a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Hiking with the Merle Girls

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hiking with the Merle Girls

SUMMARY: Up up up and down down down at Santa Teresa County Park.

Yep, made it up the hill once again. Elevation 1150', starting elevation about 400'. 5.8 miles round trip. This time, I picked a longer, more scenic route, about 3.2 up and 2.6 back, rather than a cardio straight-up-the-mountain workout.

Here we are atop Coyote Peak at our usual portrait spot (compare and contrast using the link above):

Agility/geocaching/hiking friend Barbara and her two dogs, Jersey and Sheila, a borrowed dog (Bandit), and the Merle Girls and I started the hike at 9:30 on a moderately warm day--certainly for early August, not nearly as hot as it can get; San Jose's official temperature barely reached 80 (27C), although that's north by the bay; probably was hotter in the park on those exposed hillsides.

Another amazing thing for August was how very clear the views were. On typical hot days, you get enough urban haze to make things fuzzy. Mount Umunhum, with its cold-war era radar base, was clearer than I ever remember seeing it from here. They're still in talks about how best to open up the top of Umunhum to the public--of course the old buildings have asbestos and lead paint and orcs and icky stuff like that--but I do so hope that they'll leave the radar tower there, as it's such a familiar landmark.

Still, on the way back after noon, even though it was downhill all the way, the sun beat down on the dry hills and dark dirt trails, and the breeze was cut off about knee level by the dry vegetation, and Tika flagged a bit at times. About a mile from the end, there's access to Santa Teresa Creek, which runs through the park. I've seen people in there with their horses, so I didn't worry about letting the dogs in to cool off.

Tika was very happy to be in the water and seemed disinclined to get out. But she's the one who'll also pop into the pond(s) in my yard when we're playing. Surprised me a bit that Boost, who does her best to never put her delicate little border collie feet into water, also walked right in without a second thought. Guess it was warm.

I started to worry about Tika in the last half mile; she developed an odd gait and would speed up and slow down. I finally spent a minute going through all her toes looking for burrs or anything else that didn't belong. Didn't find anything, but then she was back to normal, so there must've been something there. Still, she couldn't wait to get into the car (only shade at that time of day) and lie right down.

With her at 10 and a half, I'm trying to keep track of what she can really do these days. Especially with her thick coat. Her only exposed skin anywhere is inside her ears, so I kept moistening my finger and spreading a thin layer of dampness on that skin to help cool her ever so slightly.

More stuff:


  1. Haven't looked at all 21 shots yet but I too was amazed at how clear the view was. ALways hard to remember that our dogs get older. Katie is only 4 and sometimes on warm days she just lies down in any shade in the middle of our walks. Reminds me that she's wearing a pretty heavy coat.

  2. I'm so used to Tika being nonstop, that I have to make myself remember that she's an aging dog AND has a thick fur coat. I'm thinking about adding a small spray bottle to my hiking-with-dogs supplies to be able to wet down her belly (still hairy) and paws a bit.

  3. I love that photo of Tika enjoying a refreshing pause in the creek. Looks like her eyes are closed and she's just taking it all in.

    Sorry I couldn't make it out this time!