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56. Mt. Diablo (03/07/98)

Hikers (4): Jamie, Peter, Russ, Steve
Distance: 14 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 9 beauty
Park info: Mt. Diablo State Park near Clayton

Write-up by Peter

For his birthday hike, Esteban had chosen to do the Northern Loop at the Pinnacles, but the day before the hike we received word that not only was the park closed due to all the recent rain, but the access roads had been washed away as well. Curse you, El Nino!

The rest of us had hiked Mt. Diablo many times, but Esteban had never been there (his only visit was thwarted by fire danger), so he chose the Devil Mountain for his hike.

No-one had committed to go on the hike, so I figured it would just be the Three Musketeers showing up for this one, but when I arrived at Intel, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jamie had also showed up. The best part of it was that she had a big sports utility vehicle ("Jake"), so naturally we made her drive.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

We took our usual route, starting at Mitchell Canyon, going up to Deer Flat, and then on to the summit. We keep saying that we're going to take a different trail up, but we never do! One of these days ...

As we made our final stop at the rest area at the end of the fire road, Esteban was saying that the hike was too easy, but that was before the final 1.5 mile push to the top. That's definitely a good test. I tried to keep up with Esty, but he was just too fast. At least I made it respectable (unlike Rusty who faded away once again). In this case, I think he was probably just being kind and staying back to keep Jamie company, but in general, The Man does not seem to like the final stretch up this hill.

It was freezing at the top (there was snow on the ground as we approached the summit). At this point, I realized that leaving my spare set of clothes in the car was probably not such a great idea. The others had been smarter than me and had brought sweats, although Esty had only brought the bottom half, which he pulled over his arms. What a beautiful sight! The word "doofus" has rarely been more appropriate.

We only stayed at the top for a few minutes -- just long enough for a quick lunch. Fortunately, we were able to find the right trail back pretty quickly (we hadn't been able to find it last time and spent an extra half-hour walking around at the top).

As we headed down the steep trail, Esteban and Jamie went running off ahead, while Rusty and I brought up the rear (the young'uns have better knees!). At the fork for the Middle Trail, Rusty and I took the hikers-only path and headed down through the switchbacks. The others had not put down an arrow at the fork and we suspected they must have stayed on the fire road. Sure enough, as we headed down the valley, I could see Esteban strolling along the fire road up at the top. Given a choice between fire road and hikers-only trail, I prefer to take the hikers-only trail any day. Get those damn mountain bikes away from me!

As we got closer to the bottom, we could hear the sound of rushing water. Rusty was getting nervous. We were wondering if this was going to be another raging torrent like China Hole, but it turned out its bark was worse than its bite and crossing the stream was a piece of cake.

Well, the good news was that we had taken the scenic route down. The bad news was that it was a longer route than the fire road, and it brought us out about 2 miles east of where we intended to be. Wait, it gets better! The trail back to Mitchell Canyon led through a muddy quagmire, and for the crowning touch, the rain began to pour as we slogged our way through. The Man was cursing me all the way. You would think after the near-death experience of Dipsea, he would wise up and not follow me again, but some people never learn!

As we came in on the final half-mile, we saw Jamie up ahead of us. Somehow she must have gotten separated from Esteban and taken another trail down. Good to know we weren't the only ones getting soaked! Naturally, Esteban gave us a good share of abuse as we arrived back at the car, but we let him get away with it because (a) we deserved it, and (b) as he kept reminding us, it was his birthday!

Highest point in Contra Costa county

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