May 21, 2021
Loop Hike, Black Diamond Regional Preserve
Total distance walked: 4.82 miles
It was a breezy Friday morning with strong winds predicted later in the day. Like I did in April, I was hiking through the Black Diamond Regional Preserve, once known as the Mt. Diablo Coalfield. I drove to the official entrance gate and was fifth in a line of cars waiting to get in. The ranger opened the gate at 8 AM on the dot.
From the Sidney Flat parking area, I started by walking on the Railroad Bed Trail. It meandered broadly through Markley Canyon. Golden foothills surrounded the trail and provided protection from the wind.
This trail once held train tracks of the Pittsburg Railroad. Three railroads served the coalfield: the Black Diamond, the Pittsburg, and the Empire Railroad. They helped in hauling large amounts of coal to three different towns along the San Joaquin River. During World War I, the Pittsburg Railroad was sold and dismantled for scrap metal.
I kept a close eye on my map and the trail signs since I was covering a series of six trails that morning.
One thing I noticed on the map was the American Discovery Trail. It is a cross-country trail stretching from California to Delaware and is made up of many trails along the way that pass through cities, towns, farmland, desert, and wild areas. The trail covers over 6,800 miles. The ADT runs through the Preserve on the Stewartville Trail. I veered onto the Stewartville Trail leaving behind the historic railroad bed.
On a hill in the distance sat the Rose Hill Cemetery. The higher I climbed, the better I could see it. Although there is not much left from the coal mining community, the cemetery serves as a monument to the former residents of the five towns in the coalfield: Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville.
From the Stewartville Trail I walked for a short distance on the Ridge Trail which skirts Lone Tree Valley. Looking down from the top of the ridge was an old miner’s trail, another loop trail within the Preserve.
Departing the Ridge Trail, I strolled downhill on the Acorn Trail, which is suitably named since it runs through an oak grove.
The Acorn Trail ended at a fork in the road. Holding the map that I printed at home in the sunlight, I squinted to see which way to go next.
I turned west onto the Old Homestead Loop and walked through a cattle gate. Just then a slender coyote jumped from the gully startling both of us. It trotted across the trail and off into the field.
Despite walking through several cattle gates, I saw no cows or even diarrheal cow splats anywhere that day. I found it amusing that I was concerned about meeting cows on the trail but was excited to see the coyote.
I headed north on the Old Homestead Loop weaving downward through rolling hills.
At a junction, I turned onto the Lark Trail unsure if it would head uphill. Once the path turned west, I was mounting a completely exposed hillside.
At the summit, wind buffeted my hair but the view was wide open.
I walked a short distance more and came to a fork in the road. The loop continued another three miles, but I took a short-cut on the Riverview Trail back to the car.
I spent most of my life near the coal mines never really having explored the area. It took moving away and coming home for visits to really appreciate the history and beauty of the northern foothills of Mt. Diablo.