Take A Hike: Adventures In Dog Hiking Part 2
The big day arrives – Oscar and I take our first steps toward becoming hikers
It was a beautiful Saturday morning when Oscar and I made our way to hiking destination: High Park. Being the urban dwellers that we are, High Park made perfect sense for use noobs. Toronto’s largest park, there are miles of safe and populated hiking trails just waiting for us to explore them. One of the advantages of taking these trails is that if we got lost, it would be easy enough to find someone to point us back to civilization.
But we weren’t trekking alone. I had convinced my friend and co-worker, Stacy, and her pooch, Watson, to join me on my virgin expedition. And she was game for it. We were fully prepared. Thanks to Jessica’s advice, we were stocked with water, snacks and essentials. As well, we had new hiking harnesses and leashes from LupinePet just for the occasion. The step-in harness features a wrap-around style that reduces pressure on the throat, and the single buckle over the shoulders is easy to put on and take off. As well, it comes with an adjustable sternum strap and the lead is attached to both D-rings for even distribution of pressure. After a few gentle stretches – for us humans – we were ready to hike!
A-Hiking We Will Go
High Park’s hiking trails are pretty basic. At the start of the trails, there was a large map, but just like the trail system, it was fairly basic – that’s was one of the reasons why we chose this route. It would give us enough of a challenge and make us work up a sweat. And even though we wanted a workout, we didn’t want to push the dogs too hard, because this was their first time out.
At High Park, there are three different difficultly levels, but once we were inside the woods, we couldn’t tell which trails we were on, so we tried to take a variety of different paths: flat, hilly, rocky, less-travelled. The trails were hard-packed dirt, so the dogs had no problems setting the pace.
There was so much to see and smell. The dogs were on LupinePet’s 6-foot leash, which gave them plenty of leeway while keeping us in control. I wouldn’t recommend a retractable leash on a hike. There were too many things to get tangled up in and the temptation to run ahead was far too great. While I wanted Oscar to explore, I wanted to remain in control of the hike and I couldn’t do that with a retractable leash.
What We Learned
Just one of the things we noticed was that there was no dog poop on the trail. All of the dog owners and walkers before us had been very contentious about picking up after their pets to ensure the trail stayed clean for everyone using it.
And always keep your dog on a leash. We saw one dog off a leash. It bounded down a hill toward us and was quite friendly, but you never know who or what you’re going to run into on the trails – other dogs, joggers, bikers or wild animals. This dog just popped right out of the brush and startled us. He went right back to his owner, but not 15 minutes later, we heard yelling, presumably his owner, and a startled female. He was screaming at his dog to come back, but we couldn’t make out what the woman was screaming back. The yelling stopped after a minute or so, and here’s hoping it turned out well (fingers crossed). The lesson here is to just keep your dog on a leash.
One of the great perks about hiking in the woods was the tree coverage. Even in the summer, there is plenty of shade, which meant that the dogs didn’t get the full impact of the sun. We were able to hike longer and enjoy ourselves without overheating. Of course, we took plenty of breaks to take in the scenery, eat some snacks and rehydrate.
Wildlife We Saw
Seeing that we were in the middle of an urban jungle (literally), I didn’t know what kind of animals we’d see on our hike. Here’s a list of all the critters that crossed our path:
- Various bugs (creepy, crawly, and flying)
- Flirty jogger who turned out to be a smart ass
And although we didn’t see it, there was a caiman that was also enjoying the day in the waters close to use. Yes, our own little loch ness monster – a small alligator-like creature that was spotted swimming around in one of the ponds near the hiking trails. It turns out that it was most likely someone’s pet, and that bonehead thought it would be a good idea to turn it loose into the wild. But not to worry – it was spotted by several people and captured by a zookeeper where it was taken into custody.
The hike took us about two hours and was perfect for our first time out. There were a few hills, but for the most part, it was flat, which suited us and the dogs just fine. Both pups seemed to enjoy themselves – Watson took the lead and Oscar was happy to follow along. Being such a little guy and not much of a walker, I was worried that Oscar was going to resist the hike, but I was pleasantly surprised that his tail was up and wagging the whole way… even at the end of the hike.
Now that we are sufficiently broken in, it’s time to move on to bigger and more challenging hikes. It’s time to move on to the real deal! Oscar and I are going to tackle a half-day hike at a local conservation area (complete with picnic – how quaint). Stay tuned – will fill you in on our trek as soon as we get back in.