adjoining the chapel is Stephen Huneck's art gallery.

Your dog is welcome in the gallery and, of course, in the dog chapel but she will likely be eyeing the series of trails that are cut though meadows up the side of Dog Mountain. These lead to inspiring views down the surrounding valley. Also on the 400-acre property are ponds that are perfect for a doggie swim and an agility course for your dog to try.

Dog Mountain hosts annual Dog Fests every summer and fall. Dog owners come from as far away as Alaska to meet Stephen Huneck and enjoy a day of music, gourmet food and treats and activities for your dog.

Walden Pond - Concord, Massachusetts
When Henry David Thoreau went to live alone at Walden Pond in the mid-nineteenth century he didn’t take a dog with him. Of course, Thoreau wasn’t exactly trandforming into a hermit - he was within walking distance of town and often returned to Concord. He did mention dogs often in his writings, making observations about neighborhood dogs and dogs left to roam in his woods. As Walden Pond has been preserved as a landmark of the American conservation movement, dogs are still on the outside looking in at Walden Pond - the Walden Pond State Reservation does not permit dogs. 

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
Connecting the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on both sides of the San Francisco Bay is one of the world's most famous bridges - the Golden Gate Bridge. You can walk your dog across the familiar orange bridge, maybe the most photographed man-made structure in the world. The hike is more than 1.5 miles one-way and an estimated 3800 people make the walk each weekday with foot traffic doubling on the weekends.

You will pass under the world's two highest bridge towers, 220 feet above the water. Views from the bridge on a clear day can extend 20 miles out to sea, although the pedestrian walk-way is on the east (city) side. This is not a hike for a skittery dog - you are only feet from speeding traffic, it is noisy and the bridge does sway. A new 4'6" Public Safety Railing has recently been installed to provide a better buffer for bridge hikers. The south terminus of the hike in San Francisco is in Fort Point and the Golden Gate Promenade extends the hike another 3.5 miles along the bay.

Groundhog Day - Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
European traditions and superstitions have long centered around February 2, the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. for centuries it was believed the weather on this date, known as Candlemas Day, could foretell the length of the current winter. 

In Germany, this forecasting was entrusted to a hedgehog. If the animal emerged from its burrow and saw its shadow it would become frightened and scurry back underground. If the hedgehog perceived no shadow, it was time to stay above ground and spring was near.

In the 1800s restless Western Pennsylvanians in the middle of a long winter began staging annual groundhog hunts. At some point lost in the mist of history, Clymer Freas, a newspaper editor in Punxsutawney, tied the groundhog hunt to Candlemas Day. The hunt morphed into a celebration and the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club began trekking out to Gobbler’s Knob south of town to mark “Punxsutawney Phil’s” prognostication. The first official Groundhog Day trek was held in 1887.

Today the annual celebration lasts a weekend (and includes a screening of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day) and attracts up to 30,000 revelers. That’s too many to squeeze your dog into but Gobbler’s Knob is a public park that welcomes your dog otherwise. There are large grassy fields for a game of fetch, rough woodland trails, groundhog-themed public art and a permanent stage. No need to worry about your dog chasing Punxsutawney Phil when you visit - he lives behind glass on Barclay Square in town. 

The Hollywood Sign - Hollywood, California
The seeds of one of the world’s great city parks were sown with the arrival of Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith from Wales in 1865 to make a fortune in California gold mines. In 1882 Griffith came to Los Angeles and purchased 4,071 acres of an original Spanish land grant, Rancho Los Felix. In 1896 he gave more than 3,000 acres of California oaks, wild sage and manzanita to the city as a Christmas present - “a place of relaxation and rest for the masses.”
Today Griffith Park is the largest urban wilderness area in America, including 53 miles of trails, fire roads and bridle paths. Many of the trails feature views of the famous Hollywood sign - the 6-mile Mt. Hollywood Trail climbs to the top. The sign first appeared on the side of Mt. Lee in 1923 and was originally miscast as an advertising sign for a real estate development, “Hollywoodland.” Each of the original letters was 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall, stitched together of metal squares, wires and pipes. The new sign featured 4,000 20-watt bulbs spaced eight inches apart. The giant billboard cost $21,000 and was only intended to stand for about 18 months.
Instead the sign trundled on for decades, eventually resembling a Vaudeville act on the road too long. Hollywoodland went bust in the 1940s. The unmaintained sign was propped up by the Chamber of Commerce who dropped the last four letters but it went on rusting and crumbling for years. In 1978 the old sign was scrapped and re-born with 194 tons of concrete, enamel and steel and stands today as the most recognizable icon of American culture to the world. 

It is illegal to hike to the sign today, perched safely behind restrictive fences but you will get plenty of time with the sign in Griffith Park. Other dog-friendly touches include a dog park adjacent to Ferraro Soccer Field and rides for dogs on the Los Angeles Live Steamers miniature train.

Field of Dreams
After scouring Iowa for a farm with just the right features, producers for a movie about an Iowa corn farmer who hears voices telling him to build a baseball field settled on Don Lansing’s 100-acre Dyersville spread. A wraparound portion of the porch was constructed on the turn-of-the-century farmhouse and three days were used to transform 2 1/2 acres of cornstalks into a pristine baseball diamond.

Field of Dreams, with star Kevin Costner asking, “Is this Heaven?,” opened in 1989 and became one of the most beloved baseball movies ever filmed. Soon fans began arriving in Iowa looking for the magical field. It was decided not to plow it over and plant next year’s crops. Today the “Field of Dreams” is open for your dog to run aorund the bases or just lounge in the outfield grass daily from April to October.