By NED MACKAY
East Bay Regional Parks
Trails Challenge, East Bay Regional Park District’s free, self-guided program to encourage exploring your regional parklands, is now well under way.
This is the program’s 27th year. Here’s how it works: download the Trails Challenge guidebook from the Park District website at www.ebparks.org. Or you can pick it up at a regional park visitor center, where you can also obtain a free Trails Challenge T-shirt while supplies last.
With guide in hand, hike, bike or ride any five of the 20 listed trails, or complete 26.2 miles of trails. Then submit your trail log online or by mail by Dec. 1 to receive a commemorative pin, again while supplies last.
Trails described in the guidebook are designed for all levels of fitness, from easy strolls to more challenging adventures. Many are disabled accessible. The idea is to encourage everyone to get outdoors for healthy, enjoyable exercise in parklands that may be new to them. The guidebook also contains lots of useful information on equipment, safety, hiking with children, and how to handle wildlife encounters.
Sponsors of the program are the Park District, Regional Parks Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente. Thousands of people have participated over the years, and it’s lots of fun. So don’t hesitate; it’s a great, family-friendly activity.
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It’s not on the Trails Challenge list, but it’s a unique experience: a short walk with goats from the Little Farm to Jewel Lake and back at Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley.
Like us, goats sometimes need exercise and a change of scenery. Goatherd for the occasion will be naturalist Jenna Collins. Meet her at the Little Farm at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 31. The Little Farm is at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.
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If you would prefer a flower safari, there’s one scheduled starting at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 3 at Sunol Regional Wilderness, led by naturalist Christina Garcia. It’s a moderately strenuous hike in search of spring blooms. For information, call 510-544-3282.
Sunol is located at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road, about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol. Meet Christina at the parking area just past the entrance kiosk. There’s a parking fee of $5 when the kiosk is attended.
Christina’s hike is a Wednesday Walk, one of a series of naturalist-led hikes in various regional parks, open to all. The walks tend to be fast-paced; wear sturdy footwear, bring water, and dress for the weather.
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Another informal hiking group is the Over-The-Hills Gang, designed for hikers aged 55 and older who enjoy nature study, history, fitness and fun. Naturalist “Trail Gail” Broesder leads the gang.
There’s an Over-The-Hills hike from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, starting at the parking lot of Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area on San Pablo Dam Road in El Sobrante. There’s another at the same time on April 16, starting at the Steam Train overflow parking lot just off Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Tilden Regional Park.
For information on either hike, call 510-544-2233.
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The colors of nature are the theme of Family Nature Fun Hour from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31 at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda. There’s a different topic every weekend. After that program, you can see the staff feed the fish in the center’s large aquarium.
Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda’s Central Avenue. The visitor center parking lot charges a fee of $5 per vehicle. For information, call 510-544-3187.
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Springtime offers lots of programs and activities for all ages in the regional parks. For full information, check out the website, www.ebparks.org.