Black Diamond Mines Regional Park - December 2020

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On the day after Christmas, seven hikers met at Black Diamond Mines RP, in Antioch, Ca. 

From where we live it is an easy and scenic drive south through the Sacramento River Delta.   

Similar to a walk a few of us had recently at Cronan Ranch, we arrived just as the previous night's storm clouds were clearing out.  Invigorating weather and scenery was the theme today.  

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again. 

Paintersville Bridge, near Courtland beyond the park entrance   bare Oaks & the Lougher loop trail

Black Diamond Mines, once California's largest coal mining area, consisted of twelve mines & five small towns. As many as 900 miners worked here, some as young as eight years old.   

Coal was extracted here between the 1850s and the early 1900s. Then, from the 1920s to the 1940s, sand was mined instead, supplying Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. in Oakland, and, the Columbia Steel Works foundry, in nearby Pittsburg.    

group photo near the parking area on the uphill walk to Rose Hill Cemetery damaged grave stone, see note 1 where the  Nortonville Townsite used to be
  note the young children in the foreground Buckeye grove Toyon berries  
Manzanita Coal Canyon Trail Coulter pine cones, see note 2 Jim's Place w/ a well carved out entrance
  Barb had to duck to get inside air vents enabled an indoor fire    
PG&E windmills to the north    old open cut aggregate mine, not part of the BDMRP the walkers nearing the high point of the day

note 1 - Rose Hill Cemetery  - There are 234 persons buried in this Protestant Cemetery, representing 10 nationalities, the majority being from South Wales.

Today only 80 grave markers remain, for two reasons. Affordable markers were usually made of wood, which have since disintegrated. And, according to a Park brochure, granite stones were vandalized or removed, before the Park District assumed land ownership, in 1973.  There used to be a dead end road right to the Cemetery so you can imagine....

note 2 - Coulter Pines are native to southern Ca., and rarely occur in northern Ca. The small grove at Black Diamond Mines surrounds Jim's Place, and, occurs nowhere else in the Park. The next nearest groves are in Napa or the Clear Lake area.

Pinus Coulteris produces the largest pine cones in the world, weighing between 4 & 11 lbs. 

Note the cones on the ground in all three photos of Jim's Place. "Imagine if one hit you on the head", Jean said.....   

Out on the trail, it was a changeable weather day. On the Coal Canyon trail, we were on a steep trail for some time, hikers peeling off clothing layers off, only to put have to put them back on later, as we approached the ridge, where a cold wind was blowing.

We searched for and found, a sunny & wind-free spot to have lunch, with a view to the east. It was also near the high point of the walk, meaning our climbing was mostly done for the day.    

I should mention that my friend Rich is not shown in any photos, except the group photo, because he suspected he had a minor foot fracture. He accompanied us to Rose Hill Cemetery, but declined to go further, spending the day below in the hollow, reading and getting in some general walking.  

After lunch, Linda, Karen, & Jean got well ahead of Bonnie & Barb and I, especially when the three of us stopped and lingered as a large sheep herd approached and surrounded us.

The vocal range of sheep matches our own, from high notes to low, so sheep are easy to mimic, and, it does not take long to master the language.  Baaa...is the alpha & omega of sheep meanings.

Sheep say it nonchalantly as they mill about. In a large herd like this one, it's a continuous sound, and the simultaneous call of high, mid-range, and low notes, from male & female and young & old was pleasant.  

Anyway, part of the herd came up the hill and surrounded us & then began to follow us down the dirt road, until a whistler & his sheepdog suddenly intervened. 

Upon a single note, understanding that the sheepdog was coming, about fifty sheep who had been calmly grazing just uphill from us immediately rushed full speed downhill, right past us, an exciting close call. and when you hear the thundering hooves, it is clear (as a bell) that these are not small animals. 

lunch view Linda and Karen sheep a shepherd & his dog
    herd in winter light    
hard working sheepdog the shortcut w/ windmills in the distance Rose Hill Cemetery across the way  
we finally caught up Buckeye grove, again

The day's walk was probably 5.5 miles, with about 1,000 ft. of elevation gain/loss, and we were out for more than four hours.     

Below are photos taken on the drive home through the Sacramento River Delta, heading north on Highway 160.      

old grain elevator near Isleton old bridge at far left & the moon above Isleton Bridge (1923)    

Info references -

All Park info comes from the Black Diamond Mines RP Trail Map brochure and Rose Hill Cemetery brochure, and, from Wikipedia or other online resources.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Park is one of 80 parks managed by the East Bay Regional Park District.  

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Epilogue - photos from a solo visit to Black Diamond Mines in December '07. 

Mt. Diablo from the Ridge Trail Delta vineyard & Sacramento River, near Courtland