Experience the Outdoors

November 27, 2015
Falls Trail Loop at Mt. Diablo State Park
Total distance: 5.2 miles

Shopping on Black Friday?  No thank you, never!  Instead I took REI’s advice to “OptOutside” and experience the outdoors.

Joining me the morning after Thanksgiving were my oldest and youngest sons, Joseph and Andrew.  Pierre, Andrew’s friend, accompanied us.

Joseph, checking the map at the trailhead.

The trail conveniently began at Regency Gate located at a dead end of a residential neighborhood in the city of Clayton.  Entering the park through this location meant a shorter drive from my parents’ home (where I was visiting for the weekend) and no entrance fee.

This was easy.

The hard-packed clay footpath lay beneath the shade of oak trees.   It followed Donner Creek, a currently dry creek bed—not a good sign since it was the waterfalls that we wanted to see.  Well-marked trail junctions kept us on the correct route through Donner Canyon.

Looking back.

We passed the site of the historic Donner Cabin (not related to the doomed Donner Party) that was destroyed by fire years ago; then rounded a bend and let out a collective sigh.  The trail became steep as a staircase rising 1,300 feet in elevation.

Andrew and Pierre—friends from elementary school—beginning the climb.

Quail, hidden beneath the bushes, rustled in the dead leaves.  The information board’s warning of mountain lions in the area flashed through my mind, but it was the wrong time of day for an encounter.

The trail twisted and turned up the hill.  At the top we looked back and saw the chipped away side of Mt. Zion located in the Clayton Quarry.

Minerals found in the quarry include malachite, azurite, iron pyrite, magnetite and calcite.

The Falls Trail cut to the right leaving behind the wide road.  Herein began the loop trail on the east side of the canyon.  It was sunny and dry and continued to climb uphill.

The sun sent out rays in all directions.

The path narrowed drastically, often hugging the edge of the mountain, leaving me feeling a little dizzy.  The loose shale tread added to my uneasiness.  Joseph stopped many times and waited as I took baby steps around the curves of the slender trail.

Looking down at Wild Oat Canyon from the sketchy trail, I was unsure if we should go farther.  After a pep talk from the guys, we carried on around the canyon loop.

We stopped here for a moment, where the falls—if they contained water—should have been visible.

Although a recent storm passed over the area days prior, the rainfall was not significant enough to add much water to the creeks.  We stepped over dry beds and Joseph climbed the rocks where water should have been falling.

Below one of the dry falls sat a piece of a skeleton from an unknown animal.  I find it interesting how often I see animal skeletons while out hiking.

Whose pelvis?

The trail became more comfortable to walk on the west side of the canyon.  It was damper, shadier, wider and cooler.

In warmer weather, ladybugs mate in this area.

As we neared the bottom of the canyon, we heard water trickling through Donner Creek.  The trail yo-yo’d up and down and eventually reached the wide and comfortable path.  On the verge of turning green, the voluptuous curves of the foothills came into view as we made our way back to the car.

Heading back.

I loved this hike even though we did not see waterfalls.  It challenged my fear of heights.  It required me to pray for courage and trust myself.  It spurred an interest in learning about the history and geology of a mountain whose shadow I lived near for decades.  Most important of all, it allowed me to experience the outdoors and explore the beauty of Mt. Diablo with my sons.  I can’t wait to go back!

12 thoughts on “Experience the Outdoors

  1. Loved this blog. I forget that we have such great hiking trails so close to home. And seeing your photos after having heard you describe the hike after you came back to our house made them even better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great way to spend Black Friday–your own Green (well, Brown) Friday. And sharing the day with your sons sounds perfect. Even if no water in the waterfalls, the area is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Patti. I saw photos of the area from a friend who hiked there in springtime. The falls were beautiful. I guess I’m going to have to go back. Merry Christmas.


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