Here’s how it went down:
Friday morning we woke up in the fog and said to each other (Family Man and I) should we stay here today and get some work and chores done, or should we take off for the day and maybe camp out? We chose ‘get out of Dodge’. To get an early start, we hustled to toss all our swimming/river/camping gear in the car and go. We didn’t have a plan, we just improvised on the fly with a map and a desire to get out of the fog. As it turned out, we had forgotten a pot to cook in, our toothbrushes, and a couple other things like a t-shirt for Young Son (he had a long sleeved turtleneck on and we were heading for sun) but we made it work and had a fantastic adventure.
We headed out, made our way on 37 to the north side of the Bay Area, checking out a few marshland parks in between industrial zones, and eventually drove south towards Mt. Diablo. Due to the impromptu nature of our trip, we had no reservations. At North Gate, the ranger informed us that camping was fully booked for weekend nights, including this one, several weeks in advance. It was already after 5pm, we needed a break from the car, the kids were getting antsy, and so we paid $10 for day use, knowing the park would close in a few hours, and drove halfway up the mountain to a picnic spot close to the ranger station. Right away, Young Son had to use the bathroom and Family Man struck up a conversation with the ranger at the station. Thank goodness for small children!! The ranger took pity on us and let us into their ‘overflow camping’ which meant we got our pick of five sites in an area with no other campers! We paid $20 (since we’d already paid $10 at the gate) and as far as we could see, we had the entire place to ourselves. It was like a little piece of heaven. Talk about getting lucky.
As we set up camp, coastal fog was rolling in over the bay and surrounding cities, and we were relaxing under the oak trees.
Towards evening, we had a visit from a very bold raccoon who came to check us out. She walked along the driveway right past our camp as if we already knew each other, climbing in and out of the garbage cans like a pro.
The next day, after packing up all our gear, we drove close to the top of the mountain for a hike to the peak. At just after nine am, it was fully sunny and starting to get hot. We were above the fog already, and we watched as it receded.
The hike was beautiful and from the top of the mountain, we enjoyed the most incredible views of the Bay Area spread out below us. There is a visitor center and museum built over the highest point of the mountain; there we learned about some of the local history. The Native Americans who lived in the area had villages near the bottom of the mountain where there was plentiful access to water. At one time, Spanish settlers tried to ambush a group of natives, but when every last one escaped, the Spanish started calling it ‘Monte del Diablo’, thicket of the devil. Later, English speaking settlers misunderstood monte to mean mountain and gave it the name Mt. Diablo.