Do yourself a favour, get a Clam Quick-Set Screen Tent to escape the bugs

Last spring the bugs feasted on Milo the poor AwesomeDog and me, and it was miserable. I tried all the things: a smoky fire (I suffered respiratory distress before the bugs did), citronella candles (no effect), essential oil repellants for both Milo and me (not strong enough), dousing myself in enough Deet to melt every piece of plastic I touched (gross). The only moderately effective and not disgusting tactic was fire up a powerful fan.

I promised myself that this year would be different. I did some research and bought myself a Clam Quick-Set Screen Tent for my birthday.

Map indicating locations of campsites and trails

OMG! It is fabulous. Thank you, Self, for getting me such a great present!

It is 11 feet across and more than 7 feet tall in the centre. I set it up, by myself, in less than a minute. Seriously, less than a minute. And, it doesn’t take any longer to take it down and stow it away.

Some of the reviews complain that it’s tricky to take down. It isn’t—read the instructions. If reading instructions is not your thing, there’s a bunch of instructional YouTube video’s waiting to be watched.

This tent’s big enough for a picnic table, but I outfitted it with a comfy chair, a dog bed, an inflatable air mattress, and a cooler. I sit in there in the evenings sipping a beer while Milo chews a bone, and occasionally in the afternoons, I bring out a magazine and nap on the air mattress. Heaven.

Don’t be stingy, buy the optional wind panels too. Because this tent pops open, the sides protrude beyond the roof. If it rains, some rain will come in through the mesh. The side panels attach with Velcro—super easy—and will deter the rain.

I don’t usually do product endorsements, but this screen tent is worth every penny.

Happy camping!

Inverhuron Provincial Park: Beach and Hiking Trails

Milo the AwesomeDog and I enjoyed some pleasant hiking at Inverhuron Provincial Park last week.

Chain Trail:

We stayed at the Holmes Bay Campground and it took us about 25 minutes to walk along Chain Trail to the Dog Exercise Area. Once there, Milo enjoyed a swim in Lake Huron, and we turned around and walked home.a map showing campsites on three campgrounds, as well as walking trails

The trail is flat, well-maintained, and dry, all of which makes for an easy stroll. Our walk snaked between the lake shore and the campgrounds, offering both shade and lake views. green forest, blue sky, and a white space age looking towerThose views tempted Milo the AwesomeDog to give a few mighty yanks on his leash. I tried explaining to him that we were in fact on our way to a spot where he could swim, but delaying gratification has never been his strong suit.

Encountering an emergency alert siren for the Bruce Nuclear Power Station, which is less than three miles away, freaked me out. I’m glad there is an alert system, but the juxtaposition of the siren tower with the sound of the waves and the wind in the cedars was disconcerting.

 

River Trail:

River Trail is a sort of bait and switch. The pamphlet describes it as moderate to difficult with large hills and rough surfaces. But, it starts out as a wide gravel path leading over an arched bridge of worn wood that would be right at home in The Shire. German shepherd dog sitting on a wooden bridgeUp until that point, a person could manage in flip flops. But, believe the pamphlet and wear good shoes. Some of the hills were very steep and ran alongside the eroding riverbank—not a great place for kids or strollers. It was useful to have Milo on a harness for part of that hike. He knows that “hup, hup” means lean into the harness, and I appreciated the help on some of those uphill scrambles. Also, this poops him out, which is good for both of us when we get home for our afternoon nap.

Pay attention during your hike because some of the trail markers are faded and difficult to spot.

River Trail skirts along the riverbank and winds through groves of cedar trees. Milo and I finished this pretty loop in about an hour.

Beach

Boardwalks arc across the ecologically delicate sand dunes that separate the sandy beach from the parking lot, protecting the dunes from foot traffic erosion. Milo and I only got as far as those boardwalks because dogs aren’t allowed on people beaches in Ontario – I suspect this has something to do with not wanting kids making castles with urine-soaked sand. Whatever the reason, Milo and I didn’t actually go to the beach. I only mention it here to let you know that even though the water level in Lake Huron is high this year, there is still a good-sized strip of soft-looking sand along the water’s edge.

If you would like to know about Holmes Bay campground at Inverhuron click here.

Inverhuron Provincial Park Site 247

Milo the AwesomeDog and I spent last week at Inverhuron Provincial Park in our 18-foot travel trailer. I give the place two thumbs up.

