MONTCLARION: May 9, 2019
Montclarions Steve and Carolyn Balling have hiked all over the world. So has Oakland’s Shirley Langlois. But there’s a place in their own backyard that keeps calling them back — Mount Diablo.
“A lot of people think of it in a spiritual way,” says Steve Balling, but hikers know it as a spectacular playground that dominates the Bay Area landscape. “If you want to hike uphill and get some good elevation, this is the place to do it,” adds Langlois, who climbed the rocks as a kid while “the dads would get out the Coleman stove and cook a big pancake breakfast.”
I met the trio of local hikers on the second evening of “Four Days Diablo,” a soft-adventure hiking and camping trip along the 30-mile Diablo Trail linking Walnut Creek to Brentwood. During four days of hiking, they crossed only two one-lane roads. Over a gourmet dinner at the group Save Mount Diablo’s largest acquisition, Curry Canyon Ranch, we discussed what they’d seen so far.
On Day One, hikers ascended from Walnut Creek, seeing the city melt into the backdrop as they traversed through rolling grasslands and along creeks and ponds with postcard vistas and occasional sightings of bobcats, coyotes and families of wild pigs. Hawks frequently soared overhead. Day Two had them hiking through overgrown madrones and bays, then spectacular wildflowers like the star tulip. They peered into wind caves, and Steve found an obsidian arrowhead on a fire road.
It had worked it’s way up [to the surface]. It’s not (normally) found on Mount Diablo, so it had to have been traded by Indians … 100-plus years ago.”
The arrowhead was documented and returned to where it was found. By now, you’ve got the idea. Mount Diablo is an ecological wonder — so diverse that it has species found in rainforests and deserts. In spring, the landscape is so wet that it supports Western pond turtles and red-legged frogs. In fall, it’s so dry that tarantulas emerge to find mates.
And thank God for Save Mount Diablo, the organization that’s been diligent about preserving lands on and around Mount Diablo and educating the public since 1971. Their mission is to forever preserve the remaining 60,000 acres that is still privately owned and threatened with development. In addition to the annual “Four Days Diablo” fundraiser, they host free (and frequent) guided hikes.
“Our philosophy is ‘You can’t protect something you don’t love,’ ” says Steve. “People need to learn to love Mount Diablo … learn to love the outdoors.”
For Steve, Carolyn and Shirley, Mount Diablo is more than just a prominent part of the landscape. They’ve found world-class hiking in one of the most diverse ecosystems in California. For more information on Save Mount Diablo and their activities visit savemountdiablo.org online.
Around town: You know your village is on the map when you get a medical spa for Botox and fillers. Skin Spirit is up and running in Montclair at 2017 Mountain Blvd. They have 11 locations in San Francisco, Walnut Creek and several other cities in the Bay Area and around Seattle.
The Oakland hills could easily compete for the party capital of California. Heck, maybe the world. Sunday saw an overflow crowd at El Agavero for Cinco de Mayo. Bargain margaritas and karaoke helped fuel the fun, rivaling Crogan’s annual St. Patrick’s Day bash. And don’t forget the Oakland Greek Festival’s great food, music and dancing coming up May 17-19 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension. Visit oaklandgreekfestival.com for details.