Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finding New Spots

While wildlife finds have been easy, finding our new local dog park and favorite running spots after moving to Oakland has been a little bit more of a challenge. Right off the bat, looking at the map, I identified some nearby spots and tried them out. Read on if you're interested in our initial take on running and dog parks in the Oakland area.
Captain at Lake Merritt
 Our adventures in Oakland: (*See updates below!)
  • Lake Merritt- We explored this first -of course- since it's the epicenter of our new neighborhood. This is a great little lake, about a 3 mile loop around, with plenty of critters to point at/chase. It's a good little run around, but there's not really a dog park anywhere around it. Every now and then some people gather in a spot post-work for some doggie play, so that's an option. But it's often pretty crowded with other runners and walkers, and is not the best (or officially) off-leash spot.*
  • Piedmont dog run: This was the next spot we explored, for a more official dog park. It has some short trails through the woods, so that's pretty cool - and Captain loves the squirrel hunting of course! But there's no water fountain for the pups, and no large field to play in - it's all dirt and trails, with some steep slopes. Not my favorite, but not a bad option since there are other dogs to play with most of the time.*
  • Linda Ave dog park: Probably the closest park to us besides the lake, but a MAJOR disappointment- this is near a gorgeous rose garden, but whoever created it seemed to decide to make the most useless possible piece of land possible into a dog park. It's an incredibly steep slope, all dirt, some rocks, and exposed roots, right under road, shady, dusty, and dirty. Give me a break. 
After trying these out, I was starting to get a little weary. Why were all the only dog parks I was finding dirt slopes?? Were we resigned to 'burb dog life, where it was only about on leash walks, play in your own back yard, and up-tight leash laws? Where were the doggie water dishes? Where were the large grass fields filled with neighborhood peeps and pups hanging out? Was it all a thing of the past?

To be fair, I should admit that this was after just a try or two at each spot, and finding the right dog play areas for your dog in a new neighborhood can take time. Also, we were utterly spoiled in Berkeley- where off-leash seems to be the norm, local shops love dogs, doggie water dishes are outside nearly every door, and parks abound. (Luckily, yes, I can still easily go back to these spots via a short car ride or a really long run...).

Specifically, here's what I was/am missing: When I'm running, I often like to get that "getting away from it all" relaxing in nature feeling, which I haven't quite found just yet (though the Lake Merritt loop at sunset isn't too shabby!) I also prefer off-leash running with Captain. In Berkeley, Tilden Regional Park was my absolute dream running space... secluded feeling (especially when you're up early enough), perfect temps, amazing views, and seemingly endless roads and trails to explore (much of it totally fine for off-leash).  Cesar Chavez was also a great running spot for us, with views of the Golden Gate bridge and SF across the bay, a marina to make me feel like I'm back in New England, (mainly) off-leash running, plenty of squirrels for Captain, and even a dog park in the middle. Both these spots had water fountains for dogs, too- something I just came to expect. And then there was a neighborhood dog park, Strawberry Creek, a nice sized, sunny grass field where there was always a fresh dish of water, squirrels to chase, and friendly neighborhood dogs and people.

But, our new neighborhood has a cute "main street" area with plenty of fun restaurants, bars, and shops. Plus, there's an amazing farmer's market every Saturday that I have absolutely fallen in love with. I love the neighborhood itself, and our new apartment, but as a V mommy, I was worried, and had to wonder: did Captain love it too? Would we find our local doggie hangout??

At the end of last week I decided to try out Dracena Park again. I'd gone earlier in the week, in the morning, and run around a children's play area and pretty nice grassy field. But there were no other dogs. Captain and I ran home disappointed. But I wondered... maybe it was an after work spot?

We returned later, toy in hand, ready for fun.... to an empty field, save for two boys playing catch. Sigh. I resigned myself to returning to a dog run, when.... I spotted 2 women walking with dogs up a hill and around a trail. Maybe..... just maybe..... I followed them to (aahhhhhh, insert Godly music) a sunny, mostly flat, good sized GRASSY yard, where there were- wait for it- other dogs playing! There were about 10 dogs romping around off-leash having fun, and owners enjoying the evening and the company of their dogs and neighbors. Finally, I found my people ;-) And Captain, of course, was plenty excited to play around with a few new friends. That is, before he got distracted by squirrels. Sigh. At least I don't feel like a neglectful mom anymore though: the new 'hood DOES have a few good doggie play spots!

As for running, we're still sniffing out our favorite runs. The Lake Merritt loop is a good short one, and there's some good hills and plenty of scenic neighborhood runs. As morbid as it sounds, Mountain View Cemetery has some beautiful views and isn't bad for running with Captain, but I'm looking forward to making my way up to Joaquin Miller Park and Sibley Regional Preserve.... I just need to make sure to bring water for Captain- it's hotter here than in Berkeley, and the Oakland parks are not as good as Berkeley for water fountains. It's always important to have water for the pup!

Looking forward to sharing more new finds as Captain and I explore our area!

We have been going to both Dracena and Piedmont parks fairly regularly in the mornings, for a little 3 mile morning running loop. Captain loves the squirrel hunting through these parks, and I've come to really like the feel of running through the woods that you get in the trails of the dog runs. Plus, we've found that neighborhood friends leave out large water bottles and bowls for the pups! Another good find has been a large green by Lake Chalet of Lake Merritt- it's a great after-work doggie play time spot, and Captain has been wrestling, tumbling, and chasing with a bunch of new friends!

Phew. Doggie spots found ;-)


  1. Looking good Captain. Have a good day at the Olympics.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. If you don't mind going to Pleasanton on the weekend, Pleasanton Ridge is terrific for offleash trail running.

    1. Thanks for the tip! We will have to check that out- love exploring new spots.