Campsite 247 is excellent—level, covered in gravel with good drainage, ringed with sweet smelling and privacy providing cedar trees. It is a pull-through site with long driveways at each end, which provided a buffer to the road and other campers. The lakeshore is a two-minute walk away, as is Chain Trail, a well-maintained path that skirts along the Lake Huron shore and provides a scenic a 25-minute walk to the dog exercise area.Map indicating locations of campsites and trails

The park website noted that campers might need an extension cord to reach the electrical outlets. I always bring one and so was a bit smug about what I thought was advice for newbies. But, I had to sign out a third cord from the park office. Be warned, they require a $150 deposit. The deposit makes sense because I could easily imagine driving off with that cord without thinking about it and $150 was enough to remind me to give the darn thing back.The image is filled with a smiling German Shepherd face.

All of this wonderfulness is somewhat tempered by the intermit low-level hum of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station. A few years ago, the sound would have bugged me. But, the park was so pretty that it put me right in my happy place and I just thought, “Oh well, it’s making electricity. I’m using electricity. Fair enough.”

Be warned, if you camp here, be sure to check out the pictures and the privacy ratings of your site on the Ontario Parks Online Reservation System when you book your trip. A woman staying at an interior, non-reservable site told me that her place was surrounded by unsightly felled trees. Ick.

Red and orange clouds fill the sky and their light is reflected on waterMilo and my trip to Inverhuron benefited from some good luck: the wood was dry, the other campers were quiet and friendly, and the sunsets were stunning. We’ll be back.

Note to self: next time try to get site 261. Even though it is a back-in site, because of the layout backing up will not be complicated and it is gorgeous.

Milo the AwesomeDog on the Lake Huron shore

Milo and I concur: MacGregor Point Provincial Park remains a fabulous place for camping with dogs. We started our camping season with a week-long trip to Ontario’s West Coast, the Lake Huron shore. MacGregor’s Algonquin campground has quiet, private sites nestled in a lush cedar forest. In addition to ample hiking, the park includes an expansive natural shoreline with lots of room for your canine companion to enjoy a swim. I suspect this is Milo’s favorite place to visit!

FYI, we stayed in campsite #67–a level, pull-through site with electricity, a firepit, and a picnic table.

smiling German shepherd looking right into the camera.

“I love you, Mom. Can we swim now?”

German shepherd resting his nose on a piece of driftwood

This is a good stick. Someone needs to throw it in the lake…”

silhouette of German shepherd head against a blue lake with a red orange and blue sky This sunset would be prettier if I were wet.

wet German shepherd laying on a beach with a blue lake in the background

Finally! Swimming!

Things to pack for your dog for an RV camping trip

Milo the AwesomeDog and I spend lots of time RV camping. When we started traveling together I packed waaaaay too much stuff for him, which made getting ready to go camping a big ordeal. I’ve since streamlined the packing process. Now, I only bring what he needs and it just takes a couple of minutes to throw his stuff in the camper.

Here’s my RV camping packing list for Milo:

Obvious things

  • Food
  • Poop bags
  • Food and water bowls

Comfortable housing

I keep him with me almost all the time. When I’m sitting at a picnic table or relaxing in front of a campfire Milo rests in an exercise pen. I can attach a tarp to one side of the pen in case I need to shield him from unruly kids or dogs, and I have a fabulous reflective sunshade that keeps him cool on hot days. I’ve recently started bringing an electric fan that I set just outside his pen. It does a great job of keeping the mosquitos away.

Hiking, swimming, and kayaking stuff

I take him kayaking with me, and so he needs a lifejacket. And he carries his own snacks and water on long hikes, so he needs his backpack too. Sometimes I run his short leash through my belt and sometimes I hold it, but I find that all we need is one 6-foot leash.

Safety

I always keep a copy of his papers in my vehicle, and when we’re camping I write my cell phone number on his collar with a Sharpie in case he loses his tags. I also bring a flyer with his picture and my phone number on it (just in case). Finally, I keep a canine first aid kit in the trailer, which I supplement with Benadryl, because Milo occasionally eats bees, and a tick remover.

Fun

In addition to his toys, I bring cans of wet dog food and a couple of Kong chew toys. I have a freezer in my trailer, and I make him frozen Kongs so he has something to do on rainy days.

  • Tug toy
  • Water retrieve toy
  • Land retrieve toy
  • Kongs
  • Cans of wet dog food for easy frozen Kong filling

De-skunking potion ingredients

I always keep the ingredients for a de-skunking wash in my trailer. I’ve never had to use them, but I have a friend who had to make a long drive home with a very skunky dog, and I never want to be in that position.

  • hydrogen peroxide
  • baking soda
  • dish soap
  • disposable tarp

I bring fewer things for Milo than I used to, and we still have a great time.

black and tan german shepherd laying in green grass against a backdrop of green forest. There is a fence between the dog and the forest.

Here’s Milo at campsite 220 at Grundy Lake Provincial Park. He’s in his 48-inch Precision X-pen. This pen is a bit pricey, but it’s worth it. It’s a safer and more comfortable option than a tie-out. The black wire blends into the background and the pen has a walk-through door that is easy for people and not just dogs to use. It is simple to set up and is sturdy. 

