Fitdog Friday – Hiking at Sunol Regional Wilderness

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Dogs at Sunol Regional Wilderness

Beginning last fall, we started exploring new hiking venues. We’ve somehow got into a rut previously, always returning to the same 3-4 places every weekend. Familiar hiking trails are nice – you recognize landmarks and have an idea of how long it’s gonna take to finish the hike, you know the types of dogs and owners that frequent these trails, you know what to expect. But after awhile, it gets a little bit boring. We’ve been to some of these trails so often that QQ isn’t excited during the trail, he doesn’t run back and forth, instead he keeps a steady pace sniffing along behind us. It’s familiar and comfortable, like a worn sweater.

But every now and then, I like to break it up. Previously we didn’t dare go to new places because we didn’t know how QQ will react.  Now we got his reactivity somewhat under control, I decided that it’s high time we break the monotone. Sunol Regional Wilderness has been on my list for awhile, it’s a little bit of a drive for us, which was another reason we kept putting it off, but one weekend last fall, we decided to go for it.

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Sunol Regional Wilderness’s Canyon View Trail

Sunol Regional Wilderness is a huge park with multiple loop trails of varying difficulties. It can be very hot in summer, which was a reason why we chose to go in fall. Being that this was our first time, we also opted to go for the easier Canyon View trail which loops in to Camp Ohlone Road to make for a total of approximately 3 miles round loop. Part of the trail towards the end goes near a creek. However, the ranger at the visitor center warned us that there’s algae in the creek that’s poisonous for the dogs so we made sure to stay a distance to avoid the dogs drinking any water out of the creek.

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QQ at the beginning of the trail

One reason we really wanted to try this hike is because it’s one of the rare off leash trails. Dogs are allowed off leash on undeveloped areas, which is most of the Canyon View trail. We did need to leash the dogs up when we got to Camp Ohlone Road but that was near the end of the trail.

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QQ clearly having fun

It was a crisp fall day and Sunol had plenty of fall foliage for us to enjoy along the trail. There was a mix in landscape with hilly views and meadows interposing with wooded trails. We went after lunch and although there was long lengths of trail where there wasn’t any shade, it wasn’t hot. We brought water and stayed hydrated.

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Fall foliage along the trail

 

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views of the hills in the distance. QQ looking back at us, likely wondering why we were so slow.

There was some elevation at the beginning but the trail soon flattened out before it led down to a small attraction called Little Yosemite. Unfortunately when we were there, there hasn’t been any rain recently so it was mostly dried. We plan to return in spring when the park is known to have plenty of wildflowers and hopefully the falls will have plenty of water too.

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Beautiful Fall Foliage near the Little Yosemite area

Towards the end of the hike, we also witnessed the moonrise. It was so beautiful.

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Moonrise at Sunol

 

Sunol also has many other longer and tougher trails for when we build up my stamina. It’s even possible to hike all the way to to Mission Peak (another yet to try park on my list). Also do note that the park charges a $5 fee per vehicle and a $2 fee per dog. Not expensive and we like to think of it being a way to support these parks.

Overall, we really enjoyed the hike. Because of the drive, this likely won’t become a regular hiking destination. But I do want to return for a spring hike maybe in April. And the park would be a great alternate destination whenever we feel we are getting into a rut again.

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QQ clearly likes this park!

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Fit Dog Friday – Stand-Up Paddleboard with your dog!

The husband and I lived in San Diego for a year in 2011. During that time, I regularly did Stand-Up Paddleboard and even took yoga classes on a SUP. There was a bay that I went to with calm waters and the weather was always awesome. It was so much fun and I loved it.

After we moved to the Bay area, for some reason, I never really got into it again. We did do it once in Half Moon Bay, but the waters were choppier and it’s a bit of a drive.

Then we got QQ and we started hiking regularly on weekends, and I never thought much about SUP. Then one day I saw a photo of a girl on a SUP with her dog. And I thought – I want that! I want to do that with QQ. That looks soooo amazing and so much fun! I remember how much I loved SUP and I want to share that with QQ. And the idea of being on the water with QQ, being able to share that experience with him, makes me feel so excited.

