Tails on Trails
Exploring the outdoors with the help of two local dog-hike experts.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I’ve seen this kind of wooly enthusiasm before– the tongue dangling grin, the happy prancing. And I’ve been seeing it more regularly of late– and not because I’m sneaking the creature more bacon beneath the table or bringing more belly rubs to the balance sheet. It’s because I’ve started reading.
Yes, literacy is worth celebrating, even among the slobbery set. But the dogs I run with are not so much enthused with the fact that I’m making sense of words on the page as they are stoked with the type of reading I’m doing… and the adventures that result.
The reading: . The results: Some premium hiking in local spots I have long overlooked. And some decent lessons for life on the trail with a dog– in fact, this Tuesday, July 8, authors Linda and Dave Mullally will offer interested locals such insights, in addition to sharing great day hikes, backpacking trajectories and color images from the trail.
Linda– who acts as the primary author and already has to her credit (Dave plays photog)– says she originally wrote the book as a whiskered window onto the Central Coast, but her publisher asked her to widen the scope. As a result, the book also ventures into the Sierras, keying in on the Yosemite-Mammoth Lakes area in particular.
Before it does, however, she delivers 14 quick-hitting lessons in “Part 1: Before You Step on the Trail” and introduces 13 spaniel-friendly spots from Salinas to Big Sur.
The lessons do everything from dispel dog myths (like “Big dogs rule”: “some small breeds, Jack Russell terriers, for example, have more stamina on the trail than some of their larger cousins”) to offer a recovery recipe for a run-in with “Fifi le Pew” (which includes hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, dishwashing liquid and lemon juice).
Linda also includes an illuminating note on how the trails were selected. “The 55 hikes that made the cut,” she writes, “had the ‘best’ of some or all of the following characteristics”:
• Off leash
• Water source for dogs to swim, frolic or cool off
• Easy access from main highways onto mostly paved secondary roads
• Exceptional scenic, natural, geological, historic, educational or seasonal attributes
• In the case of the state parks, state beaches, and national monuments, just the facts that dogs are allowed on a trail was a rare enough event to justify including it.
But the Sierra notes and the lessons aren’t what have my bitches straight trippin’– over roots, rocks and river. No, that’d be their adventures along the El Toro Creek-Skyline Road Loop, Huckleberry Hill and Pfeiffer Beach, among others.
Our missions were aided and abetted by detailed-but-easy directions, hiking-time estimates, elevation info and something Linda calls “pleasers and teasers.” At El Toro Creek, for instance, a rising romp into the gorgeous BLM land above Highway 68, there’s this: “Off leash, views; ticks in spring and summer, grazing sheep in spring, foxtails in summer and fall”; at Pfeiffer, “It’s one of the few dog-friendly beaches south of Carmel.”
Other hikes await, of course. The pooch patrol and I are exceptionally itchy to try out the a hike to Los Padres Dam in Carmel Valley and the Skyline Nature Trail to Jacks Peak in Monterey, which speaks to the best thing about the guide– it inspires. With apologies to Tony Robbins, many of us emerge more happily impacted by a book that gets us running around with the Rustys and the Rufuses of the world than one that provides better self-validation vocabulary. Plus, ample animal elation is as awesome a side effect as there is. And that’s what Linda says she was after, citing a canine case study.
“I’ve been training a dog on the trail,” she says. “His psyche has benefitted from hiking every day: He’s happier, he’s calm, thinner. It does the same thing for humans. People would go less postal.”