Travel: West Virginia – Winding Down at the Dog-friendly Gardens (Day 2)

West Virginia … ‘wild and wonderful,’ it says on the license plates.

It should read ‘wild and weaving down the interstate,’ because there’s some crazy driving in this state. Turn down a winding country road and the drivers’ feet remain lead; if you’re not taking turns on two wheels, you’re holding up traffic.

Dog at West Virginia Botanic GardensDay two of road tripping with my fur baby and we’re looking for a dog-friendly place to stop. Specifically, I’m looking for the West Virginia Botanic Gardens so my terrier-cross Victor can indulge in a jaunt.

Take a few turns off the Interstate, then slow down along Tyrone Road (even if the pick-up behind you doesn’t like it) or you’ll miss the small sign and thick treed gravel entrance to the West Virginia Botanic Gardens – one of the best dog trotting stops I’ve discovered off a highway in a while.

Victor loved it, even if it took us at seven and a half hours to get there. (Note: Learn from my mistake. Make sure your GPS isn’t programmed to ‘avoid tolls’ throughout NY state or you’ll waste a lot of time).

It’s summer and we’re hitting the road again – this time to eventually spend quality time with each other at a dog-loving adults-only campground in Rutherfordton, North Carolina called 4 Paws Kingdom.

But first, we must get there and we’ve got a few stops. It’s the demands of the road I’m concerned about on my aging four-footed sidekick. Yes, his characteristic turbo energy still rears its head, only not as frequently.

Fortunately, he’s turbo-charged when we hit the WV Botanic Gardens in Tyrone, about 15 to 20 minutes off the Interstate. Thanks to the notorious Virginia mountains, we must follow a curving country road to get to the gardens, on the site of a former water reservoir saved from lumbering by a citizen coalition in 1995.

If you’re visualizing rows of carefully crafted flower gardens and sculpted shrubs (like I was) you’d be wrong. An expansive 82-acre property of mostly woodland has groomed trails leading from open grassland highlighting a mountain view, some cultivated rock gardens, hammocks hanging from trees and a boardwalk linking wooded trails over wetlands. Each ‘section’ is designed to educate visitors about indigenous plants, trees and the environment.

Trails are what this place is about and locals come to exercise both themselves and their pups – dogs are welcome here, but an entrance sign remind visitors of the rules. (Leashes, pick up poo… you know the drill). Local animal hospitals sponsor dog stations – bag dispensers and trash bins of course. Once those are installed, you know the place is committed to the dog-friendly cause.

Admission free and open ‘dusk to dawn’ but park in the front parking lot outside of the gate, because an unavoidable number of signs warn the gate might be locked anytime after 4pm. So, we walked down (and later up) the gravel slope (remember the mountains?) leading to the WV Botanic Garden. At 4pm, we almost had the place to ourselves. Free admission.

You can drive down to the lower parking lot if you can’t make the hike in the heat. But thorough exercise and muscle stretch is our prescription for ‘car fever.’ And shade hemlock trees ideal cover from July sun. We roam the trails and boardwalk for about an hour – beats a quick stop at Sonics.

Victor was happy to be out of the car, though wasn’t drinking enough water – a challenge throughout the trip. He stayed close by during our walk, a little more worn on the way back than I anticipated. An early night and pizza delivery at Fairmont’s Red Roof Inn beckons – along with a huge bowl of water.

Check Out Our Day 1: Road Trip Packing List here.

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