I'm so excited to be spotlighting one of our 2021 High Tail Hikes Ambassadors, Cruz, and his people! Eliza, Patrick, and Cruz just returned from a 5 month road trip where they lived, worked and traveled in several locations through the western U.S. Eliza is an incredibly talented photographer, and she snapped so many amazing shots of Cruz on their adventures. Follow along as we more about Cruz and his people, and enjoy Eliza's photo diary full of gorgeous photos and helpful tips for traveling with your pup!
Hi Eliza, Patrick, and Cruz! Thanks so much for chatting with us! First off, can you tell us a bit about Cruz - how he came into your life, what kind of dog he is, and a bit about his personality?
We adopted Cruz in September 2019 when he was about 10 weeks old from the Milo Foundation, a local rescue organization based in Richmond, California. When we adopted him we were told he was a Border Collie x German Shepherd mix but after running his DNA we found out that he is a mix of over seven different breeds! Cruz’s genetic makeup includes American Pit Bull Terrier, Border Collie, Akita, Siberian Husky, Australian Cattle Dog, German Shepherd Dog, and American Staffordshire Terrier. We like to call him a “Mega Mutt.” Cruz is a complex and wonderful dog. He’s tenacious, highly intelligent, energetic, very loyal to his humans, curious about everything, and affectionate. My favorite quality about him is that he’s always up for an adventure.
Is this your first dog or have you had other dogs in the past? What drew you to Cruz?
Cruz is my first non-childhood dog. I grew up with two amazing dogs and always knew I wanted to adopt once I had the time and financial stability to support a dog. Originally I was planning to adopt a young or middle-aged dog and had no interest in adopting a puppy. Instead I made the (non-regrettable) mistake that so many new dog owners do and fell in love with a little black furred puppy that kept getting overlooked as his mom and siblings were adopted out. When we met him it was, of course, love at first sight and he’s been my best friend ever since.
You recently returned from a 5 month road trip with your partner and Cruz where you lived and traveled in several different places. What made you initially decide to take this trip? How did you decide where to visit? Did you plan it all in advance or did you plan as you went?
When the pandemic hit, we were living in a small house in Oakland with another couple and their dog. Both my partner and I worked from home, and although we loved our housing situation, it was a challenge to work remotely in such a tight space. As we found ourselves feeling really burnt out we started talking about the idea of either moving temporarily or hitting the road full-time. We decided on the latter and started planning. For most of the trip we decided to stay with family or friends that had vacant homes or rooms in regions we really wanted to visit. On the other sections, we travelled to places that we really wanted to explore more and knew we’d have ample opportunity for outdoor adventures.
Santa Cruz, California
Our first stop was Santa Cruz along the California coast. I grew up in Santa Cruz County (Aptos to be exact) so I loved revisiting my beautiful hometown. Santa Cruz is infamous for its beaches, mountain biking, beer and redwood forests. We went to the beach just about every evening to play fetch and catch the sunset. Check out this post for some local dog friendly hikes. [Location: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park]
If there’s one thing in the world that Cruz loves more than the beach, it’s the snow! In the summer we love kayaking in Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe with Cruz, but in the winter we went snowshoeing and sledding. It’s impossible to not find a dog friendly hike in this region. Truckee has a very strong off-leash culture, so always expect the potential of off-leash dogs even on marked leash-only trails. [Location: on a hike near Truckee]
Highway 395, California
The next section of our journey was a long drive all the way down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada to Southern California. I wish we had a week to explore this whole region and definitely plan to go back one day. If you ever drive Highway 395 I recommend you make stops at Mono Lake, June Lake, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and Lone Pine. [Photo taken on closed winter road near June Lake]
We stayed the night in Independence at Mt Williamson Motel & Basecamp which hosted a series of adorable dog-friendly cabins. In the morning we woke up and explored Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. I recommend that you visit the Alabama Hills Cafe & Bakery before you hit the trails, as they have some fun handouts on the different rock formations. My favorite picture, shown here, was taken at Mobius Arch.
Los Angeles, California
Cruz’s absolute favorite humans are actually my parents. So, we made sure to see them on our way out of California. Over the weekend we explored Big Bear Lake. We found that if you hike a mile up any of the local trailheads you’ll soon ditch the crowds and have the whole place to yourself! [Photo taken near Big Bear Lake]
The highlight of the whole road trip for Cruz was staying with my family in Arizona. Who knew a pool, endless dog treats and two canine playmates would make for a dog’s dream? In Tucson we went hiking in Saguaro National Park and Madera Canyon but for the most part enjoyed visiting family! [Location: Saguaro National Park]
Sedona is understandably a popular vacation destination. Our favorite hikes were Devil’s Bridge (pictured here), Soldier’s Pass, Boynton Canyon and Faye Canyon. If you ever visit Sedona (with or without your dog) I highly recommend reaching the trailhead before sunrise. Not only does Sedona get incredibly hot but the trails become packed with people. With most of our hikes done by 10 am, we spent our afternoons sipping wine at dog-friendly locations like Oak Creek Winery or napping in our hotel room.
