Dogs’ Last Trek to Dragon’s Tooth?

March 10, 2008 at 11:24 pm 7 comments

In my area, Dragon’s Tooth is like the Cascades– everyone goes there. And like the Cascades, Dragon’s Tooth isn’t one of my favorites. I tend to prefer the lesser traveled paths to Tinker Cliffs, Angel’s Rest and for a real dark horse, the slanty slopes of Sinking Creek Mountain.

And so, it dawned on me that the last time I was at this Southwest Virginia staple was in October of 2005 (Mike E’s birthday hike!). It’s been so long since I have been to Dragon’s Tooth– I didn’t even have a tag for it created on this blog! 🙂 The weather yesterday was nice, but it was early enough to avoid the crowds, so I grabbed Jimmie (who turns eleven next month) and Henry (who turns nine in August). We went up what I usually call the front side– you travel 2.1 miles southbound on the AT from VA-624. The last two times I have ascended Dragon’s Tooth, I had gone up the “backside”– 4.5 miles northbound from VA-620. That meant the last time the dogs and I hiked the section we did yesterday was nearly five years ago! Ah, we were all so young then.

From either direction, the trail is extremely rocky. In fact, there are places where the trail maintainers have installed handrails to help people up the rocks.

Handrails on the AT

It was some of the more steep rocks where I could not deny that my dogs were getting old. Henry I am used to having some troubles. But even the ever-energetic Jimmie isn’t quite what he used to be. At points, I had to pick up *both* dogs and place them on top of rocks they could no longer climb. To give you an idea, here is one snippet:

[Vicky climbs up rock]
Henry: (whimper)
Vicky: Come on Henry, you can do it!
Jimmie: (whimper)
Vicky: Oh you are NOT going to make me climb back down there, are you?
Henry and Jimmie: (whimper)
[Vicky climbs down rock. She scoops up Henry and places him on the rock.]
Vicky: Jimmie. Jimmie.
[As Jimmie approaches, Vicky bends down to pick him up. Suddenly Henry thinks there is change of plans so he jumps off the rock and wags his tail victoriously. Vicky places Jimmie on rock, then picks up Henry AGAIN… and then climbs up herself AGAIN]

In addition picking him up, I also had to enact some strategic butt pushing with Jimmie as he started to get up a rock but then started to slide backwards.

The three of us were slow, but we all made it up safe and found. And although the dogs still had a splendid time, it dawned on me– this was probably their very last trip to Dragon’s Tooth. In two-three years when I get the urge to revisit, I think I would have to carry them the entire way! 🙂

If this is their last trip up there, then one thing is for sure– They finished up their Dragon’s Tooth resume in style. We could have not asked for a more gorgeous day.

The “teeth” at the top

Last time Jimmie will climb these rocks?

Mountain laurel (an evergreen) at top

Cute little Henry on a rock

More pictures from our Dragon’s Tooth Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

Entry filed under: Appalachian Trail, Dragon's Tooth, Henry, Hiking, Jimmie.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. geekhiker  |  March 11, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Last year I met a PCT through-hiker who’d done the AT. He praised the PCT: “You guys have switchbacks!” Between what he said, my own experience back east last year, and that first picture, it’s true: they really do just run a trail in a straight line back there, don’t they?

    That picture of Henry on the rock is too cool. And makes me want a good hiking dog just that much more… *sigh*

  • 2. Sour Swinger  |  March 11, 2008 at 1:11 am

    You should return Jimmy for a better quality product. Since Henry is tiny I can understand his inability to scale rocks. Rule of thumb for my dog, if you can jump down it then you can jump up it. There be no buddy lifting from me.

  • 3. tgaw  |  March 11, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    @geekhiker – Heh. We do have switchbacks, but I can’t say I know how the frequency compares with other trails. I did once see a graph that compared the CDT, the PCT and the AT that incidated the AT had the greatest ascent/per mile ratio of the three.

  • 4. tgaw  |  March 11, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    @Sour Swinger – Eh. After all the mileage he has done with me the past eleven years, I think I’ll let Jimmie slide by this time around. 🙂

  • 5. Aaron  |  March 11, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    I bet if you chucked a doggie biscuit up there…

  • 6. Grace  |  June 10, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    So would you say this isn’t a dog friendly hike? I’ve never taken my dog on a hike and I’m going to Dragon’s tooth in a few weeks and I’m debating if I should bring him or not. Any suggestions??

    • 7. tgaw  |  June 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      Hey Grace, it is a pretty significant rock scramble, so I would say it would depend on your dog’s current condition. Also if your dog is too big for you lift up on some of the larger rocks should he need assistance, I would say it would be best to leave him behind. Hope this helps!


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