Nothing like a rigorous and rewarding hike to occupy the day after Christmas. Our group was headed in and around Diablo State Park, on a mission of sorts to view some of the signs of early Native American villages that were so prominent here about 10,000 years ago, but didn’t survive the arrival of modern civilization.

Despite forecasts of rain throughout the day and occasional clouds, it was a mostly a sunshine-filled day for our group, with not one drop falling on us. In short, a beautiful hiking day. We started east of the town of Danville near the Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, a sprawling area of hills and valleys that is adjacent to Diablo State Park. Our route would take us about 12 miles and include numerous climbs, none particularly overwhelming, but in places we were able to ascend a couple of thousand feet. With generally clear skies, there were great views in all directions throughout the hike.

As we started the hike, at the end of a county road where the trailhead begins (this isn’t a formal trailhead, so there’s no parking lot or facilities, but you can find maps and some guide information on a kiosk), we saw two mountain goats perched several thousand feet up on a rock overlooking us. It was a fascinating if surreal way to head into a wilderness area. I always expect to encounter cows and deer and plenty of different birds (mostly hawks), but a mountain goat is out of the ordinary.

Hiking around either the regional park or the state park isn’t for the timid. The trails can be a bit confusing, and some of the best paths aren’t marked at all. Also, the recent rains meant that much of the walking trails were mud or close to mud, which can make footing tricky, especially when you’re trying to not slide down a hill. I’ve written about some of the early petroglyphics and other Miwok Indian remnants still visible around this East Bay region, and I had hiked up into the cave-like rocks a bit to see some of the drawings that people recently have painted as tributes to their ancestors. In several places, we could see the mortar holes in large flat bedrocks where villagers would grind up acorns and live by the waterfalls and creeks. A couple of the photos below show series of neatly-formed holes in rocks.

It’s great to hike with people who know not just the topography of the area but a bit of the anthropology too. This is one of a series of hikes I’ve been on over the last year or so that have explored the legacy and traces of the Miwok tribe that settled around the East Bay area, and I intend to go on a few more. Especially with the clutter of our modern society, it’s hard to imagine just what life was like for these early villagers, but if you know where to look, there are enough clues to be found to start to unravel the mystery a bit.

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