The Casual Hiker™

Trails, Tips, & Other Topics

Dog Booties: Fashionable and Practical Accessories December 1, 2017

Filed under: Tips — Chanté McCoy @ 1:25 am
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dsc04113Winter officially arrives this month, and snow already whitens the Wasatch. Sure, it’s nippier outside, but you can still take Fido out for walks and hikes. Of course, with the white stuff, you can also enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing[1] with your buddy.

With the collection of ice crystals (i.e., snow), you might want to consider another accessory for your dog: booties. Boots are no longer just for Puss. Nor are they just a fashion statement. They are protection against slicing-and-dicing ice, build-up of snow between the paw pads, sharp rocks or glass hidden underneath, and toxic salt and de-icing chemicals.

My dog, Elvis, sliced off half a toe pad on a rock and bled from icy snow a couple times before I discovered booties. Now, he can frolic to his heart’s content, and I don’t have to worry about those types of injuries and accompanying vet bills.

Many brands are available. Look for waterproof booties with flexible rubber soles and tread patterns for traction. Some come with gaiters (“sleeves” which cover the lower leg) for added insulation and protection against the cold. Read reviews so you can buy with confidence.

Be sure to size the booties for best fit. Sizing depends on the manufacturer. Some base it on the width of the paw. Others on the length, from the front edge of the small pads to the back edge of the large pad. So, if ordering online, be sure to check out their sizing guidelines. If possible, try on some booties for fit at a store

Another consideration might be finding a manufacturer that will sell the booties individually, so you can replace worn or lost booties later, as opposed to purchasing another set of four.

Fido will find the booties awkward at first. Have your video camera ready, because he’s going to high step like a pony. Nowadays, I put Elvis’s on in the car, right before hitting the trail, and he forgets about them almost immediately.

Booties can be used year round. They can protect against such dangers as glass and hot pavement in summer.

If you choose not to get booties, watch for blood spots in the snow as you go, and cut your hike short, if need be.

[1] See “Beginner’s Guide to Snowshoeing with Your Dog,” March 2013 issue, at



First printed in Pets in the City Magazine, January 2014




Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork) May 3, 2017

Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork)Grandeur Peak2

  1. The trailhead is past the paved Church Fork picnic area. Hike through the picnic area to enjoy the waterfalls.
  2. Pipeline intersects the trail. Go to the left a few steps, then right at the fork. The rest of the trail is obvious.
  3. The first mile is shady and cool with a mountain stream. Then it becomes more exposed and steeper with switch backs.
  4. At saddle, go to the left and along the ridgeline. At this point, you’ll have views of Parley’s Canyon and the north end of the Salt Lake valley. There will be a steep section with minor rock scrambling.
  5. Pass a grove of juniper.
  6. Once passed, go left for final rounding of Grandeur Peak. Again, some minor rock scrambling is involved in a few places.
  7. Ta da. At top, you’ll have a  360° view of Parley’s, Lamb, and East Canyons to the north, Salt Lake valley, and the length of Millcreek. Enjoy a picnic and relax before the return trip along the same path.

Dog Coats For Function and Style January 24, 2017

Filed under: Tips — Chanté McCoy @ 10:58 pm
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dsc00977If you’re like me, you can never have enough coats. I’m no clothes horse, but one needs a variety to cover most occasions.

Evidently, this seems true for dogs. Diva and Dash could have so many coats as to require their own closet.

Styling Coats

If looking to clothe your canine fashionista, coats of lightweight fabrics and sweaters run the gamut of cute. You can dress your pet to accessorize your look, to match a collar, or to reflect the season.

Styling coats and sweaters meet a variety of tastes and budgets. How about a tartan plaid vest, a faux leopard trim coat, or a “Born to Ride” leather jacket ( Or, consider the Alpaca Poncho ( hand knitted and “detailed by artisans in Peruvian mountain villages using ancestral techniques of spinning and dyeing.”

Since styling coats are designed to declare one’s fashion sense, they are meant primarily for indoors or moderate weather. These coats and sweaters pull on and stay on, often for days, until needing a wash or a new look.

Wet and Cold Weather Coats

When talking about walking, especially in inclement weather, coats become more a necessity than a fashion statement, especially for our short-haired canine companions.

