OAKLAND -- Wendy Wheeler has been hiking for most of her life. She likes to explore, loves nature and believes that hiking offers opportunities to learn what the world is really about.
Through early on she focused on local parks, this Rockridge resident has broadened her exploration field and set herself a formidable project. With hiking partner Thomas Page, Wheeler is hiking every trail in every park of the East Bay Regional Park District. Those in the know are aware that there are 65 parks, 113,000 acres and 1,200 miles of trails within the park district. Wheeler's plan is to cover every mile of trail.
"Our goal is to finish but also to enjoy ourselves," she said.
Though Wheeler and Page have been hiking since 2001, it wasn't until 2008 when Page came up with the "every-park-every trail" idea, and since then the two have hiked on weekends starting early in the morning and covering 10 to 20 miles. The project requires a lot of planning, including weather conditions and terrain.
"We take a map and start plotting out the most efficient way to finish the park without doubling back and hiking one trail twice," Wheeler said. "We use yellow highlighter to show the trails we've hiked and for us to finish a park, every trail on the map needs to be yellow."
The statistics are impressive. Wheeler boasts hiking in every park except for Brooks Island, some parks more than once. The pair has completed 48 parks, from Big Break and Briones in the north; Point Pinole and Tilden in the west; Coyote Hills and Ardenwood in the south; and to Round Valley and Sunol in the east.
"We've hiked more than 2,000 miles because when you hike every trail in a park you travel more miles by hiking over the same trails to cover dead ends," Wheeler said. "In larger parks, the number of dead ends and same trails add up to many extra miles."
Wheeler's explorer instinct is a big motivator; she loves seeing new things and welcomes the opportunity to explore these amazing places.
"Sometimes people don't realize how much we have around us," she said. "If they fully grasped the beauty and vastness of this open space, they would be shocked."
To spread the word about the Bay Area's richness of natural resources, Wheeler and Page have a bimonthly lecture at the Lafayette Library in which they put on slide shows about local and Bay Area parks. Wheeler also serves as an ambassador for the East Bay Regional Park District, participating in park-sponsored events and often creating her own.
With the important consideration of preservation and stewardship of the parks, Wheeler works with local schools to encourage children to get outdoors. She helped start a hiking club at Chabot Elementary, organized parent nights to show the movie "Mother Nature's Child" and is now working on a lecture series for Merritt College to bring in speakers who focus on children in nature. Through her work with the Children in Nature Collaborative, she's set up a Bay Area link on Facebook for parents to see outdoor opportunities. Wheeler hopes this hiking project will serve as encouragement to others.
"Try to explore more and learn what's out there," she said. "There are different ways to explore the parks, on your own or on a naturalist-led hike," Wheeler said. "We would love to see more people experiencing the parks in new ways."
As for when the project will be completed, a push might get them there in one year, but there's no pressure and the goal is to explore, enjoy and appreciate.
For anyone interested in having Wendy Wheeler talk to their group about hiking or show "Mother Nature's Child," contact her at email@example.com.
For pictures of Wheeler and Page's hikes, go to https://www.facebook.com/HikingEveryTrail.
For information on Children in Nature, go to https://www.facebook.com/ChildrenInNature.