On the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay in Northern Alameda County a city of 112,580 people (According to the 2010 Census) is nestled among the foothills. In the evenings, this city envelops the inhabitants in a comforting blanket of fog. This city was named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. The cities of Emeryville, Piedmont, and Oakland lie to the south of our city of Berkeley and the communities of Albany, Kensington and El Cerrito occupy neighborhoods to its northern border.Its eastern border defines the Western edge of Charles Lee Tilden Regional Park and the Berkeley Hills. This Park known as “Tilden Park” to the Locals is a part of the EBRPD (East Bay Regional Parks District) and covers a vast 2,079 acres and is one of the District’s Three Oldest parks. According to Tilden Park’s home page it has been “…called the jewel of the system, and its recreational activities have become a happy tradition for generations of East Bay youngsters.”
Growing up I must have been one of the most fortunate people on the face of the earth. Though, I didn’t realize it at the time. I grew up in Berkeley in the 1960s. At the time I was growing up, the city was described as “Radical”. Its name was changed to “Berzerkley” in an attempt at being derogatory, yet this appellation was heartily accepted by the residents and the strange sound of it lost its sting. Nowadays Berkeley is considered socially Liberal. Yet for me growing up, it was none of these things, it was simply my home. I had access to the outdoors, plenty of room to roam, to ride my bike. I had places to swim, places to hike and places to learn. It was a wonderful place for me as a child and I suppose that was true for most of my friends too. I would guess that I may have taken these things for granted at the time, as we all seem to do when we are young. We think we have all the time in the world, and nothing can stand in our way. Thinking back on this, and using eyes now which are close to 50 years into the future from the boy I was then, I realize I was indelibly blessed by living on the outskirts of a park known as “The Jewel of the System”.
So let us travel now through “Charles Lee Tilden Regional Park” together and discover the joys of outdoor adventures in that park at several different attractions. You will most likely want to eat breakfast at a wonderful neighborhood restaurant serving some of the best food in the area. Nutritious, filling food at reasonable prices. Located on the Arlington, at the foot of Tilden Park it is only a six-minute drive to our first stop. Before you go up the hill stop by Young’s Market two doors down and get some organic lettuce and celery. You will see why in just a moment.
THE LITTLE FARM
You have just finished breakfast at The Inn Kensingtonand now after having your belly filled at a local much-loved restaurant, you acquire your lettuce and celery at Young’s Market and you are ready for your trip up into Tilden Park where you have heard there are wonderful attractions to experience. Getting instructions you drive up to the Reservoir at Wildcat Canyon. Right at the place where Wildcat Canyon Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard come together at this reservoir, there is a winding road named Canon Drive (Keep your eyes peeled on the right as you go down the hill. You might spot a Geodesic Dome built by a fan of Buckminster Fuller!) The road leads just under half a mile to Central Park Drive and after turning left, will lead you straight into Tilden Park’s Little Farm.
This is Berkeley at its best. Nature in your own back yard. The smell of eucalyptus trees and the bleating of sheep as you get out of your car arouse your senses to a world away from yours yet still close enough to visit for the day. Your kids pile out of the car and rush to feed the animals. They have the celery and lettuce which you purchased for them at Young’s Market down the hill. And are ready to feed the animals. Unfortunately they are not allowed to feed the rabbits.
The Little Farm is part of the Tilden Nature area and according to the Tilden Nature Area homepage is a:
“…740-acre preserve located just North of Tilden Regional Park. With over 10 miles of hiking trails, the preserve contains a blend of native and introduced plant communities, including oak/bay woodlands, grasslands, eucalyptus forests, and streams. Hikes range from the leisurely, self-guided Jewel Lake Nature Trail to a vigorous climb up Wildcat Peak (elevation 1,211 ft.) for panoramic, San Francisco Bay views. A 750-foot boardwalk through the woods leads to Jewel Lake, a historic reservoir and waterworks, and a peaceful place to watch wildlife.”
This walk to Jewel Lake only takes 9 minutes on either the “Lower Packrat Trail” or “Wildcat Creek Trail” The walk around the lake is an easy one and is only just over a mile in length.
