Boy, coming back from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was hard. It was such a great, peaceful trip that made it really difficult to come home.

Each day, my mom, Caesar and I were able to take long hikes in the mountains. As I said last week, Caesar was only allowed on two trails – The Gatlinburg Trail which runs between Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Ranger Station and Oconaluftee which runs from a Ranger Station outside of Cherokee, North Carolina, and into Cherokee. Both trails were very scenic and allowed for Caesar and me to get down to the streams. We also took long walks through Gatlinburg and in areas around Pigeon Forge.

Caesar loves water. He really enjoyed getting in the streams for a drink and a swim. People who passed by seemed to love to watch him do so too, and when we were walking, Caesar received many compliments for how well behaved and beautiful he is. I have to agree with them.

On our trip, we saw several bears, elk, and turkeys. We also saw the most beautiful fall colored trees. On the trip to Cherokee we were able to stop at several overlooks to take in the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. Caesar even looked as if he was mesmerized by the vastness of the wilderness. He stuck his head out the window on our trips around the woods and admired the scenery while taking in the fresh air.

During our trip, the GSMNP Facebook page posted about the B.A.R.K. Ranger program. I called and signed Caesar up for the one-hour program on Saturday. That morning we met Park Ranger Sheree and after learning about B.A.R.K. Ranger ethics, Caesar and six other dogs were sworn in and given GSMNP B.A.R.K. Ranger tags and a certificate.

In case you were wondering, B.A.R.K. stands for B: Bag your pet’s waste, A: Always leash your pet (with a leash no longer than six feet), R: Respect wildlife, and K: Know where you can go.

Caesar did so well with the other dogs at the program and even met a dog from New Jersey that looked like his long lost brother. After the program, we embarked on another hike.

Taking a dog to Gatlinburg is a unique experience. The Smokies and Gatlinburg are not really that dog friendly so we couldn’t go into a ton of stores, but that’s not really why I wanted to go. I didn’t care to shop, I just wanted to be in nature with my dog and create a memory that could never be replaced by material items. Caesar was so happy to see so many new things. I wish we could live there so he and Jeter could experience nature like that every single day.

I typically don’t sleep very well, but after such long hikes and finding peace in the woods, I slept really well on our vacation; Caesar did too. It was hard to get him out of bed!

Altogether, according to my FitBit, from Thursday to Sunday we hiked over 29 miles. By the last day, my mom said her legs were sore, my feet hurt, and Caesar was napping very well the whole ride home. This, however, was one of the most peaceful trips I have ever taken because we spent so much time surrounded by the sound of flowing water, the smell of the woods, and the beauty of so much nature.

On my first day back to “life” I found myself already trying to find my next “escape.” I’m already ready to head out for the next hike. I’m just trying to determine if it will be Cuyahoga Valley National Park (which I love so much) or somewhere new within a drivable distance. Where should Caesar and I go next?