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These trails welcome your four-legged friends

Folsom Lake Entertainer
By: Laura Newell, Folsom Lake Entertainer
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For many families, a pet is a part of the group, so when it comes to exercise, man’s best friend is usually invited along. In this region, there are a variety of options for dogs and owners to hike outdoors together for exercise, scenery and an escape from their regular neighborhood walks. Debbi Preston, 60, of Rescue, has written multiple guide books on local dog-friendly trails in the California foothills and Sierra Nevada. “I wanted to find places to take my dog hiking for local daytrips and I couldn’t find a book to help me hike with my dog year-round,” Preston said. “So I did the research, (hiked) and wrote the books.” Preston said she started hiking for her 11-year-old dog, Toots, eight years ago. “I started hiking for her because she needed the exercise,” Preston said. “Today Toots is still healthy and loves hiking. She is getting older though, so now we take more rests when hiking.” She said dogs are great motivation for their owners to work out because they never say no. “If you pull out a leash, they are usually ready and willing to go anywhere,” she said. “Dogs at all ages want to be a part of their family and want to be included in outings. So whether it is a small hike or a long hike, any activity is good.” Preston said when starting the process of hiking with a dog, there are many factors. When preparing for your first hike, Preston suggests researching the best trails for the season. “Go to the area that is the most suitable for that season,” she said. “Pick the trail that’s suitable for the weakest in the group — whether it be human or dog. You don’t want to extend the weakest member of the group; it is supposed to be a fun outing.” There are different trail levels for the experience of the hiker, Preston said, so it’s important to always be ready to turn around on a hike to make the weakest member comfortable. “Dogs and humans are similar in activity — if you are a couch potato and your dog is mostly inside, then you should start on an easier trail and work your way up together,” Preston said. “A puppy should also be trained to walk on easier trails.” Dogs, just like humans, need lots of water when hiking, she said. “Always carry water for your dog in a form that they can drink — a dish or tray is the best,” she said. “When hiking on rocks and snow, it’s also good to consider dog booties to protect their paws. A dirt trail is cooler on their paws and is the best way to cool a dog off quickly.” Preston said in addition to the exercise, dogs can also serve as a helpful and protective force to their owners when hiking outdoors. “A dog gives you that added safety when on the trails,” Preston said. “Dogs have good instincts and can sense rattle snakes and other dangerous animals. They are also really good trail readers. They have a better sense of smell and can read the scent of a trail during a hike, better allowing them to find their way back to the vehicle.” Preston said many times dogs begin to have behavioral problems after their owners leave them indoors or enclosed to the backyard for hours while at work. Weekly hikes give dogs the opportunity to get out of their everyday activities and experience new things. “Hiking provides them with experiences that they would never encounter if left at home,” she said. “They have the opportunity to be a dog and find new experiences rather than just walking the same route in a neighborhood. Also, many times they are not territorial on new hikes, because it’s not their yard.” Preston said if you can commit to two hikes each week, your dog will stay younger, healthier and happier because they are keeping physically active and mentally stimulated. “Getting outdoors is uplifting for anybody, humans and dogs,” Preston said. “Hiking is so nice because it doesn’t have to be restricted to anyone. There are so many different options out there – especially in El Dorado County. You just want to remember to be courteous and cautious to other hikers and animals on the trails.” To learn more information about where to hike with your dog, Preston’s books are available at local books store and online at Amazon.com. ----- HIT THE TRAIL September hike ideas provided by Debbi Preston Gerle Creek – easy 0.5 mile walk on a paved trail with interpretive signs to learn about Indian culture (off Ice House Road). Lover’s Leap – comfortable 1.4 mile ascent to the top of Lover’s Leap from Camp Sacramento with a view to Horsetail Falls and wildflowers along the trail. Lake Margaret – off Highway 88 near Kirkwood, moderate 2.5-mile trail to a great swimming destination, with streams and meadows along the way. Tamarack, Ralston, and Cagwin Lakes – enter Desolation Wilderness on this 4.1-mile trail out of Echo Lakes to three alpine lakes. Ralston Peak – a very difficult 4.1-mile climb to Ralston Peak. Trailhead off Highway 50 across from Camp Sacramento).