Mount Diablo in the spring

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Wildflower season on Mount Diablo is short and I often miss it for lack of planning or procrastination. I was determined that this would not be the case this year. We have had lots of late-season rain sprinkled with periods of warm, sunny days. This often makes for spectacular flower displays. I knew if I didn’t get out there soon though, the flowers would be gone in the face of the intense East Bay summer.

It was about 85 degrees when I got to the North Gate of Mt. Diablo State Park this afternoon. This was a little worrisome but I refused to be deterred! I had a route in mind but I asked the ranger at the gate anyway where he recommended I go if I wanted to see wildflowers. He directed me to Deer Flat, which was on my planned route, so that’s where I headed.

I set out on the “Grand Loop” route, 6 1/2 hot, dusty miles of trails that go all the way around the main (south) peak of the mountain. The sweeping views of the entire San Francisco Bay area, the Central Valley, and the Livermore Valley are breathtaking, even with the minimal visibility on a hazy day like today.  I could still see the Golden Gate, about 40 miles to the west and the Port of Stockton, about 50 miles to the east.

The wildflowers did not disappoint. Here’s a partial list of what I saw: Indian warrior, Indian paintbrush, Baby blue eyes, Blue dicks, Blue-eyed grass, Chinese houses, lupine, California poppy (big, wide swaths of them!), larkspur, Canon delphinium (the sketch above), Mission bells, vetch, Owl clover, Shooting stars, mustard (also in large swaths), violet, buttercup. Again there were a number of flowers I could not identify but I was thrilled by the variety and number all along the trails. The Mission bells were a particular gift on a long, steep, rocky incline along the North Peak Trail. It’s incredible how such a small thing can make a difficult climb a little less torturous.

There was a lot to take in and digest today so I’ll end with one final highlight. Along a particularly exposed section of the Prospector’s Gap Trail, I heard something whizzing overhead and I looked up to see a blur of blue-grey and white: a Peregrine Falcon in full stoop! It was close! I heard and felt it more than I actually saw it. What a thrill! I watched for awhile to see if I could catch another glimpse of it but it had disappeared down into Mitchell Canyon.

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