If you hike the trails around the Bay Area you’re bound to see people hiking with their dogs, who always seem to be having about 19 times more fun than their human companions (people don’t own their dogs out here, you see. They merely accompany them through life, and visits to the vet). I joined a couple of these dog-accompanying outdoorspeople for an overnight hike on the Redbud Trail in Cache Creek Wildlife Area, about two hours north of the Bay Area and once again came to conclude: it’s great to be a dog running loose in the outdoors, even if you have to indulge humans’ need to boss you around now and then. Heck, if you’re a dog you need people, elsewise you’d keep bounding around, living it up, till your paws fell off.

This is the Redbud Trail nearing a crossing of the Cache Creek. Impressive canyonesque terrain in the background. It’s a nice, toasty 90 degrees or so, just to make it interesting when you’re lugging 30-40 pounds of gear.

Caryn, leading the hike, ponders the crossing at Cache Creek. Or, namely, how she’s going to get her dog, Rutzie (pronounced Ruht-see) across the water, which is about mid-thigh high with a strong current. I managed to make it across without falling in, a remarkable achievement. Thankfully, the water comes from a reservoir a few miles away, so it’s not snowmelt, which is freeze-your-feet-off cold. It’s just what we need to cool off after the first couple miles of hiking. The dogs make it over fine. The nice thing about being outdoors with wet dogs is, well, being outdoors with wet dogs.

After about 7.5 miles of hiking we set up camp on a sandy area next to the creek. That’s my tent on the left, which looks very stylish without the rain-fly.

The whole crew from the top: Mike, Caryn, Rutzie, Stacy and Vespa, a large female German shepherd who was so small when Stacy adopted her at the shelter that she "looked like a Vespa in a room full of Harleys and Ducatis." Take it from me, you can’ t go wrong camping with people who name their pets after motorcycles.

Vespa provides Caryn essential tent-building advice and moral support. You can take the dog off guard duty but you can’t get the guard duty out of the dog: true to her genes, Vespa runs around the camp now and then,as if guided by some internal schedule, to check the perimeter. No intruders were sighted.

Rutzie is part Golden lab, part pit bull. Sweetest dog you ever did see, but she’s got those bull-terrier jowls that tell you: don’t provoke her. She’s nursing a sore shoulder, which causes Caryn a fair amount of angst. We hike slow on the way back to take it easy on Rutzie, which is fine by me. I spent four hours trying to keep up on Saturday so it was nice to take it easy on Sunday.

Sunday morning and the dogs wake up in maximum get-silly mode. This pic is the aftermath of Vespa being so excited to greet Rutzie that she jumps at the tent screening and pulls all the stakes loose. Hilarity ensues as two large dogs whoop it up with Stacy caught in the middle as the tent collapses around them.

Early morning sun makes ripples in the creek glisten.

Another for the Great Dead Trees of California file.