Hello Adventurers! FYI. If you are wondering and I am sure you are 😉 ;), the Sidekick and I went to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as scheduled. There is still a lot of work to be done to organize that trip into the blog and YouTube channel. That entry is coming in the next few days!
On to this trip! There is a Bark Ranger Program in some of the US National Parks. THERE IS A BARK RANGER PROGRAM. Raise your hand if you just now learned this!? I did not know there was such a thing! My girl dog Bella is now a Bark Ranger, and that is now her name on this site!
This dog is crazy AF to drive with (but really she is quite a well mannered and sweet dog), but it is nice being able to drive cross country with her. We were taking a visit my mother and ailing grandmother in Indiana. We left St. Petersburg around 2 PM and got to Macon, GA by around 8 or 9 to stay at the usual: La Quinta. If you don’t know – La Quinta is a dog friendly hotel, with a small fee (like 20 bucks) in some locations. The next morning we got up early and headed to Northern Alabama. I had known about Little River Canyon for a bit, just simply through my national park perusals. And, I know what you are thinking…Alabama? What is there!? Well…the northern part of the state is quite beautiful! BUT the real reason we took that route was because a few days earlier I had learned of the BARK RANGER program! And, Bella HAD TO BE A BARK RANGER.
At this point, a few important notes about dogs and NPS (national park service) units. Not all are dog friendly. Some are entirely service dog only and that’s it. Some are partially dog friendly (they can only be walked in certain areas and on certain trails) and some are totally dog friendly (all trails, visitor centers, etc). Really the distinction is made to keep the dogs and the the native fauna. Obviously you don’t want your dog to aggravate bears, or to fall into a boiling hot spring, and you also don’t want your dog driving prey animals away from their homes. It is this latter group of NPS units that generally seems to have the Bark Ranger Program. You will need to to refer to each individual park of course, but the Bark Ranger program is a really neat thing for your future Bark Ranger!
Back to Little River Canyon! What a neat spot in an unexpected place! A little removed from Huntsville, AL and close to Ft. Payne, AL is Little River Canyon National Preserve. This is one of those smaller NPS units. It is very long though, and very skinny, as it straddles the Little River as it cuts a pretty impressive canyon through a small section of north eastern Alabama. As you approach the entrance you will find a parking lot with trails leading to the falls that are the inception of the canyon. The falls themselves are quite nice, but at this spot you cannot quite see what happens very quickly afterward. To do that you need to get into your car and follow the road! This is definitely one of those parks that is super awesome for the overlook and drive through park adventurer! As you follow the road there are many overlooks to view the impressive canyon. To be honest, not only is it incredibly surprising to see this is in Alabama, but the canyon itself is large and gets large VERY quickly. It was maybe not even more than a few miles before the canyon was several hundred feet deep. In any event, refer to the pictures! Now, to be fair, I said this is a great overlook and drive through park. It is. There are lots of trails, however, from those overlooks down into the canyon. The Bark Ranger is older and has some not so great hips, so we did none of those as the trails looked quite steep.
To get Bella her Bark Ranger badge, the Rangers at Little River Canyon wanted some basic things done. They wanted some pictures of Bella and I demonstrating the BARK ranger principles: Bag the waste, Always on leash, Respect the wildlife, and Know where you can go. So, I got a pic of bagging her poo on a trail while leashed :). A silly form to fill out later and she got her BARK RANGER BADGE!
Now, not to be greedy, but I had also been aware of some cave national monument from seeing signs for it off of I-24 approaching Chattanooga. This is actually Russell Cave National Monument, it is only about 30 miles from Little River Canyon, on the way where I needed to go, and they ALSO have a BARK RANGER BADGE! Of course, we had to stop!
This NPS unit, in all honesty, should probably just be an off limits archaeological site. The reason I say this is it’s a decent size cave entrance, and the cave is many MILES in length but visitors can only approach via a boardwalk, and that’s it. There is a mile or two nature trail through the woods near the cave, but that is about it. Oddly enough there were two park rangers working the visitor center which made up 2 of the 6 people I saw there! The didn’t seem to care too much about me showing a picture of NOW OFFICIAL BARK RANGER demonstrating that which she had already demonstrated, they just wanted me to take her the length of the boardwalk to see the entrance of their cave, then take a picture of her looking cute and badge number two was secured!
Just a real quick blurb on something in Indiana. We were there for a week and my mom and I were able to get away for a day trip. Indiana is a generally boring and disdainful place BUT, there are a couple decent state parks. One of them can be found along the Ohio River in a town called Madison, its somewhere along the river between Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH. This is Clifty Falls. It’s a rather nice park with lots of trails and the town of Madison is quite a nice little town as well. The hometown where my mother lives is literally about 10-15 times the size of this town, but I kinda think Madison is a much more enjoyable spot than Evansville is. If you are in this area, it is DEFINITELY worth a stop!
Overall impressions: Pros: BARK RANGER. Very surprising and enjoyable scenery! It’s a day drive from me, a long one for sure, but it’s definitely a day drivable destination from a large chunk of the southeastern into the midwestern areas of the US. Cons: Russell Cave left lots to desire. Not a fault of the place itself, just not much to do there.
The Adventurer Final Word: