Mount Diablo State Park and a tiny bit of Golden Gate Park (4/17/2023)

Today was my weekly day trip day, and I’ve been curious to see if I can find the Mount Diablo Fairy-Lantern. Another elusive flower that I was able to find referenced in Mitchell Canyon (in Mount Diablo State Park) through intel other than iNat. And while I didn’t end up seeing it, via the Mitchell Rock Trail, I saw A TON OF WILDFLOWERS. So, I won.

It’s kinda like I saw TOO MANY. A list would maybe be boring. But I also can’t do a flower-to-flower journey either. Hm. I’ll do what I can.

I thought, and it turns out I just might be very, very wrong, that I’d find this Calochortus high up. So I found a Moderate trail (per AllTrails) in the Mitchell Canyon area, and I figured I’d go as high as I could. When I wanted to go no further, I’d turn around. And that’s what I did.

And I got pretty high! I was able to pass Mitchell Rock, and I almost made it to Twin Peaks. But I was starting to get scared of having to come back down the somewhat steep parts of the trail that had waytoomany small rocks to roll on. If there are small rocks on a sloped trail, I WILL ROLL ON THEM. And it turns out I’m still quite gun-shy about slipping and falling. Damn San Bruno Mountain did this to me!

I’ve never been to Mount Diablo State Park before. I’ve always been meh about it, given I figured you’d have to really climb to see the place. And all you’d get would be views. And you’d have to suffer through intense heat with no shade. And you’d be surrounded by dead grass.

Yeah, that’s not what it’s like right now! It’s so GREEN! Everywhere! And I was overwhelmed by ALL the wildflowers. Nothing like what I expected. Thank you, crazy Winter storms!!

The way up was GLORIOUS. I started my way up through the gorgeous Valley Oaks. Noticed newtome Narrowleaf Goldenbush and California Buttercups and Blue Dicks and Miniature Lupine through the tall grass. After hearing then seeing a White-breasted Nuthatch high above me (and getting no good photo to share, sadly), I started to enter a different set of trees, where Pacific Pea and Western Blue-eyed Grass and even some Ithuriel’s Spear made appearances.

The trees were now Coast Live Oaks, and it was great to see fresh leaves on them. San Francisco Woodland-Star popped out for a second. And it became clear that Blue Dicks were dominating the spots of meadow here and there and EVERYWHERE. Purple Sanicle showed up, followed by the first message board on the trail. Coyote!

And then the Wildflower Show really got going. I think this is where I need to make a list: newtome White Nemophila (?), Milkmaids, Zigzag Larkspur, Menzies’ Baby Blue Eyes, newtome Longspur Seablush (?), Henderson’s Shooting Star, a newtome grass that’s maybe Torrey’s Melicgrass (?), Sand Fringepod, Shining Pepperweed, newtome Jeweled Onion, Tomcat Clover, newtome Bolander’s Woodland Star (?), Black Sage, newtome Silverpuffs.

It’s almost TOO MUCH, right? And I’d often see repeated flowers in new spots from that list above. Even the SF Woodland-Star. And absolutely the Blue Dicks.

At this point, I heard a bird sound I didn’t recognize. Merlin’s Sound ID feature thought it was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Sounded like and looked like there were at least two flying about in the Black Sage. And then one popped out! And I’m honestly flabbergasted I was able to get some photos of that thing in focus! Turns out it was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher! Life Bird! And thank gawd I got some photos in focus, because it disappeared and didn’t return. So I didn’t even get to see it with my binocs. Such a cutie.

Kept going up and kept seeing more wildflowers! Fewflower Blue-eyed Mary, newtome Mountain Fringepod (?), Common Fiddleneck (which I’d seen way earlier and way often leading up to this point, but I was able to get a good photo of it at this spot, so), newtome California Saxifrage (?), Purple Owl’s-Clover, Common Star Lily, Coast Paintbrush (I think), and Rusty Popcornflower.

And some weird green leaved cluster on some Oaks that might be Oak Mistletoe?? Plus a newtome Black-footed Drone Fly!

And then I saw something newtome that was kinda shocking. Another native bright-red flower! Red Larkspur! It was all over the place at this point, and I stupidly didn’t get enough photos of it. Why does every camera I have not like focusing on red flowers? But, WOW. SO RED!