Shorthorn Cattle, Goats, Sheep, Pigs, A variety of heritage geese, ducks, chickens, and turkeys, and Rabbits all live on the farm and are showcased on the farm’s brochure [which is available to download]. The farm was started in 1955 to introduce people to the sights and sounds of a working farm. Generations of children and their parents have been enthralled over the years and it continues to change. There is now a Children’s Garden which was established in 2005 featuring traditional, or heirloom, herbs, and vegetables. Most varieties are well over 100 years old. You are welcome to walk around the garden and sit taking in the serenity of the garden.
You will want to stay for a while at the Little Farm, but remember there are other places to see on this discovery of Tilden Park. Leaving The Little Farm go back the way you came. Go up to Grizzly Peak and Turn Left onto Wildcat Canyon Road. Drive along Wildcat Canyon and you will be amazed at the wonder of the scenery. Look for a stone monument sign approximately 1.8 miles down Wildcat Canyon Road. Just before this you will see the road you will take to our next destination, when you get to the monument turn left and drive for just about half a mile and you will arrive at the parking lot for one of Tilden’s Historic Landmarks.
There is a steep grassy hill leading up to the Merry-Ground and visitors often relax on this spacious lawn while waiting for their family or to picnic here on a sunny day. At the crest of the hill sits a 1911 Carousel built by the Herschell Spillman Company, of North Tonawanda, NY. It was transported to this site in 1948 and through many restorations is still operating today. As of September 29, 1976 This historic carousel was added to the National Register of Historic Places. (NRHP Reference No: 76000480)
Over the years, many children enjoyed this magical experience of the Merry-Go-Round. Children run to the scariest looking horse or dragon that went up and down and were disappointed if someone else beat them to it. The operator comes by and makes sure they are all strapped in tight and then the ride begins, slowly at first until…it gets up to full speed and before you know it is whizzing in a circle! The ride lasts for probably five minutes, but for children it feels like forever! Riding up and down on their chosen beast returning again and again to Mom or Dad they wave and then laugh as they continue their journey into their imaginations. Immediately following this adventure, Stop by the concession stand where your little ones can enjoy pillowy cones of spun sugar, a soda or popcorn and have the best day!
Just down the road is a recreational swimmin’ hole known as Lake Anza. You don’t have to go far. Less than half a mile in fact. Just jump in your car and head straight down Lake Anza Road and it will take you to a spacious parking lot with access to our next stop.
Less than a mile (0.7 miles) down the road from the Merry-Go-Round is Lake Anza. A sandy, shaded beach proving that you can go round in circles and then have fun in the sun as well! Originally constructed in 1938 from financing by the Public Works Administration as a recreational lake providing water to the Tilden Park Golf Course, it was named by the East Bay Regional Park Board in honor of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza. The WPA constructed a stone Beach house which lasted until the 1960s when it was burned down and replaced with the current facility. You will probably have to make do with a cold shower before you go swimming but, the scenery and the joy of swimming more than makes up for it. Surrounded by a canopy of trees and a grassy lawn, the beach offers a concession stand, a changing area, bathrooms, and a beach which is approximately 70 yards long. Walking along Wildcat Canyon Road you can hear the children laughing and splashing in the water. A bit lower down you will find Lake Anza Trail which takes you around the park and you are able to see the lake from the opposite shore.
THE BOTANIC GARDENS
When you have decided that you need a break from swimming and want to enjoy the scenic beauty of what Tilden Park has to offer head back out toward the Merry-Go-Round and take a hard left onto Central Park Drive and in only 1.6 miles (a six minute drive) you will find yourself enjoying a picturesque meandering drive along Wildcat Canyon Road. As you leave Central Park Drive and turn left onto Wildcat Canyon, if you roll down your windows you will be able to hear the splashing and joyful noise emanating from Lake Anza.
