Hiking with a Blind Dog at Gooseberry Falls Hiking Club Trail
On my quest to complete a few of the Hiking Club Trails on our North Shore Adventure, I wanted to check off Gooseberry Falls. I’ve been to Gooseberry Falls every year now for the last three years, and each time I hike a little bit different path. This time I had a new challenge in addition to the Hiking Club, I would be hiking with a blind dog.
I picked up a book Hiking the North Shore: 50 fabulous day hikes in Minnesota’s spectacular Lake Superior region by Andrew Slade, to get the low down on the adventures. On my previous trips, we did a loop to the main falls. The following year I did the Fifth Falls loop with my sister.
This year, we decided to take the Hiking Clubs loop. After my failed attempt at finding the password at Myre-Big Island State Park, I was determined more than ever to get this one. According to the guidebook, this trail was significantly easier. It was going to be a lot shorter, so I figured I would have a better chance at it. Two miles would be easy for the kids and my out-of-shape butt to handle.
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Hiking with a Blind Dog
The biggest obstacle we had was how to hike with our blind dog. Our pug probably would have had a good time walking it in his youth, but as he’s aged, he’s become blind and deaf, making it harder than ever to get him on the trails. We didn’t love the idea of leaving him behind in the camper either. He could get scared and start barking. Since the rules of the campground prohibited leaving pets behind, it wasn’t a risk we wanted to take. Then I got the idea of a backpack! I had my small hydration pack with me, but after a quick try, we found that it was too small, but it was possible. We quickly ran to the store and picked up a bigger size with larger straps.
We synched the sides to give him stability and folded down the front, giving him plenty of fresh air. The North Shore gave him a cool breeze at all times. He loved it. Next time we go, I’m bringing a pair of trekking poles to help stabilize the weight. I also found that they sell a backpack specifically for this purpose. The K9 Sport Sack lets the dog sit facing forward. Build with larger straps and some additional side ventilation that will help if you are hiking in warmer climates.
The best part of taking him was during seeing the reactions of people through the more popular part of the park. They’d walk by and see our boxer walking and then immediately say how cute the puppy was. Then they’d walk by, and we’d hear the mutters and giggles of the pug in the backpack. For those that had snide remarks about a dog needing to be carried, we’d just explain that he’s blind and can’t walk that well. They quickly understood. Through the trail, we’d check on him often to make sure he wasn’t getting hot and we’d give him some water from a water bottle. He was in heaven getting to smell everything and be carried around like a prince.
The Gooseberry Falls Hiking Club Trail
Miles: 2.2 Miles Round Trip
Difficulty: Easy, with very few hills
Total Hiking Club Miles Hiked: 2.2 Miles
Ok, back to the trail. The hiking trail, we beautiful. Nicely groomed and isolated. If I thought that the Fifth Falls Trail didn’t have crowds, I was wrong. On this trail, we saw only a few other people. We were finally out in the wilderness away from the hustle and bustle of the tourists. The views of the lake were plentiful and didn’t include a lot of elevation changes. Which makes it a perfect beginner hike for the kids and defiantly for someone that’s carrying a 35lb backpack.
Visiting this trail, you see Gooseberry Falls Park from a different perspective. On our last camping trip here, we sat at the shoreline looking at the cliffs and wondered how people got over there! Now we were there looking at the people on the shore being looked at with envy. The breeze coming off the lake was a nice reward for the time we spend in the sheltered woods.
The Hunt for the Password
We made it more than halfway through the loop without seeing one of those darn Hiking Club password signs. I was starting to think that I’d never find it. And if I couldn’t get it here, I was going to give up on the dream altogether. Then my daughter decided she wanted to stop at another overlook. I was a little reluctant but figured what the heck. As I was getting antsy to get moving again, I looked behind me at a shelter. Hidden inside the shelter was the sign I had been looking for. I would have gone entirely right past it. I had no idea that these quests would be more than just a trail heading sign, but an actually hidden quest. Now that I had my first password, I’m hooked. I want to do them all.
But I realized that I completely overestimated my hiking ability. I’m going to have to work up to some of these bigger hikes later. And no way would I be able to tackle two in one day. As much as I’d like to say that kids will never be able to handle it, it’d be a lie. I guess that means I’ll just have to make another trip up here to get them all in! I’m in no rush. Make sure to check out Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive | Over 28 Different Stops Along Hwy 61.