When I was a postdoc at Berkeley, most weekends I would take about half a day, and ride up to Tilden Regional Park. Usually I’d start with a couple espressos at Cafe Milano (a beginning to strenuous activity that would probably kill me now, but this is the kind of thing you can do when you’re 28), then ride through the Berkeley hills, to Grizzly Peak Road, and thence to Wildcat Canyon. Tilden is a huge park, and the section I usually went to was the northern end, which has a terrific botanical garden, and a road with one of the best views of the entire Bay: Nimitz Way.

Views from Tilden Park
via flickr

Pop tells the story that when the Oakland town fathers were talking about naming part of 880 the Nimitz freeway (for those of you who don’t know who Chester Nimitz was, go find out), his widow objected, on the grounds that she didn’t want people hearing about her late husband’s name in the context of traffic jams and car crashes. She couldn’t have objected to Nimitz Way, which is a great paved trail that runs from Tilden Park in to Wildcat Canyon.

Today, the kids got to ride Nimitz Way, and they had a great time.

Nimitz Way, Tilden Park
via flickr

Nimitz Way starts at Inspiration Point, on Wildcat Canyon Road.

Inspiration Point
via flickr

From Inspiration Point you can see the San Pablo Reservoir, but Nimitz Way takes you in the other direction, to the west.

Nimitz Way, Tilden Park
via flickr

The path is paved, and reasonably smooth, so it’s popular with joggers, bicyclists, parents with strollers, etc.. There’s a pretty healthy proportion of groups of older hikers or bicyclists.

Nimitz Way, Tilden Park
via flickr

The path runs uphill and down, but none of it is really strenuous, and it goes through some redwoods and eucalyptus groves (all planted, it seems, by one or another local group). For me, the real payoff is Peace Grove, which is about a mile and half from the trail head. You leave your bike at the bottom of the hill, and take a short hike, past the Peace Grove trees (one might sense a theme here), and up to a circular stone monument– more like a really big conversation pit– finished in the early 1960s.

Views from Tilden Park
via flickr

The view is spectacular. The pictures I took today– on an overcast day, with a camera that’s rapidly dying– don’t do it justice, but even on a day like today, the place is phenomenal. I don’t know if there’s anywhere else where you can see Marin, the Golden Gate and San Francisco, south to Palo Alto, then north to Orinda.

Views from Tilden Park
via flickr

It’s been about fifteen years since I was last there– maybe thirteen– and I wonder why in the world it’s taken me so long to get back there. It’s one of those places that mentally seems far away, but really isn’t, and richly rewards the time required to get there. There are lots of places, or people, like that: closer than you think, and well worth spending time with.

The kids complained occasionally about the inclines, but I think even they enjoyed the view. And they didn’t even get to visit the botanical garden or steam trains. Next time.