Mid-winter on Mt. Diablo – Hawks and Eagles

Oaks (Mitchell Canyon)

Oaks (Mitchell Canyon)

February 12, 2013

A long overdue first blog of the year. I was hoping to post some snowshoeing in Desolation Wilderness pictures from a trip last week, but my fear of blizzards and being turned into a popsicle kept me off the trail. I’ll return for a rematch in two weeks (weather permitting!) So instead I went for a hike on a somewhat cold morning on Mt. Diablo. Even with the recent sunny weather it’s still early in the season for wildflowers and blooms, although the hillsides are still green.

View towards Clayton

View towards Clayton

I started off from one of the Clayton trailheads (Mitchell Canyon Road) at the equestrian staging area. Once the weather warms, you won’t find me anywhere near Mt. Diablo (too hot, and too many rattlesnakes). Since the mountain sits out of reach of the cooling ocean breezes, starting in May, most of my hikes will be on Mt. Tam, along Skyline (Purissima Redwoods), and my beloved Sierras (Tahoe, Yosemite, etc.). And of course, this year I’ll be attempting Mt. Whitney yet again.

Oaks, Hillside and Trail

Oaks, Hillside and Trail

The first part of the hike took me up a steep, wide fire road. I turned right up the Mitchell Rock trail and more steep ascent up single track through oak, pine and manzanita to Mitchell Rock.


A short break for snack and hydration, and taking off my fleece layer before more climbing towards Eagle Peak. Near an outcropping, facing east, I marveled at  a pair of red-tailed hawks riding thermals above the trail. As I took a few pictures, they seemed to circle closer and closer. Soon two more hawks joined them and I started to feel  a bit apprehensive. I started thinking that perhaps I was nearing their nest and they were feeling threatened. Not wanting to chance a Tippi Hedren (The Birds!) moment, I moved on and continued along the trail.


Diablo2013_0033fbAt Eagle Peak, I took another break to eat my Safeway sandwich and some fruit while I continued to watch the hawks from a safe distance. After my break, I continued along the trail towards Murchio Gap. Had I started earlier, I would’ve been tempted to try for the Diablo summit (about 15 miles round trip), but instead I turned back at the gap, where about five trails intersect.

Above Murchio Gap

Above Murchio Gap

Diablo2013_0025fbAs I descended from the gap toward the Back Creek Trail, the pounding took a toll on my knees and made me glad I opted for a shorter hike (about 9 miles). Once I reached the creek, I found a suitable spot against an impressive oak tree to relax, drink some coffee, and listen to the creek. From here it was a relatively flat, beautiful hike back to the staging area. On a south facing grassy slope, in the early afternoon sun I was finally treated to a smattering of wildflower blooms, a promise of more to come. The weather had warmed enough for me to hike in shorts and a couple of layers. It’s becoming my mantra: this is why I live in Northern California.

Early wildflowers in bloom

Early wildflowers in bloom


About victorvolta

I am a freelance photographer/writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the very suburban city of Santa Clara. Education: San Jose State University (class of '84) BA degree in Journalism with concentrations in Photojournalism and English. Favorite Foods: Ribeye steaks and Stan's Doughnuts (separate plates, usually). Favorite Drinks: Strong gourmet coffee and Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (separate cups).
This entry was posted in California State Parks, Local Hikes, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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