Joan Merriam: Keeping your cool | TheUnion.com

Joan Merriam: Keeping your cool

Joan Merriam
Columnist

I think we can all agree: this has not been a fun summer for many people.

It started with those weeks on end of interminable heat, followed by choking, smoke-filled air that made it even more impossible to enjoy our beautiful region. But that's nothing compared to what our neighbors in Shasta, Mendocino, Lake and Tuolumne counties have faced in the wake of disastrous wildfires.

Nevada County has lived through the terror of forest fire more than once, and each one of us knows that we're just one stupidly discarded cigarette or thoughtlessly untended campfire away from the devastation that these kinds of fires can wreak.

That being said, we still have some wonderful opportunities to find relief from these "dog days of summer" — which, by the way, have nothing to do with dogs sweltering in the summer heat. Rather, the dog days are traditionally those during July and August that coincide with the dawn rising of the Sirius, the Dog Star. The ancient Greeks, who believed that the summer swelter was due to the combined heat from the sun and that rising star, named it Sirius, said to mean "scorching" in Greek.

As much as all this may help in your next game of Trivial Pursuit, it doesn't really help in your search to find dog-friendly escapes from these last sizzling weeks of summer. So let's take a tour of our region for some "cool" ideas.

Cool areas to check out

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It goes without saying that water can bring a lot of relief for canine and human alike — and we're lucky to have some great watery respites to choose from. Now that the Yuba River has lost its winter-fueled ferocity, there are a myriad of spots for you and your furry pal to cool off.

Whether you want to take on rushing waters or relax in placid swimming holes, the Yuba has something for everyone. The Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce website is a great place to start your search for fantastic swimming spots up and down the river.

If rivers aren't your thing, our region has dozens upon dozens of lakes, some close-in like Scotts Flat Lake, and some further afield like the ones you'll find in the Grouse Ridge wilderness, known as "The Land of 100 Lakes."

AllTrails.com is an excellent resource, no matter where you want to roam. And of course there's always Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake, if you like your water icy.

Speaking of Tahoe, the high Sierra is a perfect cool getaway for you and your dog: Truckee especially is renowned as a dog-friendly town, whether for shopping or exercise. Paths and trails both close to Truckee and far from it include the Mount Judah Loop, the Castle Peak trail, and parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail — or if you're in the mood for something more leisurely, try the Trout Creek Trail or the Lakeshore Interpretive Trail along Donner Lake.

If you're looking for cool-with-a-view, take a ride on the Squaw Valley Tram (yes, leashed dogs are welcome!). Once at the top, grab a sandwich at the High Camp Marketplace and stop to take in the breathtaking view; later, you can hike to the top of Squaw Peak or Emigrant Peak, or leisurely wander with your pup through beautiful high alpine meadows.

Local gems

Not interested in venturing that far out of town? Both Grass Valley and Nevada City have a plethora of walking/hiking trails under the cooling forest canopy.

One of my favorites is the Deer Creek Tribute Trail, a real gem in the heart of Nevada City that winds through shade-dappled forests and alongside Deer Creek. There are short, easy walks as well as longer, more challenging ones, with trailheads both in and outside of town. For detailed maps and information, visit the Bear Yuba Land Trust website.

In Grass Valley, consider taking a stroll through the beautiful Empire Mine State Historic Park, featuring some fourteen miles of trails through its 800 acres of lush woodlands. Just remember that your dog must be leashed at all times within the park.

Don't forget that both Grass Valley and Nevada City are very dog-friendly, with many stores and businesses welcoming well-behaved dogs. And while the outdoors isn't as refreshing as air-conditioning, in both towns you can find patio-enhanced restaurants, coffee shops and bars that allow dogs.

Among these are Tofanelli's, Sergio's Caffe, Diego's, Jernigan's Tap House and Grill, Matteo's Public, Ike's Quarter Café, New Moon Café, California Organics, Briar Patch, Three Forks Bakery & Brewing, Thirsty Barrel Taphouse & Grille, Bubba's Bagels, Summer Thyme's, Flour Garden, Starbuck's, Cousin Jack's Pasties and ol' Republic Brewery.

And if you have a hankering to go wine-tasting with your furry friend, try Double Oak Vineyards and Sierra Knolls Winery.

So, unless you decide to escape to the coast — or Alaska — remember that there are countless options in our own back yard for keeping your cool with your canine pal during these sweltering "dog days" of August.

Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Joey, her Maine Coon cat Indy, and the abiding spirit of her beloved Golden Retriever Casey in whose memory this column is named. You can reach Joan at joan@joanmerriam.com. And if you're looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.