October 2, 2008

Ned McKay

By Ned McKay

Visitors to Brushy Peak Regional Preserve near Livermore can now hike a new loop trail through the preserve, thanks in part to the work of about 100 volunteers from Volunteers for Outdoor California.

The volunteers spent the weekend of Sept. 13 and 14 helping to finish a mile-and-a-half of trail that makes the formerly dead-end Brushy Peak Trail into a loop. The new trail does not go to the top of Brushy Peak itself, but it takes you up to a shady spot with spectacular views of the Livermore Valley. The new trail is open to hikers, equestrians and bicycle riders.

Park district staff spent seven weeks roughing out the trail, sometimes using a small dozer. Workers avoided ground squirrel holes, which also provide habitat for the endangered California tiger salamander. They also took care not to disturb boulders that may have been used in the past by Native Americans for acorn grinding.

The volunteers then constructed a half-mile of the trail and did some finish work on the rest. They arranged rocks by hand, and installed three natural stone fords across seasonal drainages.

Based in Redwood City, Volunteers for Outdoor California enlists volunteers of all ages to work with communities and public agencies throughout Northern California to build and maintain trails and restore wildlife habitat.

Brushy Peak was the center of a network of trade routes that linked American Indian tribes from the Bay Area and the Central Valley. The peak and its environs have been considered sacred by Indians for millennia. The peak itself is owned by the city of Livermore, which offers tours through the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District.

To reach the preserve from East Contra Costa, drive south on Vasco Road. Just before Interstate 580, turn left onto Northfront Road. In less than a mile, turn left again onto Laughlin Road. The preserve's staging area is two miles ahead at the end of Laughlin Road. Dogs are welcome, but must be leashed at all times. There's a toilet and drinking water at the trailhead.

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Autumn in all its abundance will be celebrated with lots of old- fashioned fun during the Harvest Festival at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 11 and 12.

Visitors can help harvest the Indian corn and popcorn (yes, the farm grows a type of corn that is intended for popping), and take some home for decorations. Please bring your own bags for the corn. Other activities will include magic by Brian Scott and his Wizard Training Show, cider pressing, crafts, and old-time music by Dan Engle & Ray Frank, and David Maloney.

You can also watch blacksmithing demonstrations, ride on Ardenwood's unique horse-drawn train, and tour the historic Patterson House mansion. This year there will be no pumpkin patch, corn maze, or hay ride tours of the farm fields.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. The entry fee for the Harvest Festival is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors aged 62 and older, $5 for children aged 4 through 17, and free for children aged 3 and under. Parking is free of charge.

For more information about the Harvest Festival and other Ardenwood programs, phone the park at 510-796-0199.

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Naturalist Mike Moran is continuing his series of kids' discovery programs at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. He's scheduled two this Saturday.

From 10 to 11 a.m., and again from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Moran will lead short walks during which the group will search for animal tracks, then make plaster casts of them for the kids to take home.

The programs are free of charge. Big Break is located on Big Break Road off Highway 4 in Oakley. Meet at the pier, which is a short walk from the parking lot. For more information, phone 925- 757-2620.

Ned MacKay, retired public information supervisor for the East Bay Regional Park District, writes a weekly column about East Bay parks. E-mail him at [email protected]

Originally published by Ned McKay, Columnist.

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