For cool weather, fleece is all that is needed. Coats with Velcro wraps or pullovers with elasticized waists to keep in warmth are cozy.

For wet or windy weather, seek out waterproof lightweight nylon that is breathable. Fleece linings add extra warmth.

Quilted and “blanket” coats are also a possibility, creating air pockets to trap your dog’s body heat. I even found a blanket coat at BaxterBoo with removable leg pieces to convert it into a snowsuit.

For easy fitting, Velcro closures around the neck and waist are the quickest for an adjustable, comfy fit.

If well designed, a coat should accommodate a leash, either through an opening or via its own metal ring. Extra features might be a removable liner, reflective piping for extra visibility, handy zip pocket for keys and waste bags, or reversible sides for two looks.

Cooling Coats

Yep, there’s such a thing as coat for hot weather. Ruffwear ( offers one called the Swamp Cooler. You soak the coat in cold water, and – via evaporative cooling – the coat exchanges body heat with the water’s chill. For our scorching Utah summers, this certainly seems a good idea.

Pressure Coats

Some coats are designed to quell anxiety. The Rein Coat ( and Thundershirt and Thundercoat ( are snug fitting coats designed to apply constant, gentle pressure to calm dogs during storms, travel, and fireworks, or for separation anxiety.

The Rein Coat also incorporates a harness to replicate the nurturing pick-up of a puppy by its mother.  According to manufacturers, The Rein Coat “is designed to lightly  touch your pet at the nape of the neck—just like a mommy dog or cat—triggering the production of oxytocin to be released  by the brain, which then reduces the fear and anxiety in your pet.” (The coats are indeed available for cats too.)

Breed-Specific Coats

For dogs with unique body shapes, such as Dachshunds and Whippets, you can find manufacturers that specialize in breed-specific coats. For example, Foggy Mountain Dog Coats ( provides a variety of functional and styling coats for deep-barreled, thin-waisted dogs and their short-legged, long-bodied comrades.


Sizes vary by manufacturer, so get out the measuring tape. For back length (example: 23” – 25”), measure from the base of the neck to the base of the tail.  For girth, measure your dog’s chest behind the front legs at the widest part. If the measurements are at the upper end of the sizing range, it is safest to go up to the next size. Hopefully, the measurement guide includes a weight range too for extra guidance.

If possible, take your dog to pet stores and outdoor recreation outfitters and try on coats before investing. If ordering online, read the ratings and comments. Often, other buyers’ observations will help you decide if this coat will meet your requirements, or how to determine your dog’s size. With measurements in hand and some assurance of quality from previous buyers’ feedback, you can buy with confidence (but double-check their return policy!).

And don’t forget to set aside closet space to accommodate your dog’s wardrobe.




First Published in Pets in the City Magazine, February 2014


Snowshoeing with Your Dog March 13, 2015

Chante and Elvis, Millcreek Canyon, copyright Chante McCoyHave you ever thought about snowshoeing? The snow is still here despite what the groundhog said, so you might as well enjoy it. You can still hit the trails, a snow-layered golf course or city park, or a closed canyon road, such as the one a few miles up Millcreek Canyon.

The cold is no excuse to stay home. Dress appropriately, and you’re good to go. Believe me, once you get moving, you’ll be comfortable and warm.

Fluffy is ready with her fur coat, but you can give her extra protection with a coat and booties. Here are some tips to ensure you’re both ready to romp in the white stuff.


Layer, layer, layer: long johns, long sleeved shirt and pants, and a coat. Pockets of air will do the rest by trapping body heat.

For clothing, take some hints from ski/snowboarding clothes. Go with synthetic fibers for breathability and wicking moisture (i.e., sweat) from your body. Avoid cotton. Cotton holds moisture and stays wet. Don’t wear blue jeans; once they get wet, they stay wet.

Gloves or Mittens

Gloves allow more finger flexibility, nice when strapping on the snow shoes. Mittens are warmer because they trap body heat inside.


Take along a warm fitted hat that covers your ears. On a warmer day, a headband covering your ears will be adequate.


Snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon, copyright Chante McCoyUnless you’re trekking on a popular snow-packed trail (where traction devices are sufficient), you’ll want snowshoes. Lightweight aluminum, narrow frames allow you to walk almost normally. Adjustable straps let you use boots or less bulky shoes. Spring-loaded suspension and crampons on the bottom with their springy prongs provide for traction and lift off.

Snowshoes are designed differently for the sexes (i.e., more tapered for women to accommodate their stride) and for different weight loads. When first snowshoeing, rent a pair before investing. Snowshoes generally run $100 and up.

Traction Devices

Traction devices wrap around the bottom of your shoes, providing steel grips that press into snow or ice for added traction. Traction devices are useful for packed snow or intermittent patches of snow and slush. I use “Yak Trak” which are made of springy rubber with wound steel coils. There are other brands/variations.


Feet easily get cold. And wet. While you can get away with tennis shoes for a short excursion, I highly recommend insulated, waterproof boots that are at least ankle high.


If you don’t have ski pants, get leg gaiters. Gaiters connect to your boots and provide overlapping waterproof protection up to your knees.

Dog Booties

Dog booties, copyright Chante McCoyWhen traipsing in the snow with Fluffy, consider getting her a set of booties. Think Iditarod. Booties for sled dogs are required equipment on account of ice, hard packed snow, and sharp rocks. Your dog will be subjected to the same, cutting her pads and making them bleed.

Look for waterproof booties with flexible rubber soles with tread patterns for traction. Some come with gaiters (“sleeves” which cover the lower leg) for added insulation and protection against the cold. Read reviews so you can buy with confidence.

Be sure to size the booties for best fit. Sizing depends on the manufacturer. Some base it on the width of the paw. Others on the length, from the front edge of the small pads to the back edge of the large pad. So, if ordering online, be sure to check out their sizing guidelines. If possible, I recommend trying on booties at a store for a good fit.

Coat or Sweater

For a short-haired dog, consider covering her with an outer layer to protect against the cold and wet. Take her to a couple of pet stores and outdoor recreation outfitters and try on coats before investing. You’ll want something comfortable, snug, and easy to put on.

Published in Pets in the City Magazine, March 2013 (


Minimal Supplies for Hiking August 5, 2013

Filed under: Tips — Chanté McCoy @ 3:06 pm
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At a minimum, take the following items with you when hitting the trails. Most of my items stay in my water-toting hip holster or my glove compartment all the time, so I just add water and go.

Minimal supplies check listWater

Always take at least one bottle of water.

On hot days (80°or higher), plan on at least one bottle for roundtrip hikes under 3-4 miles. For longer hikes, take at least two bottles. Along the way—even if you don’t feel thirsty—take one or two mouthfuls every 15 minutes or so to stay hydrated.  If you get to the point you’re gulping water, you’re dehydrated.

At higher altitudes, you may not have a sense of sweat because it evaporates quickly. It’ll catch up with you, though. You want to avoid getting to the point where you’re chugging water.

I carry a couple of 20 oz. bottles in a hip holster. This method frees up my hands. The holster also has a couple of pockets for carrying other supplies.

Camelbaks, or other backpacks with built-in water bladders and drinking tubes, also provide a nifty way to carry water hands free. They usually have a pocket or two also.

Steer away from caffeinated drinks. Caffeine has diuretic properties that won’t bode well for the trail. The salt in carbonated drinks will also contribute to dehydration, and the sugar increases the sensation of hunger. Water is the best choice all around.

Sunglasses & Hat

For glare and sun protection, don’t forget your pair of sunglasses and a hat. The hat will also provide the additional benefit of collecting sweat (and keeping it out of your eyes) and, for those with thinning hair, preventing a major sunburn.

Sunglasses and hats are easy to forget if you’re up early and the sun hasn’t crested the mountains yet. So, you might want to use the checklist above as a reminder.


Keep a bottle in the car and lather up just before the hike.


You’ll want tissue for the inevitable potty breaks, runny noses (possibly from exertion), and wiping off your hands. I keep a collection in a Ziplock baggie. Take another baggie for toting out.