So I began searching for places that will allow me to do SUP with a dog. And sadly, I didn’t manage to find any for a long time. For some reason, there aren’t that many SUP rentals in the Bay area near where we live. Most are quite a distance away. There’s Half Moon Bay, but from our previous experience, the waters can be choppy. I wasn’t sure how QQ will do on his first time on a SUP. And from prior experience, he gets a little afraid even crossing a bridge, the silly little thing. So it’s important that we do this on the calmest water possible. There are some lakes that do rentals, but those lakes are located in parks that do not allow dogs. There are many water channels near us that allow people to kayak or do SUP and there aren’t any dog restrictions whatsoever, but there aren’t any rentals and most people own their own equipment. I was thinking I might have to buy my own SUP if I really wanted to do this!

Then I discovered Vasona State Park in Los Gatos. Admittedly, this park is still a bit of a distance from where we live, but it is dog friendly, and it has a lake. AND, they have SUP rentals. All that remains is to check if they allow us to bring our dog with us on to the paddleboard!

We visited the park on a weekend and it was filled with families having fun. This is a huge park, complete with a mini train running through a part of the park, a carousel, playground and of course, the lake.

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QQ and Chyler posing by the pretty lake. We enjoyed a walk around the lake after our SUP session

The first question I asked the lady at the rental store was, “Can I bring my dog on the SUP?”

And she answered, “Yes, if you are sure your dog won’t jump off.”

I was so excited I nearly squealed. I ran to tell the husband. Then I got really nervous. There were a lot of people by the lake. It was a Sunday and a beautiful day and it felt like everybody was out enjoying the sun. I’ve never done this with either of our dogs before and I really really didn’t want to fall into the lake and have everyone stare at me. I didn’t know how QQ or Chyler will behave when we make them get onto the paddleboard. But it was such a rare chance and I’ve been wanting to do this for so long, I decided to just heck it. I told myself that I didn’t know anyone here so it doesn’t matter if they do see me make a fool out of myself. And it’s such a warm day it won’t matter if we fall in anyway.

I decided to do this with QQ, because QQ’s “sit” and “stay” is very reliable. Also, I’ve been wanting to do this with him since even before we adopted Chyler. The husband smartly opted to stay on the shore with Chyler and our foster dog Tailz and take (blurry) photos. He never enjoyed SUP and I think he secretly thought I was nuts.

We surprisingly managed to coax QQ onto the paddleboard easily. I think he jumped up wanting to explore, not knowing he won’t be able to get off for awhile.

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QQ, happy when we were setting off

And I pushed us off with the paddle, and we were off! QQ was soooo good! He never tried to jump off and he remained calm most of the time. He sat in front of me in the beginning, then he got up and started to explore the board a little. But he came back and sat down when I told him to.

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Us in the middle of the lake

The paddleboard rental costs $15 per hour. We paddled for about 45 minutes. Because I was so nervous, being that I hadn’t done SUP for about a year and I didn’t know if QQ would go crazy and capsize us, I stayed kneeling the entire time and didn’t stand up. But given that QQ behaved so well, I think the next time we do this, I will definitely try standing up. Staying down was hard on the knees so we didn’t paddle the full length of the hour, but we did make it pretty far!

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QQ looking back, likely wondering why we are so far from the shore.

There were moments where I got a little nervous. QQ has a high prey drive and always wants to chase geese and ducks and whatnot. There were a lot of geese and ducks on the lake and when we came close, I was always afraid that he’s going to jump off to chase them. Luckily, he only growled and when I told him to stay and sit, he listened.

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QQ growling at all these ducks that are clearly not afraid of him at all.

Another time I paddled close to the shore where the husband was standing taking photographs of us. QQ saw the husband and he clearly wanted to jump onto shore to be with him. Mayhaps he had enough of this floating on the lake nonsense. We got really scared that he’ll do it and I quickly paddled away further.

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posing for the husband. moments after QQ contemplated if the shore was near enough for him to make a jump for it.

Other than these couple of near misses, the 45 mins we spent on the lake was uneventful. Passing boats commented on how cute QQ was. QQ never really fully relaxed though. He was either sitting and looking around at the scenery or he wandered to the back of the paddleboard and took tiny sips of the lake water. But he never made any huge movements that will cause us to capsize, nor did he try to jump off. All in all, I consider this first attempt a huge success!

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QQ walking to the back of the board to explore. There really isn’t much to explore. It’s not that big of a board.

 

This is something I will definitely try again. We are still perfecting Chyler’s “sit” and “stay”, but I think the next time I will try bringing her. I will also try standing up. The rental shop also rents rowboats and the husband said we can also do that next time so we can bring both dogs on board. I’m looking forward to it!

Has anyone have a similar experience? Do let me know!

 

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