If you’re looking to get away from it all, the East Bay Regional Park District has assembled a lineup of excursions to outdoor wonders that’ll keep you incommunicado the entire final weekend of April. Three parks in particular, Black Diamond Mines in Antioch, Round Valley Regional Preserve in Brentwood and Morgan Territory Regional Preserve on the southeast apron of Mt. Diablo offer exceptional spring scenery and guided hikes.
East County is a haven for birds of prey: hawks, falcons – even golden eagles – and naturalist Mike Moran is the natural choice of guides to lead the fun, social, citizen-science research project known as Raptor Baseline. That right: you can participate in the process of documenting the variety and number of these magnificent creatures. No experience is necessary. Mike will teach you how to identify these birds – on the fly.
The adventure strikes out from the Round Valley trailhead on Marsh Creek Road (between the Highway 4 Bypass and Deer Valley Road) on Thursday, April 26 at 9 a.m. and ends around 11:30 a.m. Registration is required. Call 888-327-2757, option 2 and ask for activity 28512.
Shooting the Light
The low and enchanting light of dawn is the optimal formula for optical splendor. Naturalist and photographer Kevin Damstra spearheads a journey along supremely photogenic terrain in Shooting the Light, held Saturday, April 28 from 8 a.m. to noon at Black Diamond Mines. Take Somersville Road south to where it dead-ends at the upper parking lot by the trailhead. And don’t even think of leaving your camera behind.
Registration is required, and heavy rain will cancel the excursion. Call 888-327-2757, option 2 and ask for activity 28445.
Somersville Grand Tour
Also at Black Diamond on Saturday, April 28, seniors (55 and up) get escorted through some of East County’s most fascinating history. Your driver and guide, naturalist Bob Kanagaki, takes you up to Black Diamond’s Rose Hill Cemetery (road conditions permitting), Eureka Slope and Hazel-Atlas Mine from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The fee is $5, and registration is required. Call 888-327-2757, option 2 and ask for activity 28213.
Tracks and Scat
If you think you’ve never seen a fox, bobcat or coyote in the wild, naturalist Cat Taylor bets you see those creatures every time you go hiking. The secret? Just look down. There on the trail is the signature of their presence: footprints and feces.
On Saturday, April 28 from 7 to 10:30 a.m., Taylor leads Dirt Time: Tracks and Scat in the remote and rugged landscapes of Morgan Territory, located off Morgan Territory Road south of Marsh Creek Road. We’re confident this Sherlock Holmes investigation into the habits of our fellow mammals will be taken at a moderate pace – when on poop patrol, the last thing you want to hear from the person in charge is “Step on it!” For information, call 510-544-3249.
Spring Morning at Morgan
Morgan Territory is also the venue for a six-mile immersion in the flowers, creatures and breathtaking vistas of Spring Morning at Morgan, led by naturalist Eddie Willis. If you’ve never explored this jewel in the display case of the East Bay park system, mark your calendar for Sunday, April 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The trek is restricted to those 10 and older, and registration is required. Call Call 888-327-2757, option 2 and ask for activity 28518.
Meet the Author of ‘Rose Hill’
A century and a half ago, coal fed the furnace of the Industrial Revolution. So crucial was coal to the cause of the West that it was dubbed “black diamond.” Beneath the hills of south Antioch the earth’s crust is rippled black with veins of that diamond. And there, beneath one particular hill, rest the bones of those whose fate was to dig it out.
Traci Parent’s recently published “Rose Hill – A Comprehensive History of a Pioneer Cemetery” chronicles life – and death – in the 19th-century Mount Diablo Coal Field. On Sunday, April 29 from 1 to 3 p.m., you get to walk and talk with Parent. Meet in the upper parking lot at the end of Somersville Road. The event is restricted to those 8 and older. For more information, call 510-544-2750.
Hazel-Atlas silica mine
The Hazel-Atlas mine will also be open for its regular tour schedule – noon and 3 p.m. – on Sunday the 29th. Stop by the Greathouse Visitor Center an hour early to secure your ﬁrst-come, ﬁrst-served spot in the tour, which costs $5.
You’ll have plenty to do and see at the center while you wait. Check out the intriguing artifacts and photographs, view a video featuring former Mt. Diablo Coalﬁeld residents, and chat with the Black Diamond interpretive staff. The Greathouse Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Hazel-Atlas tours are restricted to those 7 and older. For more information, call 510-544-2750.
For the lineup of events in May and June, visit www.ebparks.org/files/May-June_2012_RIN-EBRPD.pdf.