Lush Life 

There when you need it

WED 3/5

When your East Coast friends tell you that California winters have made you soft, tell them maybe so and send them a picture of yourself among the lush amenities of Castro Valley's Crow Canyon Park. "It has three and a half acres of parking," says Al Shpil, who runs the place. He's being modest. It's true about the parking, but there's also the forty acres of no parking. There you'll find softball, volleyball, swimming, horseshoes, barbecue pits, and the more au naturel charms of open fields and rolling hills. And the less au naturel charms of a video arcade. Al estimates his park at about twenty minutes from downtown Oakland, an easy Tilden alternative. Crow Canyon is open from 10 to 5 daily, and now's a good time to go. When asked what the park population is like this time of year, Al thinks it over and says, "It's thin." He seems trustworthy, and has a keen sense of adventure. "I've only lived in Bay Area for 78 years," he says. "So I'm a newcomer here. I like it." For more info: 510-886-2775. -- Jonathan Kiefer

SUN 3/9
Fal-de-ri, fal-de-ra

Put on your old faithful boots and grab your knapsack, campers! The spring hiking season is well under way at the Berkeley Hiking Club. The easygoing club ($5 annual dues, $2 per extra family member) has planned two outings this week, both on Sunday. First is a mini-hike around King Mountain and Madrone Canyon in Marin County, leaving at 8:30 a.m. Phone hike leader Melanie Facen (415-492-0470) to arrange car pools. Next is an eight-mile trek through Point Richmond, including Miller Knox Park, the SS Red Oak Victory Ship, Brick Yard Cove, and the top of Nicoll's Knob. Leaving time is 9:30 a.m. The club has scheduled Bay Area hikes through July. To find out more, log onto www.berkeleyhikingclub.pair.com -- Kelly Vance

TUE 3/11

Suns Rising

Don't get burned, kids

Three weeks ago, this space urged East Bay citizens to join that caravan of success called the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, the Bolts returned to their old ways by flopping to the floorboards, thus bringing the conga line to a halt.But fear not. With playoff spots on the horizon, now is the time for hearts bursting through jerseys and tumbling onto the hardwoods -- which is a good thing for fans.

On Tuesday, March 11 (7:30 p.m.), the Phoenix Suns bring star point guard Stephon Marbury to the Coliseum for some cardiac arrest. The veteran Marbury will go head to head with Gilbert Arenas, our temperamental-but-brilliant young 'un. If Arenas and team want to make the ultimate statement -- if they're going to "pull it out and spill it all over the stage" -- then now would be the appropriate time. -- Justin Berton

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