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204. Mt. Diablo (03/31/01)

Hikers (8): Atul, Cynthia, Jean, Peter, Pistol Pete, Russ, Steve, Taylor
Distance: 14 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Mt. Diablo State Park near Clayton

Write-up by Peter

While pondering which hike to choose for the week, it occurred to me that we had not visited the Devil Mountain for some time. A quick check of the diary revealed that we had not been there in almost 100 hikes! We were clearly overdue. For an added twist, I decided that we should do the hike in reverse (i.e. clockwise trail instead of the usual counter-clockwise trail).

Taylor and I got there on time, but there was no sign of any other INCHers. The place seemed busier than usual, and it took a while to find a decent parking spot (I surmised it was because it was the first warm weekend of the year, and also because they stopped charging an entrance fee). Damn riff-raff! After about half an hour, Rusty and Jean showed up. It took about another half hour for Atul & Co. to finally make it. I initially blamed poor Atul for driving too slowly, but it turns out that the culprit was actually Cynthia who showed up without food and sent everyone circling around multiple parking lots in search of something to eat. OK, let's hit the road!

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

Right off the bat, we headed out in the wrong direction and ended up circling back around the parking lot before getting on the famous Bruce Lee trail. It's good to get the screw-up out of the way early -- that way you know everything else will be fine for the rest of the hike.

It was a beautiful day as we walked across the fields towards the foot of the mountain. An added benefit of doing the hike in reverse is that you get this section over with early (it's an easy 2-mile walk, but it seems to take forever when you're dragging your tired ass across it with the afternoon sun beating down on you). Esteban was doing a great job of entertaining us with tales of his recent trip to the Far East. Say what you will about his idea of a good time, but he tells a good story!

We finally reached the foot of the slopes and began the uphill trek towards the Murchio Gap. As expected, we began to spread out. Esty, Pistol, and Atul led the way. I stayed with Taylor and Cynthia in the middle pack for a while, but they started to slow down and I found myself walking on my own after a short time. I knew they were not too far behind because I could hear them constantly talking! Rusty and Jean were somewhere in the distance. Normally, The Man kicks my butt on the hikes, but I own his ass on Mt. Diablo. Today, he was not even trying to keep up (I wonder why?).

The bugs were out in force and the heat was starting to take its toll as we trekked up the hill. This was the price we had to pay for starting late. I cursed the latecomers as I worked my way up through the switchbacks. Eventually, I caught up with the front-runners at the Gap. It felt great to throw off the backpack and just sit down in the dirt! We sat there and jaw-jacked for a while until all the others finally showed up. After everyone had a chance to catch their breath and have a little snack, we geared up and hit the trail again.

Taylor wanted to take the long fire road from there to the Prospector's Gap, but I managed to convince her to go with the rest of us along the Eagle Peak Trail. This trail is steeper, but shorter, and it has the added bonus of being a hikers-only trail, making it my favorite part of the entire park. Oh yeah, I forgot .... you usually get scratched up pretty good as you fight your way through some of the brush. Minor detail .....

After a great half-hour walk, we emerged at the Prospector's Gap. Esty had made a new friend on the trail and was chit-chatting away with him. Apparently the guy hiked Mt. Diablo every week. I like this place too, but a little variety would not be a bad thing. Atul took a spot under a tree and looked like he was about to go into a yoga trance. The rest of us were content to watch Pistol Pete throwing rocks into a big muddy puddle. I guess it doesn't take much to amuse us. Rusty and Jean eventually showed up. I think The Man was up to something in the woods!

Onwards to the summit .... 2 miles to go! For some reason, this part took longer than expected. Maybe it was because we were so tired. The worst part was that every time we looked up, we could see the museum at the summit hovering above us, but we did not seem to be getting closer. I was tempted to stop a couple of times, but I knew Atul was right behind me so this motivated me to keep going. It was starting to get more crowded now (many people drive to the top and then walk down a little ways).

We finally emerged onto the paved road to the summit. By now, the crowds were pretty thick. Now I remember why we don't come here that often. People driving by were looking at us wondering why we looked so exhausted. We even saw folks getting out of their cars, putting on hiking gear and sunscreen and walking around the parking lot. Give me a freaking break!!!

I found a spot under a shady tree and took a load off. Suddenly, things were not so bad after all. The newbies who had never been to the summit went off to explore. Others went in search of water and restrooms. I just unpacked my lunch. Boy, that roast beef sandwich tasted good! This is what it's all about.

The way back was pretty straightforward ... most of the gang stayed together, but Rusty and JP were somewhere in the back. We set an arrow down for them at the fork before Deer Flat and kept going down the trail into Mitchell Canyon. I took my sweet time going down the hill with my aching knees. I appreciated the fact that the trail was mostly shaded by now, making it much cooler and less of a grind.

I arrived back at the parking lot in time to see Atul & Co. taking off. Taylor and I figured we should wait for Rusty and Jean to get back (I knew The Man did not have the best sense of direction and was concerned that he might have missed the arrow). More than half an hour went by, with no sign of them. Finally, a bicyclist came in and I asked him if he'd seen our intrepid couple on the trail. He said they were not too far away. Whew! About ten minutes later, they finally showed up. What was the delay? Apparently Rusty and Jean had come across "a snake". The Man!!!!

Highest point in Contra Costa county

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