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Hiking Trail: Helen Putnam

Ella Ban

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What’s the criteria for a good date? Does it have to be active or stimulating? Creative, amusing, or thought-provoking? The classic dinner and movie combo may alleviate some of the nerves of a first date and is a tried and true strategy for long-term relationships. But whether you’re trying to make a good impression or want to spice things up with your current S.O., hiking is a great way to spend time with someone you care about.

You don’t need to trek into the middle of nowhere to find the perfect place, either. Situated between two rolling hills less than a mile from Petaluma city limits is the Helen Putnam Regional Park. There’s an easy access point off of D Street, on Oxford Ct, that opens up to the backside of the park. The initial climb is steep, but quickly opens up to a gentle slope and a gorgeous view of Petaluma. In the morning you can see the fog hovering over the sprawling downtown and obscuring Sonoma Mountain on the opposite side of the valley. In the afternoon, the sun lights up the sprawling downtown, and when you’re standing at the top of the mountain in the evening, you can have an uncluttered view of the setting sun.

Continuing up the paved path you have several opportunities to break off and explore any number of the small, intricate trails that cut into the hillside. No matter the season, the paths are always well-maintained and frequented by hikers, horseback riders, and bikers. Many of the trails are shaded and kept cool by overhanging foliage and offer surprising views of the city below. If the peaceful setting and unique views aren’t enough to keep a conversation, they will surely make the silence less awkward. You can allow the conversation to progress and change as need be, but if it collapses into silence, let it go.

Unsure if your date is the outdoors-y type? With the exception of the Panorama hike, the Helen Putnam trails are relatively short and flat. The South Loop, Pomo and Cattail trails congregate less than a half mile from the back entrance. Pick one, walk it, and if the date progresses well,  choose another when you loop back. At the end of the day, straying from the tried and true dating path may lead you in a new direction.

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Hiking Trail: Helen Putnam