The First Hike of the Year

January 24, 2015
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
Total distance: 5.75 miles

I headed west on a sunny but cold morning.  A thick blanket of fog settled across the San Joaquin Valley.  Shortly after leaving the Sierra foothills, the gray mist surrounded me, but by the time I reached my parents’ house in Antioch, the sun was shining again.  It was a good day for my first hike of the year.

Most of the mining district is within the park's 6096 acres.

Most of the Black Diamond mining district is within the Park’s 6,096 acres.

Joseph, my 30-year old son, has recently taken an avid interest in hiking and backpacking.  He met me at my parents’ home and joined me on this hike.  It had been many years since we last hiked together, maybe since 2001.

Heading to Volcano Lake: Andrew (in front), Chris, Janet, Andy, Michael, and Joseph.  September 1, 2001

Hiking to Volcano Lake on September 1, 2001. Andrew (in front), Chris, Janet, Andy, Michael, and Joseph–age 17. Not pictured, Julia who is taking the photo.

We headed to the nearby Stewartville trailhead at the end of my parents’ neighborhood.  The gravel fire service road was wide and wound through the hills.  When Joseph was a kid, he always hiked ahead of us.  This time we stayed together and talked.

Grazing cows dotted the green hillsides.  We watched them trot downhill.  They were less graceful than the mountain bikers who whizzed by at great speeds.

Two cows posed for a photo.

Two cows posed for a photo.

We heard the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of a hawk’s powerful wings as it flew above us.  Ground squirrels ran for shelter when they saw it coming.  The pronounced sight of Mt. Diablo came into view as we rounded a corner.

Mt. Diablo seemed within walking distance, about 17 miles to the top from where we were.

Mt. Diablo seemed within walking distance, about 17 miles to the top from where we were.

We veered off to the Prospect Tunnel Trail and entered the dark burrow at the end of the road.  Back in the 1860’s coal mining days this was an exploratory tunnel.  It is 400 feet long but blocked after 200 feet.  It was moist inside the tube and my glasses fogged up immediately, not that I could see much in the dark.

Prospect Tunnel

Prospect Tunnel. Look closely and you’ll see Joseph at the very end.

Leaving the tunnel trail we retraced our steps to the main trail.  From there we hiked a 500-foot ascent on the Corcoran Mine Trail.

Trailhead sign post.

Trailhead sign post.

The path narrowed and became steep and rocky.  Joseph plowed ahead while I stopped to take in the beauty and catch my breath.

Corcoran Mine Trail.  Here the path narrowed and became steep and rocky.

Corcoran Mine Trail.

As we reached the top, views of the grassy hillsides opened up.

The green rolling hillside was a sight to see with the gray oak trees.

Mt. Diablo sits behind the rolling hills adorned with forest green oaks.

At the crest of the Corcoran Mine Trail we could see the City of Antioch underneath a layer of fog.

Underneath a layer of fog sits that City of Antioch.

Antioch

Next, we descended under a canopy of barren oak trees on the aptly named Acorn Trail.

On the Acorn Trail.

On the Acorn Trail.

Lastly, we took the Old Homestead Loop Trail.  Back in 2011 my father and I hiked this section of trail in the sticky mud.  This time the terrain was dry but terribly rutted and equally as hard to traverse.  As Joseph and I ventured back to the car, we talked about the past and the future.

Happy to be hiking with Joseph.

Happy to be hiking with Joseph.

I am very happy that he is excited again about hiking.  I hope that we will spend many more hours together on the trails throughout the year.