Friday, October 30, 2015

Proposed Trip to Mt. Diablo Summit - "Scouting Survey"

I took a ride up to the Mt. Diablo summit this afternoon (afternoon of Thursday, October 29, 2015) to 'scout' it for a trip there with the 55-Alive MeetUp group. First time I have ever been there.  I was impressed.
(Click on the map to enlarge it.)

Along the way, up above the 2,000 foot elevation road-sign, there were quite a few roadside picnic areas.  Some of them were in much better condition than others.  The views from the Livermore Valley Overlook, which had picnic tables but no restrooms nor running water were stunning:

Farther up, at the Juniper Campsite, there was another overlook that had an awesome view, too.  I don't have photos from that overlook, but the view from there is about 1,000 feet higher and is of the west to northwestern side of the mountain, while the above, of the Livermore Valley, is of the south to southwest side.

Just below the summit is the perfect picnic site, in my opinion.  Seems to me like it was only built within a matter of the past two or three years. It is even wheelchair accessible. It has running water and full restrooms (none of that "port-a-potty" type outhouse stuff, but real flush toilets and sinks).  Truly luxurious.

The summit has another parking lot and is home of the beacon "lighthouse," the Visitors Center, and the recently renovated Observation Deck.  The Observation Deck had been closed for awhile, but it reopened last year after being waterproofed and upgraded.

The parking lot for the "lighthouse" has some pretty good views as well. . . .  

There's also a .7 mile long hiking "loop trail" around the upper parking lot and the lighthouse.  I didn't have time today to take a stroll around it, but plan to do so on a visit I am planning to make with my friends from our 55-Alive MeetUp group on Saturday, November 21st.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Preview of the "55-Alive" MeetUp Group's Black Diamond Mines Tour, Picnic & Optional Hike on Saturday, September 12, 2015

(This blog is meant to be a preview of what the "55-Alive" MeetUp group that I belong to can expect to see when we go to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Park on Saturday, September 12th.) Some extra photos of the Mine, Visitors Center, and the outdoors of the Park can be found at the end; scroll down to near the end to see them!

Picnic and Mine Tour at Black Diamond Mines Park on Saturday, September 12th. . . .

Hi all!  I am pretty much a "newbie" to the 55-Alive MeetUp group, but I have enjoyed every minute of every event I have been to in the group since joining it back in February. As a "payback" for all the fun I've had, with some help from Gio, Nancy Carey, Reenie, Judy H and Vicki*, I'm organizing my very first MeetUp. . . .  
     *All of whom I thank for having given me input and advice and whose instructions I will continue to follow over the course of making the arrangements for this "day trip."

So, here's the deal: We can spend a few hours on Saturday, September 12th picnicing and touring the Black Diamond Mine
 and Visitors Center 
- as well as even optionally hiking a short distance (one mile round-trip) to the nearby historic Rose Hill Cemetery 
- out south of Route 4, Exit 26, near Antioch. (The park's official address is Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, East Bay Regional Park District, 5175 Somersville Road, Antioch, CA 94509.)

I am not suggesting any of us go on any hike other than the one to the cemetery, and even that one is optional. The hikes mentioned in the following article from a recent edition of "Compass Magazine" are not what we will be doing. I only am showing this article for the info it contains about the Mine and Visitors Center:
(Click on image to enlarge it.)

There's fees involved, but they are minimal: $5 per car for parking (payable at the Toll Booth at the entrance to the park) and another $5 per person to take the Docent-led actual tour of the Mine. The park limits the number of people in the Mine Tour group to not less than 10 and not greater than 16, so that is why I have to limit the size of our group to that number. 

In order to conserve some of our _own_ dollars and to conserve parking spaces at the Park that day, we will car-pool there. I will leave it up to the individual car-poolers to appropriately split the $5 Parking Fee among themselves and their passengers, however, as they see fit.
When we drive into the park, we will go past the very first parking lot in the park, on the left side of the road, just past the above-pictured Parking Toll Booth and near the Park Resident's Home and then we will continue on the road all the way to its end, to the parking lot at the very end of Somersville Road. . . . 
(Click on map image to enlarge it)

I encourage any of you who can do so to volunteer to drive your car as a car-pool car from our meeting-site to the park. . . Our meeting site will be the North Concord/Martinez BART Parking Lot, just off of the Port Chicago Highway and Panoramic Drive in North Concord. 

