Transport yourself into Black Diamond’s wonders

Some call it an epidemic that sweeps over parts of California this time of year, while others believe it is some unexplained ailment. But those who are in tune with the karmic forces of the universe know that “hiking season” has officially started in Contra Costa County.

As I found myself entangled in a network of trails sprawled within the 5,985 acres of Black Diamond Regional Preserve, I felt guilty for not returning to work after lunch but figured that delaying some much-needed trail time one more day might cause irreversible psychological damage.

My time spent in Black Diamond Mines ingrained so many mental snapshots of wide open hillsides and never ending fields that I cannot get the color “green” out of my mind. We’re not talking about the forest green you might find in a crayola box, but a green so brilliant that I still have shades of this wonderful color burned onto the backs of my eyelids.

Time was on my side for this hike. So with plenty of sunlight, I hooked together enough trails to stay outside for the better part of the afternoon. Stewartville Trail streamlines out of the Somersville Staging Area on a direct route toward Ridge Trail overlooking the entire Stewartville Valley. Within 15 minutes, I felt as if this were the top of the world.

With so many choices at this junction, I decided to take the high road in the form of Ridge Trail. It meanders atop the hillside high above the valley below and ultimately connects to Corcoran Mine Trail. This trail makes a healthy descent directly toward the Stewartville town site, which is nothing but a bit of history at this point. In 40 minutes, I went from the highest point I could find to a location deep at the end of the valley.

My only trail mates during this entire hike were some local cattle who minded their own business and stayed off the trails, helping to minimize trail grenades (a.k.a. cow patties).

I proceeded up the valley until I found Miners Camp Trail, an uphill single-track that abruptly lifts up from the valley floor as it skirts along a hillside – with Black Diamond Mines seen in every direction and Mt. Diablo standing tall in the background. Miners Camp Trail eventually meets back up with Stewartville Trail and put me back where I stood earlier in the hike.

While most folks would be heading for home, I must confess that I was not ready to return to my car, traffic or civilization. Therefore, a quick left onto Ridge Trail offered an easy escape from wide open, grass-laden hills and dropped me into a completely different environment. Green transformed to sandstone and grass to chaparral and manzanita as I followed Chaparral Loop Trail, which eases down into Manhattan Canyon. Cool temperatures, dense vegetation and views of the surrounding sandstone cliffs make this my trail of choice if you only pick one trail to hike all day.

Finally, hike down to the bottom of Manhattan Canyon and walk past many of Black Diamond’s historical mine sites.

Now, go hit the trail.

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Kevin Parker