Hello, Pretty: Tarantula Time at Mt. Diablo

Autumn must be nigh when the long-legged walks through nature start up.

"GENTLE GIANT" OF THE MOUNTAIN: Gentle giants are quite the fictional fixture in adventure novels, but giants can arrive in many ways beyond the humans we often see in tales. Some gentle giants boast multiple legs and furry bodies and the ability to make people quake, when, really, they're quite passive and not looking to harm. Look to the tarantula, one of the largest of the arachnids, a beastie that can, in some eyes, boast a fearsome look. It does not have a fearsome character, however, making it, in the opinion of many fans, the teddy bear of the spider world. Its appearance is also a harbinger of autumn in many places, and those who adore this gentle giant, and evening walks, and free things, mark the Mt. Diablo Interpretative Association outings on their calendar each year. The late-afternoon or early-in-the-night strolls, which are guide-led, take tarantula mavens into the hills and dells of Mitchell Canyon, for a three-mile look-about. What are you looking for, exactly? "(H)airy, harmless tarantulas crawling the mountain looking for mates." Mating season makes these burrow dwellers more active and more prone to journeying about, which makes spotting them, and admiring them from a distance, easier to do come late August and September.

TARANTULA TREK: Head out on the last Sunday in August with a pair of naturalists as they make their way into Mitchell Canyon on a quest to find these scurry-prone cuties. Tarantula Walks happen for several Sundays after Aug. 30, ending on Oct. 11, and they happen a bit earlier in the day. Docents and naturalists will prep you ahead of the walk for what you're going to see, and why tarantulas are out looking for love at this time of year. Since you'll be venturing into nature, show with water and snacks and the appropriate clothing (layers are always a nice idea). As for these gentle giants and their not-so-fortunate reputation? Perhaps more tarantula walks means more fans, and more fans means the tide will turn. There are powerful creepy-crawlies in this world that are worth eek-ing over, but this docile fellow conjures fear where fear should not exist.

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