We will meet there at 8:30am on the morning of Saturday, September 12th. (Look for my little red Toyota Prius - license plate number 7JNV400 there among the other cars, closer to the south end of the part of the parking lot that is the "free parking" designated area.)

I will collect the $5-per-person Tour Fee from each of you there (or later on, when we arrive at the picnic site) - cash only please - and then we'll pile into each other's cars there for the short half-hour or so trip to the Park.
(Click on map to enlarge it.)

 (I have pre-paid, out-of-pocket, for up to 16 of us to go.)

We will likely arrive at the park around 9:15am, when we can walk up the 1/8th mile paved trail with a somewhat gentle slope past the "California Bear Historical Plaque" about the Mount Diablo Coal Field near the parking lot:
The paved path goes uphill towards the Hazel-Atlas Mine Portal and the Greathouse Visitors Center. We will "make camp" at the picnic tables at the "fork in the trail" at 1/8th mile from the parking lot, and set-up for our later-in-the-day lunches at that location at that time.

If time permits, we may have coffee and donuts at this "picnic-site" before continuing our journey for another 1/5 mile "hike" uphill to the mine's Hazel-Atlas Portal where our tour will begin at 10am.

The view from this picinic-grove spot is - in my opinion - superior to that of the one nearer the parking lot and is more convenient for us to go to-and-from during the course of the day on our trips to the Mine, Visitors Center and Cemetery. Here it is, and you can see the "trail split" on either side of it - one trail leading to the Mine and the other to the Visitors Center. The cemetery is the cluster of trees on the hillside at the center of the photo: 

(You will see that there _are_ picnic tables directly across the "street" from the parking lot at the base of the hill. But I think the picnic tables the 1/8 mile farther up towards the Visitors Center - at a fork in the trail - would be better in that by going to them first we will have "hiked" 1/8 mile of the 1/4 mile total to the Visitors Center and of the roughly 3/10 mile total to the Mine Portal. [Besides, it will 'lop off' that 1/8 mile from what would become a 5/8 mile hike to Rose Hill Cemetery, making that that much less to hike from the picnic site.])  Here's a Satellite View map of the area. As a landmark, look for the Mine Slag "Mound" that will be to your left of the trail as you near the picnic site. On this map, North is to the right:
(Click on image to enlarge it.)
Making this site our picnic spot - tho necessitating the carrying/wheeling of our picnic items the 1/8 mile there and back to the parking lot - will split up the walking we have to do to reach the Mine Portal and the Visitors Center into 1/8 mile segments taken at least a half-hour to an hour apart, and put our picnic spot that much closer and centrally located to all three of the things most of us may want to see: the Mine, the Visitors Center and the Cemetery.  (I will bring an oversized 2-wheel shopping cart, and I encourage all attending to likewise bring along something to "wheel" any larger items they might be bringing along to the picnic site.) 

I have been to the park three times since May and have mapped it out, so that this is the best way to handle it. . . .  You can see the reasoning behind my decision if you take a look at this map. Parking is at the large P circled in orange, then walk up the paved trail (written in purple) to where our picnic site is "pointed at" by the green line:

Bring a sweatshirt - temperatures average 55 degrees year-round in the mine - as well as your own lightweight camp-chair for the picnic if you want, as well as your "lunch-pail" with your lunch. I will bring table-cloths and a few snacks (as will Reenie, who will also bring along a few paper products. . . .  Reenie has given me much help in getting these plans underway) that we can all share. But if anyone else wants to bring snacks to share - besides their own "lunchpail lunch" - I encourage you to do so!  Tho there are BBQ grills near the picnic tables we think it best to not do any cooking; sandwiches, potato salad, macaroni salad and cole slaw would be best I think.

After we settle-in at the picnic table site, I will send you all off on the 1/5 mile 'hike' up to the Hazel-Atlas Mine Portal to meet our Docent there at 10am for the tour.  
Just outside the Mine Portal:

I will stay behind, at the picnic-site, to keep watch over our possessions. (I have, as I've said above, been to the park three times in the past few months, and have taken both the Docent-led tour as well as a 'Self-Guided' tour of the Mine, so there's no need for me to be with our group for the tour nor the later walk to the Visitors Center.) The park's Director has told me that her personnel cannot be held responsible for our stuff if we leave it on the picnic tables totally 'vulnerable,' so I will stay behind with it all. Please know, however, that any items of great value still should not be left behind at the picnic site and that I can only 'On my honor, do my best' (onetime Boy Scout that I am!) to watch over all that _is_ left on the tables while you take the tour, the walk to the Visitors Center and the hike to the Cemetery.

