Weekend Adventure: The Outer Banks
The Outer Banks . . . and Getting Out of the Outer Banks
How a weekend trip to the beach prompted us to also write about the importance of hurricane evacuation safety and preparation tips for you and your pet.
I have an inherently nomadic aspect to my personality, meaning that I can’t stay still or in one place for too long without getting antsy. Last week, recognizing the symptoms of wanderlust coming on, we decided to take a trip to the Outer Banks, NC. Even though we live in NC, it’s a big state, so the Outer Banks are about a 6.5 hour drive from where we live in the mountains.
We were lucky that the forecast last weekend was the epitome of perfection for a beach weekend — lots of sun and hot temperatures that are conducive to being outside and in the water. What we didn’t realize at the time, however, is just how lucky we truly were . . . mid-September is the height of hurricane season for the mid-southern Atlantic. And, sure enough, over the weekend, Hurricane Florence began to develop with its sites set on our exact location. In light of the forecast, we ended our trip a day early so as not to end up in coastal evacuation traffic. It ended up being the right call — evacuation traffic the day we were scheduled to leave was a disaster. Sometimes it pays to plan ahead!
Hurricane Preparations for your Pet
Given the urgency around the Hurricane Florence situation, we wanted to discuss hurricane preparations for you and your pet first. This is a far more important topic that what we did last weekend.
First, if you live in an area where you have to evacuate, know where you can go. There are a number of pet-friendly hotels out there, and some others will relax their pet policies in light of a state of emergency. Nonetheless, private hotels and motels do not have to accept pets. Although in 2006, Congress passed the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act to ensure that emergency operations rescue, care, shelter, and meet the essential needs of household pets and service animals, the Act doesn’t apply to private hotels and motels. What the Act generally does is ensure that there are designated shelter locations that will accept pets.
Some additional tips:
If your dog is crate-trained, bring your dog’s crate with you. Dogs are sensitive to stress and evacuating your home due to a hurricane is certainly a stressful situation; a crate may provide your dog feel secure during this period of upheaval. Even if your dog is not crate-trained, familiar bedding/blankets will be comforting, so be sure to bring some with you.
Whether you are going to a friend or relative’s house, a pet-friendly hotel, or a shelter, have enough toys and treats to keep your dog entertained. The situation will be stressful enough as is without your dog pestering said friends or relatives, or disturbing other hotel guests and fellow shelter occupants due to lack of physical exercise. A few of our favorite things to keep the girls busy indoors are:
Jack & Pup treats/chews — if you haven’t read our previous blog post here or on the Pupfluence Pupblog, it breaks down why we like certain products based on how long-lasting they are and the girls level of interest.
Kong products - anyone who’s ever owned a dog knows that Kongs are pretty magical. The thick rubber is basically indestructible and the proper filling can keep your dog busy for extended periods of time. One of our favorites include dog treats mixed with peanut butter (helpful in situations like this also because peanut butter does not need to be refrigerated).
Training treats - training should be an ongoing process with your dog, and what better way to enforce commands than in a new place with lots of distractions? Our favorite training treats are Zuke’s minis (the girls love the rabbit flavor) because they are small, low calorie and easy to carry in a treat pouch; and Remy’s K9 kitchen (the beef flavor is the girls’ favorite) because they single ingredient freeze dried meat is a high value treat they will work extra hard for.
Of course, make sure to have plenty of your dog’s regular food, plenty of water, as well as a feeding dish and water bowl.
Some old fashioned bonding time - don’t underestimate the benefits of just taking a few minutes to relax and pet your dog. This will have a calming effect on both of you!
Even if you don’t have to evacuate, there are still a number of things you should do to make sure you’re prepared for the impending storm. In addition to the items above — if you’re weathering the storm at home, you should still be prepared for your pet to behave differently due the circumstances. Make sure you have updated ID tags and photos (the latter isn’t a problem for any of us with a dog Instagram!). Also, many microchip companies will update your address free of charge if you in the storm’s path — just be sure to be proactive about calling to do so.
My favorite hurricane tip comes from Florida residents @jaxandthepack, who weathered Hurricane Irma around this time last year. They said “if you’re staying and have a garage, get a baby pool and fill it with sod for your dog to use to go to the bathroom.” Although not everyone will have access to a garage, a basement or other uncommonly used area of the house would work in this situation, too. Regardless of the weather, at some point, your dog will have to go . . . and going outside is not only frightening for the dog, but can also be dangerous, too. If you have the ability to do the baby pool/sod trick, please do!
Above all, think of you and your pet’s safety first and foremost. If you make decisions with safety in mind and plan ahead (yes, there is still time to do that!) — you should be able to ride out the storm with minimal interruption to your daily routine.
Now . . . on to our weekend adventures!
The girls are mountain dogs, so the beach was a nice change for us. With that being said, the girls definitely struggled a bit in the heat. A “hot” day in the mountains is about 80 degrees, so the 100+ degree temps at the beach was a big change for them. Even though we used to live in Charlotte where it’s also pretty hot and humid, they acclimated to the cool mountain air, fast once we moved. Thankfully, all of the national park sites (both Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Wright Brothers Memorial) have dog water fountains. This was a big help in ensuring the girls were able to cool off with plenty of water.
