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Comments for Mount Diablo and My Inner Surveyor

Mount Diablo and My Inner Surveyor 11/22/07

Since we've moved to the east bay I've wanted to drive to the top of Mount Diablo. On those rare times we get snow, it is on Mount Diablo. It's always there in my line of site being the tallest feature in the area. Tuesday I had the day to myself and after three weeks of writing about surveying in the mountains, I had to spend my day off visiting Mount Diablo.

I drove to the base of the mountain listening to KFOG's Ten at Ten. It wasn't an especially good ten this time but it was still part of the experience. The entrance to the state park on the south side is little more than a brown sign on the lawn of a private school. As the road goes down and around before it starts the white knuckle climb up the mountain it doesn't feel like like the right road to take.

Most of the road goes right to the edge of the cliff. There are many hair pin turns and other heart stopping features to the road (like no turn outs). Besides the potential to drive right off the road or risk being hit head on by traffic coming down the mountain, drivers must share the road with bicyclists who are making the trek up and down the road too. As there is no shoulder, the bicyclists must take the lane. Be prepared to dodge around them if driving up to the summit.

A day use pass costs $6. With the budget cut backs, the gates aren't manned. Just park, fill out the form, stick the money in the envelope and put the receipt tab in on the dashboard. I heard one passenger of the car next to me complain that most cars just blow through the gate and don't bother to pay. On the day I was there I didn't see anyone blow through. If you want to camp over night, the cost is $15 a night.

The summit sits at 3800 feet and spare change. I don't recall the exact figure. At the top there is a beautiful stone tower that serves as observation deck, museum and gift shop. The observation deck offers the best 360° panorama of the bay area. Although it was hazy the day I went, I was still able to see west towards the ocean, north towards the delta, east towards Tracy and south towards Fremont and San Jose.

In the gift shop / museum I saw something I wouldn't have recognized at the beginning of the year: a surveyor's chain. Of course the technology has changed since then but the old principles still apply. It was exciting to see a piece from that not too distant past.

Mount Diablo being the tallest thing around is also one of the most blustery areas around. The day I was there it was probably 20° F at the summit when taking in account wind chill. Nonetheless, I overheard an irate old woman demanding from the one ranger on site (she was running the gift shop) to know if the wind would abate on Thanksgiving. She had this cockamamie plan to barbecue a turkey on the summit!

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Comments (4)

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Comment #1: Sunday, November, 25, 2007 at 00:38:02

Linda R. Moore

What a wonderful post! I haven't been up there yet because I'm not great at uphill switchbacks on a bike and have not felt a good enough rider to tackle it. I do need to go up there though, but will presumably now wait until the spring.

But it does come alive through your words and now I know what to expect. :) "

Comment #2: Sunday, November, 25, 2007 at 00:41:04

Linda R. Moore


The Lick Observatory is a snarf too. :)"

Comment #3: Sunday, November, 25, 2007 at 00:41:59

pussreboots says

If you want to some of the switch backs you should go around to the North Gate entrance. The road is a little better defined than the one I took on the way up. It won't help with the switchbacks once you get to the halfway point where both roads meet up for the final haul to the summit.

Thanks for pointing out the Lick snarf. "

Comment #4: Thursday, November, 29, 2007 at 10:27:49


This post is lovely. Didn't need a single photograph to be carried along with you. Beautiful.


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