After four years of drought, it looks like this year is a great one for wildflowers. So East Bay Regional Park District naturalists have scheduled lots of programs to help the public enjoy the show.

The Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness will celebrate the season with its annual Spring Wildflower Festival, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Festival activities will include guided hikes for all ages and levels of expertise, local vendors and artisans, crafts, family-friendly activities and booths with information about environmental organizations.

A partial schedule includes a meadow meander for kids of all ages from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., a hilly 2-mile hike for those 7 and older from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., an ethnobotany hike for ages 7 and up to learn about edible and useful plants from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and a 3-mile round-trip hike to Little Yosemite from 1:45 to 4:30 p.m. for ages 7 and older (children must be accompanied by adults).

Live entertainment will be provided by the Wadaiko Newark Taiko drum music group and Extended Roots Celtic, a folk and bluegrass band. Food will be available for purchase, or you can bring your own picnic. No alcoholic beverages, please.


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The festival is free, but Sunol has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle. Cash only, please. Parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged. Sunol Wilderness is located at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road, 5 miles south of Interstate 680 in southern Alameda County. For information, call 510-544-3249.

Berkeley: There's also a 2-mile wildflower walk from 2 to 4:30 p.m. April 10 at Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley, guided by naturalist Trent Pearce.

Or if you're feeling energetic, climb to the summit of Wildcat Peak with naturalist "Trail Gail" Broesder in a hike from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Bring water and a snack. For either program, meet at the Environmental Education Center, which is at the north end of Tilden's Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Another wildflower walk starts at 2 p.m. April 17 from the overflow lot at Tilden's Steam Train, at the intersection of Lomas Cantadas and Grizzly Peak Boulevard.

Alameda: And flowers are the theme of Family Nature Fun Hour from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday and on April 10 at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda. The center is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Oakley: Bugs are the focus of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. April 10 at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Bring a magnifying glass and play insect-themed games to learn about the bugs that crawl and fly through the park. Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Main Street in Oakley. Entry is free. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

Tick talk: In the last column, talking about ticks, I said that those bloodsucking little arachnids can be found in grassland, brush, leaf litter under trees and even on the underside of picnic tables. But before we leave the topic of ticks, I want to add some words of reassurance.

It helps to spray your shoes or boots with permethrin or other tick repellents, which can be bought at sporting goods stores. And simple precautions such as tucking trouser cuffs into your socks and checking your clothing when passing through tick territory will help to avoid tick bites. I hike in the woods all the time, and have occasionally found ticks on my clothing. But I've only been bitten once, many years ago, on a Sierra foothills trip.

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