A group of six or seven club members rolled out of bed early on the morning of Saturday, March 12 to take a drive to the hills above Berkeley. The Tilden Botanic Garden in the Tilden Regional Park is basically a 10-acre portion of canyon devoted to the propagation of California native species. The park contains some excellent specimens of the state's many rare and endangered species. During the spring, the park's many blooming plants burst forth in brilliant displays of color. March, April and May tend to be the best months for visiting this very scenic little park. The numerous specimens of Madrone (that naked-looking, red-barked shrub you see in the scrub oak zones of California hillsides) are a real treat, as are the succulents and various varieties of lichen-coated oak trees.
The park is divided into ten sections representing ten ecological zones in the state and you are able to hike through aspens, oaks, redwoods and other conifer and deciduous groves in a matter of a few minutes. On our particular weekend visit the redbud trees were in bloom, as were the lupin and numerous other species. Although the sun never burned through the cloud cover, we were treated to some lovely soft, foggy backgrounds and a thin, bright cloud covering that was ideal for macro photography. I think most of us were a bit surprised at the beauty and diversity of the flora within a relatively small tract of land. Because of the great diversity of plant species, numerous species of birds also visit the park, making for some lucky encounters with some seldom-seen species.
The park opens exactly at 8:30 a.m. and the limited staff is both friendly and helpful. There are numerous nearby attractions in Tilden Park (including model railroad trains, a merry-go-round and children's park and picnic areas) as well as two nearby gardens in Berkeley, the Berkeley Rose Garden and the University of California Botanic Gardens on the UC campus.
If you get hungry after your hike you are close to relief, because restaurants abound in Berkeley. Parking, however, is an ongoing problem on the weekend and during business hours on weekdays. Remember to never take the parking regulations in Berkeley for granted otherwise you may find yourself with a ticket or worse yet, a towed car. One Berkeley resident gave us some advice regarding the many broken parking meters we encountered on Telegraph Avenue. If you park at a broken meter, bag it/wrap it in a bag that says "broken" etc.(but don't count on it being broken when you get back. In fact, you may even have a ticket if the maintenance crew fixes the meter and then the meter maids beat you back to your car. In short, parking anarchy rules in the streets of "The People's Republic of Berkeley.") Because of this "gray area" we chose a restaurant near Lake Merritt in Oakland and took no chances with the Berkeley parking patrol troopers.
Originally the field trip plan called for an afternoon shoot at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, but all the intense concentration of macro photography had most of us tired and we opted to go back home after our Korean barbecue lunch. We took a brief swing through the cemetery and it looked good. It will just have to go back on the future menu of field trips as an alternate destination or in next year's list. Thanks to all those club members who participated in the Tilden Gardens field trip. Those who want to go and have time should get up there sometime this month for a real treat.
© 2005 S.R. Hinrichs