As you drive, you notice redwoods and pine trees, with the window down you take in the refreshing scent. Be careful, there may be people riding their bicycles along Wildcat Canyon too. As you approach your next stop you will see a wooden sign in a triangular planter, The sign has two choices Follow the sign for “Botanic Garden”. At the intersection of Shasta Road and Wildcat Canyon you will see a parking lot and then a large expanse of lawn. This is your landmark that you are getting close. This is the Brazilian Room (dedicated in 1941 and remodeled extensively in 1965, The Brazilian Room is currently a popular site for weddings, parties and business retreats.) As you drive around past this expansive lawn you will see a Chain Link Gate and a wooden sign with the words: “Regional Parks Botanic Garden”.
“Imagine 160,000 square miles of California set in a 10-acre garden that can be walked in a day. That is the Regional Parks Botanic Garden, devoted to the collection, growth, display, and preservation of the native plants of California.” Covering the entire state of California, The sections that are incorporated in this garden are 0-Southern California Section; 1-Valley-Foothill Section; 2-Santa Lucia Section; 3-Channel Island Section; 4-Franciscan Section; 5-Pacific Rain Forest; 6-Sierran Section; 7-Redwood Section 8-Sea Bluff Section; 9-Shasta-Klamath Section.  There is even a “Canyon Section” where plants are arranged not by ecological zone, but by their horticultural needs.
Established on New Year’s Day in 1940 the Botanic Garden has majestic redwoods, stately pines, and rugged oak trees as well as manzanita, lilacs and assorted grasses and flowers from across the state. For those who are unable to visit Yosemite National Park with its lakes and stunning landscapes, famous for Half Dome and El Capitan, one can take comfort in the magnificence of this Botanic Garden. According to the garden’s website (www.nativeplants.org/about/about-the-garden/) “…A year-round creek runs through the heart of the garden, adding beauty, creating a ripariancorridor, and providing additional habitat for the many birds, insects, and other animals that visit and live in the garden.”
This is a unique feature of this garden and assists the visitor in feeling more in touch with Mother Nature. Walk along the paths taking in the scenery. Learn about the Plants and, Trees and everything that brings us joy in the serenity of our natural world. There is also a Visitors Center and auditorium on the property which offers visitors classes at different times of the year and on varied topics. Check out the website for a list of Events and Classes as well as Docent Led Tours.
THE STEAM TRAINS
Here we are at the Redwood Valley Railway Known as “The Steam Trains” to the locals. Imagine yourself on a train that takes you on a journey to a distant land. You are seated in the Observation Car and assimilating the spectacular Redwoods and Mountains you see outside the confines of the train and yet feeling a part of it. You wonder if there is something like this anywhere else in the world. There is. Now imagine yourself on a scaled down version of an old time locomotive. You are waiting for your train to leave and standing next to it you observe that you are TALLER than the top of the smokestack which tops out at 56 ¾” in height. The top of the Engineer’s Cab comes to just under your shoulder. You wonder how a train so small could pull and transport so many people for generations.
Launched in 1952 as the Tilden South Gate and Pacific Railway on a 12” gauge This Railway has expanded to over 1 ¼ miles of track. Considered narrow gauge track by train aficionados, in 1968 it was enlarged from 12” gauge to the current 15” gauge. The Railway has scaled down versions of Old Time Locomotives which operate regularly. There are four (4) of these 15” gauge, 5” Scale Steam Trains: The Columbia Class #4 “Laurel; The American Class #5 Fern; The Prairie Class #7 Oak and finally the Ten-Wheeler Class #11 Sequoia. All were designed by Erich Thomsen, a former employee in the Engineering Department of Western Pacific Railroad.
The ride you take lasts twelve minutes and is along a scenic ridge through the redwoods of Tilden Regional Park. You ride in what the operators call a “Jimmy” which are large enough for two adults to sit side by side. There are also flat cars and a real caboose. Applying skills from the full-sized railway, he (Erich Thomsen)
“…designed a line that passes through the hills offering some wonderful views of the San Francisco Bay. And with some serious efforts in landscaping, transformed almost 50 acres of open hills into a lush coastal range forest with madrone, laurel and even redwoods.” 
