Brando ventured to the eastern reaches of San Diego County this weekend, where we gathered with some friends interested in hiking and photography. Tucker came too, and both dogs underwent a startling personality change. This was most pronounced in Tucker, normally a mild-mannered, even timid follow. But when we took him outside of the house where we were staying, he transformed into a Wild Dog, racing through the unfenced open space at 100 miles an hour, heedless of our demands that he rejoin our company. He intruded upon neighbors’ properties, met a sleek Doberman named Duchess, fell in love, and (when we finally recaptured him) moaned to be allowed to rejoin her. Brando happily followed Tucker’s lead, though was marginally quicker to return. After a few rounds of this foolishness, we took them outside ONLY on their leashes.

We had looked forward to hiking with our friends, and Saturday we happily set off for Palm Canyon (where we were looking forward to penetrating the region beyond the oasis). To our chagrin, we learned that dogs — even leashed ones — are not allowed anywhere in the park except on paved roads. I felt both bereft and irritated, as I had checked in my book of dog hikes in San Diego County (Leave Only Paw Prints, Sunbelt Publications) and came away with the impression that the park offered myriad hiking possibilities. Alas I had not read carefully enough. Dogs are only allowed on roads in the park, not on hiking trails. (Apparently, canines scare desert sheep.) This meant Steve and Tucker and Brando and I had to strike off on our own.

We wound up hiking through a section of Rancho Galleta, owned by an heir to the Avery labels fortune. Mr. Avery for the past few years has been commissioning an artist to create sculptures of prehistoric creatures on his land (a big chunk of the town, on which he generously welcomes the public to hike and camp). We decided we think the statues are cool.

What was not cool was the ubiquitous chollas cactus. Tucker got stuck several times, and even Brando (aka Mr. Teflon Coat) fell victim once. We decided probably dogs and deserts don’t really mix well. So we won’t all be back soon. Still, it was a memorable outing.

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