I hope all of you amazing moms had a wonderful Mother’s Day! The past couple of years, I’ve spent Mother’s Day at my daughter’s volleyball tournaments. It’s not my favorite way to spend Mother’s Day, being inside a convention center with absolutely nothing resembling a Mother’s Day brunch, and hundreds of cheering fans – NOT cheering for you. So, when I learned that there was to be no sporting event whatsoever on Mother’s Day this year, I was overjoyed. I marked it on the calendar in bright neon pink pen and dropped several hints that I wanted to do something outside… at Mt. Diablo State Park… with a hike and picnic lunch… and chocolate. Just a few suggestions.
Why Mount Diablo State Park? I recently read about the wildflowers blooming on the hillsides of Mount Diablo, so I wanted to see if there were any wildflowers that survived the heat waves from the previous weeks. It was a long shot, but at least there would be good hiking and expansive views if there weren’t any wildflowers to see. Mount Diablo is only 3,849 feet high, which in itself is not that impressive. However, since there is nothing to block the views from the summit, the views are far reaching and many people drive up to the summit to look out from the observation deck, and also to check out the Visitor Center. Mount Diablo has one of the largest “viewsheds in the Western United States.”. If you’ve lived in the East Bay like I have, then you know about Mount Diablo. You can’t help but see it while driving on the freeway, it’s massive. We didn’t have a set agenda to explore the park which is about 20,000 acres, but we did have a time limit since we were going to visit my mom later on in the day.
Since Mother’s Day is synonomous to sleeping in and liesurely breakfast at my house, we didn’t have an early start. We drove in through the South Gate Entrance (there are 3 ways to enter Mount Diablo SP) around noon and slowly made our way up the windy road. There are many cyclists who share the road, so there is no hurrying on this road. It’s time for patience and scenery appreciation. If you’re not the one driving, you’ll see gorgeous hillsides and far reaching views.
We drove past the kiosk and found a spot on the side of the road near Curry Point facing Gibralter Rock to stop and have our “picnic” lunch in the van. We had a spread of cheeses, meats, baguettes, chocolate and fruit (they must have lost the bag full of veggies). All I have to say is that food always tastes better when someone prepares it for you.
After the above picture was taken, we started hearing some pitter patter on our roof. It actually started to rain. Not hard, but enough that we decided not to go on the hike at Curry Point. We had no inkling that it was going to rain, so of course we weren’t ready for wet weather. It was strange, but the one dark rain cloud seemed to be hovering just over us. We could actually see blue sky and sunny hills right up ahead in the distance. So, we decided to see if we could get out from under the rain cloud in a different part of the park and maybe still be able to sneak in a hike. We continued up South Gate Road to the “junction” of all three roads and drove through Junction Campground because we are always open to checking out campgrounds for the future. Junction Campground has only six sites on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it’s open year round. The impression I got from this campground was that it was very peaceful here, and the campsites were well spaced out.
North Gate Road
It was still raining by the time we finished exploring Junction Campground, so we decided not to go up to the summit and head down North Gate Road instead. North Gate Road had a number of places to stop and look at the view or stop for a hike.
Finally, after some more driving we seemed to have gotten out from under the cloud and the scenery changed to have that warm sunny glow again. We stopped at the first semblence of a trail (at a turn out on the opposite side of the road about a quarter mile north of the Camel Rock trailhead area). The little trailhead behind the rocks beckoned us to come see what lay at the top of the hill.
We were enjoying hiking too much to call it quits so we decided to keep going and if we got soaked, oh well.
Although we only had time for a small hike, it was time to head over to see my mom and celebrate Mother’s Day at my mom and dad’s house. We didn’t drive up to the summit this time, but even our short hike and drive through the park made us want to come back again. Hubby and I have been to the summit before and it is definitely worth the drive up for the views (30 minute drive to the summit from the junction), but it was fun to explore other sections of the park for the first time. Some areas, like Rock City, felt crowded, in fact we couldn’t even find a parking space. Other areas like the campground and the trail next to North Gate Road where we hiked, were very sparsely populated. We didn’t encounter another soul the entire time we hiked, which added to the peaceful and serene feeling of this trail. I loved seeing the wildflowers and I bet if we were here a month or two earlier we would have seen many more. Mount Diablo State Park was a perfect place for a late Spring hike, it does get very hot here in the summer.
Fortuitously, my hubby decided to renew our state parks pass on the way out and jumped out of the van at the North Gate kiosk. As we were waiting for him, I noticed a small brown object on the back of his seat. It was a bug, so I grabbed a napkin, picked it up between the napkin then pinched hard with my fingers. As I was doing so, I realized that it looked like a tick and I remembered that ticks are hard to destroy. My anxiety level increased and I yelled at my daughter to grab a ziploc bag, “quickly!” I threw the napkin in the bag, zipped it shut, and sure enough a tick crawled out of the napkin. If we hadn’t stopped, my hubby would have surely gotten a tick bite. We studied up on how to remove a tick once it bites you and basically you have to take tweezers, grab the tick as close as possible to the skin’s surface, pull upward with an even pressure and clean the bite thoroughly. It further mentions that you should never crush a tick with your fingers (since it could still transmit disease). I think we performed no less than 20 tick checks before we got to my mom’s house. So, if you do hike at Mount Diablo State Park, make sure to check for ticks after your hike, even the park brochure states that “Ticks are found in Mount Diablo. Check yourself and your children frequently.” We learned first hand how true this was, message received!