Star Mine Trail
March 26, 2015
Total distance: 4.8 miles
Julia and I drove 140 miles to Fire Station 82 to be with my husband on his last 24-hour shift as Fire Captain. Throughout the day engine companies, family and friends dropped in to bid him farewell. After 27 years of service for Contra Costa County Fire Protection District he was retiring.
By dinnertime it was just crew and family around the table until they were toned-up for a call. The tires squealed on the polished concrete floor, and the engine rumbled loudly as they pulled out of the apparatus room.
The next morning Julia and I took off on foot on the eastern edge of Black Diamond Regional Preserve. It is located nearby the fire station and my parents’ home (where we spent the night). Our destination was the Star Mine, described as one of the last active coal mines in the area.
The parking lot was full and the multiuse trail was busy with bikers, day hikers, power walkers, and runners with dogs leashed and unleashed. Julia and I walked quickly to keep a good distance from others until we came upon a herd of cows. They crowded under a tree in the shade and blocked the trail.
“Hey cow! Hey cow!” I shouted while clapping my hands. They looked up but didn’t move. A family approached from the opposite side of the trail. “I’ll move them,” the man yelled across to us. Before he could do anything, his dog barked and ran towards the cows which sent them running in our direction. He called the dog back and I let out a faint scream as a large black heifer came trotting towards us. We squeezed past the calves and their moms then continued on our way.
I was on this section of trail in winter with Joseph when there were no wildflowers. This time in early spring the hillsides were colorful with patches of purple and white lupine, magenta owl clover, and yellow field mustard.
The sun warmed our shoulders as we walked. Squirrels played chase in the verdant fields sometimes kicking up dust. A quintet of buzzards circled ominously in the faultless sky. We heard the gobble-gobble of turkeys, and in the distance saw two roaming the hillside. Julia burst out with a turkey call attracting a few more clucks from unseen birds.
We sauntered down the narrow path and talked about wedding plans: the dress, the cake, the food, etc. We talked about how her dad loved to come up to the hills with his crew in the springtime. They’d drive the Type 3 wildland rig and survey the fire trails. It was a pleasant and peaceful part of his job.
We passed the shallow and mucky water of Sand Creek, and just beyond the Star Mine Group Camp the hillside became blue with brodiaea. It was an unexpected sight to see, and a perfect place to photograph wildflowers.
Carefully we climbed the hill following an animal path (or someone else’s tracks) to get a closer look.
We both took turns with the camera trying to get the best shot as we sat amid the parade of flowers.
We stopped at the barred Star Mine entrance and wondered about the history of the place. Without a flashlight, there wasn’t much to see.
Back on the trail we considered making a loop hike but were unsure of the distance or route to take and instead retraced our steps back to the car.
While Julia and I were out hiking that morning, Captain Chris and his crew drove Code 3 (with lights and sirens blaring) to Chris’ last call.
When the call was finished, they returned to the station. Chris hung his jacket, cleaned out his locker, and said goodbye to the men at 82—his home away from home. Thus ending his long career dedicated to the preservation of life, property and the environment.
I’m looking forward to spending many hours exploring the trails with my newly retired husband.