For the second time in as many months, I hiked through a park and spotted an archery range. Previous to that, I don’t think I had seen an actual archery site in decades. Maybe it’s making a comeback? Archery today can be very high-end, with equipment costing well into the thousands of dollars and high-tech gizmos sprouting up for would-be archers to buy.
The view came on a hike in Briones Regional Park, an East Bay park that often gets overlooked because it is so close to Mount Diablo and other hiking spots. But Briones is a treasure. There are dozens of ways to enter the park and even more possible trails to consider. A few offer nice views of the Briones Reservoir, but generally the view is of the larger Bay Area.
Our hike was about an eight-mile loop, starting at the Bear Creek Staging Area, which is a full-fledged park entrance with facilities, picnic tables, parking and trail information. From there, we climbed up to the Crest Trail which runs in a loop through the park’s mid-section. No steep ascents and the elevation stayed at about 1,000 to 1,300 feet most of the way. The park covers more than 6,000 acres, although some of that can be hiked only with a permit. Most of the park is accessible to all for just the park entrance fee.
Cattle and wildflowers were the main sights on what was a relatively mild day. In the summer, much of the park is exposed so if you’re hiking there on an 80-degree or plus day, be prepared.
And who was Briones? That would be Felipe Briones, a Mexican soldier stationed at the S.F. Presidio who raised cattle at the park site. After Senor Briones was killed in 1840, his widow took over and the land was granted to her family. When California joined the US in 1850, it was decided that all land grants issued by Mexican authorities would be honored by the new state. In the later part of that century, it was the main fruit-growing production area for all of Contra Costa County. Today, there are remnants of orchard trees around, but not much else that would indicate that heritage.