Mitchell Canyon

A two-mile stroll along a creek on Mount Diablo’s lush north side, led by Sue Donecker, Ken Lavin, Rich McDrew, Jim Mitchell, and Yulan Tong. Sponsored by Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, 2012. Music from Banks of the River by Phil Heywood.

What’s ahead on this expedition? Lively stories about natural and human history, including the language of ground squirrels, the migrations of ladybugs, and the adventures of miners and mountain men.
Music: “Hedgehog Hedge,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Speaker: Jim Mitchell.
You don’t have to go far to find a flock of Mitchell Canyon’s raucous acorn woodpeckers--and other visitor-friendly wildlife. Docent Sue Donecker explains.
Music: “Spinoff,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Sounds: scrub jay, acorn woodpecker. Topics: acorn woodpecker, Coulter pine, goldenbush, good hikes. Speakers: Sue Donecker, Ken Lavin. Photos: great horned owl, Brenden Lally, Creative Commons; acorn woodpeckers 2 & 5, Joe Oliver.

The native plant garden provides look at  Mount Diablo flora, and a picnic table in the heart of ground squirrel territory. Learn their language!

Music: “Boys from Blue Hill/Bagpipes,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Sounds: orange-crowned warbler, California ground squirrel. Topics: native plant garden, California ground squirrel. Speakers: Sue Donecker, Ken Lavin.
Ken Lavin points out a warty promontory called Mitchell Rock, a “tardily deciduous” stand of blue oaks, and a pernicious stand of poison oak.
Music: “Osmotic Journey,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Topics: Mitchell Rock, blue oaks, poison oak, beehive. Speaker: Ken Lavin.

This perfectly proportioned coast live oak has been around since the time of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Mountain Lore author Rich McDrew explains . . .

Music: “Sequel to Constant Traveler,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Sound: turkeys. Topics: Bicentennial Tree, common mistletoe, miner’s lettuce, turkeys. Speakers: Rich McDrew, Ken Lavin.

“A mountain only a geologist could love,” Mount Zion and its diabase quarry are only the latest chapter in a story about mining around Mitchell Canyon. 
Music: “Boys from Blue Hill/Bagpipes,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Topics: Mount Zion, diabase, copper rush, California Geologic Survey, earthen dam.
Speakers: Ken Lavin, Rich McDrew. 

Jedediah Smith was a different kind of mountain man. He didn’t drink. He didn’t swear. He could not only read and write English but also Latin. Ken Lavin tells of this erudite adventurer’s encounter with a grizzly.  
Music: “Sequel to Constant Traveler,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Topics: Jedediah Smith, Cerro Alto de los Volvones, grizzly bears, Jeremiah Morgan. Speakers: Ken Lavin

Learn how sagebrush and pitcher sage create a “no-fly zone” around their chaparral stands.  For an alternate theory, see this Bay Nature magazine's "Landscape of Fear" story. 
Music: “Jack’s Dance,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Sound: wrentit. Topics: sagebrush, pitcher sage, “alleopathic” plants. Speakers: Ken Lavin, Sue Donecker

The year-round water of Mitchell Creek has attracted everything from ladybird beetles to gold miners, pirates, Indians, and farmers. Ken Lavin describes some of the canyon’s most storied inhabitants.
Music: “Osmotic Journey,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Topics: ladybugs’ life cycle, grapes, Murchio family, Isaac Mitchell, Bully Ingram, Indian Joe. Speakers: Ken Lavin, Sue Donecker, Rich McDrew.

Signpost 7 is one of the best places in the world to view the exquisite Mount Diablo globe lily. Equally interesting, though, are the stories of its less spectacular neighbors, bunch grass and soap plant. 
Music: “Spinoff,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Topics: Mount Diablo globe lily, bunch grasses, soap plant. Speakers: Sue Donecker, Yulan Tong, Ken Lavin.

Twenty different species of butterflies visit the buckeye’s creamy white blossoms, but the plant is poisonous to honey bees.
Music: “Jake’s Dance,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Sound: Bewick’s wren. Topics: buckeye, blackberries, willows, mourning cloak butterfly.
Speakers: Sue Donecker, Ken Lavin. Photos: willow scrapings (2), Ken Lavin; mourning cloak butterfly, Dr. F. Nemos, Wikipedia Commons.

Mount Diablo’s Coulter pines were suffering from beetle blight and drought the summer that lightning struck Twin Peaks.
Music: “Boys from Blue Hill/Bagpipes,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Sounds: ruby-crowned kinglet, thunder, grenades, fire. Topics: ruby-crowned kinglet, mugwort, coyote bush, the 1977 fire, rainbow trout, glory holes. Speakers: Sue Donecker, Ken Lavin. Photo: firey sky, Wikipedia Commons, Carl Osbourn; ruby-crowned kinglet, USDA, Dave Herr; lightning, NOAA; fire 1, USDA; fire 2 USDA, Terry Tomkins; Back Canyon, Bill Sattler, courtesy of Save Mount Diablo.

Gray pines and Coulter pines can be hard to tell apart--until you arrive at Stop 10, where they are standing side by side. 
Music: “Hedgehog Hedge,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Sound: Stellar’s jay. Topics: gray pines, Coulter pines, David Douglas, Thomas Coulter, tarantulas, horned lizards’ defense, Globe Lily Trail. Speakers: Sue Donecker, Ken Lavin.

A pictorial introduction to some Mitchell Canyon’s most spectacular wildflowers—and an interview with flower aficionado Yulan Tong.
Music: “Osmotic Journey,” Some Summer Day. by Phil Heywood. Interview with Yulan Tong.

Learn about the all-volunteer organization that helps maintain and interpret Mount Diablo State Park—and how you can participate. 
Music: “Spinoff,” Some Summer Day by Phil Heywood. Speaker: Jim Mitchell

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