A couple of weeks ago I made my fourth trek of the year to the Mount Diablo State Park Summit. I told myself then that four trips to the top were enough for one year. With just 11 miles left to reach my personal goal of 200 miles on the hiking trail for the year I pondered which trail to take to reach my mark, should I try and break it up over two hikes or go for broke on one long venture? After much thought and a few too many cups of coffee I decided on an encore performance and take one more trip up the mountain to reach my goal.
The most summit hikes I have done before in one year was three so the idea of five seemed a little silly but with six liters of water and my old Digital Rebel camera stripped of the battery pack handgrip I set out for another long hike. I was going to keep this as simple as I could and take my favorite summit route; Mitchell Canyon Road to Deer Flat Road to Juniper Trail to the lower Summit where I would pick up the Summit Trail to reach the very top of the mountain. With temperatures expected to be in the low 90s I was looking at nice weather for the late August hike.
I left the Mitchell Canyon Staging area just after 7:30 a.m. with a dull gray still cast across the canyon floor. The sun hadn’t risen across the rim of the canyon and as I walked the first signs of fall were still held in their dawn shade. The trees and shrubs just off the trail were filled with hues of yellow, red and green. Even in the early dawn light of the canyon the colors stood out from the dar tree line in the distance. It is a special time on the hike as the sun inches higher above the canyon. Eventually the first rays of sunlight break free through the canyon and a the trail comes alive with vibrant color. It is almost like watching a fire run through the trees as the colors pale am=n muted seems to glow against the shadows. With the sunrise also comes the heat and the hardest part of the hike as i navigate the Mitchell Canyon switchbacks that climb just over 1,500 feet from the canyon floor to Deer Flat.
Compared to the other summit hikes the time seemed to fly by on this one. I usually don’t take a DSLR on summit hikes but since it was going to break the 200 mile mark I made an exception. Stopping for air I would snap a picture of the winding path behind me or the spectacular blu sky above me. In no time at all it seemed I was passing Deer Flat on the long stretch climb to the Juniper Campground and the entrance to the last leg of the hike. While the trail on Mitchell Canyon and Deer Flat roads are a wide fire road Juniper trail is a rocky, single-track climb to the Lower Summit parking lot. From there it is a short walk across the parking lot to a nearly hidden entrance to a brief section of the Summit Trail that ends at the summit visitor’s center. I made it to the top in a little over three hours which is pretty average for me. I rested for a while, admiring the sights before starting down an the same path to my car in the staging area.
The warmest part of the hike was when I neared the canyon floor once again on Mitchell Canyon Road. The cool breezes that greeted me at the 2,500 foot level dissipated, replaced by a warm, stifling breeze that swept across the canyon floor. I made it back to the staging area in two and half hours keeping my total time on the trail at under six hours. Another summit climb in the books I ended the day with a 14 mile trek climbing over 4,100 feet on the hike. The summit adventure puts me at 203 miles for the year with more than 52,100 feet climbed in the 22 hikes I have taken so far this year.
With fall comes more work and a change of sorts planned for the end of September. I think I may have a half dozen or more hikes left for the year and think I have a realistic chance to reach 240 miles for the year which would be a personal best. But in the end, it’s not the distance that matters it’s the journey there and I have enjoyed all the moments on the trail so far this year and look forward to the ones still to come.
For now I will enjoy my encore , one last hike up the mountain for the year. The fifth time was a certainly a charm for me.