I've mentioned it before, but in view of the recent hot and dry weather, it's worth repeating -- take plenty of water with you when you hike in the regional parks and other open spaces.

Several times in recent days I have encountered hikers who either didn't have any water with them or didn't take enough. Even for a hike of only a couple of miles, at least a liter of water per person is the minimal amount. Remember that once you get away from the trailheads and picnic areas, there aren't any drinking fountains.

And you have to keep hydrated. The search-and-rescue folks all say that the time to drink is before you feel thirsty. Otherwise, heat exhaustion can sneak up on you. Don't forget your canine companions, either. Dogs need a lot of water on hot days. They wear permanent fur coats and cool off mainly by panting. So if your dog is panting rapidly, he needs some shade and a drink.

If you don't want to lug around a drinking bowl for Fido, carry a one-quart or one-gallon plastic bag. They weigh practically nothing, and they work well. Your dog will thank you. Of course you can avoid some of the summer heat by timing your hikes for earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. Whenever you hike, don't forget the broad-brimmed hat and suntan lotion.

Tilden: Signs of land-based and aquatic life will be sought during two programs July 27 at Tilden Nature Area next to Berkeley, both led by naturalist Anthony Fisher.


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The first is animal tracking from 8:30 to 11 a.m. The group will hit the dusty trails to look for evidence of the animals that also travel on them. Then from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Anthony will lead a safari in search of life at Tilden's ponds. Both programs are free and start at the Environmental Education Center at the end of Tilden's Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Tuesday twilight: One opportunity for evening strolls is the Tuesday Twilight series, guided walks led by park district naturalists. There's one from 7 to 9:30 p.m. July 29 through Castle Rock and Diablo Foothills regional parklands. It's a 2½-mile-round-trip hike over some hilly terrain to view the Castle Rocks and Mount Diablo while looking for nocturnal wildlife.

The hike is free of charge. Meet at the Castle Rock staging area, which is at the end of Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek. Bring water (see above), snacks and a flashlight. There's another Tuesday Twilight at the same time on Aug. 5 at Leona Canyon in Oakland. For more information on the Castle Rock hike call 510-544-2768. For Leona Canyon, call 510-544-3183.

Alameda: Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda is hosting a series of programs to search for low-tide animal life. The next one is from 8 to 10 a.m. July 27. The group will look for crabs, mussels, barnacles, worms and shrimp, some of which may provide breakfast for foraging shorebirds.

Also at Crab Cove, Family Nature Fun Time is from 2 to 2:30 p.m. July 26 and 27 on the theme, "It's a Sailor's Life for Me." Crab Cove is located at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Richmond: Bird-watchers of all abilities will enjoy a bird walk from 8 to 10 a.m. July 26 along the San Francisco Bay Trail in Richmond, led by naturalist Trent Pearce. The group will meet at Shimada Friendship Park. For information, call 510-544-2233.

As long as we're on the subject of birds, naturalist Mike Moran will continue his raptor census research with a hike from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve east of Mount Diablo.

No experience is necessary. Mike will show participants how to identify the falcons, hawks and eagles, then help him count their numbers. The hike is free of charge, but registration is required. For registration and information, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 6338.

Antioch: A hike to watch moonrise over the mines is scheduled from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, led by naturalist Kevin Dixon. It's a 2-mile round trip with lots of uphill climbing to reach a ridgetop vantage point. Free of charge, it's designed for ages 8 and older. Registration is required; call 888-327-2757, select option 2 and refer to program 6405.

Oakley: A program at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley will feature wetland plants such as cottonwood and cattails. It's from 2 to 3 p.m. July 27. Big Break is located at 69 Big Break Road off Main Street. For information on all Big Break's visitor center programs, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

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