Park It: Trails Challenge under way in regional parks
By Ned Mackay
Contra Costa Times


January 20, 2010

TRAILS CHALLENGE 2010, the self-motivated program encouraging people to discover and explore some of the best trails in the East Bay Regional Parks, is under way.

Sponsored by the park district and the Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization, Trails Challenge gives participants an incentive to visit regional parks new to them, while promoting good health and conditioning through enjoyable outdoor exercise.

A guidebook listing the trails challenge hikes is available online at the park district's Web site, www.ebparks.org. The booklet lists trails of all degrees of difficulty throughout the regional parks. There are trails open to hikers, bicyclists and equestrians, and many are wheelchair accessible.

Registration is required, and it's free. To register, visit the Web site, click on "Trails Challenge" in the "Features" section on the right side of the home page, and proceed as directed.

With registration, you receive access to download the guidebook, instructions on how to get your free, organic Trails Challenge T-shirt (while supplies last) and Web links to Google maps showing the routes.

In a move toward "going green," participants are encouraged to print out only portions of the booklet they need, though complete hard copies will be available for $5 each. Besides the specific trail information, the booklet contains general park district information and tips for new trail users.

Complete any five of the Trails Challenge trips by Dec. 1, send in your trail log, and you will receive a commemorative Trails Challenge pin (again, while supplies last). The honor system applies here; nobody's checking to be sure you actually completed the five trails to qualify for your pin.

Ten parks and 30 trails are featured, with three trail options in each ranging from easy to challenging. For example, one East County challenge is an easy stroll around Contra Loma Reservoir in Antioch. The moderate and difficult routes pick up where the easy trail ends.

So whether you hike, bike, ride horseback or even roller skate, check out Trails Challenge 2010. It's a great way to get in shape while exploring parks you may not have previously visited.

A lot of spring runoff from the Sierra snows eventually flows past Martinez Regional Shoreline in Martinez. To see how this affects the local marsh life, join naturalist Bob Kanagaki from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for an easy walk around the park. The outing is geared for ages 8 and older. For information, phone 925-757-2620.

Observing the activities and taking a census of some magnificent birds of prey will be the focus during two hikes in East County led by naturalist Mike Moran. No experience is necessary; Mike will show you how to identify the birds.

Mike will walk the Marsh Creek Trail in Brentwood from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28. Meet at the Cypress Road parking lot. He'll go on the Big Break Trail in Oakley during the same time frame on Thursday, Feb. 25. Meet at the main parking lot on Big Break Road off Highway 4.

Both hikes are free, but registration is required. To register, phone 1-888-327-2757. Select option 2, then 3. For Marsh Creek, refer to program 23155. For Big Break, it's program 23156.

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

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