Date: May 23, 2020
Place: Old Finley Rd. Mt. Diablo State Park, Clayton, California
Coordinates: -37.851333, -121.847075
Length: 4 miles
The original plan we had for this long weekend was to backpack with friends, but then the COVID-19 arrived and messed up this plan. encouraged by the opening up of some parks and public lands, I thought it would be nice to go on our own and Pappa Quail suggested a regular camping trip. Apparently this was not to be because our cat got injured and as soon as we brought him back from the vet I returned all of our camping gear back to the shed.
Pappa Quail tried to cheer me up, saying that we would go an day hikes instead but on Saturday morning I found it very difficult to move my family away from their screen entertainment.
|Our hike as captured by my GPS|
|Morgan Creek Rd.|
I didn't see any globe lilies on this trail, but not far into the trail I already saw some pretty wildflowers.
|Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla|
|Fruit of Fritillaria|
|Western Fence Lizard|
In the half-shade cast by a few thin-leaved oak trees bloomed a patch of clarkia, the first I've seen this spring. I was happy to see these bright pink beauties.
|Red Ribbons, Clarkia concinna|
|Ithuriel's Spear, Triteleia laxa|
It wasn't all just grasses and oak trees though. Every now and then we passed a bush or a patch of tall dead annuals of last summer. Little birds chirped in and between these and Pappa Quail would pause to take photos.
The coyote stopped by the tree and looked back at us. We got together and watched it silently for some time. It sat down in the grass, looking at us still, and appeard as if it was waiting for us to move on, so we did.
This trail segment was fairly level and although not as shaded as the creekside one, was going through a nice grove of healthy oak trees with an undergrowth richer than savannah grass.
|Sticky Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus|
A gap between the trees allowed us a view ti the southeast. There I could see the high rise of the online Wilderness and Rose Peak. This backpacking trip still awaits me.
There were buckeye trees at peak bloom dispersed between the oaks. I love their chandelier appearance at this time of year.
|California Bauckeye, Aesculus californica|
Another thing I noticed from that viewpoint was a large rocky area down at Tassajara Creek to the northwest. It seemed to me that the loop trail that we didn't go on would go right through that area and I regretted aloud that we didn't take that longer loop trail.
Pappa Quail replied to my complaints with a shrug. he was busy focusing on something else.
The grass was completely dry and I didn't have much hope of seeing wildflowers there but I was soon surprised by a beautiful patch of harvest brodiaea at peak bloom. All the flowers had at least one pollinator inside it, usually several. One of then however, harbored a small predator inside - a crab spider, waiting for its meal to come flying in.
|A Crab Spider (and tiny beetle) on Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans|
While I was paying close attention to this magnificent flower Pappa Quail and my chika had already moved quite a distance onward. Suddenly I heard them shout for me to come quickly. I shouted back that I saw a mariposa lily but I'm not sure they've heard me because they kept on urging me to come over.
I thought they had sighted something that might run away so I headed over quickly only to find out that they saw an entire patch of those mariposa lilies .... magnificent, yes, but not the kind of sight that runs away.
|Yellow Mariposa, Calochortus superbus|
The oaks are home to many wildlife species. We didn't linger long enough to appreciate much of that but the birds at least, made there presence known.
Even though the chamise didn't wear the snowy look, its minute, delicate flowers were still captivating.
Large graywacke rock poked through the grass like huge gray monuments. They were either smooth or had irregular cracks and chipped surfaces. One of the flatter rocks had numerous round holes. Two sets of these, in fact. I gasped at the sight - these were grinding rocks! It was here that the local native people, the coast Miwok gathered to pound their harvest of acorns into a fine meal that would sustain them throughout the year. I had the chance to see a single grinding stone here and there, one even at the nearby Morgan Territory Regional Park, but the only place where I've seen so many of them together before was at the Indian Grinding Rock State Park (a territory of the interior Miwok).
|Miwok Grinding Rock|
|Coast Larkspur, Delphinium californicum|
|Old Finley Rd.|
There's a trail intersection at the crest of the hill where we needed to go straight on Old Finley Rd. I was hoping to take a break at that trail intersection but when we got there we found no shade and no convenient place to sit so we continued on a little further to where the trail got closer to the trees once again.
A hawk and a few vultures circled the sky. They are big birds, but not big enough to provide good shade.
|European Vetch, Vicia disperma, non-native, invasive.|
|Old Finley Rd.|
|Old Finley Rd.|
But there, between the leaves-of-three I also found the loveliest blue dicks flowers I've seen on that hike. It was a pretty sight to finish with a pretty hike in a less known a part of Mt. Diablo Park.
|Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatym|
Inspired, I was back in Mt. Diablo State Park on the next day too.