a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Boxing Day Hike

Monday, December 28, 2009

Boxing Day Hike

SUMMARY: A-hiking we will go, a-hiking we will go--
The morning after Christmas dawned cold and cloudy, frost on the grass, with rain predicted for the 2:00 hour. I decided to take the Merle Girls for a hike up Coyote Peak, which we haven't done since August, I think. However, as I'm recovering from a cold, we didn't start at the base and go up 1000 feet. Instead, we started on the hunchback between the two Santa Teresa County Park peaks at just under 600 feet. Coyote Peak is at 1150. We took some alternative trails so did some extra upping and downing, so still probably got in 700 or 800 foot cumulative gain over about 3 and a half miles.

On the way up, you can tell it's winter because the hillsides spring to green life after the rains begin.

Boost (and Tika, too) wanted to graze constantly. Really, I do feed them.

The skies looked like they might be thinking about possibly considering getting ready to rain, but nothing imminent.

Boost is such a mama's girl; didn't want to stay within the friend's control even long enough for me to snap a photo.

To the east, Mount Hamilton (at over 4,000 feet) and its observatory moved in and out of clouds and fog.

We made it! I'm not as tired as I thought I might be after three or four weeks with hardly any walking or hiking or agility (between Tika's sore toe and the holidays and all--), and of course the dogs are hardly even breathing heavily.

Compare to the same scene from August (read the post):

I could zoom in on downtown San Jose to our north, but it remained somewhat obscured by overcast and moisture-laden air. Fog hovers over the southern end of San Francisco Bay much to its north.

Someone who'd been here before us had played numerous games of tic-tac-toe in the soil atop the mountain.

I posed the Merle Girls for some nice, green-grass, mountain-backed photos.

Sharing the top of Coyote Peak:

And as we were getting ready to descend, the sun began breaking out from behind the clouds, and Mount Hamilton and Lick Observatory lit up brilliantly against the dark skies behind.

Arachnophobes, watch out for the next photo--as we descended towards the parking lot, my friend asked what was that on Tika's face? A tick, crawling along, looking for some good canine real estate. When we got back to the van, I spent about ten minutes plucking ticks off the dogs (mostly Tika, mostly her legs and face) and tossing them aside downwind--sorry, whoever comes into the parking lot next! Could've gone looking for rocks to crush them, but it was taking long enough to detick as it was.

When we got home, I filled a tiny Dixie cup with alcohol and began combing the dogs for ticks. Most came from Tika (her nice dense soft fur is apparently very attractive to ticks; Boost's sparser, harsher coat apparently doesn't attract or hold them as much). I never stopped finding them--pulled off about 40 over the next hour to hour and a half of constant looking. My back and arms finally just couldn't take it any more. I checked their heads and necks periodically for the rest of the evening, found one or two more each time, until finally the last time I looked I didn't see any *in that area* (which is the most attractive to them), so I called it quits and have kept my fingers crossed. The good thing is that they keep wandering around for hours and hours looking for location location location, so they're very easy to remove the first day, haven't even started trying to bite yet.

We did not have that tick problem back in August. But I was also more careful then about keeping the dogs out of the grass, and this time I not only didn't try, I actually encouraged them to lie there! Doh!


  1. I almost didn't read past your warning to arachnophobes but couldn't help myself. Ugh, what a way to end your hike. I never knew an animal could be infested to such a degree after a relatively short exposure. Crazy!

  2. That is insane! That there could be that many tics on the dogs so quickly! If you hadn't seen the one on Tika's face would you have looked to detic them when you got home? Is this something you have to do every single time you take them on a hike?

    Great photos by the way...

  3. Usually when we've been hiking out in nature I do a quick check when we get back to the car, because that's when they're most likely to still be near the surface. I seldom find any, but I'm also usually pretty determined to keep them out of grassy areas if I can. Ticks mostly hang out on tall grass, ready to leap onto passing deer (or whatever). Some times of year are worse than others. I think it wouldn't have been nearly so bad if I had worked actively (as I usually do) at keeping them out of hte grass. But my brain just never even clicked into "tick mode" for some reason this time. Hence the "Doh!"

    Same day, lots of my agility friends also went hiking in various places and reported back. Someone else hiking at a nearby park came back covered with ticks; people hiking in a different part of the bay area had none or almost none. I didn't get any info on how much any of them worked at keeping their dogs out of grassy fields. (We're talking wild, tall grass & other low plants, not lawns.)

  4. I went on a wildflower survey hike a couple years back with other people, no dogs, in a fairly remote area, lots of overgrown trails and such. Various terrain. We kept an eye on each other. There were a couple of spots where, every time you looked, the other person had more ticks crawling on him. But during our four-hour hike, that was it, just a couple of locations. The rest of the hike, nothing. We even sat in a lightly grassed area for 20 minutes for lunch, and nothing. So it can really vary.

  5. So so gross. I found a single tick on Strummer once, the only tick I've ever found on any of my dogs ever, and you should have seen the drama.

  6. Steph: Not a box in sight. Not even a boxer.

    Elayne: Hey, you guys have plenty of ticks out there. I think that you must just get lucky. Plus as I said, Boost didn't seem to attract many at all with her coat, while Tika was laden. And this IS very rare. Like--I don't think I've ever had this many ticks on my dogs before. Maybe two or three at the most.

  7. We've become immune to the grossness of ticks on our dogs. Ren needs to run and run and run - which involves tall grass and he is a tick magnet on top of that (he ends up with more ticks than the other dogs who participate in the same hike). We just keep checking his head throughout the hike and then do checks every 30-60 minutes of the head and belly after we get home until we find no more...

  8. Oh I know we have ticks out here. I must have ticked the 'tick repellent' box on the request form at the shelter because it's not been a problem. Or maybe I'm lucky at avoiding tick laden places at high tick season. Now it'll be just my luck they'll all 3 be covered in them come the first spring hike.