January 24, 2011

Sacred Ground

View from the city of Walnut Creek

Mt. Diablo is a peak in the Diablo Mountain Range that is visible from most points in the Bay Area.  The vistas from Mt. Diablo happen early on the lower part of the drive as the terrain is mostly chaparral with windswept scrub oak trees scattered here and there.  There are no big tree forests standing in the way of the view.  As you climb, you feel you are looking down on a fairyland with mountain ranges lined up in the distance.

Mt. Diablo is made of rock that came from the ocean floor as the tectonic plates built the mountain over a 180 million year cycle.  Areas of marine fossil rock, wind caves formed out of 50 million-year-old sandstone are to be found.  A major earthquake fault line runs through the area that helped push the older rock up and over younger rock.  There are many areas of chert on the mountain, which are formed from the skeletons of tiny marine animals.
Chert along the trail

At the top the view is spectacular at a height of around 3400 feet.  Even on this somewhat misty day, we could see the tops of the snow-clad Sierra Nevada.

I was interested in who lived there and what the mountain meant to Native peoples.  The original people were the Miwok Indians.  Recent research has categorized the various locales of Miwok, and the Mt. Diablo Tribal group was designated the Bay Miwok to distinguish their particular language and populations.  They were hunter-gatherers who believed that the origin of life began on Mt. Diablo following a flood.  Mt. Diablo is still considered Sacred Ground and in my own experience in going up there today, I feel there are very strong spirits that reside there. 

View from the top of Mt. Diablo
On a trail close to the summit, we were visited and spoken to by a raven which then settled itself on a bare tree limb and watched us until we completed our walk.  Two hawks flew alongside the car on our descent and we received a brief song from a frog as we reached the bottom.  There are numerous habitats all along the mountain that hold their own spirits.  I was feeling that it was disrespectful to go all the way to the top where the creator gods reside.  Various ceremonies were celebrated on the mountain, and probably still are, but happen in places on the mountain that don’t flaunt the nature of conquering, the desire to have to stand on the top and be taller than and above the mountain itself.

I don’t know the original name of the mountain.  As the Miwok were incorporated into the mission system and their populations were decimated, Mexican influence in the area changed the geographical names and the entire mountain range was called The Diablos. Devil Mountain would be the last name I would apply to this area, despite the wind, in the soft peace of the fossil rock, scrub oak and bay laurel.