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When you are heading down Ardenwood Blvd, look for the large wooden sign for Ardenwood Regional Preserve. We visited the 205-acre farm when the monarch butterflies were wintering from their westward migration. They inhabit the Eucalyptus trees at the farm from December until early February every year. Did you know that an adult monarch butterfly weights only 1/50 of one ounce and can fly at a speed of 20 mph? They migrate thousands of miles each year from the western half of the Rocky Mountains to the west coast at the end of each breeding season.
This review covers the different historical structures from the 1800s to see at the farm as well as the butterflies. Take the long road to the large parking lot and head toward the Ardenwood train station entrance to pay your $3 per person entrance fee. There are many picnic areas so bring some food and drinks with you to share with your friends and family. They have a café but it is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from May 3 to Oct 26.
Park sign Parking lot
Train station entrance
When you pay your fee, check when the naturalist led tours of the farm are scheduled if you want an educational tour. We visited during the winter and the trains only operate from April to mid November. This is the only time when they have Patterson House and blacksmith tours. One of the trains is from the Southern Pacific, one of the most powerful railroad companies of the 19th century which completed its transcontinental "Sunset Route" from New OrleanstoCalifornia, in 1883.
In the building beside the train station, there is historical information about California farming and the invention of new tools and equipment they used to increase productivity. This building also has restrooms, benches and a nearby drinking fountain. The farm is popular with children so you are likely to see them on your visit.
Restrooms Drinking fountain
When you first walk into the park and past the trains, you come to an intersection with many signs that help with directing you to where you want to go. The park has many signs so it is hard to lose your way. We headed left toward Deer Park to visit the butterfly occupied Eucalyptus trees. All the paths in the park are paved so they are wheelchair and stroller accessible. On the left, you pass the first concrete swimming pool built in Alameda County. Keep following the signs to the Gardens and Deer Park. You will pass the Patterson house on the right and can take a walk around it if it is not the season for tours. The home was built by George Patterson, who made his riches through farming. On the left, you will find the garden and picnic tables if you want to stop for a bite to eat.
Signs Pool site
Patterson house Picnic area and garden
You will reach another intersection; stay straight to go toward Deer Park. There is another picnic area on your right. The Patterson’s loved wildlife and built a Deer Park in 1896 where they kept a herd of about 20 deer on 20 acres until 1908 when they set them free. In memory of the Deer Park, they kept the picnic area.
Intersection Picnic area
Deer park picnic area
The road bears left and runs parallel to the train tracks. If you look up, you will notice that you are among Eucalyptus trees. Look carefully in the small branches of the trees for hundreds of orange and black monarchs that look like bees on a hive.
Head to Deer Park station along the path that is parallel to the railroad tracks. Bear right when you reach the station and head toward the chicken coop. You can walk into the chicken coop and get friendly with the chickens and turkeys. Next door, they have an aviary with doves inside.
Chickens Chicken coop
By the Granary, you may pass one of the guided tours. There are examples of antique farm equipment including an antique hay baler and tractors in the hay barn. There are other farm animals like sheep and goats.
Tour at granary Hay baler
Stop by the blacksmith shop and peak in to see if there is anyone working there. Across the way is the Tank House that used a windmill to raise groundwater to the surface where the water was stored and used as a supply to the farm.
Blacksmith shop Tank house