When One Becomes Two – A Girl and Her Dog

A Game Changer

Today I received some pretty epic news, my dog might be hiking the Appalachian Trail next year. I was told that Hunter, my (almost) 8 year old border collie/retriever mix was too old to hike. (Soft violins playing sad music in the background). This dude has been on most of my adventures when it comes to back-country excursion and exploring. While at the vet today, my dog was deemed likely to be able to join me on trail!

The dog has a Facebook

So…Hunter is popular. He’s one of those dogs that has a facebook and people don’t even bat an eye when they find out because they think he’s a pretty rad dude. He has seen 18 states and hiked in more national parks and forest than most humans have. The dog is sort of a legend, he definitely has more notoriety than I do. He makes friends everywhere he goes and when I take him to breweries, he usually earns mom a few free brews (thanks, little man!)

What I’m getting at is that I think he will make a ton of friends along the AT. Having Hunter along will only increase my likelihood of getting to Katahdin being that I’ll have my biggest stress reliever next to me all the time! He wears a pack like a champ, has a good recall and enjoys warm cuddles on cold nights. This makes him a solid trail companion.

Does he have to go to doggy boot camp?

Hunter will be training with me. This is mainly just the same as we always do except, he will start wearing his pack for EVERY hike and we will start building that weight back up. He was also given an anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to take while we do this training since he is a little bit older. I will be increasing his joint supplements and adding more oil to diet to get his joints and muscles well lubricated and trail ready over the next 5 months!

Next step is to figure out where he will stay while I hike Great Smokey Mountain National Park and Katahdin. I figure this will take me 4-5 days to hike the 71 miles. I will board him or hopefully find a friend of a friend that lives close enough and wants to hang with him for a few days. Since he is a grain and chicken free diet sort of dude, I will have to switch to drops to get his food sent out. Specialty dog food isn’t going to be a frequent option at re-supply so I will be deciding on a dehydrated food. A high quality dehydrated food will keep him healthy with adequate nutrition on this strenuous daily activity.

What does this mean for mom?

Mom needs to plan. Resupplies will be much different. I need to start planning drops and getting my mom (Hunters grandma) ready to be a post office queen! This likely means I will send some food to myself too, since we will be paying for shipping anyways and to limit needs for resupply stops. This does put me on a schedule to make it to certain towns; it’s worth it. I know I can always falter to tuna and cheese and oil if we don’t make a stop in time and he needs food to tide him over.

Dehydrated food isn’t new to us, and he uses it for all backpacking trips we take now, and a few days before and after to aid in transition. He eats a grain/chicken free high quality kibble at home now.

This will also mean I need to make him a doggy sleeping bag that is lighter than what he uses now. I will likely cut one of my thermarest folding pads in half or thirds and use that for him. I will plan to find a down quilt (costco) and sew it in half to create sort of a pita shape for him to use as a sleeping bag. He can be my little pita pocket :).

I also know that there is the possibility that he needs a break from his pack, meaning I carry it. While my base weight is pretty low, I need to be able to comfortably add 10 pounds if he can’t carry his pack. For this, I plan to switch from my ultralight pack, back to an internal frame (likely my Osprey Ariel) to be able to support the extra weight, while keeping all my other ultralight gear to make up for it!


This means this hike is about him. If he needs a day, we take a day. We can’t push through because I want to make it somewhere quick. I need to let him guide the pace. Honestly, this might be the best thing for me. This might cause me to SLOW DOWN, enjoy the scenery and not race through life. Anxiety has ingrained a tendency in me to race to get A LOT of stuff done. To keep moving. To be motivated. Mostly, To do ALL OF IT. This is what I need, to really enjoy this thru hike because I don’t know if I’ll get another. I plan on 5.5 months but if it takes 6, so be it. We have an early start date and since I have a dog, I’ll get turned down from some hostels and hotels, meaning more nights in the tent which is free. It will also cut down on restaurant visits which is probably for the best to keep with a healthy diet. This is awesome. Hunter is awesome. Lets be honest, dogs are awesome! Dogs can teach us more than human will ever be able to.

Other things to consider…

I have a lot to think about and as with anything, things can change. I will always keep HIS best interest at heart. Dogs can’t verbalize pain, and generally hide it to avoid showing weakness which I’m very aware of. I understand canine behavior. Disclaimer: My veterinarian is a well known local vet with many years of experience under his belt. He works with two other vets in the office that both know about the AT and what it consists of. All three are working together to make final recommendations for Hunter. Also if he shows signs of distress on trail that last more than a few days, I have a plan to get him home and his granPAWents are more than happy to keep him for a few months while mom finishes her hike πŸ™‚ His needs will always come first!

This news is very exciting to me and hopefully to my followers, friends and family! (I know it will ease my mothers worry about me being in the ‘big bad woods’ ;).


As always, I welcome your ideas and input.


Until next time,

Happy Trails,


Katie (and now) & Hunter

Hunter can be found on my instagram or on facebook


Should you decide to friend him, send a message to him from where you found him πŸ™‚

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Comments 15

  • Mark Cummings : Oct 10th

    Thanks for your article, very informative. Very interested as I can relate as I too am planning 2018 thru Sobo with my dog. Would love to hear anymore advice.

    • Kathleen Krause : Oct 10th

      Thank you, Mark! That means we will pass you at some point!! It would be great to keep in touch and make sure we meet in person! What is your dogs name? Whats your start date from Katahdin? Please follow us on the blog and ask ANY questions you might have as Hunter and I have been on many multi-day backpacking trips together all over the midwest and western US!

      Katie & Hunter

  • Chris Guynn : Oct 10th

    Few things made me happier than seeing a friendly dog on the trail. If you get AWOL guide, I recommend pdf, they have a list of places that will kennel your fury buddy in the Smokys. I hope you get lucky and find someone close because I understand the kennels are pretty high. I hiked with an awesome lady who took her dog the whole way on the AT minus Smokys and Katahdin you should definitely send her a message on instagram(amelia_and_zbeast) if you have questions.

    • Kathleen Krause : Oct 10th

      I will look her up, thank you so much!! I am sure I will find a place, or a friend πŸ™‚ I have someone with a Brother In Law down in Ashville and he might be willing for a few beers :). I am getting the AWOL guide for sure, I actually just finished his book!
      Thanks for following, Chris, hope you stick around while we hike and glad to know we have a fellow AT’er on board! πŸ™‚

  • stealthblew : Oct 10th

    8 years of age is fairly old for a dog on a 2,000 mile hike (even for a working breed). Please bear in mind that dogs generally will not complain until injured so please keep a close eye on him. It might be a good idea to consider not having him carry a pack; this would mean carrying his food / water.

    The good news is that humans can tank up and hike between water sources so you might only need to carry water for him. Extra wt. savings can be accomplished by using a tarp instead of a tent. Tarps tend to be roomier too. Go as light as possible (ultra light concepts) considering the extra weight of his leash, food and dog bowl. Here is an ultra light conceptual thought….have your cooking pot serve double duty as his water/food bowl. Will you be bringing a small sleeping pad for him? Perhaps a cut down section from foam pad? Could his leash be a section of parachute cord that could also do double duty as a tarp line?

    The tread way north of the Mason Dixon line is also very rocky…. might consider shoes / booties for him from this point north.

    Having him determine the daily mileage is spot on. Keeping your time spent hiking each day consistent regardless of mileage covered may help keep him strong. Most acquaintances met along the way will fade into the distance. That said, people tend to hike hard and then rest in town to recuperate so it is likely you will see them again. There are also slower moving folks (generally people over 50 or those not in the best physical condition) which will make for great companionship.

    The biggest advice would be to just enjoy the time out there by staying healthy. Slow and steady should be the ticket for success. The mantra it is the journey and not the destination that counts might be one to consider. Spending several months with your best friend in the woods should be the goal, not a geographical location. With any luck and enough time you can both might make it the whole way. But who cares? Certainly it is not the fellow who is determining daily mileage.

    One last thought … Is there someone back home who could look after your dog if the trip becomes too much for him? Having a backup plan in place may help you complete this trip… In the end, it is all about priorities.

    Good luck next year.

    • Kathleen Krause : Oct 10th

      Hey Stealth,
      Thanks for the input. I have my Vet on board and he is making the final call essentially. Hunter is pretty used to a pack and works better, literally is less squirrel focused, when he wears his pack so he will have that. I will always take weight if he needs me to, but will start him with at least some of it.
      He will have a pita pocket down quilt I am making for him and half a thermarest, which I detailed in the post, if you want more info :). He should be all set!
      Thanks for the advice! We will make sure to stop and smell the roses (or for hunter the last Fido’s pee) and enjoy ourselves! Thanks for following and hope you keep following while we hike!
      Have a great day,
      Katie & Hunter

  • Cieria Bassett : Oct 11th


    My terrier mix, Leo and I are also thru hiking the AT NOBO in 2018 (Unforeseen circumstances won’t allow my fiance and Husky to hike with us). Leo’s a special pup that’s allergic to chicken and gluten too! We plan to start March 2018 and look forward to meeting you and Hunter on trail next year!


