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Once ranches, now they're parks in southern Alameda County.

Once ranches, now they're parks in southern Alameda County

Ridged with trails cut by a hundred years of grazing cattle, the rolling Hayward hills provide views of San Francisco's South Bay you've probably never seen. To the southwest are the smooth humps of the Coyote Hills; straight out to the west is the swirl of the Leslie salt-evaporation ponds; and below, the sprawl of Alameda County.

Set in the hills, two adjacent regional parks--Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer-- offer moderately challenging hiking in an island of suburban wilderness.

Spring is perhaps the best time of year to visit these quiet parks; days can be crisply cool, and views from the high trails are often clear. Until the weather really heats up, the hills should stay green. Wildflowers in bloom this month include goldfields, lupine, and poppies.

Both parks were once ranches. Two families (the Meyers on the Dry Creek Pioneer side, the Garins on the other) ran the spreads almost continuously from the 1880s until the land became parks, in 1979. Even today, some 200 head of cattle roam the 2,880 acres of land.

A good place to start your visit is the old red Garin barn, with its displays of antique farm equipment, hand tools, and photographs of early farming. Nearby, you'll see an array of farm equipment dating from the '20s and '30s.

From the barn, hike about 1/2 mile south to 3 1/2-acre Jordon Pond. The pond is stocked with channel catfish; there are also largemouth bass, bluegill, and sunfish. No boats are allowed, but you can fish (state license required). From here, continue along the 5-mile Ridge Loop Trail to some spectacular views.

This trail climbs gently from the pond to the first overlooks, then levels out along the ridge and dips down to the junction with Meyers Ranch Trail. It then climbs steeply past brush and old oaks to the side loop to Gossip Rock. Look for the Indian mortar holes in this California laurel-- shaded rock formation. The trail curves north, skirting the ridge before sloping back down to the visitor center. The trail's elevation range is about 700 feet.

For a shorter jaunt, consider the 1-mile (one way) path north from the visitor center to the Newt Pond wildlife area. On a recent weekday hike, we surprised some deer browsing here at midday.

Note that horses and bicycles (bring your own in both cases) are allowed on all trails; dogs must be kept on leashes.

The parks are in Hayward, some 10 miles south of Oakland. From Interstate 880, take the Industrial Parkway exit east; turn right on Mission Boulevard, then left on Garin Boulevard to the parks. Parking, free on weekdays, costs $2 on weekends.

Photo: Old cattle fence runs between Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer parks; hiking up Ridge trail, you look back at bustling Hayward

Photo: Trim red barn is restored, now a visitor center; you can picnic out front, amid old farm machinery and apple trees

Photo: Deep hole in sandstone off the Ridge Loop Trail was made by Indians grinding acorns
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks, California
Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1988
Words:516
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