ID, Credit Card & Cash

What? Not planning to shop on Grandeur Peak? I carry mine for a few reasons. One, I don’t leave any valuables in the car, but I need my driver’s license to get around. Two, a credit card or cash pays for canyon and park fees. Three, if I require medical attention, these come in handy. Speaking of, you might want to take your health insurance card with you too.

Car Key

I detach my car key from the key ring (which stays at home). To make sure I have this “key” piece, I lock the car only when I’m ready to hit the trail.

Cell Phone

For emergencies, a cell phone is invaluable, even if you are often be out of range for a signal. Cell phones also double as cameras.

Band Aids

I carry a half-dozen band aids for the occasional blister or stumble.

Alcohol Swabs

For that unanticipated stumble and resulting boo-boo, I take a few individually wrapped alcohol swabs to clean out the dirt.

Wet Wipes

Wet wipes serve many purposes. I have a couple individually wrapped wipes that I collect at barbecue restaurants.


Protect your lips with SPF. Plus the moisturizer will keep you more comfortable and reduce the sensation of needing more frequent swigs of water.


A bandana isn’t just a fashion accessory on the trail.  Bandanas work better than tissue for wiping off sweat and can substitute for a handkerchief. And if something bad goes down, you can use it for a makeshift bandage.


Buy a cheap, lightweight plastic emergency poncho that folds up into a tight wad. When it rains, you’ll be grateful for its protection.


Bell Canyon (Lower Falls) February 11, 2013

(top to bottom): Bell Canyon lower reservoir, milkvetch, canyon stream, nearby rocky cliffs, Bell Canyon Lower Falls

(top to bottom): Bell Canyon lower reservoir, milkvetch, canyon stream, nearby rocky cliffs, Bell Canyon Lower Falls

Bell Canyon (Lower Falls)

Bell Canyon (Lower Falls)

The trailhead parking area is conveniently located off Wasatch Blvd. Bell Canyon ultimately leads up to Lone Peak.

  1. Follow the signs and navigate the neighborhood to reach the canyon mouth. The trail quickly steepens. For about 1/4 mile, you’ll clamber over some small boulders too.
  2. The trail evens out to a more modest incline. This section features the rugged beauty of Utah desert scrub: sage, Gambel oak, and rabbit brush.
  3. At a half mile at the lower reservoir, go north to wrap around this little body of water. Follow a wide maintenance dirt road.
  4. About a half mile, watch for the trail sign to turn off the road and head east. After 5 – 10 minutes, the trail becomes forested.
  5. Go over a little wood bridge another 1/4 mile in. After this, the trail forks to the left and stays to the southside of the stream. Meandering trails intersect the main trail. Look for fresh footprints and other tell-tale signs to stay on trail.
  6. About 5 minutes after bridge, go with the steeper, rockier trail (although the other ones look tempting). Stay on this rocky staircase for about .5 mile.
  7. The next trick is to find the waterfall. After you’ve crossed over a wet section (or a spring during the snow run-off), go another 5 minutes. At a split in the trail, go left, leaving the rockier incline.
  8. Follow the sound of rushing water. Careful getting there: the trail is eroded. Grab branches for stability.
  9. Near the waterfalls are great slabs of granite. Enjoy a picnic while taking in the panoramic views of the canyon and Salt Lake valley.
  10. Return the way you came.

Bell Canyon alternatives


Birds February 10, 2013

Filed under: Tips,Wildlife Watching — Chanté McCoy @ 11:58 pm
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Yellow-headed blackbird, California quail, Stellar's jay, and wild turkeys

Yellow-headed blackbird, California quail, Stellar’s jay, and wild turkeys

Lazuli bunting, Black-headed grosbeak, American avocet, and Spotted towhee

Lazuli bunting, Black-headed grosbeak, American avocet, and Spotted towhee

Utah is home to a wonderful variety of birds, from majestic raptors like Bald Eagles to shore birds like pelicans and egrets to magpies, quails, hummingbirds, and ibis…and everything in between.

In the mountains, you will encounter grouse, chickadees, blue jays, and finches. For shore birds, Antelope Island is your destination.

The best way to spy a bird is to hone in on its birdsong (particularly in spring) and pay attention to rustling in the surrounding area.  For photos, a good zoom capability will be invaluable.