Most people don't need an interpreter to enjoy Stow Lake. The doughnut-shaped waterway's pleasures practically bat you over the head as soon as you get there. But Christopher Pollock is the author of two books about Golden Gate Park, and it's a good bet that as great as paddling, picnicking, and pedaling the pond is, his "Tour of Stow Lake" can make the experience even better.
The author leads curious lake enthusiasts on a two-plus-hour walk, with moderate hill and stair climbing, probably up to the tippy top of the lagoon's central island. The tour begins early, so you can easily get an ice cream and a rowboat afterward -- not to worry. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Strybing Arboretum, Ninth Avenue & Lincoln Way, S.F. Admission is $5-8; call 661-1316.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Dog Day Afternoon
It's love and licks all around at the Bay to Barkers Dog Walk and Festival, a gentle 1.3-mile amble that ends in a cavalcade of canine delights. Display your comrade's special skills at various competitions, including Best Singer, Most Athletic Pair, Best Brace of Dogs (that's two or more), Muttiest Mutt, and Best Trick. Doggie demos, treat vendors, and human-dog games round out the Fido-focused fun, with all proceeds benefiting the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society. Come and stay starting at 10 a.m. in Cesar Chavez Park, Marina & Spinnaker, Berkeley. Dog walk registration is $25-28; call (510) 845-7735 or visit www.berkeleyhumane.org.
-- Charyn Pfeuffer
Explore the urban orchard
Unlike those in drabber cities, San Francisco's landscape is chock-full of lush trees, especially exotic species brought by foreign newcomers hoping to import a little piece of home. Get to know some of the more interesting varieties at "Trees of San Francisco," a two-hour Cole Valley stroll with arborist Mike Sullivan, author of a book by the same name.
"Cole Valley has a great variety of trees," says Sullivan. "Its climate is favorable, since the valley's sheltered from strong western winds -- and it's close to the Haight, so there are lots of tree-huggers." To see a mutated New Zealand Christmas tree, a carved statue in the trunk of a cypress, and other forest refugees, meet at 2 p.m. in front of Boulange de Cole Valley, 1000 Cole (at Parnassus), S.F. Admission is free, but reservations are required; call 255-3233 or go to www.greenbelt.org.
-- Joyce Slaton