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Training Tuesday: Vacations and the Hidden Curriculum​

German Shepherd puppy wearing a graduation cap and looking at cameraAs a philosophy professor (my day job) I spend a lot of time thinking about the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum includes things that get taught and learned, without anyone intending to teach or learn them.

For example, if I asked you to name a bunch of philosophers, you might mention Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, or Locke. It just so happens that all of these philosophers are white guys.

Sadly, it is not hard to find philosophy classes that only cover things that white guys wrote. In these classes, the explicit curriculum, which the professor intends to teach, concerns the ideas of great philosophers like Aristotle and the other guys on the list.

But we need to be careful about what the hidden curriculum is saying. It would be a shame if the students ended up learning that philosophers are white guys (which might be happening since white guys comprise the vast majority of philosophy majors).  No one intends to teach this, but most teaching and learning is not intentional.

Why am I talking about the hidden curriculum on a “Training Tuesday” post while Milo and I are on vacation?

Because there is lots of overlap between teaching people and training dogs. I kid you not, working with Milo has made me a much better professor. In this case, though, it is the other way around, thinking about teaching humans and the hidden curriculum is making me a better dog guardian.

Dogs and people are learning all the time. Just because a student doesn’t sit down to learn that philosophers are white guys in the same way that they sit down to learn that Aristotle lived between 384-322 BCE, doesn’t mean that they don’t pick up both messages. They don’t stop encoding memories at the end of each lecture.

Imagine using punitive methods to train a dog to sit. The explicit curriculum is about teaching the dog to sit when it’s told to do so. The hidden curriculum teaches the dog that mistakes are dangerous, that the handler is not a friend, and that the world is scary and capricious.

On the other hand, training the same behavior using positive methods, exemplifies a very different hidden curriculum. Dogs trained in this way learn that it is good to try new things and that working with their handler is not only safe but is more like play than like work.

Just because Milo and I are on vacation (and I forgot a bunch of our training equipment at home), it doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to learn anything on this trip. In other words, there is a hidden curriculum embedded in our relationship and Milo is learning that curriculum even when we are not formally training.

There are some things I do not want him to learn on this trip. For example, I don’t want him to learn to ignore my recall when we are on the shore of a beautiful big lake, and I don’t want him to learn to grab a hotdog when I am toasting it over the fire (you know how this one got on the list…).

There are also lots of things I do want him to learn, even though they are not in any training plan. I want him to learn that he and I can have delightful adventures together, that there are lots of happy, friendly people in the world, and that no matter what we’re doing or where we are, I’ve got his back.

Milo doesn’t stop learning just because I stop training.

black and tan German shepherd standing in clear water and holding a large stick

Milo has already learned that Lake Huron has an abundance of excellent sticks.

Start Planning Your Summer 2018 Camping: Reviews of Ontario Provincial Parks

I spent last summer camping with an 18-foot trailer and a 90-pound German Shepherd Dog named Milo. Looking out at the mounds of snow in my backyard, I’m longing for some summer camping. And since you can reserve campsites in Ontario Provincial Parks five months in advance, it is time to start booking sites. I want to return to the best Ontario provincial parks for camping that I visited last summer.

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As I was scrolling through last summer’s blog posts, I realized that I was happy in every single place, even the ones that were less than perfect. I’m mostly just happy to be camping. But some places were nicer than others and so here are my reviews of the Ontario provincial park campgrounds that I stayed in last summer:

Aaron Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Balsam Lake Provincial Park: A good place for human contact (no ghosts)
Lots of sites (not all of them but lots of them) at Balsam Lake are just parking places in a big field. If you want to stay here, book early and look closely at the pictures of your potential campsite to make sure it is a place you really want to be.

Caliper Lake Provincial Park: Needs hobbits
Caliper Lake Provincial Park: Quick notes on the campground

Grundy Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
I was leery when I arrived because my site was in a campground called “Trailer,” but it was gorgeous, so don’t be put off by the name.
Swan Lake Trail (at Grundy)

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park: Great for people, stinky for dogs

Killbear Provincial Park
Lookout Point Trail at Killbear Provincial Park
The off-leash dog beach is fabulous at Killbear

MacGregor Point Provincial Park: Beautiful sunsets over Lake Huron
MacGregor Point Provincial Park: Yurts and how to say “Hi” to Milo

Mississagi Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada: Here be dragons
When I was at Mississagi, it was wild and empty. 😀

The Beach at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Pancake Bay has a super dog beach.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada 

White Lake Provincial Park, Ontario: Home away from home

Happy Camping Friends!