'Till the cows (let me) come home!
I originally started "Adventure Wednesdays" about a year and a half ago to stave off the loneliness and depression of deployment #6. If you're an Air Force spouse stationed at Travis, AFB, you know that you spend a lot of time alone without your better half. It seems that they're either deployed or on trips more than half of the year. Lately I haven't been going on weekly adventures like I used to, but I still try to do at least one adventure per month for my own sanity. This week's adventure brought me just 45 minutes down the road to Richmond, CA and Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.
I had never even heard of this park before a couple weeks ago until one of my Trainer In Your Back Pocket members, Tami, posted a photo in our private TBP Facebook group from a hike she did with her family. I quickly did some research, and decided that I needed to get to that park and hike too! Plus, it's always 20 degrees cooler in the bay area, so 85 degrees at home was just 65 at there! That meant I could take my boxer, Timber, and not have to get up at the crack of dawn to "beat the heat."
I arrived at the Alvarado Staging area, which had plenty of parking, no park fees, trail maps, and was super easy to find off the freeway. There was one semi-clean port-o-potty in the parking area. Just at the end of the parking lot, you enter the main trail, Wildcat Creek Trail. This is a wide "road" trail, partly paved, partly dirt/gravel road. It's the "main road" of the park's trail system. It seemed like most people take their dogs out on this "trail" for their "neighborhood walks." Dogs can be off leash on this path, but I kept Timber on leash, mainly because we were new, and didn't know what to expect around each bend.
The trail was well marked, with each offshoot trail labeled very well on the map, and they all show up on google maps. It's hard to get "lost." I felt super safe being a solo gal with her dog on this trail. If you're a runner, this would be a great trail to run.
About 2 miles down the trail, I turned left on Havey Canyon Trail, in my attempt to follow the route found in the Bay Area Hiker webpage. This trail was much more of a "hiking trail" than the Wildcat Creek Trail. It was single track, lined with trees, and quite a bit of incline, which I love, and it smelled great! Once I got to the top of the Havey Canyon Trail, I turned left onto Nimitz Way, and for the first time, I felt a little uneasy being there alone with my dog...
Why did I start to feel uneasy? Well, I apparently entered the cow grazing area of the mountain, and there were larger than life cows lining the path, and at some points, blocking the path. Cows are generally docile animals, but I have seen cow attacks, and since I had my dog with me, I didn't want to startle or bother them. (I may have started talking to the cows as we passed, asking them for permission for us to pass... is that weird?) My only other option was to turn around and retrace my steps all the way back to the "safe" Wildcat Creek Trail. I pressed on past the first set of cows.
About 500 yards up a little farther, I came to my next cattle gate. This time there were 4-5 more cows staring at me, and one looked like he was telling me to turn around and never return. I asked them for permission to pass, literally talking to them like they were gate keepers, but of course they just stared at me and didn't move. I didn't want to take any chances with these animals. They are much larger than I am! I contemplated doing a U-turn right there, and looking for the nearest street exit from the trail system so I could call an Uber ride back to my car. I think I spent about 5-10 minutes there, just simply waiting for the cows to disappear by magic or something.
Then, out of thin air (or rather, emerging from the fog on the other side of the cows), were two "guardian angel hikers." I call them my "cow angels." They were coming up the path toward me, from the other side of the cows. The one cow that was blocking the path moved out of the way and let the two ladies pass. This gave me hope that I could pass too. I waited for the Cow Angels to make it to me, and I asked them if there are lots more cows from the trail that they came up on, which was the one I was planning to return on. They said YES, there are lots of cows out. So now, I was even more freaked out. I asked them if they knew the best way to return with the least amount of cows. They said I should take the Leonards Trail back down to the Wildcat Creek Trail, because the Mezue and San Pablo Trails had lots of cows out today.
I knew this would add 2 extra miles onto my planned route, but once back on the Wildcat Creek Trail, at least I know there would be no cows. The Leonards Trail was a nice steady downhill after all the climbing I did to get there, and thankfully, the cows were over on the Mezue trail from what I saw. Phew, the Cow Angels saved me!
Once I made it back on the Wildcat Creek Trail, feeling relieved and safe, Timber and I jogged the two miles all the way back to the car. Thankfully the cooler temps in the Bay Area allowed Timber to be able to tackle the extra two miles, and I always carry extra water "just in case."
Overall, I loved it! As a solo gal with her dog, I would absolutely recommend the Wildcat Creek Trail. I probably wouldn't do any of the other trails again unless I went with some friends, and I'd probably leave the dog at home for those trails too.
Here's a link to the map of my 8 mile route.
Abby Malmstrom M.S. is an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, wellness coach, and "real food" nutritionist. Her life as an active duty military spouse takes her all over the world, allowing her to influence, teach, and connect with folks in communities she never even dreamed of reaching. Life's an adventure, so stay tuned for the ride! It's time to "Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well, Be Well."