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Our Little Slice of Heaven

Memories with my dog, Booker, are so precious to me. Here's a story about our camping trip to the Pocono Mountains in 2021.

By Jenna TomovichPublished 9 months ago 10 min read
Booker at the Campsite

Growing up, camping in the Pocono Mountains was something I looked forward to all year. At the end of every summer, my father would take my younger brother and I to the Poconos where we would camp at Dingmans Campground. Some of my best childhood memories were sleeping in a tent, fishing in the wild mountain streams, swimming in the Delaware river, and cooking meals over the fire. We still try to go every year, even as adults, and last year was the first year I got to take my boyfriend and our Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, Booker, camping with us.

My boyfriend and I packed up his black, Jeep Wrangler with all the camping essentials we could cram in: A cooler full of snacks and drinks, our cheap tent from amazon, bug spray, and a million toys for Booker. Our pup was a 75-pound, 10-month-old puppy at the time, and much like a child, needed lots of entertainment. We buckled him in the backseat with his harness and doggy seatbelt and hit the road. With my camping spotify playlist blasting on the radio, my boyfriend by my side, and my furry best friend in the backseat, it felt like the perfect way to end the summer.

A mere 4 hours later, we arrived in the Pocono Mountains. The tall, green trees engulfed us like a wave as we drove further and further into the mountains. We rolled Booker’s window down once we were off the highway so that he could take in the fresh air and smells of the forest. He stuck his head out and let the wind blow his floppy ears back. We passed open fields teeming with wildflowers, trees taller than apartment buildings, and glittering streams. I looked back at Booker, and could see the wonder in his eyes, as if we had entered another world.

Eventually, we pulled into the campground and all hopped out of the car, ready to stretch our legs after the long ride. Our city dog instantly lit up when he realized he had so much room to roam. My father and brother were already at the campsite, with my childhood dog, Choco, a 12-year old Springer Spaniel waiting for us. The two dogs sniffed each other, tails wagging a mile a minute, and then dashed down to the river that calmly flowed behind our campsite. With a loud splash, the pups leaped in! I can only describe their faces as pure joy as they splashed and swam through the water. Without unpacking anything, I ran down the path and jumped in myself, not wanting to miss out on an afternoon swim with my four-legged friends. The cool water was so clear, you could see the pebbles at the bottom, along with some small fish. Booker kept dunking his head under to try and catch one, but was unsuccessful.

Once we were soaking wet and ready to dry off, we headed back up to the campsite to unpack and build the tent. While the humans worked on setting up the campsite, the two dogs laid in the dirt, panting and enjoying the afternoon breeze. I remember thinking how incredible it was that they were happiest just being outside, laying in the dirt. If only life were that simple for people. As the sun went down and the temperature became crisp, we all huddled around a campfire and cooked a delicious meal of burgers, corn on the cob, and baked beans. Booker wandered around the campfire, nudging his large head under each of our hands to try and get attention. With a beer in one hand, I patted Booker’s soft, black fur with the other. We were finally here, the happy place of my childhood, and now, my boyfriend and our beautiful dog were here too. I sat there in my lawn chair, letting the heat from the fire warm my bare feet, thinking about how grateful I was to be there in that moment.

I looked up at the night sky, through the canopy of trees, and stared at the glistening stars. You don’t get views like that in the city, and I tried to take it all in. My family decided to take the dogs out into the field in front of our campsite to get a better view. I strapped on Booker’s leash, threw on my shoes, and crossed the gravel road out into the wide expanse of green grass. Booker was so excited to be out in the field with all of the sounds and smells of nature surrounding him. I tilted my head back and looked up, taking in the array of stars above me. It was like I was falling into an endless galaxy. We all stood in silence and awe while the dogs stayed grounded, noses pressed to the ground. It was the perfect way to end our first night of the trip, and we slept so soundly that night in our cozy little tent.

The next morning, Booker woke us up bright and early, not wanting to miss a second of adventure. We groggily emerged from our tent and gathered around the campfire to warm up in the cool morning air. The dogs, however, had already bounded down the path to the river, and were partaking in a morning swim. The humans made coffee in a kettle over the fire, and cooked a delicious breakfast of eggs, english muffins, and my dad’s favorite, spam. The smell of breakfast had the dogs running back up the path, hoping to get some scraps.

