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295. Mt. Diablo (11/29/02)

Hikers (10): Amanda, Cal, Elaine, Eugene, Janice, Judy, Kiran, Peter, Pistol Pete, Steve
Distance: 14 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Mt. Diablo State Park near Clayton

Write-up by Peter and Steve

It was a beautiful, crisp, post-Thanksgiving Day ..... perfect for hiking off the turkey 'n' stuffing calories and avoiding the crowds at the malls. Kiran was making his first INCH appearance -- welcome! Elaine had come back for a second hike with us -- apparently we had not done a good job in scaring her off the previous week. Cal was pumped and ready to go. Janice and Eugene were stoked. Even Pistol Pete made a rare appearance for this one. I was motivated to get it on for my "double forest" hike at the same place that I had received my first forest. Without further ado:

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

The group was chit-chatting happily as we made our way along the flat 3.5 miles at the bottom of Mitchell Canyon. I knew it was not going to last once we started climbing up towards Deer Flat. Sure enough, as we started to gain elevation things became quiet and the group started to spread apart. Steve and Pistol took the early lead, followed by myself and Cal, with the rest of the gang bringing up the rear.

As we made our way up the fire road, it was not too long before left the shady portion of the trail behind us and emerged into the sun. Cal and Pistol were starting to slow down a little, but I managed to keep going. I wanted to maintain my pace -- I knew that once I started to slow down it would be hard to regain momentum on this trail. I tuned out the sound of my huffing and puffing and switched over to autopilot (sort of like Eugene does, except that I don't start singing "Roxanne").

As I reached Deer Flat, Steve was sitting there twiddling his thumbs and itching to get going. I convinced him to wait for the others by using his own "got a plane to catch?" logic on him. They all drifted in before too long, and after they had a chance to catch their breath we hit the road again.

From here, it was a quick couple of miles to Juniper Camp, where we took another brief rest at the picnic tables before the final climb to the summit. The good thing about this section of trail is that you know you're close to the end; the bad thing is that you keep walking and walking but don't seem to be getting any closer. But, eventually, we emerged near the large antennas and made our way across the lower parking lot, and then up the narrow trail in between the roads leading to and from the summit all the way to the top.

As expected, it was crowded at the top, with carloads (literally) of people wandering about and looking at us like we were aliens from another planet. You could just see what they were thinking: Why would people choose to walk instead of driving??? I led the group into the museum to stand on the actual summit (yes, it's inside), and from there to the balcony at the top to enjoy the view. And now, the moment I had been waiting for -- time to bring out the beer! Mmmmmmmmmmm! It always tastes extra-good on the top of Diablo. I think the extra altitude helps (less oxygen, more beer!). Here's to 200 hikes!

Addendum by Steve: In order to get some geocaches, I took the considerably more painful Eagle Peak route from Mitchell Canyon (and, like every other time, promised myself I'd never do that again--that route is a level 5). Once we all met up at the peak, I took an alternate (and much longer) path back, hitting both North Peak and Mt. Olympia. Since I knew it would be a long day, I had taken my own car. This was unusually wise, as it was was almost too dark to see (and too cold to be outside in a thin shirt and shorts) by the time I reached the parking lot. As I neared the only other car in the lot, a woman got out to get something from the trunk. It was Janice! She had been sitting in the car with Peter and Eugene waiting to see if I made it. Thanks guys! INCH still hasn't lost one yet.

Milestones:
Highest point in Contra Costa county
Kiran's 1st leaf
Peter's 2nd forest



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