The Mine tour will take one-and-one-half hours. So everyone should be back at the picnic site at or around noon for lunch. After lunch our group can walk the 1/8 mile up the hill - to the RIGHThand-side of the fork that our picnic site is located at to see the Greathouse Visitors Center, its displays about the history of the mines and the now 'long-lost' mining town of Somersville, and to watch a very brief but informative film about the area as well.

Entrance to Visitors Center. (My grandson just loved the echo!)

 Again, I will remain behind to be our 'sentry.' No problem!

After everyone gets back from the Visitors Center anyone interested in taking a brief hike, too, can take the 1/2-mile-each-way walk/hike out to the historic Nortonville/Somersville Rose Hill Cemetery. 

I have not yet done so, and may want to do it on this visit at some time after you all return from the Visitors Center. Someone _else_ can keep watch over our stuff while I'm away if I go on this short hike. We'll 'draw straws' or whatever.  ;-)

I want to look for the Witch/Guardian Angel's gravesite:

Here's some info about the Mine Tour that I've "copied and pasted" from
which you could look-up for yourself, if you want (to paraphrase the inimitable NY Yankees' Manager, Casey Stengel):

"Hazel-Atlas Mine Tour
From the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s, the Hazel-Atlas Mine produced silica sand to make jars, bottles, and other glass items. Today, tour participants can take a 950-foot walk into the mine
(That's my daughter-in-law, who chose to take the tour on Mother's Day!)
 to see mine workings, ore chutes, the shifter's office (mine boss),

 and ancient geological features. Because of its size and the need for safety, visitors will be taken in only on guided tours, with a limit of 15 persons per tour."

Please note that a small part of the 1/5 mile slope up towards the Mine Portal from our picnic site gets just a wee tad steep-ish at one particular place, so I have asked the Park Director if she can supply any of us - who may require some assistance getting past that part of the trail - with a "shuttle bus" and she has told me that Rangers are always driving vans, trucks and "golf carts" up and down that trail and we can "hail" one of them (a la "Airport Terminal golf cart style") for any of us who want to hop aboard. A friend and I did this on one of my three visits, and the staffers don't mind at all and are all very pleasant and friendly about it. So don't hesitate to ask them "if you need a lift" from the picnic spot uphill to the Mine Portal or vice-versa. 
That small section of the part of the trail that is the steepest, & what it looks like, going down-hill:

The Mine Tour is great.  If you have never been to this park, prepare to be amazed! I am figuring that we will leave the park at approximately 2:15pm and be back to the North Concord/Martinez BART parking lot by no later than 3pm. If anyone wants to leave earlier and can get enough fellow car-poolers to go with them, of course they can do so.

So that's the plan!  I hope we can fill up the 16 slots fast; I _think_ and _hope_ that we will.  As of the date that I write this blog, Monday August 24th, I am "opening up" the event to guests as well.

This will be a great little "day trip," in my humble opinion! Here are a few photos of the Mine and the Park that I took on some of my recent visits there:

From a placard at the park. . . . The town of Somersville was located right near where our picnic tables are. . . .

The largest "room" in the mine. . . .

This is the Hazel-Atlas fault line. It is very small.  It has hardly ever moved. They say all the motion happens at the surface when it "slips," which is extremely rare anyway! When you see it you will be amazed at its size! (Puny.)

The passageway near the end of our 950 foot walk. Gal on left is a Docent. Other is my favorite daughter-in-law again.

There are many side-tunnels along the way. Access is not allowed nor possible anyway, but they look long and deep.

This is one of the tunnels that we will walk thru. Docent will show us where there are fossils embedded in the rock.

Inside the Visitors Center:

Some of the displays in the Visitors Center:

At the back-end of the Visitors Center is this gigantic man-made cavern. Only the Rangers are allowed in it, but visitors can be in awe of it. . . .

The road home. . . .

