Black Diamond Mines is a fringe territory of the EBRPD that I’ve been meaning to try for years. Part of the drag is that it’s out in Antioch: there’s a greenway route, but it’s barren and hot and, when I rode there, had more abandoned shopping carts than people. This meant anyone I did see I imagined murdering me; furthermore I suspected the owners of the morose little houses abutting the path would, in that event, turn up their television sets to drown out my screams.
Lately I’ve been questioning whether it would be worth this sort of sprawling suburban wasteland to achieve home ownership and my official Badge of Adulthood. I’ll credit this little trip for reminding me of the answer, which is: no, God, a thousand times no.
Once into the park, I trundled up the usual fire-road climb to the ridgeline. The view is very good: a long valley gold and billowing like water, a rarely seen face of Diablo, and, in the bright haze on the horizon, the towers of either Sacramento or Oz. I ditched my bike in a stand of what I later learned is the northernmost occurrence of Coulter pine (neat!) and hiked back down through tunnels of manzanita with dusky pink sandstone underfoot. There’s an old mining-town cemetery here; the effect of the incongruous skinny cypress on the steep and stripped-bare hillsides—and the tiny turbines advancing on the river in the distance—is that of having walked into a model railway. I read crumbling headstones and reflected on my good fortune to have avoided dying of typhoid at age 12.
My company at Stewartville camp that night was a driving wind and a chorus of coyotes, an atmosphere so end-of-the-world I was taken completely off-guard by the first joggers in the morning. (Read: was not wearing pants.) On my way out the other side of the park I stopped to investigate Star Mine. It’s just a short tunnel, but still the farthest I’ve ever been underground—and more than far enough to eliminate my previous interest in going caving.
In sum, while I can’t exactly recommend it to the able-bodied for riding in July—especially since so much trail is closed to bikes—this is a real interesting place for history, geology, and colors. (Also a commendable piece of park planning, given the lack of other open space in this part of the bay.) I’ll be back for the official, well-lit mine tour and wildflowers in the spring.