Lake Powell, Arizona
Our last stop in Arizona was at Lake Powell Resorts & Marina which we found to be quite dog friendly! If you come here in the spring or summer I highly recommend kayaking on Lake Powell. You can actually reach Antelope Canyon via kayak and reach a few other slot canyons that are only dog friendly if you hike up from the lake. Our favorite part of this region was visiting Horseshoe Bend at sunrise (pictured here).
Kanab is a really great example of why national parks can be a bit overrated: the whole region around Kanab is absolutely stunning and is also very dog friendly. We hiked Buckskin Gulch, also known as the longest slot canyon in the Southwestern US. I also recommend visiting the Moqui Caves and Toadstool Hoodoos. If you want to visit the local national parks with your pup, we tried them out and have some thoughts. You can only hike with your dog on the main paved trail through the lower portion of Zion National Park. I thought the drive into the park was worth the easy trip from Kanab. We found Bryce Canyon to be a little more forgiving to dog parents as we could walk up to the majority of the paved viewpoints with Cruz. [Location: Buckskin Gulch]
We charged up through Utah and landed in Boise for a couple of weeks. On the way out of Utah we made sure to spend the night in Salt Lake City and visit the Bonneville Salt Flats. In Boise, we fell in love with the greenbelts and trails that followed the Boise River, the many off-leash trails, and dog friendly breweries. We took a weekend trip up to Lake Cascade where we stayed in a yurt, took a long hike through the snow and hung out at some local hot springs. [Photo taken on a hike near Lake Cascade]
Our final stop was in Bend, Oregon. We stayed near the Deschutes River and took walks along the shore almost every day. Some of our local friends also showed us GoodDog! Park which is a network of off-leash trails that are also mountain bike friendly. During our time in Bend we also explored Smith Rock State Park, Black Butte, and Tumalo Falls. Bend was hands down our favorite stop thanks to its beauty, access to the outdoors, calm welcoming vibes, and great beer (Bend has 22 local breweries!). [Photo taken on Deschutes River]
Mount Shasta, California
We had originally planned to make our last stop in Weaverville, but ended up driving directly from Bend back to Oakland (when you find affordable housing in the Bay Area you run for it). If you ever visit the Shasta-Trinity region I highly recommend you visit Lassen National Park, Mount Shasta, Shasta Lake, or go backpacking up in the Trinity Alps. You’ll catch us up there later this summer. [Photo taken at a rest stop near Mount Shasta]
What an incredible adventure! Any tips for successful traveling with a dog that you would like to share?
Plan your trip around your dog (not yourself) and do your research. This may sound extreme but it’s the only way to ensure everyone involved enjoys the adventure. When planning our trip we stayed in dog friendly towns, planned out all our hikes to be dog-friendly and only ate out at places we could take Cruz. Many hotels and rentals don’t allow you to leave your dog alone and most state and national parks aren’t very dog friendly. Explore national forests and use your research time to find some local gems!
Do you have gear recommendations that make traveling with a dog easier or safer?
For longer travels I really recommend bringing along your dog’s favorite toys, bed and crate to make sure they feel at home. Cruz’s personal doggie duffel included our favorite travel bowl, kibble doggie bag, dog booties, dog jackets (we buy used Ruffwear on GearTrade) and, of course, our High Tail Hikes long line. I also always make sure to have any of Cruz’s medications and a first aid kit on hand.
What High Tail Hikes gear did you find especially useful on this trip and why?
We brought our High Tail Hikes Small (⅜” width) 15’ long line and used it almost every day. The 15’ is easy to use on everyday decompression walks and perfect for on-leash hiking where we want to give Cruz a little more space to smell and enjoy the trail. We like to joke that walking Cruz on a long line is like fly-fishing where we give him slack to enjoy a smell and reel the line back in when he comes back for a check-in. Although Cruz has amazing recall, having him attached to a long line in new places also brings me a lot of comfort. Biothane is also great for traveling and adventure because it is so easy to clean. And a pro tip for the photographers: High Tail Hikes long lines are incredibly easy to edit out of photos. The lines are so beautiful that I usually like to keep them in my pictures, but we have used HTH lines during a professional family photoshoot where we didn’t want a leash busying up the photos.
Would you do a trip like this with Cruz again? Or what would you do differently?
I would absolutely do another trip like this with Cruz. Traveling with him was even easier than I expected. He did so well adjusting to each new place we moved and he really thrived being outdoors so often. Next time I would just try to take off more time and go visit new places!
What were the best parts of this adventure, and what were some of the challenges?
The best part of this adventure was getting to explore a new region almost every weekend. The challenge was taking a trip while also working full time. It often meant being stuck indoors working long days while knowing we were in a gorgeous region. Luckily Cruz didn’t know any better and was just happy to be with us.
What were your top three dog friendly places from your trip?
We found Bend, Boise and Truckee to be the most dog friendly of all the places we visited. It was easy to find off-leash trails, most restaurants allowed dogs and there were tons of dog-friendly hotels and Airbnb’s.
Thank you so much Eliza!
To see more amazing pictures of Cruz on his adventures, follow along on Instagram @cruzthecanine.