Wet noses find trail

Dogs and best buds take to forest at dusk

Senior park ranger Blake Weaver with her 2-year-old standard poodle and group hiking companion, Yeti. Blake has been hosting dog hikes at Mt. Madonna for more than 10 years. Credit: Robert Eliason

Taking your dog for a walk can be an adventure.

Just ask Blake Weaver, senior ranger with Santa Clara County parks who has been hosting special dog hikes at Mt. Madonna County Park since 2005.

“Dogs are such a big part of many of our lives,” said Weaver. “I am lucky enough to work for Santa Clara County Parks at a park that allows dogs to hike the trails on leash.”

More than 15 people and their furry companions showed up at dusk on Saturday, July 7 to take a mountain hike through Mt. Madonna trails with Weaver and her standard poodle Yeti.

Not only is getting out for a hike good for hikers and their pets, but these groups hikes add an element of socialization, said Weaver, who lives in Hollister.

“I frequently have puppies join the group for this reason,” she said.

Weaver cautioned, however that with such privilege comes the responsibility to ensure the dogs leave a small footprint by minimizing the disruption to other people, other dogs and wildlife and they take care not to harm the environment.

Weaver wants hike participants to be prepared to handle any situation a hiker and dog may encounter, such as an unleashed dog in the park or other potential hazards.

“I try and let them discuss, emphasizing staying calm, since panicking and yelling just escalates the situation,” she said. “I give tips and share stories of my experiences.”

The majority of Weaver’s organized hikes occur in the evening when it’s not too hot.

“Our trails close to hikers at sunset for their safety,” Weaver said. “On these hikes, visitors can  experience the park at night with a park ranger and not worry about getting lost.”

She’s earned quite a following in the last decade.

“I am moving parks to Coyote Lake’s Harvey Bear Ranch in October, and I already have dog owners asking me to please continue my hikes there,” she said.

Weaver acknowledges that Mt. Madonna, located at the top of Hecker Pass off CA 152, is a bit out of the way for people.

“It does amaze me how far people will travel to attend a hike.”

Depending on other events scheduled at the park, Weaver tries to schedule these summer hikes at least once a month. The next hike is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25.

Weaver loves sharing the park with the visitors, but best part of it all is sharing information and getting to meet wonderful people and dogs.