After a hearty breakfast, it was time to start the day’s activities. We threw on our bathing suits, our hiking gear, and packed up our backpacks with drinks and snacks. The trail we were headed to, if you can call it a trail, is a secret spot that used to be a logging road back in the 60s. Now, all that remains is the faint, worn path cutting through the dense woods. You wouldn’t be able to find it if you didn’t know where it was, and my father has been hiking this trail since he was a kid. We drove to the secret spot and began cutting our way through the shrubs to find the old logging road. Us humans were having a hard time with the thorns and branches, but the dogs were already yards ahead of us, running through the underbrush with ease. Once we got through the initial barriers, the rest of the hike was a leisurely walk through the forest. All around us were evergreens, pines, and large rock formations that must be hundreds and hundreds of years old. I’d never seen Booker so excited to run and be free in the great outdoors. He and Choco were always far ahead of us, leading our small pack through the woods. They could hear the babbling of the river that cut through the forest ahead. After about twenty minutes of hiking, we found ourselves at an even more remote part of the trail, our secret “watering hole”, as my dad calls it. This little spot in the river is deep enough to swim and surrounded by rocky, moss-covered ledges that create a cascade of little waterfalls, perfect for diving under.

The dogs were the first to jump in, swimming around in circles in pure happiness. The rest of us dropped our things on a rock and carefully made our way down into the watering hole. The mountain water was so cold it felt like little needles pricking your toes. We didn’t mind though, as we were all sweating from the hike. I slowly submerged myself in the freezing water, letting the soft current flow against my body. It was almost relaxing, until I felt the wet body of my dog bump into me, as if to make sure I wasn’t drowning. I laughed and grabbed hold of his large, furry neck, letting him pull me through the water. Whenever we go swimming, he likes “rescue me”. I don’t mind, it’s like riding a fluffy dolphin.

After we began to feel our fingers and toes going numb from the water, we decided to continue our hike to the main attraction, the giant waterfalls at the end of the trail. Soaking wet, we made our way down the trail to the falls, the dogs leading the way like always. You can hear the roar of the water from a mile away, and feel the spray of the mist from across the river. When we arrived at the falls, the dogs sprinted ahead, excited for another opportunity to swim. We walked behind them slowly, trying not to slip on the wet rocks. You can get as close as you want to the falls because there are no roped off areas. It was just the four of us and the two dogs with this beautiful natural wonder all to ourselves.

We tossed sticks into the swimming hole out in front of the waterfall for the dogs to fetch. They dove in and caught stick after stick, happily bringing them back to shore for us to throw again. A lesson I’ve learned from dogs is to take pleasure in the simple things. To them, fetching a stick was the most fun thing in the world. It reminded me to enjoy the moment, and leave the rest of the world behind as it would be there when we got back. In that moment, I just took in the beauty of the waterfalls, the company of my family, and the joy from the dogs.

That night once we got back from the hike, we were all exhausted. We plopped down around the fire and indulged in a few drinks, relaxing and chatting about the day. Booker and Choco took their spots next to us in the dirt, happy to be basking in the warmth of the fire. We cooked chicken wings and roasted corn for dinner, and the dogs even got a few scraps of chicken. There’s something about cooking over a campfire that just makes the food taste better. Full and happy, we spent the rest of the night telling scary stories and roasting marshmallows, the pups sleeping next to us after a long day of hiking and swimming. Another glorious day of camping in the books.

The next day was bitter sweet, as it was time to pack up and head home. We were excited to sleep in our beds, but we were bummed we’d have to leave this little slice of heaven. You could see in the dogs’ faces that they knew we were leaving, and I reassured Booker that we would be back next year. Once we were all packed up and ready to hit the road, we said goodbye to my father, brother, and Choco. We all agreed that this had been the best trip yet, and that we would do it again next year. Booker sadly hopped into the Jeep and we strapped him in safely with his seatbelt. As we drove away, he stuck his head out the window and watched the mountains fade into the distance. The worst part about good trips is that they end, but that’s the beauty of life, nothing lasts forever and it makes everything more special.

That was the last year Choco went camping. In June of 2022 he passed away from cancer, surrounded by his family. I’m so thankful that we had that last camping trip together, and that we got to go as a family with both Choco and my puppy Booker. It was like two different chapters in my life had come together, represented by my childhood dog and my new puppy. We were in a place that I had been coming to since I was a child, and now, I was able to bring my boyfriend and my own dog to experience the magic of the Poconos. In my head, I picture Choco’s heaven as that trail back in the mountains. Maybe he’s swimming and running through the woods somewhere, waiting for us to join him one day. I will always have that camping trip as a wonderful memory for the rest of my life, and I hope that next year we can go back, and Booker can run and swim in the mountains again.

Choco at the Campsite


About the Creator

Jenna Tomovich

Hey guys! My name is Jenna and I'm a twenty-something post-grad living in the DC area! I mostly write for fun and it's always been a hobby of mine. I hope you enjoy my stores and that they bring some excitement to your day!

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