Place: Mitchell Canyon, Mt. Diablo State Park, Clayton, California.
Dates: May 8th and 12th, 2012
Early May is the flowering season of the Mount Diablo Globe Tulips, or fairy lanterns. This beautiful, shy flower is endemic to Mt. Diablo, meaning, they cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. They grow in Mitchell Canyon area at the north part of Mount Diablo State Park and, being seasonal geophytes, they spend the greater part of the year as a bulb underground. A few years ago I learned about this flower and every May since then our family have been holding a pilgrimage to Mitchell Canyon to see them in bloom.
This year, our quail family hiked with the Redwood 4H hiking project. Several days before that I went with a friend of mine to explore the trail and prepare for the project hike. The photographs presented here were taken on both dates.
The staging area has limited parking space, but in all the times I've been there, I never had to park outside. There is a small visitor center that is open on the weekends, flush toilets (in a separate building) and a beautiful, shaded picnic area by the creek. The trailhead is right by the visitor center. It is an interpreted trail - there are numbered stations along the way and the brochures are available by the green cattle gate at the trailhead.
At the trailhead we met some wildlife. Here is a bold ground squirrel:
|California Ground Squirrel|
Mistletoe on an oak tree
An opened oak gall with a larva inside.
Coulter pine bearing cones
Early May is a great time of year in Mitchell Canyon. The creek is flowing nicely and almost everything is in bloom.
Buckeye tree in bloom:
|Mt. Diablo Globe Tulip|
Globe tulips on the hillside
After a mile, by station number 9 of the interpretive trail, there is a solitary bench. A perfect spot to have a mid-hike snack. There we took a right turn to White Canyon trail, and almost immediately took another right turn onto the narrow Globe Lily trail. This trail is not marked on the attached map but is well marked in the field. This trail loops back on the hillside, where close relatives of the Mt. Diablo globe tulip can be found:
Mariposa lily (Calochortus venustus)
The hillside is more arid and the prevalent plant community there is the bushy chaparral.
Chaparral on the south-east facing hillside
A member of the chaparral community is visited by a bumblebee:
|Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum)|
|Pipestem clematis (Clematis lasiantha)|
At a shady spot at the bend of the trail we saw a colorful patch of flowers: a mixture of red Indian Paintbrush and yellow Mt. Diablo Globe Tulips.
A view to the south
A view to the west:
|A view to the west|
One last word. Mount Diablo State Park, the only state park in the east bay, is under risk of closure due to budget cuts. The park is already understaffed and the few rangers together with volunteer docents keep the place running primarily for us, the east bay folks. So if you are considering places to visit this summer, show your support and visit Mt. Diablo State Park. Lets show our support and save this most majestic place from closure!