The Wright Brothers National Monument
The Wright Brothers National Monument is dog-friendly (as long as they are on leash) since most of the sites are outdoors. The park ranger who greeted us was very friendly and had dog cookies at the entrance booth (entry is $10/person) which we greatly appreciated. He let us know that the official museum itself was closed for renovation, which we didn’t mind since dogs are not allowed in the museum anyway. We first walked the path that shows the distance of the Wright Brothers first flights. There are four stone markers at each distance with engravings that state the date of the flight, who piloted it (Wilbur or Orville), and the distance it traveled. As someone who flies regularly, it was pretty fascinating to think how far air travel has come in just over 100 years. This path also has a replica of the first hangar where the Wright Brothers worked on their planes. One of the mock hangars is basically empty, which also provided us with a temporary shady spot to cool off.
Next, we meandered up Kill Devil Hill to the official monument. Given our mountain hikes, the hill is not an overly steep one, but in the heat we still took it slow. Atop the hill is the official monument (pictured above, left). It’s an impressive monument in the shape of an airplane tail. After walking the circumference, we meandered back down for another water break.
PetSmart - Nags Head
In between adventures, we stopped in at the local PetSmart in Nags Head. It was a great way to break up the afternoon because PetSmart is air conditioned!!! We were also there because we work with the PetSmart social media team as #petsmartpartners. For those of you who aren’t aware, PetSmart launched their new loyalty program, Treats this month, so we went on a shopping spree to begin racking up our Treats points!
First, a few things about the treats program. You earn 8 points for every dollar spent in store or online, and you get access to additional deals and discounts through the program. The online app is easy to use, and there are additional benefits such as a surprise for your pet’s birthday.
Second, I can’t say enough about how wonderful the employees of this store were. We asked for some help because trying to navigate a store with two Dobes on a double leash while taking photos and videos for social media is pretty difficult. Lilly, the store’s trainer, volunteered to help us and she was fantastic. Most importantly, she was great with the girls. B is skeptical of new people, especially in a new environment with lots going on like a store, but Lilly instantly made her feel comfortable. Lilly took us back to the training area where the girls could relax for a few minutes (they were still warm from walking around the Wright Brothers monument) and provided them with some cool water. We chatted about the types of things we were looking for and she made some recommendations.
Once the girls recovered, we shopped! We stocked up on Halloween costumes (stay tuned!), toys (giant chuckit ball!), chews (buffalo horns!) and treats (Zukes!). And, of course, the best part is that we earned Treats points for all of them!
Going to PetSmart was a great way to break up our afternoon. Not only did we get to stock up on a few things we needed, but we got to enjoy the AC and the girls got to be spoiled a little. Dog-friendly stores like PetSmart don’t necessarily seem like a vacation attraction, but they can absolutely be a great way to take a break from the weather (both the heat and the cold) while still being fun for your dog.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
As I mentioned already, I love the U.S. National Park Service. And, I especially love our National Seashores, having grown up vacationing on Cape Cod and going to the Cape Cod National Seashore. In addition, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse is one of North Carolina’s most iconic symbols. We felt like we needed to see it!
The lighthouse is about an hour from the entrance to the National Seashore in Nags Head, but the drive is scenic and there are plenty of spots to stop along the way if you need a break. One of the most interesting things about this National Seashore is that you can just park along the side of the road, climb the dunes (in designated areas) and boom, you’re at the beach. This is different from the Cape Cod National Seashore, for example, where you can only park in limited, designated areas due to erosion.
With that being said, I can see why hurricane’s are so dramatic for this area. Hatteras Island is only about 1/2 to 1/4 miles wide. A strong storm surge would cover it almost instantly. It’s unfortunate to think about, particularly with Hurricane Florence on the horizon, but it makes us extra grateful that we got to see it when we did.
The lighthouse itself was moved in 1999 due to erosion issues. In its new location, the area around the lighthouse is dog-friendly, but the dogs must be on leash. We walked from the lighthouse parking area to the beach. There is a separate parking area for the beach, but it’s only a short walk so we didn’t bother to move the car and just walked over. I was surprised how few people were at the beach. In my mind, this is one of the main benefits of Cape Hatteras National Seashore — with so much of the coastline accessible to the public, there’s plenty of room for people (and their dogs!) to spread out and find their own space.
I did let the girls off leash to play in the surf a bit. In full disclosure, I’m pretty sure this is not allowed (although, if you are looking for an off leash dog beach in the Outer Banks, the town of Duck allows dogs to be off leash), but with no people around, I did want them to enjoy the beach a bit. Griffin was skeptical of the waves, but Boston splashed around and had a ball.
A Quick Note on Lodging
As I’ve mentioned previously, big dogs don’t have to be a big hassle when traveling. Nonetheless, be sure to double check that your accommodations are pet friendly, particularly if you have large dogs. We initially looked at staying at the Baymont Inn and Suites in Kitty Hawk, NC. Although Baymont Inns generally advertise themselves as pet-friendly, the Kitty Hawk location is not.
We opted to stay at a La Quinta, where all locations allow you to stay with two pets of any breed/size at any location. We were a bit farther away from the sites we wanted to see, but it was worth it to be in a place where we knew the girls would be welcome.
The Outer Banks is a wonderful place to visit. We were impressed by how dog-friendly it was, which is important for us when deciding where to go. Nonetheless, no matter where you go, safety should always be top priority. Check the forecast, and be prepared, especially during hurricane season!
Any questions? Let us know in the comments!