This was originally meant to be a voyeuristic sex romp. October, after all, is tarantula mating season on Mount Diablo … and who doesn’t like watching horny, hairy arachnids scrambling over rocks and trails to get some?
But September’s Morgan Fire scorched 3,100 acres on Diablo. And while a wildfire every generation or two is good for the flora, it’s just a hellish death for the fauna – including Diabo’s iconic tarantulas.
But who among us hasn’t been burned in pursuit of love?
Being a warped and opportunistic hiking club, the Circle of Trust & Beer is going to take advantage of the rare chance to see the mountain in the aftermath of its biggest fire since 1977.
The Grand Loop is a 360-degree sampler platter of the Bay Area's most iconic mountain, circumnavigating Diablo from its 3,800-foot peak to the 1,600-foot elevation level.
THE SEMI-CIRCLE HAS BUT ONE SACRED RULE:
Why No Rookies on Semi-Circle Hikes?
ABOUT THE SEMI-CIRCLE
The Semi-Circle of Trust & Beer was formed in February 2013 in response to the elevated appetites of those Trustees who wanted it longer, higher and harder than our regular Circle of Trust & Beer outings. Steeper inclines, lengthier trails (but not in this case) and a less leisurely pace is what we're all about. Who wants to sweat?
LENGTH: 6.5 miles (round trip)
VERTICAL GAIN: 2,300 feet -- much of it on two gnarly hills encompassing just two miles.
TYPE OF HIKE: Loop, mostly on fire roads, but starting and ending on single-track trails. After the first mile, this hike is almost totally exposed.
TIME ESTIMATE: 3.5 hours
TWO CHOICES TO GET MT. DIABLO - Both entrances are $6.
For the North Gate entrance: At the convergence of Highway 24 and I-680 in Walnut Creek, take the Ygnacio Valley Road exit, Drive 2.5 miles and, turn right on Oak Grove Road and follow our Fire on the Mountain customized map to Lower Summit Parking Lot.
For the South Gate entrance: From I-680 in Danville, exit at El Cerro Blvd., which quickly turns into Mt. Diable Scenic Blvd. Follow our Fire on the Mountain customized map to Lower Summit Parking Lot.
Our Climb-Descend-Drink M.O. gets turned on it head for this hike. This is a Descend/Really Descend/Beg For Mercy Climb/Are We There Yet?/Thank God For Beer excursion.
From the Lower Summit Parking Lot, we'll drop pretty quickly for a mile on a single-track trail to Juniper Campground. That's the end of the shade, folks -- we'll walk through the campground to join Deer Flat Road -- a fire road which does some serious dipping on a series of S-turns toward Deer Flat, two miles away.
We should see -- and smell -- a lot of fire damage along this stretch.
Then the pain starts. From Deer Flat, we'll pick up Meridian Ridge Road, another fire road that, from most angles on the mountain, appears to be nearly vertical. It's not, but let's just say your lungs, legs and back are going to be wide awake in the three-quarter mile climb to Murchio Gap.
From there, we flatten it out for the trip to Prospector's Gap, which I long ago labeled as the most sadistic stretch of fire road in the Bay Area -- rising 1,000 feet in less than a mile. I've watched a lot of mountain bikers flying down the Gap on suicide runs ... but have yet to see a single one climb it. I have hiking buddies for whom the words "Prospector's Gap" still induce an automatic shudder. So enjoy!
At the Gap -- which is visible from most places in the Bay Area as the valley between Diablo's North Peak and its summit -- we'll hit the Summit Trail, which is a little more subtle but, after the Gap ascent, not all that forgiving on the legs. We'll climb past Devil's Pulpit and Devil's Elbow, then hit the four-tenths of a mile stretch to the summit.
There, we'll rest, imbibe and break out the trail munchies. Diablo's summit is renowned -- and exaggerated -- for having some of the longest sight lines on the planet. But you can nonetheless see some awe-inspiring sights from the 3,800-foot peak, the second-highest in the Bay Area (to Mt. Hamilton). The Sierra is visible on most days, and, in the other direction, the Farallon Islands.
Re-fortified, we'll slide down the Lower Summit Parking lot, just a few hundred yards away -- and head for ...
CHANGE OF PLANS (Posted Oct. 3)
We were originally headed for McGah's Pub & Pianos in Danville to bend an elbow or two, but there were some space issues, so ...
We'll be celebrating the burn, so to speak, at Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek. We had a great time at the original Pyramid in Berkeley following our post-Thanksgiving hike nearly a year ago, so it's time to check in on Pyramid's Okoberfest brew, and all its other seasonal offerings, at the suburban branch.