There is a mountain in our neighborhood, a member of the oldest Mountain Range in California. The Diablo Range stretches from the Cartinez Straits South to Fort Tejon along side the I-5 Grapevine. It meets the Sierra Nevada Range which from there extends North far into Canada. It’s a range that does not recieve very much attention partially due to it’s being squeezed between the Coastal Range and the Sierra Nevada’s. On the Western side lies the famed Salinas Valley while on the East is the vast San Joaquin (Wa-Keen) Valley.
The clouds have mostly scattered into mere patches, one patch has settled as if it is a halo around the Peak of Mount Diablo shaping a plume resembling an erupting Volcano. It seems a wind speed 15+ mph would quickly disperse the plume but for reasons unknown to me they cling to the apex of that dominate Geological creation.
The Diablo Range is dry lacking a single river or creek cascading from it’s low lying peaks for the entire 400 miles. There are some dry creek beds recognizable by the deep erosion’s of the hillsides along it’s length. Some of the washes are over 100 feet deep, (30.48 meters). During heavy rainfall the water flows into the surrounding valley’s as runoff then onto the Valley floors to be directed away from the fallow fields. Using highways as channels the water is directed into the West Side Bypass then carried to the Kesterson wildlife refuge near Los Banos. Some of the water is directed into the San Joaquin River for diversion into our Delta, then mostly out to sea. There is one water storage reservoir along the entire length.
The famed California Condor’s habitat lies among the Range, it is from there they will fly hundreds of miles a day in their search for carrion. It is from there they were also poisoned by DDT during the 1950 and 1960’s. The carrion they fed upon would consume small rodents contaminated with the toxin, being killed by it the Condor’s then consumed the predators. DDT caused the shells of their eggs to become very thin and brittle, unable to support the weight of the chicks growing inside they would burst ending the life of the chick before it began. Today there is an attempt to change history with the claim lead bullets caused their near extinction, they didn’t it was agricultural poisons.
I was fortunate during the Spring of 1970 while riding a motorcycle through the Mountains following State Highway 33 towards King City. There were two of us traveling on a beautiful spring day to the Pinnacles National Monument, a series of deep caves produced in ancient times by flowing water. Rounding a curve we were stopped due to the road being blocked by 15 California Condors, we stopped never considering attempting to shoo them away. We did not realize at the time it was the last naturally born and raised flock in existence, another would not form until after the turn of the century. It was one of those scenes so natural a camera was not needed, the sight is burned into my mind in vivid living color. I will never forget it and I’m sure my partner hasn’t as well.
Although there are countless Turkey Vultures in the surrounding sky, I have not yet seen an airborne Condor this far North. Highway 33 is 250 miles South. Their now established hunting grounds remain among the Diablo’s, the habitat is protected and held close to the chest of the people responsible for re-establishing the population.
It’s a historic range of Mountains as well, I am familiar with the history of the Spanish Explorers following them from the Los Angeles basin North, or South from here to L.A. I will write a blog describing it when I research and know exactly what took place. There is a local legend when the Spanish Soldiers were following them during the summer, temperatures of 110°+ F (38° C) are not uncommon, a soldier reportably exclaimed “surely this is the Mountain Range of the Devil.” When they came upon Mount Diablo and heard the deep rumbling of the extinct Volcano a similar refrain was heard “surely this Mountain is the home of the Devil.” Hence the moniker “Mount Diablo” became it’s legendary name.
Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance