If you've made a New Year's resolution to get more fresh air and exercise in 2014, your East Bay Regional Park District stands ready to help.
One early opportunity is a free program called "Tracking the Urban Edge," led by naturalist Anthony Fisher. First in the series is a hike from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Jan. 5 at Crockett Hills Regional Park in Crockett. The group will learn to identify animals that live near us by the tracks they leave during their wanderings.
Bring a camera, notebook, binoculars and a measuring tool. Meet at the park's trailhead on Crockett Boulevard off Pomona Street in Crockett.
Another chance is an appropriately named "Resolution Hike" from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5 at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve east of Mt. Diablo, led by naturalist Eddie Willis.
This one is a three- to four-mile moderate jaunt along the park's scenic ridgelines, designed for ages 8 and older. Meet Eddie at the park entrance on Morgan Territory Road, about nine narrow and winding miles south of the junction with Marsh Creek Road in Clayton. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750. Rain cancels it.
If you enjoy bird watching, Anthony leads birding walks almost every Monday. The next one is from 9 a.m. to noon on Jan. 6 at Eastshore State Park in Berkeley. Meet in the Seabreeze Market parking lot at the west end of University Avenue, just over the Interstate 80 bridge. For information on either of Anthony's programs, call 510-544-2233.
And here's one for the 55-and-older crowd. It's an informal group called the "Over-the-Hills Gang," which will venture to Briones Regional Park from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7 led by naturalist "Trail Gail" Broesder, in search of breeding newts. Meet at the end of Briones Road off Alhambra Valley Road in Martinez. Briones Road is easy to miss. For directions, call 510-544-2233.
Telltale evidence of a now-vanished mining town will be revealed during a hike from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, led by naturalist Bob Kanagaki.
This hike is for ages 7 and older. Meet Bob in the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750. Rain cancels.
The new year brings a whole series of programs to the visitor center at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley.
You can help test the Delta water quality in a program from 9 to 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday in January and February. Delta Discoveries, a family-friendly series including arts and crafts activities, is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
And from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 4, there's a bird-watching program led by the interpretive staff.
Big Break Regional Shoreline is on Big Break Road off Main Street in Oakley. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.
In past years, monarch butterflies have held an annual winter convention at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. But this year, after an initial showing of about 1,000 insects, the monarchs have left Ardenwood's eucalyptus grove for destinations unknown. Only a few butterflies remain.
Nevertheless, Ardenwood naturalists will continue their series of monarch-themed programs. There are monarch butterfly walks scheduled at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in January, starting at the granary building. And there are programs planned at the grove from 2 to 3 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday in January.
"Monarchs for Kids" ages 3 through 6 years will be in session at the granary from 11 a.m. to noon on Jan. 4, 12, 18 and 26. "Meet the Monarchs" is a slide show and walk from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 11, 19 and 25.
Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2797.
Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda features fish-feeding time from 3 to 3:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at its aquarium full of San Francisco Bay denizens.
The center's Family Fun Nature Hour offers a different activity each Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 3 p.m. On Jan. 4 and 5 it's bird-spotting bingo.
Crab Cove is located at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue in Alameda. For information, call 510-544-3187.
At Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley, "Trail Gail" will lead a climb to the summit of Wildcat Peak from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 4. Bring a snack and some water, and ascend to terrific views. It's for ages 10 and older.
"Taking Tiny Pictures" is the objective of a program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5 and again on Jan. 19, hosted by naturalist Anthony Fisher. Bring any camera with a macro setting, even your phone, and Anthony will show how to get close-ups of flora and fauna.
For Gail's hike, meet at the Environmental Education Center. Because of ongoing construction, you get there by parking at the end of Lone Oak Road off Tilden's Central Park Drive, then walking to the center. For Anthony's program, just meet at the end of Lone Oak Road. For information on either program, call 510-544-2233.
Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.