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GREAT HIKES: Winter Hiking:

You can’t go hiking with any regularity and not develop at least some sensitivity to the seasons, the moon and, stars, as well as environmental issues.

Two upcoming hikes embrace the big picture, with the “Winter Solstice” (the shortest day of the year) as a theme. On Saturday, December 17 at 3:30 p.m., the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom, in concert with Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority, are hosting a two-and-a-half hour moderate hike in Franklin Canyon, featuring a discussion about seasonal changes and help in identifying planets and constellations. Be sure to bring binoculars to make the most of this informative hike. Call (310) 858-7272 for details.

The Sierra Club is also presenting a winter Solstice hike on December 20 at 8:50 a.m. in (where else?) Solstice Canyon in Malibu. This is an eight-mile trek designed for moderate hikers, and will include the Rising Sun Trail, the Tropical Terrace and into Deer Valley, eventually picking up some gain and ocean views. Be sure to bring water and lunch for this four-hour adventure. Sierra Club events are always well-organized and on time, and this is a great way to get acquainted with our local trails. Call (310) 822-6848 if you need details or you can visit www.nps.gov/samo for a map and driving directions.

One other upcoming hike worth noting is especially for dog owners. There aren’t many events like this, so if you’ve got a dog, this is the hike to take note of. “Do Dogs Smile?” will take place on Sunday, December 18, at 10 am, at the Sooky Goldman Nature Center. I really like this program: it’s a one-hour moderate hike with friendly dogs on leashes, followed by a video about dog care and exercise. You’ll learn the “smile” exercise and meet lots of other dog lovers. Call (310) 858-7272 for information.

If you don’t have a dog and just want to go out there for a hike, you can join us on any Monday or Wednesday night for a two-hour trek along one of 21 rotating local trails. There’s no lecture – but you’ll definitely experience the best of the Westside.Fearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes, should call Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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