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.


Not The Same Ol’ Run

I wear many hats; waitress, student, mom, girlfriend, runner trail runner. Between delivering omelets, studying on the psychological effects of steroids in baseball, laundry, soccer practice, softball games and my new found love of yoga, I don’t have much time to do the latter on my list of hats, one of my most favorite things, trail run.

Don’t get me wrong. I can squeeze in a 3 mile run around the neighborhood, or most recently I took advantage of the track at my son’s baseball practice. These runs are all fine, they will work. They are not what I love though. In fact I don’t desire them. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. And on this particular day, I did what I wanted to do.

I set aside most of my morning for myself, my dog Rosco, and the trails. Rosco knows when and where we’re going by watching to see what I’m changing into for the day, and what shoes I’m putting on, and he was beyond ecstatic.

Rosco and I made our way to the hills. We ran on the same trail that we have run numerous times before. We could run the same trail every day but it would never feel like the same run. The trails offer so much diversity and so much life that no two walks, hikes, or runs would ever be the same. This is one of the reasons I love to go. There is so much to see and hear and learn from the land, it really is a place to appreciate life.

I decided just a bit into the run that I wasn’t going to let time restrictions change my desire to run far. My life is driven by places I have to be at and things that I have to do, and I wasn’t going to let time take away my run today. I knew Rosco would appreciate our time together as well.

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So off we went to explore.

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The weather was very cool and there were not many people on the trail.

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Whenever Rosco and I get out to a place like this, I believe he loves the run for different reasons. 1. He is a dog, and dogs like to be outside, 2. He knows he is doing his job of protecting me, 3. He loves to run, 4. He thinks he is hunting. Today we saw no animals on the trail which brings me back to the fact that every day out on the trail is different.

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A couple days ago we had a pretty hard “rain storm” in So. Cal and apparantly this trail has seen better days. The signs placed out do not deter me as an adventurer, instead they only strike my curiosity.

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The trail was muddy still from the rain, and trees were broken and knocked down, but that was about all. Rosco enjoyed running through the mud.

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Then we started our climb.

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It still amazes me that my own two feet take me to see things that most people will never see in their entire life. The places I go are not accessable by car. They require hard work and perserverance. This is why I do it. The rewards are amazing.

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Rosco loves it too

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How Your Dog can be Your Best Running Partner

Dogs are great companions and can also be some of the best running partners. A dog’s natural instinct is to run, and if you have a dog chances are they are full of energy that is just waiting to be released.

Here are some tips and suggestions to turn your dog into an amazing running buddy.

Practice

Depending on your dog’s level of energy, some practicing may be in order. Just because the dog is high energy, it doesn’t mean he has a high level of endurance. If you have access to a large area that the dog can run in, take advantage. Go out and get him running whether it be after a ball or with you. Once you see signs of the dog slowing down, or getting tired, take a break and play later. Activities like this will make the dog stronger and get him used to running for longer periods of time.

Teach Leash Manners

If you have taught your dog how to walk on a leash this part will be much easier than if not. If your dog runs every which way while going for an afternoon walk, it becomes dangerous for both of you if you start running together without fixing this issue. Teaching your dog to walk on one side of you only helps to eliminate them tripping you up while running, and take it from me, it’s not fun to skid down the sidewalk on your shoulder because your dog jolted in front of you. If you have a dog who pulls ridiculously I recommend getting a leader. When he pulls you during the run, the leader will force his head to turn to the side. Dogs don’t like this and they learn very quickly that the pulling action is what is goofing them up. After using this for a few runs the dog usually gets the picture.

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Rosco wearing the leader

Teaching your dog key words will also help them understand what it is that you want from them. Telling them to “Stop” or “Wait” means the obvious and can be used when approaching a stop sign or street.

Running Off Leash

If your dog follows commands and is not animal or people aggressive running off leash can be an option. I definitely would not recommend doing so in area of high traffic whether it be cars or humans with other animals. Just because your dog listens to you, doesn’t mean that other dogs listen to their owners. I don’t run with my dog off leash simply for the fact that I know he won’t listen to me if approached by another person or animal. I have encountered numerous dogs that are just running around and harassing my dog and I while trying to get our run in and their owners think it’s funny. If your dog does the same thing, keep the leash on.

Hydration

Having adequate amounts of water for both you and your dog is important. If you plan on going on a long run take a hydration pack with you with water for the dog also. The time of day will also play a factor in how much water you should bring. Dogs are unable to sweat so they cool themselves off by panting. Take breaks if your dog is panting excessively and remember to get fluid into them when they need it. Dogs can’t tell us if they are feeling bad, but with practice you will be able to assess their condition.

Have Fun

Most importantly, have fun! This should be a great bonding experience for you and your dog. Go on adventures with you dog, and I guarantee you he won’t complain. Dog’s love to be with you and this will certainly make them feel special and like they are doing their “job.”

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Running with your dog provides you with a level of protection, a great way for both of you to get exercise, and an opportunity to have fun together.

Happy Running!!