Magazine article Sunset

Once Ranches, Now They're Parks in Southern Alameda County

Magazine article Sunset

Once Ranches, Now They're Parks in Southern Alameda County

Article excerpt

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). …

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