It seems as if summer has been on fast-forward, and here we are at Labor Day weekend already.
If you were thinking of a camping getaway, it's too late, at least for campgrounds in the East Bay Regional Parks. All campsites have been booked for many weeks. That's probably true of most state and national parks as well.
But cheer up. There's still a lot to see and do this coming weekend within an easy drive of your home, including open house activities at several park district visitor centers.
A good bet is the 12th annual Historic Rail Fair at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. It's on track from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Monday, Sept. 1-3, a celebration of all things railroad-related.
One star attraction of this year's fair is the 1890 steam porter engine, "Ann Marie." Visitors can enjoy steam train rides, hand car rides, model railroad displays, rail yard equipment displays, early day gas engine and tractor displays, food for sale, music, and the hobo game for children.
Ardenwood is located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. Admission to the Rail Fair costs $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children. Ages 3 and under get in free, and parking is free. For more information about the Rail Fair, visit www.spcrr.org.
Or you could visit the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, where public programs are
From 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, naturalist Bob Kanagaki will lead a hike to check out how Black Diamond's miners changed the landscape by planting trees from all over the world.
Meet Bob at the parking lot at the south end of Somersville Road. Though rain seems unlikely, it would cancel the hike.
Then on Sunday, Sept. 2, naturalist Eddie Willis will show off some live snakes from 1 to 2 p.m. to demonstrate how the reptiles survive in Black Diamond's hot summer climate. Meet Eddie at the same parking lot.
On Labor Day Monday, Black Diamond's Hazel-Atlas silica sand mine will offer first-come, first-served mine tours at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. You must be at least 7 years old to take the Hazel-Atlas tour, and parental participation is required.
Tickets cost $5 per person, and can be purchased at the nearby underground Greathouse Visitor Center. Entry to the Greathouse Center is free, and there is no age restriction.
After Labor Day, guided tours of the Hazel-Atlas mine will be offered at various times on weekends through November.
Black Diamond Mines is located on Somersville Road four miles south of Highway 4 in Antioch. For more information, call the park at 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
There's still time to participate in the park district's 2012 Trails Challenge program and earn a commemorative pin. The district staff is leading one of the hikes on the Trails Challenge list from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 1, at Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline in Crockett.
It's free, but registration is required. To obtain more information and register, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 29436.
There's another guided Trails Challenge hike from 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 20, at Round Valley south of Brentwood. To register for that one, refer to program 29441.
All the regional parks will be open on Labor Day, with picnic tables available on a first-come, first-served basis. Park attendance is high on holidays, so come early to claim a good spot, especially at parks with swim beaches.
If all tables are taken, you can set up a blanket picnic. Portable barbecues are allowed on lawns, but not in dry grass areas. Please dispose of coals in the concrete bins designed for that purpose, not in the regular trash barrels. Wildfire is a major concern, as always.
Swim areas staffed by lifeguards are generally open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, depending on weather, park attendance and staff availability. Know your swimming ability and stay within it. Children 12 and under must be supervised by adults at all times. Please abide by all instructions from lifeguards and rangers, especially during emergencies.
Looking ahead, the park district will celebrate completion of the Wildcat Marsh segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail with a public dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8.
After the dedication there will be a naturalist-led short hike to the observation deck. Or you can bring a bike and enjoy a self-guided ride along the Landfill Loop Trail.
Since September is Trail Safety Month, members of the park district's Volunteer Trail Safety Patrol will hand out free bike helmets, donated by the Regional Parks Foundation and the Committee for Industrial Safety. There will be light refreshments and activities for the kids, too.
The dedication site is off Richmond Parkway in Richmond. For more information or to RSVP, call Brenda Montano at 510-544-2200 or email email@example.com.
Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.