Adventure: Ardenwood Historic Farm

Any Time of Year, it's Superb 
by Bob Coomber

Some days, even I need a break, and I don't necessarily wish to challenge some of the more difficult trails in the Park District. On days where I need to relax, Ardenwood Historic Farm offers a look at the District's diversity of experiences coupled with a quiet place to feel at one with the past.

When arriving at the park, you'll be pleased to see the smooth, flat and well maintained trails. There's a nice variety of things to see centered around the Patterson House, the beautiful home of the farm's original occupants.

I spent much of my visit around this striking building, trying to get a feel for what it was like to live here more than 100 years ago, far from town yet so very peaceful. The grounds as well as the house recall a prosperous past here at bayside; a visitor could close their eyes and imagine how the families who owned or worked the farm lived and thrived way back when. I basked in the gardens of the large dwelling, taking in the whispers of yesteryear rustling through the trees.

Those shade trees come in handy if you visit during the summer months. The park is comfortable even on the warmest of afternoons, and I'll make a visit during those days when the temps in my native Livermore become oppressive. The breeze off the bay combined with all that shade make for a comfortable, soothing day out.

But it's not just a summer place. Each season is special at Ardenwood, because it's still a working farm. You'll see crops being planted or harvested, or the ground being prepared for growing during the fallow season. You're bound to see farm - related activity at the park, usually on the drive to the parking lot.

The old Patterson Ranch must have been a bustling place, if the number of outbuildings, old farm implements and sheer size are an indication. My memories of the farm predate the park, before Fremont and Newark had sprung up west of what was then Highway 17. Ardenwood Farm was huge, but as the character of this part of the East Bay has changed, I'm comforted to have this part of our past preserved. As with most agricultural concerns there's also a certain element of wild things that visit or make their home here. I had a nice chat with a large turkey while he tried to eat one of my tires, for example. The farm animals are willing subjects to the loving care they receive from park staff. I made pals with several goats - for whatever reason, goats and I seem to get along well - it must be a shared stubborn resolve. Kids can see how cattle, sheep, goats and poultry are raised and cared for by the attentive handlers. While petting a goat, a red shouldered hawk flew over squawking at me. I enjoy animals so much. I encourage you to spend some time with the animals - they're amusing and quite a pleasant feature. Your kids will love them, and they make for many a teachable moment.

I took my time rolling beneath the trees during a recent visit on a75 degree day. I almost took a nap, listening to the buzz of life happening all around. Flowers were blooming, hummingbirds humming, bees buzzing I couldn't have asked for a more restful afternoon. It's hard to imagine what farm life was like in the 19th century until you visit this setting. Moving slowly along the paths, I came across a unique part of the experience at almost every turn.

Another of these is the horse - drawn train at Arden Station. The train is a trip back in time - something for everyone to experience. It's open Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, and enables a visitor to get a feel for the remoteness of this farm during its glory days. As you roll slowly along, try to imagine what it was like before the current state of development. The area used to be nothing but farms and ranches. I recall it clearly .it wasn't so long ago.

Throughout the year, Ardenwood is home to some very special programs and events, including the old fashioned Independence Day festival, the Harvest Festival in October and a Victorian Christmas each December. These are "can't miss" events for the entire family. There are more events throughout the seasons, too.

Right now it's lamb season. Want to see your children smile? Introduce them to a newborn member of Ardenwood's sheep community. While the kids are visiting the animals, I'll be heading back to the Patterson House, where I'm surrounded by gorgeous gardens and lawns. A slow roll over the paths always takes me back.

Every time when I need a break from the 21st century, I take a ride over to Fremont to visit Ardenwood. The park reflects a nearly lost part of the Bay's history, preserved for our enjoyment. Parking at Ardenwood is free, and there is a nominal fee to enter the grounds. Search the web page listed above for the details and events. I suspect you'll be completely lost in history, as I was, when you take a trip to this fabulous place. The park is closed Mondays, and the web page will elaborate about the availability of the many nuances and features. More than anything, you'll enjoy it, your kids will think you're the bomb, and you'll leave relaxed with a new appreciation for our past And if you see a guy in a bright yellow wheelchair sitting in the shade with his eyes closed listening to the bees and birds - stop and say "hi!" See you on the trail!