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Adventure of the week: Work off the turkey with a visit to the American River Parkway

After indulging in Thanksgiving meals today, Sacramentans have three days to work off some of those delicious calories. We are lucky to have urban parks and tree-lined streets inviting us to walk and bike ride -- two good options on a weekend that promises to include heavy freeway traffic.

To get you started, we have three suggestions -- all on the American River Parkway. There are many entrances for the 31-mile trail, which starts near downtown Sacramento at Discovery Park and stretches to Beals Point at Folsom Lake.

An excellent map of the trail is "The American River Parkway," available for $5 at REI stores and the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Ancil Hoffman County Park in Carmichael. Maps and park sites are also online at www.sacparks.net/our-parks/ american-river-parkway.

This weekend, there are two free programs at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center that could pull you out to the parkway.

* At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, several environmentalists will talk about making a difference in the natural world.

* At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, a naturalist will lead a free, family-friendly bird-watching walk in the nature area; suggested minimum age is 6. Participants are asked to bring binoculars.

Visitors to the center also can see a giant heron's nest in the center's new interactive exhibit, "Wild About Wetlands," and they can enjoy a self-guided walk on the center's nature trails.

Information: The Effie Yeaw Nature Center is in Ancil Hoffman County Park, Carmichael (off Fair Oaks Boulevard, turn right on Van Alstine, left on California Avenue and right on Tarshes Drive). The center is closed today; (916) 489-4918. Entrance to the park costs $4 per car.

Note: Dogs, horses and bicycles are not allowed in the nature area. To ride on the parkway trail, you can pedal or drive through the neighborhood to the Arden Way entrance and cross the river on the bridge in Goethe Park; the $4 parking pass is good for the day.

The third suggestion is a moderately paced, 20-mile ride Friday that Stan Jones of Sacramento plans to lead from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to Beals Point at Folsom Lake. Organized through the Mother Lode chapter of the Sierra Club, the free outing will be on paved surfaces with some hills. Riders can expect to see birds and have great views of Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake. Participants need to bring lunch, water, tire kit, helmet and a bike in good condition. The ride will begin at 9 a.m. at the far end of the hatchery parking lot, which is off Hazel Avenue and Highway 50; (916) 393-5373 or e-mail, swjones@accessbee.com.

Of course, the parkway is a wide-open freebie for all of us, and no organized outing is needed to enjoy its trails and wildlife. There are plenty of picnic sites and open spaces to play Frisbee or catch. Go forth and burn off those holiday calories before the next round.

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