Celebrating New Year's Day with family and friends at Sibley.

One of the best ways to greet the New Year is getting out with friends and family for an invigorating hike.  It’s an opportunity to exercise and notice what’s going on in the winter landscape.  It might even be the first step in keeping a New Year’s resolution to do more walking.  Sibley Volcanic Preserve, one of the East Bay Regional Parks, is one of my favorite places to explore on the first day of the year. The trails are wide, though sometimes muddy, and it’s not too shady so we can soak up some sunlight. We’ll hike rain or shine, though my favorite years are when it’s sunny and the air is crisp, like this year.

Most of the deciduous plants are dormant this time of year, but sleeping buds hold tender leaves and flowers until the longer days of spring arrive. On our hike, I was surprised to find some non-native blackberries with red fruit, though the ground was cold enough to harbor icy patches in the shade. The unexpected berries reminded me of Project BudBurst which enlists anyone and everyone to report on what’s happening in the plant world.  Volunteers help scientists to track the phenology of plants — posting what’s blooming, fruiting, dropping leaves and when and where on their website. This will be important data to track as climate change progresses.

Blackberries were still on the vine this late into winter.

At the bottom of the old rock quarry in Sibley lays a labyrinth and pond. In drier times of year, the labyrinth offers opportunities for a meditative walk. The pond, after all the rain we’ve had, has engulfed part of the labyrinth. This is good news for the newts and garter snakes that will come to the water to participate in mating rituals (the newts) and food chain (the snakes). I’ll be back in the spring — or sooner — to see what developments and changes have happened with the seasons. Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!  Share in the comments your favorite outdoor places to watch the seasonal changes around the Bay Area.

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Hiking in the New Year at Sibley Volcanic Preserve 2 October,2015Sharol Nelson-Embry


Sharol Nelson-Embry

Sharol Nelson-Embry is the Supervising Naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center & Aquarium on San Francisco Bay in Alameda. Crab Cove is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the largest and oldest regional park agencies in the nation. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Natural Resources Management and an epiphany that connecting kids with nature was her destiny. She’s been rooted in the Bay Area since 1991 after working at nature centers and outdoor science schools around our fair state. She loves the great variety of habitats stretching from the Bay shoreline to the redwoods, lakes, and hills. Sharol enjoys connecting people to nature with articles in local newspapers and online forums.

Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.

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