As our planet starts another lap around the sun, the East Bay Regional Park District has scheduled lots of programs to help you get active in the great outdoors.

At Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley, naturalist "Trail" Gail Broesder will lead an ascent of Wildcat Peak from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. It's sometimes steep and reserved for ages 8 and older, but the views from the top are worth the effort. Bring a snack and some water and meet Gail at Tilden's Environmental Education Center at the north end of Central Park Drive.

If gardening is more to your taste, join naturalist James Wilson from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday at Tilden's heirloom garden right next to the center. If you help James with winter garden chores, you can take home some sprouts for spring -- ages 5 and older, please.

Later on Sunday, James will do some wool gathering at the center from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. He'll show how wool is collected from Tilden's Little Farm sheep, then cleaned and spun. Participants can make a felted item to take home. The programs are free of charge. For details, call 510-544-2233.

NATURE HIKES: Trail Gail also plans a series of free New Year's Nature Hikes in various regional parks. The walks will take place rain or shine, though mud may shorten the trip. If you come, bring water and a snack to share. All hikes are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Gail's first hike will be Friday at Crockett Hills Regional Park. Meet at the trailhead on Crockett Boulevard just south of Pomona Street in Crockett.


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The next hike will be Jan. 18 at Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. Meet at the north end of Bollinger Canyon Road in San Ramon. For details on all the hikes, call 510-544-2233.

BAY HISTORY: Crab Cove Visitor Center at Crown Beach in Alameda starts out the year with all kinds of programs highlighting the natural history of San Francisco Bay. The center hosts kids' story time and nature fun at 11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday in January and February. The fun includes seeing live animals, creating crafts, going on nature scavenger hunts and watching videos.

Crab Cove's Catch of the Day program is from 2 to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in January and February, with a new topic each week. This weekend, the theme is low tide exploration. At day's end, it's fish feeding time at the cove aquarium, from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Watch crab, flounder, perch, pipefish and other underwater residents get their daily banquet.

The visitor center is located at 1252 McKay Ave., off Central Avenue in Alameda. Admission is free. For information, call 510-544-3187.

BUTTERFLIES: Those gorgeous monarch butterflies are still hanging out at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, and the naturalists are still leading free guided walks to see them.

Chris Garcia and Mindy Castle will narrate slide shows at the Ardenwood Granary, followed by short walks to the butterfly grove, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Jan. 13, 19 and 27.

Chris and Mindy put on butterfly programs for kids ages 3 through 6. There will be a puppet show at the granary and a walk to the grove from 11 a.m. to noon Jan. 6, 12, 20 and 26.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd. just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. Entrance costs $3 for adults and seniors, $2 for kids ages 4 to 17. Parking is free. For details, 510-544-2797.

FUN IN SUNOL: Sunol Regional Wilderness is starting up a "Living With the Earth" program series for those who want to reconnect with nature by learning survival skills and reducing our impact on the land. The leader is naturalist Cat Taylor.

The first session from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 19 will explore cooking with fire. A primitive feast is promised at the end. On Feb. 16 the topic is fun and games; the group will make toys and play games from prehistoric California.

The programs are geared for ages 7 and older. Registration is required, and there's a $12 fee ($14 for nondistrict residents) for each session. For registration and details, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 1159 for cooking with fire, 1180 for fun and games.

The Sunol naturalist staff is starting up a new docent training program. Docents are volunteers who help the naturalists with outdoor weekday school programs, public weekend programs, and conservation projects, and assist at special events. For details, call Katie Colbert at 510-544-3243.

A HOME FOR QUAIL: Doc Quack, also known as wildlife manager Dave Riensche, has been maintaining a California quail habitat for many years at Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch, with the help of Quail Ranger volunteers.

Dave needs some of those volunteers now for a habitat work project at Contra Loma from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Feb. 16. Each participant gets a "Covey Conservation" patch for creating nesting, feeding and resting areas. Parent participation is required. For details and registration, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 1259.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.