Last week, Dakota stopped by a lot downtown that offers free mulch, courtesy of the The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. They give away mulch and compost at several sites around the city. You can find a location near you here. Dakota filled up a few plastic bins worth, the perfect amount to cover our two small paths.
The mulch itself is very decomposed. It smells more like compost than pine trees, although the scent has faded now that it's been on the paths for a week. While the chunkier, bark-filled mulch might look and smell a bit better, this stuff worked out fine (and did I mention it was free?). I suspect the city lets it decompose more to kill all the weed seeds that are likely mixed in with the tree trimmings.
Before spreading the mulch, I lay down some pieces of cardboard to provide an additional weed barrier. I didn't cover everything perfectly, but, as you know, I'm in a lazy gardening phase. I honestly think the combination of random pieces of cardboard and a thick layer of city mulch should work pretty well for a while. I guess we'll find out this coming spring.