As a kid, I had farmer vision, aka the farmer five, which means I didn’t grow up with cable; I only had the basics, so all of the kid’s shows I watched were on PBS. Lately, I’ve had a song from the show “Zoboomafoo” stuck in my head. Some of the lyrics go, “They’re going on a cool adventure, and they don’t know what’s in store. They’re heading from the closet, and they’re heading out the door.” It pops in my head each time I’m grabbing my backpack and loading Caesar up for a hike. This week, I’m packing my gear and my dog, and we are headed for the Great Smoky Mountains.

Starting today, I’ll be on a extended weekend vacation with my mom and my dog. When I first started training Caesar for long hikes, I had my sights set on Tennessee. Last October, we did a “trial run” to see what Caesar could do. Well, between Hocking Hills and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, I learned that Caesar is capable of quite a bit.

This trip couldn’t come fast enough. Last week, Caesar gave me a scare when he began peeing blood and having uncontrollable urination. He’s been on antibiotics for a week and a half now to treat a kidney infection. Saturday, however, he stopped eating, and when Monday rolled around, the vet advised me to mix wet food and dry food together. Likely, his antibiotics were giving him an upset stomach. It worked like a charm because he gobbled his food right up and is back to normal.

Caesar having so many health scares in the past year has brought me to the stark realization that he is aging and may not be around in five years. Every day I have with him needs to be another chance for me to make a memory. This week, I will certainly do that.

It’s been about five years since I’ve been to the Smokies and I am starved to go back, especially since I have found a love for hiking and Caesar will be coming along. Unfortunately, due to wildlife, there are only two trails that allow dogs. But, we will also be going to Cherokee, North Carolina, for a day, and there are places for Caesar to go there, including a waterfall.

My dad frequently takes his rescue dog to Tennessee (and took his last dog, Chewy several times) and tells me that the dog trails in the Smokies are more than adequate for Caesar. It sounds like there will be plenty of rivers for him to swim in and lots to smell in the woods.

I recently came across a program that the National Parks Service offers in certain parks called the BARK Ranger program. It allows your dog to become a “Bark Ranger” which is where you vow to clean up after your dog and stay on the dog trails. You can collect tokens at different parks for the program. I hope to find out more about that while we are there and make Caesar an official Bark Ranger.

I’m really excited to revisit Cade’s Cove and hopefully see some wildlife (hopefully a bear!). But most of all, I’m excited to see how my dog reacts to being in a new place. We’ve taken overnight trips together, but this by far will be the longest one away from home.

The older Caesar gets, the more I’ve come to realize that I need to make more time for these special moments with him. My dad took his last dog Chewbacca on many trips and tells me that he has no regrets with Chewy. They did everything together, and Chewy had the best life a dog could have. I hope to feel that way when Caesar is gone.

I love the woods, I love mountains, and I love my dog. It might be really hard to come home on Sunday.