MT. DIABLO (3,849') 15X February 4, 2001

My love affair with this mountain began early in my life. When I was a teenager, my family, at my urging, would spend a weekend drive to take in the view. While going to school, I planned to do an overnight bike ride to the top. I had done 100 mile rides to Stockton and Placerville, so it was a little more of an adventure. I completed this bike trip and camp in two days of a spring holiday weekend. I always used to say, I am the only one I know that has ascended a major California peak from his or her home in the middle Central Valley, with all non-motorized effort (86 miles each way).

Rex, my 75 or so year old companion, loves this hike as a great conditioner, and being closer to home. Doing the top from Mitchell Canyon Trailhead entails some 16 miles and 3,500' gain. While in the past, we'd climb four peaks, Eagle, North, Olympia, and the main summit, I thought we should leave that again for another day.

We began hiking from the Mitchell Canyon parking lot, where there are now no fees, at 9:41 a.m. The sometimes damp, but not muddy, dirt road follows the canyon and a stream, with riparian habitat, then ascends steeply up to Deer Flat. We took a break on the picnic tables, and then headed left around the mountain, past Murchio Gap, to come to Prospectors Gap, after some steep hiking. Mountain bikers and hikers abounded. It was a warm, sunny, and great day.

We noted a few flowers blooming early. Western wallflowers, baby blue eyes, red maids, and a lone threesome of open golden poppies made for nice pictures with a close-up lens. Later in the winter/spring, abundant fields of flowers appear. Also, we both like the vivid green hills in the winter.

To the top after four hours from the car, we enjoyed the views of the distant, snowy Sierra, and the cities about the delta. The high rises of San Francisco were visible. The Golden Gate Bridge and Mt. Tam stood out. I asked a ranger, but Shasta and Half Dome weren't seen today. The summit building had nice displays, with a diorama, a photo gallery, and a gift shop. A hundred-plus tourists must have been about.

Headed down by 2 p.m., we hiked to Juniper Camp, and saw other hikers who had made a circle about the mountain. We knew we were good on time, and came back to the Mitchell Canyon parking lot just before 5 p.m.

Most people will motor up the paved, winding road to the top. There is a park entrance fee this way, with a big parking lot on the summit area. We must look strange to some people, with our big, heavy, day packs. But, I got no comments about being a fool today.

I mainly wore a T-shirt and long pants. There are tick warnings. Seeing others in shorts, this was truly, already, springtime.