Suburban Safari

The horses of Diablo Downs never fail to amuse and entertain my kids when I don't have enough time to take them to the Oakland Zoo.

The horses of Diablo Downs never fail to amuse and entertain my kids when I don’t have enough time to take them to the Oakland Zoo.

Here’s the mother of all understatements: My kids are animal crazy.

I’ve lost count of how many animal toys they have scattered throughout the house and I’ve lost track of how many animal-related cartoons, movies, and documentaries we’ve seen over and over and over and … well, you get the point … on Netflix Instant.

A big part of Daddy Days is finding a way to keep my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter amused during the day but sometimes there just isn’t enough time to make the trek out to the Oakland Zoo to give our season pass a workout.

Fortunately, there’s a surprising wealth of wildlife within a short drive of our house in the Clayton Valley Highlands that never fails to bring a smile to my children’s faces and burn a decent chunk of time off the clock.

Here’s a quick roundup of our little suburban safari:


This is the easiest way for me to kill about an hour when the kids get restless and I’m not up for taking them out for a big day trip. A casual afternoon cruise through these local spots with a side trip to a drive-through restaurant for some grub can easily transform my kids from restless rugrats into content little buggers snoozing away on nap time after lunch.

We start our journey by venturing down Mitchell Canyon Road to Diablo Downs Drive where there are a ton of homes with horse stables.

The horses are clearly the stars of this part of The Loop but my kids love animals so much that they even get excited every time we drive by a set of deer lawn ornaments on Tally Ho Court. It’s a little crazy but totally adorable when we drive away and they say, “Bye-bye deer, we love you!” Every time we go out for this little trip on a Daddy Day I know I desperately need a regular paycheck ASAP but moments like that are priceless.

After we crawl our way past every single horse stable on Diablo Downs Drive we make our way to Eagle Peak Avenue near the Oakhurst Golf Course where we wind our way to the end of Ohlone Heights and back to revel in the wild kingdom rounded up by Albert Seeno Jr.

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There’s emus in them thar hills! Seeno Hill, to be exact.

Good ol’ Seeno Hill is populated by llamas, goats, donkeys, wild turkeys and (drum roll please) emus. My kids go nuts for the emus which can usually be found right at the corner of Oakhurst Drive and Eagle Peak Avenue. Seeing the other animals can be a hit or miss proposition but the emus are usually where you expect them to be. Surf over to Google Maps and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

I have no idea what an emu is doing out here in suburbia and I can’t begin to fathom why anyone in their right mind would buy a few of them, but I guess when you have the kind of money Seeno has you can buy your own hill and fill it with as many out-of-place animals as you damn well please.

The next part of The Loop comes after we bid a fond farewell to the emus and make our way out to CSU East Bay’s Concord campus after hitting the local Burger King or Carl’s Jr. to get some lunch to bring home.

Most people head to CSU East Bay for an education, but not us. Nope, we make our way up to the university to slowly drive around and see if we can spot any wild turkeys, cows, or coyotes.

More often than not, we see a ton of cows which always elicits cheers from the back seat. Sometimes we see a bunch of wild turkeys which also gets my kids all fired up. We’ve only seen a coyote once but I hear about it every time we make this drive.

After we part ways with the cows of CSU East Bay we head for home to scarf down  lunch before hitting the sack. It ain’t exactly counting sheep, but wildlife on The Loop always does the trick when I need to settle the kids down for nap time.