Park It by Ned MacKay: Trails Challenge 2019

If you’re in the mood for some family-friendly festivities to start the New Year, Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley stands ready to help.

The park will host a “Family Game Night and Campfire” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5.

Bring your favorite card or board game, skit ideas, a blanket and a flashlight for some fun around the campfire circle. Hot chocolate and s’mores will be provided.

The event is free of charge, but registration is required. For registration and information, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program number 23830.

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The new year also brings a renewal of the Regional Park District’s always popular Trails Challenge program, for what will be its 27th year.

Trails Challenge is a free, self-guided way of exploring your regional parks. You don’t have to register. Just pick up a guidebook at a park district visitor center or download one from the website, Then hike any five of the trails in the guide, turn in your trail log, and receive a commemorative pin while supplies last. Trails Challenge T-shirts also are available at visitor centers while supplies last.

Thousands of people have participated in the program since its inception in 1993. You can hike, bicycle or ride horseback on challenge trails designed for all levels of ability. The guidebook also contains helpful hints on equipment and trail safety.

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Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch is offering three recurring programs in January and February.

Historic Somersville is from 1 to 2 p.m. every Sunday. Check out miners’ tools, or go on a short walk to learn about life in a 19th century mining town.

And the visitor center snakes get fed from 1:30 to 2 p.m. every Saturday.

All three programs meet near the parking lot at the upper end of Somersville Road, 3½ miles south of Highway 4 in Antioch. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is staffed. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley also offers recurring programs. “Farm Chores for Littles” is from 10:30 to 11 a.m. every Saturday. Bring your kids to the rabbit hutch for age-appropriate interactions with the Little Farm animals.

Fireside stories are spun from 11 to 11:30 a.m. every Sunday at the fireplace in the Environmental Education Center. There’s a different story each week.

And naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder leads a nature ramble from 2 to 3 p.m. every Sunday. Starting at the center, the group will venture out in search of wildlife signs.

The center and Little Farm are at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, which can be reached via Canon Drive from Berkeley. Call 510-544-2233.

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Farther afield, naturalist Kevin Dixon will lead a safari in search of frogs and salamanders from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6 at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve.

The group will trek to ponds and through chaparral over steep, maybe muddy trails to beautiful views of Mt. Diablo and environs. The hike is for ages eight and older.

Meet Kevin at the park’s trailhead, which is on Morgan Territory Road 9.4 miles south of the intersection with Marsh Creek Road in Clayton. The road is narrow and winding; caution is advised. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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