Tracing back to circa 1805, Mt. Diablo finds the origins of its name from a group of Spanish military troops who chased and cornered escaped members of a tribe of Chupcan mission indians. Late that evening, as the Spanish soldiers lie in wait, the Chupcan people disappeared with no trace, right from under the noses of the Spanish. Confounded by the unnerving, supernatural vanishing, the Spaniards dubbed the spot "Monte del Diablo" or "Thicket of the Devil".
They were actually referring to a thicket of brush in which the Chupcan were hiding. But, subsequently, English speaking arrivals to the area misunderstood the name as Mountain of the Devil. Hence today the mountain is called "Mt. Diablo."
The name seems appropriate enough. For cyclists, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, Diablo is 3849 feet of climbing. Through sometimes desert-like conditions, past low growing desert vegetation and red clay type soils 3849 long, vertical, feet. Diablo challenges even the strongest cyclists with nearly 15 miles of climbing. The last 1000 feet of which guarantee an out-of-the-saddle effort. The road to the top corkscrews around the mountain with maddening switch backs ramping up the 3849 vertical feet to the summit.
Looking back over where you've been, you see miles of twisty, vining, road far down below and trailing off, for what seems an infinite distance. Every circuit of Diablo offers a new vantage point from which you survey the vast valleys surrounding the mountain. This is the reward for suffering enough to climb all 46,188 vertical inches of Diablo, a view that is said to encompass 60% of California. Or perhaps, your final reward is to then turn around and rocket down all 3849 vertical, white-knuckling feet, at speeds limited only by your ability to stay on the road.
But, this particular day we chose to descend only a few thousand feet turning off to extend our ride through the loosely charted, and rarely explored, Morgan Territory. Disappearing down into the valley that sits in the shadow of Diablo, briefly passing into and out of civilization, you quickly find yourself zipping through Savannah-like grasslands that evoke visions of African desert landscapes. The low rolling hills give way to steeply sauntering cracked roads that carve a single lane through the chaparral of Morgan Territory.
Following along that meandering single track you climb roughly 3100 feet along the valley floor without any evidence of a gain in elevation beyond the lactic acid burning in your quads. Along the way there are signs that tell you how far off the beaten path you are. Cattle lazily sun themselves in the late afternoon heat while rickety single-lane bridges carry you past aged and corroded "No Trespassing" signs emblazoned with the words "No Trespassing, No Shooting."
Looking off the broken pavement upon which your labors are spent, you see a panorama of mostly undisturbed native plant species. Morgan Territory is so remote that a wildflower thought to be extinct for seventy years, resurfaced in the midst of the preserve right where no one had looked for it for the better part of a century.
As you spin out of Morgan Territory past the last rolling foothills you realize that it is this untapped and unruffled beauty that makes Morgan such a hidden gem. What better way to observe that natural phenomenon then on the back of a bike... a form of transportation ecological sound and environmentally undamaging. At the end of the day, after roughly seventy-five miles and close to 7000 feet of climbing you'll crawl back to your start point in a state of euphoria knowing that you've seen so much beauty and left nothing behind but a few drops of swiftly evaporating perspiration.