Imagine sending five days dog-friendly camping in a tiny house surrounded by forest in North Carolina with little more than a stack of books, full fridge, wine and your dog. Plus, there’s leash-free dog zones outside your door. Sound good? Read on.
Yes, I could have spent a week home with my dog and two cats ‘vacationing’ with reading material, a tv, and my laptop, but it’s not that easy. Cheaper, but not easy.
Inside a home, even a small home, so much of the day can be spent puttering. There’s always something to clean, fix, update … towel racks to secure, paint to update, new window sills installed but never actually painted. Your life is in your face daily.
My solution is simple: leave for ten days and spend five of them in an even smaller house, on a dog-friendly campsite, in the rural forest of Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
4 Paws Kingdom is a campground for dogs who like to travel with their people (somebody’s got to drive the car … or RV). You can rent a site, a trailer, cabin or the piece de resistance: Barley, the ‘tiny house’ otherwise known as camping for snowflakes. There’s a shower, toilet, satellite TV, WiFi and air conditioning. That last one proved important in July.
Sure, there’s still puttering to do in a rented cabin – dishes, cooking and sweeping (so much sweeping) – but nothing major. Days in the woods of reading, writing and dog walking. Yes, dog walking, and leash-free running and pond diving and agility course racing … which Victor didn’t do.
Where can you camp with your dog in North Carolina?
You got the idea; this vacation is about the dog. Specifically, my cocker-cross Victor checking out the canine-centric campgrounds of 4 Paws Kingdom in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Four Paws Kingdom is like Disneyland for dogs; and every well-loved high-energy mutt needs to get there at least once in their lives. Or become regulars, as some RV-lifestyle loving people are. Some living nearby even park their rigs all season and make this a weekend escape. Why?
Well, I finally understand the appeal of family theme-parks catering to every need of the toddler: it’s easy for little people parents. Similarly, 4 Paws Kingdom makes everything easier for pet parents:
- Five fenced in leash-free zones, including Victor’s favourite with a pond, and a private one for less personable pups, sites with fenced dog runs
- Poop stations every few feet and water bowls underneath hoses in every run
- Dog baths at two heights in an air-conditioned room make clean up much easier
- An under-utilized short wooded hiking trail connects to play zone areas and adjacent wire fence keeps pups from running into wildlife. Maybe it’s the dog scent, but surprisingly few squirrels or rabbits venture into view keeping the distractions low.
Traffic is only slow-moving trucks pulling into sites or golf carts shuttling staff around. There’s a calm here midweek that’s unexpected. My previous, albeit limited, experience with campgrounds in my youth was more ruckus, which honestly turned me off campsites for years.
4 Paws Kingdom is ‘adults only.’ No pool or screaming kids. And no one who doesn’t love dogs. If you don’t love dogs, don’t bother showing up. Here or anywhere. (Kidding … not really).
Admittedly, the one damper of the week is the heat. It’s slightly unseasonable hot even for North Carolina in July and my 12-year-old black cocker-cross is feeling it. I’ve mentioned his unbridled energy level before, but it seems thanks to noticeable aging the past few months, it’s waning.
Victor does run like mad in the main leash-free dog park the first day we arrive (after spending days in the car and a day leash walking through Asheville). But he’s significantly less energetic in the days to come, and spends noon to 4 pm sleeping in the comfort of our air-conditioned cabin.
Also, getting him to drink enough water is a challenge, thought there are water-bowls and hoses scattered throughout the property (again, another dog-centric convenience).
Watching precious pets age is difficult and we’ve skirted several health scares this year. While many shorter local road trips are still in our near future (stay tuned!), this is likely our last major journey lasting more than week.
I’m happy to cross 4 Paws Kingdom off our bucket list but a little bitter-sweet at the thought.
Don’t worry, we’re not done yet. There’s still more on the list to conquer (and a few we’ve already completed to write about), even if Victor’s turbo is slightly gearing down.