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Port Chicago Memorial

I went to the annual ceremony at Port Chicago today, with friends from my "55-Alive" MeetUp group. An important place and an important bit of history that everyone in the country should know about, but - sadly - not enough people do know about.  

Black lives matter. 320 Navy stevedores and their first-line supervisors died in the munitions explosion at Port Chicago on  July 17, 1944. 202 of those who died were black Navy enlistees. Remains of only eight of all those who died were ever fully recovered. 

Ground zero:

This is hallowed ground and sea. 


An additional 394 were seriously wounded. Subsequent investigations found that procedures and supervision at the time were remiss, but some 50 black enlistees who refused to return to work were found guilty of mutiny and many others besides those 50 were summarily dishonorably discharged. A very big blemish on our shared American history. . . .  Efforts to exonerate these men and to right all the wrongs our government made with respect to the disaster - in its totality - are to-this-day ongoing.

My MeetUp Group, the Concord "55-Alive Singles" folks, had a group of us attending.  We met at the parking lot just outside the base. (Yes, the installation is still an active military base.)   And took a bus ride to the site of the memorial:

It was a beautiful day, but a bit windy. I was able to see the windmills across the water to the northeast in Solerno as well as the last of the navy ships in "the mothball fleet" out to the west on Suisun Bay.

A History of the Port Chicago Disaster was presented by NPS Park Ranger Raphael Allen.
Newly-elected congressman Mark DeSauinier, as well as Mayor Tim Grayson of Concord spoke. 

The township that is the site of the former village of Port Chicago merged into Concord after many years of neglect - and ultimately a "buyout" under Eminent Domain by the Federal government. The village of Port Chicago was mostly leveled by the explosion, but its residents fought long and hard with the government to try to rebuild, before the buyout and the "move-out ultimatum." There is just a flat plain today on the site where the village once stood, that plain currently being part of the base.

The Blast Zone covered the area within dotted lines on this map passed around on our bus (Martinez, my hometown was in that area). Windows were blown out within the area surrounded by the solid lines. The earth was shaking as far as 450 miles away. Seismographic machines recorded it as a major earthquake. 

A pilot who just happened to be flying 9,000 feet overhead at the time of the explosion reported he'd seen chunks of metal - from the destroyed ships - the size of houses flying upward at him.

A lady I spoke with before we boarded the buses told me she lived in Martinez at the time and remembered it as the worst event ever in her life; and she was only five years old at the time. The blast was so loud a lot of people lost their hearing. Some thought that the Japanese were attacking, in another sneak attack like the one on Pearl Harbor three years earlier. It was found that over 5,000 tons of explosives had detonated. . . the largest ever non-nuclear explosion on the mainland USA.

Flowers were offered to attendees to toss on the water, and a bell from one of the destroyed ships was rung 21 times as part of the ceremony.  A wreath was placed in the water with the last of the bell tolls.  Finally, Taps was played.

The best speech of the day, in my opinion was given by the National Park Service's Park Ranger Raphael Allen. He was spot-on in all that he said. I chatted with him for a while after the event.
A very nice fellow, whose home-base is the Rosie-The-Riveter National Historic Site in Richmond, but who also does much here at this hopefully soon-to-be full-fledged additional National Historic Site.

I also talked afterwards with my own East Bay Regional Parks' Ms. Beverly Lane - one of the members of EBRP's Board of Directors - who had presented a brief description, from the podium, about the efforts of that agency - together with the National Park Service - to develop a Visitors Center  for the site.  I'm going to attend an informational meeting on Thursday to find out what the plans are for that Visitors Center and to listen to the suggestions for it by local residents who want to give input as to what they think should be included in it.

I and my friend Joyce also took a walk over to the railyard nearby. Anything being delivered by rail to the base has to be "parked" inside one of these "buffers." Something they didn't seem to have at the time of the explosion, I think:

We were treated to several "flybys" of an appropriate nature - by pelicans - while there. I thought "Yes, God's in his Heaven. . . . but all's not quite right with the world just yet."

 My friend and fellow MeetUp member Joyce told me she was stirred by the event. She's lived in the area many years, but had never been to Port Chicago.

Afterwards, most of us met again at a nearby "oasis." A bit of stress-relief was provided when Reenie suggested we all do this:
"I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going."