Potato Chip Hike

During the holidays we decided to take a not so quick drive down to Poway, CA to get some exercise. Poway is home to a very popular hike the locals like to call the ‘Potato Chip’ hike, which is actually called the Mount Woodson Trail. It is an approximately 8 mile roundtrip adventure that begins with a narrow, uphill for a while, strenuous…walk. At a 2300 ft elevation gain/loss, it’s not to be taken lightly.

Poway Lake

Poway Lake


This was Ellie’s first hike and aside from the relentless barking at other dogs and rowdy people, she did splendidly. For sure, Chris and I thought the hike would spend her energy, what with the elevation gain and so much action around her but we were so wrong. She dragged me up the trail and then we did double time on the way back. Perhaps she still has that puppy energy about her. Argos on the other hand lagged behind on our way back down the mountain. In fact, he was so tired that he paid no heed to any other dogs or their people.


Treating Ellie & Argos for not barking at passersby.


The trail gets steep and rocky very often, breaks were often necessary. It was a cold day but I read somewhere that in the late Spring and Summer months, its pretty much hot dessert weather in the area. At 65 degrees, the sun burnt pretty hot so I made sure to bring a collapsible soft bowl for water and some treats. Once up at the peak where the potato chip rock is the wind blew crisp cold and no amount of direct sun warmed anyone up. The dogs of course didn’t complain.

Selfie, anyone?

Selfie, anyone?

This is an incredibly popular hike and the trail got crowded quickly. While it’s a popularity was a real turn off for me I can’t help but see why it happens. The trail allows dogs, which is always awesome, it’s very very easy to get to the hike by car and there is cell reception at every point in the hike. I want to take the time now to address something that has been bothering me for sometime now because the frequency of these incidents almost feel epidemic. On the hike I noticed a lot of dog owners with their beautiful dogs without leashes.  Now, I think I understand why they do it. They believe their dogs to be exemplary well behaved creatures that they trust in any situation and they want to treat them to freely roaming the trails. I would say 90% of these unleashed dogs are big. 

When you unleash your dog and we happen upon you, you’re creating a situation where your dog, as well as mine, are not safe. My Ellie for example, does not like strange dogs coming up to her to smell her business. But yet when there is an unleashed dog, she has to sit by my side and be forced to deal with an uncomfortable situation. You know what happens when you force a dog into a situation in which it fears for his safety? It snaps. It bites. When your unleashed dog forces himself on our space you make me responsible for both my dog and yours. As a dog owner it is my responsibility to keep my dog safe, which I do with a leash, and those people and dogs around us, by controlling my dog with my handy dandy leash. Now, were both dogs unleashed, as they would in a dog park, the dynamic is very different but you just can’t force an unleashed dog on one that is constrained in his movement. Its. NOT. Good.

That is not to say I don’t believe your dog is an exceptional dog. I’m sure that your dog on his spare time teaches CPR classes at the local Y and helps the crossing guard cross children at the nearby elementary school. What I am saying is that my dogs are the furthest things from well behaved and I’m doing everything I can to teach them better while exercising them and the problem is you make it so much harder for us.

It is your responsibility to keep your dog and the people around him/her safe.

Family portrait.

Family portrait.

We met three unleashed dogs while on the trail. They of course rushed us and I had to simply sit there and hope my dogs would not incite any trouble. When in these situations the last thing you want to do is move the leashed dogs around trying to avoid the unleashed dog because it only makes it into a cat and mouse game for the unleashed dog, thus creating more trouble. And then I also stepped on a poor labrador that was chasing Ellie about me. Do you think I would have stepped on the poor pup if he had been secured at his owners side?

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to get out and get some fresh air and expose the dogs to nature. Some very beautiful scenery to be seen out there and it all starts with the beautiful Poway lake. I cannot stress this enough, bring appropriate shoes and plenty of water to drink. Just because its crowded it doesn’t mean the trail is not strenuous. As far as the potato chip rock goes, a lot of people take great pictures on it but it’s actually quite a bit of climb to get on it. Its two giant steep boulders with a great big gap in between. I had to enlist the help of strangers to get on the boulders with Ellie and when I realized that I could get on the final boulder to reach the potato chip, I just gave up and turned back…with the help of strangers. With Ellie so fuzzy there was no way I was going to jump from boulder to boulder and have Ellie follow my lead.


At the end of the hike.


Chris’s sister Tiffany accompanied us, as it was her idea to visit this place, and she was able to get on the potato chip with Argos to do a ‘Lion King’ pose. It was all good fun and very, very tiring. I don’t think we’ll be doing that one again any time soon. Nice to say I did though.