Wednesday, April 13, 2011

El Diablo

I've lived in San Francisco now for over 23 years yet had never been to the summit of Mount Diablo, the 3849' peak that rises above the east bay towns of Concord, Clayton, Danville and Walnut Creek, to name a few.  If fact, as far as I can remember, I've only been inside Mount Diablo State Park once, but that was like 20 years ago.  Pitiful.  I know.

Well call me Shirley and strike that one off The Bucket List!

On Monday, April 3, I drove over in my friend Linda's car, a powerful white BMW.  God love her; for over a decade she's been carting my ass around the Bay Area for hikes.  Apparently that wasn't enough, so now I'm borrowing her ride while she's at work.  It's a convertible, to boot.

Beautiful day to make the trip.  Sunny skies with high, lacy clouds.  Plenty warm but not sweltering, which is good 'cause it can sizzle over there.  This early in Spring the land is verdant green and the wildflowers fireworks are popping, especially at the lower elevations.  If this post peeks your interest, go sooner than later, because in another month or so the mountain will start to dry out, and a few weeks after that it'll be fried to a crispy critter.  Like I said, it's hot over yonder.

Mount Diablo State Park is only 30 miles from San Francisco as the crow flies, and the drive takes just over an hour: from the Fort Mason District it's an easy drive east over the Oakland Bay Bridge, east on I-580 and CA Route 24, east through the Caldecott Tunnel, with an exit on Ygnacio Road in Walnut Creek.  From there, simply follow the signs.

Even if you don't get out for a substantial hike it's a beautiful trip with lots to see and do.  The winding road up the mountain has dozens of picnic areas where you can stop for lunch, have a short leg-stretcher if you like, or pause briefly to take in the impressive views.  Some of these are large parking areas, with space for several cars, with multiple picnic tables and grills for large groups; others are merely a tiny pull off with room for one car, with a little path that leads to one lone table on a bluff or one tucked into a shaded, secluded nook.

There's a handsome Ranger Station/Visitors Center at the summit, with a selection of maps and books, the requisite hats, tee shirts and coffee mugs, and other paraphernalia.  In one room you can sit for a spell and watch a 20 minute video presentation on the mountain, the park, and on rocks.  Mainly on rocks.

Wish I were better at understanding/identifying rocks.  I'm certainly into them, and there's no doubt they can be beautiful at times, but my head starts to spin once I get beyond the very basics.  Following is a link, should you desire a quick, layman's refresher course on the three main categories that scientists use to classify rocks: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.

Here's a fact well-known to anyone who's read anything on the park: On a clear day the views from the top of Mount Diablo are absolutely spectacular.  Visible on the day I went: the wall of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada east, snow-capped peak of Mount Lassen 180 miles north, the Sacramento River delta and Central Valley, the city of San Francisco and the GGB west, Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, Mount Saint Helena in Napa, Suisin Bay and the Carquinez Strait.

Here's a tidbit maybe not so well-known, from the folks who calculate this sort of thing: On a clear day at the summit of Mount Diablo, one can see more of the Earth's surface than almost anywhere else on...well, Earth.  They call this the "viewshed", and they say it is second only to the viewshed from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Some of "they" dispute the claim as a load of bunk, a bunch of hooey; but there is no dispute that the viewshed is awe-inspiring, and one of the largest in the western United States.

Don't know if the following pictures do the place justice, but go ahead and have a quick gander, then grab your backpack, hop in the car and check out Mount Diablo for yourself.

Looking northeast from the summit.

A view of the Visitors Center from the Mary Bowerman Trail,
a brief leg-stretcher circumnavigating the summit.
The Devil's Elbow.

This photo and the following are from Rock City,
a part of the mountain you should definitely visit
if you make the trip.

The view from Lookout Point, one of the many
picnic areas on North Gate Road.

My ride for the day: Sweet!

Mount Diablo State Park

Hours: 8:00 AM until sunset.
Vehicle Entrance Fee: $10 as of this posting.
There are 3 main roads in the park: North Gate Road and South Gate Road reach the summit from different directions and make for a great in and out drive, with access to all sorts of trails easy and strenuous.  Mitchell Canyon road is the 3rd; it reaches a different area of the park, but does not reach the summit.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.  (What the what?)

Here's a couple links to the park website:

Over and out.
Peter J. Palmer

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