Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunlit splendor

The rugged trails of Mount Diablo are not to be trifled with in summer. The rocky hillsides and grassland trails can be unbearable in the stifling summer swelter. Looking to beat the arrival of the summer heat Alice and I headed to Diablo for a Memorial Day weekend hike along the Little Yosemite Loop in Pine Canyon.

Memorial Day is considered by some as the start of the summer months so hoping for cool weather we slipped over the hill to the Macedo Ranch staging area. We greeted with a cool breezed blowing across the fog bank drifted in from the coast. We would share the trail with other hikers, the occasional off road biker and a few horses as it wound up and down the canyon.

I am not sure why it is called the Little Yosemite Trail, there are no cascading waterfalls, and no snow capped peaks or fields of wildflowers. The trail headed out through cattle grazing pasture and descends along a creek, dry from the lack of rain. Moving form the grasslands dotted with live oaks we move into lush greenery of trees lit by shafts of sunlight falling through the tree canopy. While you might think Mount Diablo akin to an oven, the shade and cool breezes made for great hiking weather.

While the creek was mostly dry occasional pools of water crossed the trail. Reflections of leaves and trees shimmered in the water as we made our way along. Heading away from the creek we followed the trail up to the canyon rim to a rock formation called Castle Rock. We were stopped short of Castle Rock by a barricade set up to keep hikers out of the nesting area of young peregrine falcons. From our vantage point we could watch hawks and golden eagles make lazy circle in the sky above us.

Making the turn to head home we arrived at Pine Pond, a reed filled haven for birds. We stopped to watch them land among the reeds before heading out on the last legs of our hike. With a few steep climbs we were cruising down to the parking to finish our 5-mile jaunt.

With summer a heartbeat away we will shift our attention to cooler locations but a trip to Mount Diablo is always with the effort. Little Yosemite’s sunlit sights made for a great afternoon on the mountain.

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