For the first time in 30 years, Muir Woods' annual Winter Solstice program on Friday will celebrate the shortest day of the year instead of the longest night.
This year's solstice celebration, billed as "simpler, safer, serene," begins at noon and ends at 5 p.m.
"We'll look at salmon and mushrooms and get up close and personal with banana slugs," said Mia Monroe, Muir Woods National Monument supervisor, adding that the day will include storytelling, a visit by John Muir, making salmon hats and the traditional lighting of luminaria.
Park officials called off the nighttime solstice celebration because so many people turned out for it in recent years -- sometimes more than 1,000 -- that it caused traffic, parking, noise and safety problems.
"As the program got more and more popular, we burst at the seams," Monroe explained. "It became too big. It had too many elements in an outdoor setting that we couldn't make safe."
So they decided that it was time to switch from night to day.
"What we did was take a deep breath and realize we had focused on the longest night, but now it was time to focus on the shortest day," Monroe said. "The forest comes alive with all the rain we're having. And we've come up with all kinds of exciting daytime ways for people to experience the winter wonderland of a redwood forest."
Contact Paul Liberatore via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go
What: Winter Solstice at Muir Woods
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Friday (Dec. 21)
Where: Muir Woods National Monument
Admission: $7 adults (16 and older), kids (15 and younger) free
Information: www.nps.gov/muwo/ ___