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Upcoming adventures: Tour Deer Creek Hills on foot or horse

The Sacramento Valley Conservancy makes it easy to take a nature hike close to home. Its trailheads are about 35 minutes east of downtown, and its docents have organized several wildflower, bird and archaeological outings to make it easy to get out on the trail this spring. All the outings are family-friendly. New this season is an equestrian ride for horse lovers.

Outbound is giving you early notice, because these outings often fill up quickly and one needs to sign up in advance.

"We accommodate as many people as we can by dividing people into small groups according to their interests and abilities," said Aimee Rutledge, the conservancy's executive director.

Most of the outings are at Deer Creek Hills, a working cattle ranch just west of Rancho Murieta and north of Jackson Road (Highway 16). The docents regularly lead hikes through the preserve on the fourth Saturday of the month through May. Hikes coming up are March 25, April 22 and May 27.

On the conservancy's team of 30 docents are experts in birds, history and wildflowers. Among them are members from the California Native Plant Society, Valley grassland bird expert Ed Pandolfino, historian and author Naida West, and expert horesman Bill Katen.

Hikers head out on dirt roads and cow paths to walk among the oaks, ponds and craggy rocks in the low, rolling foothills. Occasionally the groups head out cross country, so sturdy shoes are a must.

Hikes vary from one mile to about five, according to Rutledge, and last up to four hours, depending on the group.

The conservancy is a private, nonprofit land trust devoted to open space. Private hikes can be arranged on request.

HIKES

When:

* 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 25, wildflowers

* 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 22, birds and wildflowers

* 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 27, history/archaeological interest

What to bring: A hat, sunscreen, water, binoculars and a snack

What to wear: Sturdy shoes with ankle support

What to know: Heavy rain, heavy wind cancels

Cost: Free (donation appreciated)

Directions: For hikes and rides (below), meet at Latrobe and Stone House roads

Facilities: Portable restroom

Registration: (916) 731-8798 or www.sacramentovalleyconservancy.org

EQUESTRIAN RIDE

When:

* 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 26

* 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 23

* 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 28

Cost: $30 with own horse

Registration: (916) 731-8798 or www.sacramentovalleyconservancy.org

VERNAL POOL AND WILDFLOWER TOUR

When: 1 p.m. April 23

Cost: Free (donation appreciated)

What to bring: A hat, sunscreen, water, binoculars and a snack

What to wear: Sturdy shoes with ankle support

What to know: Heavy rain, heavy wind cancels

Directions: Meet at ranch gate on east side of Excelsior Road, about a half-mile north of Florin Road

Facilities: Portable restroom

Registration: (916) 731-8798 or www.sacramentovalleyconservancy.org

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