When your ride is done or perhaps before, be sure to stop at the Railroad Museum on the premises where steam engines are on display and you feel transported back to an earlier time due to the 1940’s swing music from hidden speakers. Absorbing all that Tilden Park has to offer with wonderful views as you chug along the hillside, periodically checking on the young ones, Breathing the fragrant aroma of Redwood, Pine and Eucalyptus, you are taken back to a time early in the 2oth century when trains of this type transported freight, foodstuffs and passengers to communities on the Coast of California.
What a marvelous way to end your visit to Charles Lee Tilden Regional Park First a visit to The Little Farm where you fed the animals and then off to the Merry-Go-Round where you took a ride on an Historic Carousel still in operation today. Then a swim in Lake Anza and then a trip to the Natural Museum of the Botanic Garden followed by a journey into the Past on Tilden Park’s Famous Steam Trains.
There are plenty of places to stay in Berkeley from the Rose Garden Inn to Holiday Inn and Suites. If you are on a budget check out Travelodge and Super 8 by Wyndham. Rent a car from the airport. You can also take BART from the Oakland Airport to downtown Berkeley. There is very little public transportation in Tilden Park and Cell Phone reception is sketchy at best. I have given directions in this narrative to assist you and they should prove helpful. Please make sure to check out the typical Rates and Hours for all of the attractions. Affordable and Fun! Enjoy your trip to Tilden Park It is truly the “Jewel of the System”.
RATES AND HOURS FOR ATTRACTIONS:
LITTLE FARM DATA:
Typical Hours: Sun to Sat: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Phone: (510) 544-2233
RATES: $4.00 per ride, $22.00 for seven (7) rides
Typical Hours: Fri, Sat, and Sun: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Spring Break Services: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cesar Chavez Day: Open
Memorial Day: Open
Christmas Eve: Closed
Christmas Day: Closed
All Dates and Hours – Weather Permitting
Phone: (510) 559-1004
LAKE ANZA DATA:
RATES: Under one (1) year of age: Free
1 to 15 years of age: $2.50
16 to 61 years of age: $3.50
62 years of age and older: $2.50
People with Disabilities: $2.50
Typical Lifeguard Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Weekends and Holidays: 4/25 to 9/13
Mon to Friday 5/25 to 9/11
Phone: (888) 327-2757 Option 3, Ext. 4562
Notes: Dogs are not allowed in the swim facility and Hiking Trails to and From Lake Anza are open year-round.
Per EBRPD: Swim Facilities Capacity Notice:
Once the swim facility capacity is reached, there will be no new entries allowed for the remainder of the day (or at the discretion of the Park Supervisor), for the safety of the public.
REGIONAL PARKS BOTANIC GARDEN DATA:
Typical Hours: Sun to Sat: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
New Year’s Day: Closed
Docent Led Tours: Sat and Major Holidays: 2 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Plant Sales: When Volunteers are present, California Native Plants are sold at the Potting Shed (Enter Garden via West Gate)
at the following times:
Thu: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
First Saturday of the Month
Phone: (510) 544-3169
STEAM TRAIN (REDWOOD VALLEY RAILWAY) DATA:
RATES: $3.00 per ride, $12.00 for five (5) rides
Under two (2) years of age: Free
Typical Hours: Sat and Sun: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Or dusk whichever comes first)
Spring Break Services:
Mon to Fri: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sat and Sun: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cesar Chavez Day: Closed
Christmas Eve: Closed
Christmas Day: Closed
All Dates and Hours – Weather Permitting
Phone: (510) 548-6100
Roger P. Gay
6100 Adelaide Avenue
North Richland Hills, TX 76180
Ph: (817) 888-6958
All Photos shown were used with permission of Visit Berkeley (www.visitberkeley.com)
 Information cited is excerpted from this webpage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley,_California
(I recommend this restaurant for its wholesome and delicious food and its proximity to Tilden Park. Check out the website for Hours, Location and Menus)
 From their brochure found at: https://www.ebparks.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=32536
 relating to wetlands adjacent to rivers and streams
Campanile and San Francisco Bay