1157. Three Peaks of Diablo (11/23/18)
Hikers (15): Baltazar, Bjorn, Brad, Chris R, Jeff, Jolly, Karl, Lina, Mihail, Peter, Peter M, Sandy F, Sarah, Sarbinder, Steve
Distance: 13 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 9 beauty
Park info: Mt. Diablo State Park near Clayton
Write-up by Peter -- Pictures by Chris R, Karl, and Peter
It had been raining for the last couple of days, which was not only good for putting out the fires around the state and cleaning the air, but also for making it nice and muddy at Diablo. Shiggy for Black Friday!! The other benefit was that the forecast for heavy rain had scared off the weaklings :)
1, 2, 3, ... INCH!
Sandy had a requested an early start, so the remaining 14 intrepid hikers did the cheer and we were off.
The weather was cool, but dry, as we set out -- the sun was even peeking out from between the clouds. Except for the heavy blocks of mud on our feet, it was easy going for the first part. I did a couple of short side trips on the way to Eagle Peak, but by the time I got there the weather had started to turn. Maybe doing the extra mileage wasn't such a good idea.
The rain was threatening -- time to pick up the pace. I made it to Murchio Gap in good time and hopped on to the "secret trail". It was better maintained than I remembered in the past. I think this is my favorite trail in the park.
As I emerged back on to the road, the clouds were all around. Walking in the mist for the next few miles felt great. I did a little trail maintenance along the way and by the time I got to Juniper Campground, I had a bag full of plastic bottles, cans, and assorted wrappers to unload. That was my good deed for Thanksgiving.
About halfway up the next section, the wind really picked up and the drizzle turned to a heavy rain. I knew I was about 20 minutes from the summit. Should I stop to put on my jacket and hat? Nah -- the heck with it. I was wet but not cold, so I kept going all the way, catching up to Karl and Baltazar at the lower summit parking lot and the three of us walked to the top.
Karl and Baltazar hung out in the Visitor Center and I headed up to the Observation Deck. I had the whole place to myself -- nice!!! I ate my lunch while listening to the wind howl outside while the rain lashed against the windows. No view on this day, but very enjoyable. After a little while, I noticed myself getting significantly colder so I reluctantly put the hat, gloves, and jacket on and headed down to the Visitor Center. As we were getting ready to head out, I saw Karl was not looking too happy, so I gave him and Baltazar the option of taking a shorter route back, cutting out North and Olympia peaks. They didn't object :) As we were about to leave, Jeff and Jolly came dripping in ... I gave them the same option and asked them to pass it on to the rest of the stragglers.
Back into the elements ... the wind had really picked up and was blowing us all over the place as we staggered down towards Prospector's Gap. Once there, I sent Karl and Baltazar on their way down, while I headed up to North Peak. The wind kicked it up another notch as I worked my way up the final approach. I was keeping one eye on the tree branches as quite a few were snapping off and falling around me, and one eye on the slippery Slope Of Death. Someone please remind me why am I doing this -- oh yeah, I'm crazy.
I managed to pull my phone out of my backpack for a quick selfie. My fingers were numb and I was hoping I wouldn't drop the phone down the side of the peak, but I managed to take a quick photo before heading back down and out of the wind. Note that there are not any photos (by anyone) from the second half of the hike. Everyone was too busy scrambling for shelter!
The last few miles down from Olympia took me forever. My knees were just shot. I couldn't wait to get back on flat ground again. I finally reached the bottom, but I still couldn't pick up much speed as the mud was super-slick. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that Sandy had an early start, but I had not seen him on the trail all day. I was hoping he was ahead of me.
With less than a mile to go, I finally took my first tumble of the day. It was more like a slow motion slide -- one leg went to the left, one leg went to the right, and I fell back into the mud. Yuck! I felt just like a pig in slop. At least I managed to avoid the pile of deer poop over to the left.
I dragged myself back into the parking lot just before 5 pm. It had taken me 8 hours to do 16 miles (I think you can do the math). The smart ones who had bailed out early were all long gone. The 4 front-runners -- Sarbi, Mihail, Brad, and Steve -- were still partying and shivering in the parking lot. Everyone was accounted for, except Sandy. The last known sighting was by Jeff at Juniper Campground more than 5 hours ago. Uh-oh.
It was getting dark quickly. Everyone packed up and headed out. I stayed behind, waiting for Sandy. His car was still there, so I knew he was still on the trail. The ranger told me the park was closing, but we would still be able to drive the cars out. I just sat and waited. I told myself that if he had not showed up by 6 pm, I would call the ranger.
It was pitch black by 5:45. I knew it was even darker in the woods. I hoped Sandy had a flashlight with him, otherwise he'd likely be spending the night in the cold rain -- not good. This was going to be a long and stressful night.
At 6 pm, I went and knocked on the door of the ranger's cabin and began to give her the details. She called dispatch and they began to take down the information -- what trails we took, description of Sandy, etc. Just as they were getting ready to send someone out, I saw a light in the parking lot -- it was the Sand Man! Whew!!! I asked him if he was OK and his first words were "F***ing map!". He had taken a longer route back once he got to the bottom of mountain, but he was OK. Man, that was a huge relief. His next words were, "Just another INCH hike!". You got that right!
Highest point in Contra Costa county
Brad's 230th leaf
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