At Home on the Backroads

Story and Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Brianna Madia

Dust envelops the van as our tires skid to a halt at a fork on a bone-dry desert road. To our left, the dirt road continues winding into the distance toward petrified sand dunes and nameless desert towers. To our right, a small ranger station sits idly amidst the junipers, denoting the perimeter of a National Park. Beside it, a large wooden sign reads: No Dogs Beyond This Point.  

It’s a situation we’ve faced so many times, we hardly give a thought to it anymore.

The choice is obvious. We take a left.

When we moved into a van with our two dogs, Bucket and Dagwood, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially in the hot Utah deserts we call home. Leaving them in the van was never an option, so we began to navigate the world with our dogs’ interests at the forefront. It was daunting at first, but it has made us into the backroad adventurers we are today.

Every lone dirt road or secluded BLM campsite or quiet National Forest trail or ideal river divvy we’ve stumbled upon is because we were just looking for a place to let our dogs be free. And in that quest, we became a bit more free ourselves. We taught ourselves the ropes of different types of public land designations. We learned to read topographical maps. We learned that one day spent stumbling upon on a bunch of dead ends with our dogs was still better than a whole trip without them.

The way I see it, my husband and I have the rest of our lives to see the National Parks, the fancy cities, the Human-Only places. If we’re lucky, we’ve got a good fifteen years with those dogs. A good fifteen years to see the world through their eyes. No iconic overlook or famous trail has ever compared to the look in Bucket and Dagwood’s eyes after a day out in the dirt, or a day on the front of my paddle board, or a day chasing my mountain bike down a trail.

Some folks might see those “No Dogs Allowed” signs as deterrents to their perfect plan, but to us, it’s just the start of a better one.

Bucket and Dagwood are our compass. We go where they can go. And lucky for us, they usually point us to the roads less traveled.

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