A friend has been posting pictures of Monarch butterflies colonizing the eucalyptus trees at Aquatic Park in Berkeley. Traditionally, they visit a grove near Santa Cruz, but perhaps the milder winters have lured them farther north. There is something ironic about a Mexican butterfly seeking out an Australian tree in a Northern California park, and I wish all weary immigrants were welcomed as these are.
The day was sunny but only 49 degrees, bitterly cold by our standards, which may explain my lack of success. I spotted two Monarchs, one sunning itself on a leaf, the other making a lazy flight south, but never found the colony.
Aquatic Park itself is as charming as an estuary squeezed between a freeway and an active railroad line can be. From its southern entrance, off Shellmound in Emeryville, the paved path is nearly level and winds past several picnic areas and a playground before ending at Bancroft Avenue in Berkeley. I passed an unflappable blue heron into an alley of massive cypress trees. Coots, gulls and mallard-doodle ducks floated on the tranquil water, and a single-scull skiff went by.
Near the boating center, I startled a small hawk; a little farther on, a kingfisher. I regretted not bringing binoculars but truthfully, the day was too cold for standing still.
From Shellmound to Bancroft is about one mile, but feels shorter. It’s possible to continue north from Bancroft and across the iconic pedestrian bridge to Eastshore and Cesar Chavez parks, another mile and a half away.
Cool stuff nearby: The big orange warehouse you see across the railroad tracks at the north end of the park is Vik’s Chaat Corner cafe and Indian market. It serves some of the best street food and offers some of the best people-watching you’ll find on this side of the bay. The south end of the park isn’t far from the Emeryville Public Market.
Wheelchair access: Yes, with reservations. Although the path is nearly level and fully paved, the asphalt is in bad condition and may be muddy in some spots.