A quick alert to be careful about heading out on our trails as it’s not  like walking around the block. Wear good walking shoes for good grip, be careful to not stumble (a walking stick is often a good aid, especially when up and down hill hikes), be  prepared for the heat, and go with knowledgeable leaders in the back country. Remember, pooches feel the heat more so give them plenty to drink, wet them down and protect their paws from the hot ground. Finally, understand that Tom Leech has no liability for troubles on the trails.



By Dandy Andy Johnson-Leech, a.k.a. The Squirt
(transcribed from Canine-eze by my Mom & Pack Leader, Leslie)
Originally appeared in San Diego Magazine Outdoors Forum 5/01

Hi there. This is a first for the Outdoors Forum, and about time at that. Let me introduce myself, your guest correspondent. I’m known to most as Squirt, and since everyone asks Leslie or Tom (who never knows) about my lineage, I seem to be mostly Pomeranian and Schipperke (but check the photo and make up your own mind).

The idea for this article came about during one of our regular ambles around San Diego. I’ve heard Tom gab about the Forum to his fellow humans, but he never said much about what counts: namely where humans can walk with their canine pals. I yapped at him many times to rectify this, and finally he got the message (in the canine-gab realm, he’s on the r-e-a–l-l-y slow side). First he said, “Good idea,” then he said “You write it, little mouth.” Gulp, the pressure. So herein are some tips from me (and several pals).

But first, the usual Forum Quiz. Most pet folks know about Ocean Beach’s Dog Beach. Where do we get to cut loose in Mission Bay?

Okay, everyone, put your heads back and howl along with me! “Oh, give me a home, where a dog’s free to roam…in the mountains, by ocean or bay….where seldom is heard, a bad weather word…so there’s always great places to play!”

Hey! That’s no range I’m howling about! It’s San Diego, my hometown, a city where year-round, off and on leash dog/human outdoor activities are varied, plentiful and getting better all the time.

Before I describe my favorite jaunts as well as those of my buddies, I want to recommend two excellent publications on this subject. The first is called Fido’s Field Guide to San Diego. Authors Priscilla and Scott Anderson list 60 wonderful dog friendly walks and give great advice on what is needed for a successful pup/human shared outdoor adventure. You’ll need water, a 6-foot sturdy leash, basic first aid supplies, a visible ID tag, plenty of poop sacks and a thorough knowledge of the chosen area’s rules regarding dogs. This booklet, distributed by Map World, can be ordered by calling 760-631-7886.

The second publication is a handy dandy map, published by Petlovers Publications, called, Your 2000-2001 Guide to Dog Walks, Beaches and Pet Services. Included with the clearly marked map is a good listing of pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. Call 760-631-7886 to get a copy.

Now, for my favorites. San Diego has a number of designated “leash free” areas. Although the most famous is Dog Beach, at the southwest corner of Ocean Beach, my personal favorite is the area on the south side of the Laurel Street Bridge, just off of 6th in Balboa Park. It’s a wonderful place to warm up for on leash strolls through the Park. It’s also an ideal canine social setting. I always catch a few sniffs before my humans snap my leash back on and we cruise around the Park. Walk any direction in Balboa Park and there are terrific people, event and dog watching opportunities as well as exotic vegetation for message reading and marking! A special treat, if there’s time, is joining my humans for lunch in the Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Art.

Besides Balboa Park, the trail around Mission Bay Park, just off of Interstate 5 is another one of my favorites. Remember, however, no dogs allowed after 9 AM or before 6 PM. I really enjoy walks on lazy summer evenings here and the hours between 9 and 6 can be filled in with a stroll around Fieta Island, another leash free zone (with swimming included if you’re so inclined), located at the south end of Mission Bay Park.

Still close to the city is Mission Trials Regional Park where dogs are welcome on most trails and in the new campground. Within Mission Trails Park is Cowles Mountain, a favorite trek for humans and doggies who are fit enough for a long uphill climb. The view at the top is worth the effort!

As this article was going to press, my humans took me to another location that is sure to become a favorite of mine. It’s down in the south bay at the Chula Vista Marina’s Bayside Park. There’s a delightful paved trail along the bay, lots of green grass to roll in, flowers to sniff, cool breezes (it was April), and a restaurant that is totally dog friendly (very civilized policy I might add) on its outdoors patio, the Galley at the Marina. (When we got back home, I gave Bayside the SSOA – “Squirt Seal of Approval” — by declining to exit the auto, hinting in the strongest terms I’d rather head back there to watch the sunset rather than back into the boring house.)

The Laguna Mountains in the far eastern region of San Diego County are part of the National Forest program, so dogs are allowed on all of the trails. I especially like the Sunset Trail which is readily accessed off Sunrise Highway. There are dense tree filled forests and large meadows where we sometimes see deer and other critters. If you have the time, your dog pals will love overnight camping there.

If time is a problem, then most dogs will settle for neighborhood explorations. Because of me, my humans have learned about La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Bay Park and University City which are all near our house (including those canyons, San Clemente, Tecolote, Rose and Los Penasquitos, with lots of trees and different sniffs, indicating a few creatures I’d probably just as soon not meet). But, never venture into neighborhoods or local canyons without poop sacks and do limit the time your dog hangs out on residents’ property. I recommend a shorter leash for neighborhood walks. And, give the folks you encounter along the way a chance to admire your dog! We love the attention.

Now, here are my buddies’ recommendations (updating to current, some of them have moved on).
– Cassie lives in Golden Hill. Her humans, Craig and Michele, walk her in the park on 26th St. just north of A Street. There is a quarter mile road that encircles a grassy area with beautiful trees. Numerous squirrels live in this area. Need I say more? Many trails lead up and down the hillsides and spectacular sunsets can be viewed from this park. Hey, sounds like a perfect setting for a romantic picnic!
– Sadie and Christa, with humans, Penny and Tom, love the Morley Field leash- free area located on the far east side of Balboa Park, near the tennis courts. They also love wandering around their Hillcrest neighborhood, which borders the north side of Balboa Park.
– Further east, Leroy, a pound puppy, recently adopted by Jean and Bob of La Mesa likes walking around Lake Murray where there are always other dogs to sniff and ducks to encounter. But keep in mind that Lake Murray’s trail doesn’t go all the way around, so park your car somewhere in the middle (north side of the Lake), just in case dog or human tires along the way.
– Snow-chi of El Cajon goes with humans, Dave and Martha, to Santee Lakes, Lindo Lakes in Lakeside, the Coronado/Silver Strand leash free zone and has climbed Iron Mountain (specifics in Regions/Foothills section). I’ve climbed it too and loved it!
– And if you’re like Jazz, a Canine Companion For Independence in training, then you can experience anything in San Diego that your foster humans (in Jazz’ case, Sondra and Tom) care to share with you, indoors or out!

This is only a short list of the many great dog/human outdoor spots in San Diego. Conditions are great and are improving everyday. In its newsletter, San Dieguito River Park cordially invites dog owners and their pets to enjoy their trails. They’re looking for responsible dog owners who will be an excellent example to others.

This all sounds grrrreart to me. So, leash up Rover and start roaming. All dogs truly agree with Robert Frost’s poetic words, “There’s miles to walk before (we curl up on the couch and) sleep.”

For the full story about this topic and many more for the whole county, pick up a copy of Outdoors San Diego: Hiking, Biking & Camping by Tom Leech & Jack Farnan at bookstores,