Trail Challenge Series : Englemann Oak Loop

I have had this hiking book called Afoot and Afield; San Diego County for a few years now. This has book has been dubbed “the bible of San Diego hiking” and rightfully so. It is jam-packed with trails all over the county, including maps, level of difficulty and whether the trail is suitable for kids and dogs. I seem to gravitate to the same local trails that I know, and seemingly the ones that I manage to make time for so as a personal lifetime goal/challenge I vowed to complete every single trail in this book. Call me crazy!

I hope that this is the beginning of many new adventures, and officially the first (not the first in the book, but the first that I have written about) of the Trail Challenge Series!

Englemann Oak Loop – Escondido, Ca

The forecast called for rain. Last night when I scheduled todays hike with my friend Lu, I had no idea that we were due for rain in the middle of May. With the drought that we are in here in California we gladly welcome rain any time of the year. So after picking up my Amiga and her dog buddy Cha-chi, we headed out to Englemann Oak trail in good ol’ Daley Ranch.

Daley Ranch is a staple in my trail running and hiking adventures. A quick drive up the hill and your surroundings change completely. The trail network is extensive, and with trailheads in the north of Escondido as well as to the east, there are many options as to where to adventure.

My pup Rocky was so excited to go hiking! We had been going for the past couple weeks, actually making an effort to schedule the hike into the daily activities, and just like when we go running, he knows where we are going based upon my hat and choice of shoes. Cha-chi on the other hand had never been hiking, and had only met Rocky once.

I had the directions to the trailhead, which is not located anywhere near the area known as Daley Ranch, but is still a Daley Ranch trail because it connects with other trails. I had heard from a friend what to expect as you are driving up a dirt road and how to find the turn off for the trail. It seems like you may be lost, but you really aren’t, and Lu and I were all for the adventure!

After asking some city workers that were patching up the dirt road that we were driving on where exactly we should be going, we finally found the parking lot, and the trailhead. Off we go!

Right out of the gate the trail starts to wind and then climb. The climb continues for about a mile. Oak trees surround the trail, right along with a healthy supply of poison oak.

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Rocky was ecstatic to say the least! Hiking and a new dog buddy, the dog life could not get any better!

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Our usual beautiful blue California sky was replaced with a blanket of angry grey clouds, and after 10 minutes or so of hiking, the skies opened up and the rain came down. The fact that it was raining didn’t bother us, and if it bothered the dogs, they didn’t tell us. The dogs naturally were so happy to be out adventuring, I don’t think much would have bothered them at this point.

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As we continued the rain started to come down harder and we contemplated whether we should turn around or stick it out. Really? It’s just rain. Yes, but we didn’t quite know where we were going, and we were not wearing any rain gear, and we definitely didn’t want to get lost. But what the hell?! We are Adventuristas! We must complete the trail!

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After another mile or so, the rain calmed and the clouds started to part. Half an hour earlier we were so cold that we had to keep moving to forget about the cold drops falling on us, and now the sun was beating on us.

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We came across some really cool plants, including some that I had never seen before, and after thinking about it realized that we didn’t see any animals except one bird.

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The terrain of the trail was definitely not easy. So many portions were absolutely littered with rocks, it was very difficult to navigate the next step. Rocky even decided to walk off the trail to get through it, of course we thought he was a genius and followed right along.

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This view is looking at Escondido to the south. I always appreciate when I come around the corner and the view takes you by surprise. It is such a treat to see, and to know that you can only see these beautiful landscapes if you put the work in and hike up a hill.

Our adventure quickly came to an end, shortly after passing the Bobcat trail, which we learned is just a shortcut off of the main loop of the Englemann Oak trail. I feel that this part of the hike was the most difficult. The decent was so full of rocks, you really had to take your time, and of course I have a dog who knows when we are heading in the direction of the car and all of a sudden it becomes a race.

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By the time we got back to the main gate, nearly all of the clouds in the sky had moved away and the impression of rain was long gone. I thought is would be fun to get a picture of the two dogs together. As it turns out, it was more fun taking pictures of Lu trying to get the dogs together.

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All in all I would consider this trail a success! Back in my trail running days I would have loved the steep climbs and super fast down hills, and I really appreciated the difference in scenery throughout the entire hike.


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