North Peak, Mount Diablo after the Fire

I hiked the North Peak Trail in Mount Diablo State Park over the weekend. Like many others, I was curious to see the aftermath of the big fire that raged on the mountain three weeks ago. You could certainly see large areas that were burnt out. Black, charred skeletons of trees were abundant in some portions of the trail. This is a view of North Peak from the trail as you traverse the flank of the main peak, with Prospector’s Gap Road at the bottom of the photo.

 There was a poignant sight at one of the sharp switchbacks along the trail.

The image of these “naked” bolts evoked a strong reaction for me. It brought home the reality of the fire more than the charred hillside before me. Then there was the strange sight of a tree, or more likely a group of trees, that burnt at the base and then the intact top parts toppled over.

But you could see that the fire, devastating as it was, had not left the whole area in ruin. Here is a view looking to the south, downslope, from the trail.

There were signs of new life like this baby Western Fence Lizard near North Peak and green shoots rising out of the ashes along the trail. The plant growth was perhaps spurred by the unusual rains we had recently.

A saw and heard a few species of birds – Vaux’s Swift, Say’s Phoebe, Common Raven, Western Scrub-Jay, Red-tailed Hawk, Bushtit, Wrentit (heard), Anna’s Hummingbird, Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, California Towhee, Golden-crowned Sparrow and Fox Sparrow. I managed to photograph a Fox Sparrow, near the North Peak,  as it scratched for food amongst the leaf litter.

There were insects too. Well-camouflaged Grasshoppers were common on the dusty trail. I saw a few butterflies – Common Buckeye, Acmon Blue, and Orange Sulphur. There were lots of dragonflies – Variegated Meadhowhawks. They were seen on the wing and perched on the trailside vegetation. In one patch there were several of them,  glittering from the light of the setting sun, as they sat perched on the burnt stems.

And as I drove down the mountain, I saw several Tarantulas. This is the time of the year when the males go wandering in search of a mate. Evening time, on the slopes of Mountain Diablo, is one of the best ways to see them. October should still be a good month to try and spot one if you are interested. That was a pretty good way to end the outing.

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