Journey: 52 Hikes and more

Hike 35 – Mining Green Diamonds Locally, April 3, 2010

Since spring was still in the air and the hills were all around the East Bay were still green, I decided to continue to hike in the area.  I may as well enjoy the local green for as long as it lasts.  It will be a matter of weeks before the hills start turning brown again.

This weekend I planned to hike in Black Diamond Mines, one of my favorite parks in the East Bay Regional Park District.  I have hiked here many times before including back on January 10th this year.  This time I was going to explore trails I had never covered before.  My goal was a 10.4 mile loop with about 1,900 feet of total climbing.

The weather forecast called for an overcast day which suited me fine.  The more moisture we get right now, better it is for the East Bay.  Soon the land and hills will be parched and we’ll have cloudless days for months, so we might as well enjoy these cloudy skies while we can.  Besides, Black Diamond Mines gets really hot in Summer, often around 120 degrees.  So this is generally the best time of the year to hike here.

About 9:40 AM I pulled into the Frederickson Lane parking lot and began my trek.  The temperature was a cold 50 degrees accompanied by a bitter wind.  I set off briskly along the Homestead Trail to warm my body up.  The trail meanwhile was in very good condition.  It was dry, and headed up steadily, great for a quick warm-up.

The Homestead Trail soon joined the Old Homestead Loop and I headed south-west in a clockwise direction.  About 1.5 miles later I picked up the Acorn Trail, a short, less than half a mile connector to the Ridge Trail.  The Acorn Trail was appropriately named because it was covered with oak trees.  In the right season, I have no doubt that a carpet of acorn adorns this section.

I walked along the Ridge Trail for half a mile and took the Carbondale Trail.  I suspect that the name of this trail has something to do with coal mining but all I saw were lots of lupines.  Interestingly, so far the trails I had walked on looked barely trampled.  Often there were wild flowers growing on these trails.  Clearly I was picking up some infrequently hiked sections of this park.

After covering just over a mile on the Carbondale Trail, I picked up the River View Trail.  From here I could see views of the central valley of California and some of the counties north of the park.  I could also see the Navy’s ghost fleet in Suisun Bay.

The River View Trail ends at the former site of the town of Stewartville.  There I took the Railroad Bed Trail which has a steady and gentle grade down towards the park offices.  As the name suggests and as far as I could tell, this trail was clearly a railroad track once leading up to the mining town of Stewartville.

I stopped by at the park offices and chatted with a Ranger for a few minutes before continuing on.  Hiking the River View Trail right behind the park office was the same as driving on the worst possible, deeply potholed road.  Grazing cows and horses had left deep marks in the wet ground.  Now they had all dried up and were tough to negotiate.  Thankfully I wore ankle-support hiking boots (listen up kids, never leave home without it) and did not twist and hurt myself.  For all the troubles I encountered, the reward was the abundance of wildflowers along the trail.

The trail looped around and about two and a half miles after the park offices, joined up with the Lark Trail.  By now I had covered over 8 miles on this hike and started reflecting back on it.  So far I had loved this outing.  The views of green hills and valleys were amazing.  Also, I had seen lots of wild flowers and explored sections of the park that were new to me.  Overall, I had no serious complaints about this hike.

The Lark Trail rewarded me further by putting on another wildflower show.  This time there were lots of thistles and other kinds of wildflowers lining the trail.  Hopefully the photographs do some justice to what I saw.  While I was photographing flowers, my ears picked up what sounded like the drone of a swarm of bees.  I snapped out of my euphoric state.  The attack of the killer bees, I feared.  Thankfully the sound was made by countless dragonflies and I was rewarded once again by this delightful sight.  This was definitely my day.  🙂

Other than meeting a few people near the trailhead, I did not encounter any other hikers on this outing.  I met some horse riders along the Railroad Bed Trail and the park ranger, but beyond that I had the park to myself.

By now a shy and weak sun was out and I even saw some blue sky above me.  The Lark Trail brought me back to the Old Homestead Loop Trail which took me back to Homestead Trail and the parking lot.  By the time I got back to the car around 1:45 PM, the sun had become a little stronger and temperature had risen to 57 degrees.

Here’s a map of the hike courtesy of Google Maps:

Here’s a link to a brochure and trail map from the East Bay Regional Park District website.  The brochures include some interesting history of Black Diamond Mines:

Here’s a slideshow of pictures from the hike:

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