They say Mount Diablo got its name from a WTF moment in local lore, dating back from the early 19th century. In 1805, a small contingent of Spanish troops encircled a group of Native Americans, who managed to disappear without a trace using their evidently superior knowledge of the land. It’s only natural that the people who brought us the Inquisition decided the Devil was at play, and so they named the place Monte del Diablo, which some translate as Thicket of the Devil. Later, monte was mistakenly translated as mount and thus the mountain gained its current name.
As the crow flies, we now live about five miles or so from Mount Diablo, which makes it a semi-regular destination for us. On weekdays, when most folks are at work, the drive to the top is fairly relaxed and fun. I say fairly relaxed because you still have to pay close attention to other traffic, bicyclists in particular, especially near blind curves. As well, along some stretches, the road drops off abruptly, which causes fearful drivers to wander across the median dangerously.
The fun comes from spotting wildlife and the play of light on distant hills, which offers quite a spectacle on overcast and stormy days. On the drive to the top, there are many spots where to pull over and take in the sights, some with tables, benches and grills, even. From there, it is easy to see how much concealment the terrain offers wildlife or the unfortunate injured hiker at times. As close to “civilization” as Mount Diablo is, and as unimposing its elevation may appear at 3849 feet, the park’s 20.000 acres is deceptively smooth and tranquil. But just as Mount Tamalpais and its potentially treacherous Cascade Falls trail has risks, so does Diablo. And this is due in large part to both traffic and complacency.
Some of the photos in this blog post were taken as a storm system was moving through the area, giving you a sense of the textures the park offers and why it has become one of our favorites. It never fails to remind me of “Picnic at Hanging Rock”…