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Holiday hikes, programs, and bird-watching at Rodeo Lagoon.

Holiday hikes, programs, and bird-watching at Rodeo Lagoon

During the holidays, an outdoor jaunt that offers both dramatic scenery and brisk coastal air can make an invigorating break from seasonal indoor activity. Rodeo Lagoon, in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, offers a quiet, drift-wood-strewn ocean beach and a broad, bird-lively lagoon. It's just 11 miles from downtown department stores via the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once home to a cattle operation, Rodeo Lagoon may have earned its name in the 1800s, when--according to one story-- thousands of market-bound longhorns were loaded onto barges from this area. This time of year, the lagoon swells with winter rains, and its surrounding vegetation provides safe haven for hundreds of wintering birds. In December, the visitor center offers a number of free bird-watching outings, guided hikes, and holiday programs. Trips all start at the center. For most, no reservation is needed.

Bundled-up Birding runs from 9 to 11 the first and third Saturdays and second and fourth Sundays of the month. Dress warmly and bring binoculars for a 2-mile walk to see some of the wintering canvasback, pintail, and ruddy ducks, as well as resident egrets and herons.

Nature's Ornaments is offered from 1:30 to 3 on December 6 (reservations are required; 415/331-1540). You'll make tree ornaments with natural materials--from eucalyptus angels to teasel tassels. Fee is $1.50.

In Stories Around the Stove, from 2 to 3 on December 13, you'll hear seasonal tales told near the wood-burning stove in the visitor center.

Headlands Holiday is celebrated from 1:30 to 4 on December 20. After an easy 2-mile hike along the beach and around the lagoon, you'll head back to the visitor center for tree-trimming and cider.

A seal-watching stop nearby

Just up the road from Rodeo Lagoon's visitor center is the California Marine Mammal Center--a rescue, rehabilitation, and research facility of international renown. You can stop in daily from 10 to 4 for a look at harbor seals, elephant seals, and California sea lions on the mend. Admission is free.

The well-stocked nature bookstore sells posters, toy marine mammals, and other items ranging from $1 to $100. Usually open from 10 to 4 daily, the store is staffed by volunteers, so be patient if no one's on hand when you first arrive.

To get to Rodeo Lagoon from U.S. Highway 101 northbound, take the Alexander Avenue exit and follow signs to Fort Cronkhite. Southbound, take the Marin Headlands GGNRA exit onto Conzelman Road and follow signs.

Photo: Guided bird walks at Rodeo Logoon take you across bridge spanning rain-swollen lagoon, then into hills beyond

Photo: In Nature's Ornaments program, you learn to make simple natural decorations like this twig-and-eucalyptus-leaf angel

Photo: Stuffed toys such as white-coated baby harp seal are a hit at California Marine Mammal Center's gift shop
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1987
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