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february

Mount Diablo State Park Falls Trail

I went walking in Mount Diablo State Park yesterday. At this time of year, the Falls Trail, starting at Regency Drive in Clayton, is recommended. I think it would be a nice and strenuous hike at any time of year. It's just that the trail is named for the waterfalls and they're of course only impressive after major rains. But in summer large parts of this walk would be nicely shaded.
At the site of the old Donner Cabin, daffodils have become naturalised.
Daffodils at the site of the Donner Cabin
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The trail is beautiful. Here it runs between two oaks. The ones down in the valley were showing some signs of leafing out soon but up here it will be a while longer.
Donner Canyon Trail
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Along a shady part of the trail I found Pedicularis densiflora, Indian warrior. It's a native species. Very showy, too.
Pedicularis densiflora
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There was also Cardamine californica. The common name Milk maids seems to be most popular. It's a lot less spectacular than the Indian warriors.
Cardamine californica
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This trail is named for the waterfalls along it but this is the only one of my water photos that I was happy with. There were plenty of them, though. The most impressive one you only see from a distance but there are several very scenic creek crossings with cute little falls.

I found out that I should have brought my GoreTex hiking boots after all. In my well-ventilated summer hiking shoes I got wet feet at most of the crossings. Somebody who's better at jumping between stepping stones would have been OK. Me, I'm just too worried about falling so I ended up wading instead.
Small waterfall
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The views at higher elevations were fantastic. This is just one example of the view to the north. You can see Suisun Bay and Solano County on the other side. Suisun Bay is where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meet. It empties into the Carquinez Strait, which in turn empties into San Pablo Bay, the northern part of San Francisco Bay. You can see the sequence clearly on this NASA aerial photo of the area.
Looking north across the Suisun Bay
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The trail is on the northern side of the Mount Diablo massif and shaded by the Meridian Ridge. That means that toward sunset most of it is in shade. It got pretty cool toward the end of the hike. I had to put on my fleece and was still cold the last mile or so. Earlier I had been sweating in my t-shirt.
Pine on rocky outcrop
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The hike itself was beautiful and gave me a nice work-out. If I do this once a week I'll soon be rid of my British Belly. But it was all overshadowed by meeting a skunk. It ambled across the trail and I was so happy and awestruck I didn't get the camera out until it was halfway up the hill on the other side. I don't think it ever saw me because skunks have very poor eye sight.
Striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis
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When you have the time, head down Highway 1 for some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen in my life. If you look in my journal back in the beginning of Nov 2007 you will see my photos. It's a full day of driving, but well worth it!