    • Kathleen Krause : Jan 7th

      Thanks Cieria! I hope to meet you and Leo as well! Happy planning!

  • Megan : Oct 11th

    Hey Katie! First off, just want to I think it’s so exciting you’re probably gonna be able to take your doggo with you!

    Second, I hiked the AT in 2015 and most of it with a buddy I made who hiked with his dog (who was 9 at the time, and did the entire thing and loved it! Except of course GSMNP and Big K). You seem like you have put a ton of thought into his well-being, so just know that there will be people on and off will be judge-y and try to tell you what’s best for your own dog or assume because you’re making him walk all those miles it’s somehow unhealthy for a dog (as if a sedentary depressing couch life is better). Don’t listen to those people and try not to take it to heart. You got this! Enjoy the hike, it’s an amazing journey. Also, plenty of people will be super pumped to see a trail dog. I can say from experience they’re excellent for morale during the hard days πŸ™‚

    One tip for ya if you haven’t already heard of it — my buddy put Musher’s Secret wax on his dog’s paws every night when they got to camp to help them from cracking, etc. He swears by it and his dog never had any pad problems, even in PA/the Whites where it’s super rocky.

    Enjoy the rest of your planning and all the anticipation that goes with it! πŸ™‚

    –Megan (Whoopie Cat)

    • Kathleen Krause : Jan 7th

      thanks for the encouragement!!!!!! Also, I plan to bulk buy mushers paw and have that shipped out once a month or whenever I run out πŸ™‚
      Thanks for the pointers and congrats on your 2015!!!!!

  • Ant : Oct 11th

    Im hiking the AT starting Feb early March. Im coming from Australia so cant bring a dog. I think its fantastic and about the best hiking partner you could ask for. If you were hiking with a partner you would have to alter your hike (we all hike at different levels) for them so i see absolutely no difference. I know there are sections that you cant take him but there are services that will pick up and board then shuttle to the next section. Im sure you have heard about Mayor and Cat Dog that did the AT. He even wrote a book about it. Wishing you luck and hoping to see you both on trail.

    • Kathleen Krause : Jan 7th

      Really good points, ANT! I don’t know that book, I’ll be looking it up though!
      Thanks for the pointer and hopefully I will see you on trail!

  • Elaine O : Oct 12th

    My main fear of hiking with my dogs is . . . ticks. One undetected attached tick can mean potentially serious lifelong issues from tick borne disease.
    I am hoping to thru hike in 2018. I have support on my hike so can take days on and off with my 2 year old aussie. I think I’m going to use some kind of external preventative like a tick collar rather than internal.
    I did a couple of 3-5 day backpack trips this summer in WY/MT. Ziba is a very “fit” agility competitor so hiking 10 miles per day with lots of elevation gain was not a problem. But she did scrape one of her pads on the rocky terrain. IF I’d had some New Skin – or maybe even super glue (which would have stung) – I think I could have sealed that scrape. And I will definitely take super glue in case there’s an actual cut. Musher’s secret might be a solution. I ended up making her a boot out of vet wrap and k-tape. I had a real boot for her but she didn’t like it and I wanted her to be able to move as naturally as possible.
    The other thing that is a problem for ME – is the extra weight that I will carry. I would worry too much about her pack getting caught on something and don’t want her to have to carry extra weight. I started off one hike with her wearing a pack and ended up carrying both her pack and her food after 3 miles. So depending on the number of days – I’ll have 2 to 4 extra pounds of dog stuff.
    One more thing – even after just a 5 day hike – I could tell that her skin and coat were getting dried out. I found some coconut oil individual packets at a Trader Joe’s and I will be adding one to her food each day on the trail. Lots of other benefits of coconut oil so can’t hurt. Anyway – good luck on your hike. Maybe I’ll see you along the way.

    • Kathleen Krause : Jan 7th

      Those are some thoughtful points, Elaine! Thanks for reading and responding!
      I will be buying coconut oil A LOT as it’s the preferred choice of fat for myself and my dog.

      Hopefully we see you, too! Make sure you say hi!

  • Joe G : Jan 9th

    Good luck on your trek with your pooch I wish you the very best out on the trail also stay safe out there and have fun have lots of fun


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