Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Date with Diablo

I'm not much of a hiker. I'm a paddler. My wife Debbie is the true hiker of the two us. More than just a casual hiker she has trekked many Californian trails and carried a backpack across Europe.  She is always ready for a stunning mountain view.
 When she suggested a trip to Mount Diablo after we dropped my visiting parents off at SFO airport I had to agree.
Mount Diablo State Park is one of the many jewels in the California State Park system.  Nearly 20,000 acres of mountains, forest and panoramic views, the park is located in the east bay area. With hiking, bicycling and equestrian trails along with camping areas and picnic spots, it's perfect for a weekend vacation or a day outing. The 3,849-foot summit and surrounding peaks are not the tallest of California's many mountains, but because of the low rolling hills and the flat valleys that surround the peak it can be seen as as far as 200 miles away when conditions permit.
The day we went was particularly hazy which is not common for January. It's been a very dry in California this winter. Still, the layers of fog and smog were just as stunning from our view point at the top of the summit.
Our first stop was Rock City near the Live Oak Campground for a picnic lunch. It is called the Rock City because of all the interesting rock formations one can explore.
Artist Point at Mount Diablo State Park.
The rocks come with distinctive names like Elephant Rock, Sentinel Rock and Artist Point. From Artist Point, we looked over the southern part of the valley. Having climbed to about 1500 feet, we had seen spectacular views, with still more elevation to go before we reached the summit.
It is about a ten mile journey to the top of the mountain from the entrance of the park. Many hikers and bikers make the trek, but most visitors drive to the top of the summit.  Pay attention to the signs before starting out. They give some warnings such as do not pass on blind curves, wearing headphones in both ears is prohibited and use caution. The winding road weaves back and forth up the grade with many scenic overlooks.  Just take it slow and watch out for the many road bikers.
At the summit, we were rewarded with a sensational view of California in all directions at the Summit Visitor Center. The interpretive center presents the park's geologic history, an interesting video, gift shop and a viewing platform beside a lighthouse.
Afterwards, we took the Mary Bowerman Trail, a complete walk around the summit of Mount Daiblo.  The trail has 14 stops along the way, the best being Stop Number 6, a wooden platform view to the northwest and Stop Number 9, a view of the central valley and up close look at the red-colored monolith called the Devil's Pulpit.
Stop number 6 a perfect spot for yoga.
Stop number 9 at the Devil's Pulpit.
The south side of the mountain is now fire scared after a recent wild fire.  We could still see the after math of that event last fall. It reminded us that even this year the area could use rain.
We finished up our tour and journey back down the mountain hoping to come back for a couple of days to camp and hike some more.