Black Diamond Mines Regional Park - December 2020

return to index

On the day after Christmas, seven hikers met at Black Diamond Mines RP, in Antioch, Ca.  From where I live it was an easy & scenic 90 minute drive south through the Sacramento River Delta, eventually reaching the confluence with the San Joachin River. Then it's up & over on a two-lane bridge leading to the main freeway to Antioch, just shy of the East Bay.         

It seemed as if the previous night's storm clouds had just been blown off by clear weather, when we arrived. 

Invigorating weather & classic California scenery were on the menu today.  

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

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

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

For fifty years, (1850s - early 1900s) coal was extracted. Then, from the 1920s-40s, 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 Town site 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 winter light  
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. Ruth French at 81 years is the oldest person to be buried here.  

Today only 80 grave markers remain, for two reasons. Affordable markers 150 years ago were usually made of wood, which have long since disintegrated.  brochure.  More permanent granite stones and iron fences were vandalized or removed, before the Park District assumed land ownership, in 1973. 

note 2 - Coulter Pines are native to southern Ca., and rarely occur this far north. The small grove at Black Diamond Mines surrounds Jim's Place, a natural mound, and grows nowhere else in the Park. The closest groves are in Napa County, and the Clear Lake area. Pinus Coulteris produces the largest pine cones in the world, weighing from 4 to 11 lbs.  Coulter Pine cones are shown on the ground in all three photos of Jim's Place. 

Out on the trail, it was a changeable weather day. On the Coal Canyon trail, we had an extended uphill climb & hikers peeled off clothing layers, only to put them back on 40 minutes later as we approached the ridge, where a cold wind was blowing. 

Once over the high point of the day, we kept an eye out for a sunny & wind-free spot to have lunch, with a view, which we found. You could tell it was a good workout for all of us flat-landers. 

I should mention that my friend Rich is not shown in any photos, following the group photo, because he suspected he had a minor foot fracture, so he  accompanied us to Rose Hill Cemetery, but declined to go further. Rich spent the day below in the hollow, reading & also did some general walking.  

After lunch, Linda, Karen, & Jean got well ahead of Bonnie & Barb and I, especially when the three of us 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. the alpha & omega of sheep language & no meaning is required; sheep say it nonchalantly as they mill about.  

In a large herd like this one, there's a continuous sound of high, mid-range, and low notes, from males & females, and young & old......really a pleasant sound. A whole community engages in chatter all day long, not a big surprise, and I admit I've never been around sheep before.

once the herd began to follow us downhill on the dirt road, a shepherd at a distance whistled, and his sheepdog (nearby) intervened. About fifty sheep who who had been calmly grazing just uphill from us immediately charged full blast, straight down the slope, artfully going around us, an exciting close call. 

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

lunch view Linda and Karen sheep a shepherd & his dog
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+ miles, with about 1,000 ft. of elevation gain, and we were out more than four hours. 

Below are photos taken on the drive home.       

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 & Rose Hill Cemetery brochure, and, from Wikipedia or other online resources.

return to index

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

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

return to index