Newtome Distant Phacelia (?) and newtome Buckbrush and newtome Western Wallflower were all next, in that order. And it was about this time that I was getting tired. Unlike the weather forecast, it was sunny more than half the way up. Though, I was so grateful for those westerly breezes I’d often receive. And it was making me a little nervous to think of how slow I’d have to go on my way back down…

I think if it wasn’t for the small rocks on the steep parts, I could’ve gone further. Or if I had hiking poles or a good walking stick. Turns out, Moderate trails are not too hard if there’s plenty to look at on the way up.

But I turned a corner and looked ahead to see steepish clay trail ahead, and I decided it was ok if I didn’t at least make it to Twin Peaks. Where I’m sure all the Mount Diablo Fairy-Lanterns were just waiting for me. Ah, well. Maybe it’s a flower I’m not meant to see.

On my way back down, I saw a couple Flycatcher-looking birds in the Pines. I even saw one through my binocs with something quite small but bright green in its beak. No photos, as they didn’t stick around.

And I was able to find a good walking stick, courtesy of a tree that had been broken apart. I was so thankful and believe it kept me calm the whole way back down.

But I did manage to see a SUPER LARGE BEETLE on the trail! It was as long as MY THUMB. California Broad-necked Darkling Beetle, perhaps?

I was approaching where I started, and I saw Western Bluebirds and some House Finches and a Yellow-rumped Warbler up in the Valley Oaks. Acorn Woodpeckers were still calling, like when I arrived.

I wondered about the other trail that looked like a fire road, which was the other way to go from the trailhead. I took it for a bit to see. And I soon realized I was getting cold. And I was feeling the tiredness in my legs. So I soon turned around, as only a Wild Turkey was worth noting there.

Back at the trailhead, I took a much-needed and much-delayed snack break at the picnic tables. And I was able to spot some of the Acorn Woodpeckers. Up high and calling, like they do.

Upon leaving, I stopped to admire the happily flowing Mitchell Canyon Creek opposite the parking lot. Wondered if it flows year-round, or was this a special sight to see?

Since I’d be arriving back in SF just before sunset, I made a quick stop in GGPark to look and hear for the Great Horned Owls of the East. It was getting colder and more windy and definitely more cloudy. Thought it might rain! But I took a chance to see if I might hear Pa Owl or maybe even see him taking flight to start his night?

Didn’t hear or see him. BUT! There was some new SLIME MOLD on the Slime Mold Lab Trail! At least, I think it’s Red Raspberry Slime Mold. Finally got a good shot of it, using my macro lens. Even if it’s not Red Raspberry Slime Mold, it’s a fungi. And that is cool with me.

And then I saw what looked like a dog trotting through the Secret Gardens. As if it had come around Lila’s Hill. And it was a COYOTE! It soon noticed me and slowly walked behind some Rhododendron bushes. I waited a little, to see if it’d go another way out. Then it came onto the path and saw me waiting. I walked away, giving it what I hoped was enough clearance to get to the Slime Mold Lab Trail. Which it often uses. Nope. It decided I was still too close, so it returned to the Rhododendrons and out of my sight.

And I felt bad! So I quickly went up the SMLT and headed home. No owl. But, COYOTE.

All in all, it’s nice to have Mount Diablo demystified! After getting home, I did a little more research on the Mount Diablo Fairy-Lantern. And it might be somewhere not too far away from where I was today. It also might be near the Summit. I had left Mount Diablo thinking I was ok not seeing its Fairy-Lantern. And, I am.

But I also have this CA State Park Pass checked out from the library until May 3rd. So…

2 thoughts on “Mount Diablo State Park and a tiny bit of Golden Gate Park (4/17/2023)

  1. You may want to consider a trekking pole or two, for more confidence on descents. Though the stick may have more of a nature talisman effect to ward off mishaps. You can borrow my poles if you want to try out how it feels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks, dan! i’ve borrowed them before, for one time when we each used one for San Bruno Mountain. will take a look at how much they are. not sure i can afford such things! in which case, i’ll have to continue to play Gandalf. which i’m ok with.
      : )


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