Racing to renewal

This pine cone and others will reseed Mount Diablo in the coming years.

This pine cone and others will reseed Mount Diablo in the coming years.

By Michael Collier

The giant pine cone lies suspiciously against the charred stem of what was thriving chaparral near the peak of Mount Diablo.

I saw the cone this week on the first of two bike rides to the top of the mountain, which has become a lunar landscape of dramatic character as a result of a major wildfire in late summer.

This week’s rides were quite moving to me, inspiring reminders of the renewal that often is right behind a death.

It is almost as if a firefighter — or a tourist traveling up the 3,850-foot peak — laid the cone where it is to dramatize the contrasts created as a result of the raging blaze in September that destroyed just about everything growing on 3,100 acres on the south face of the mountain.

The blackened stump symbolizes the death wrought by the fire, while the cone and its seeds are a reminder of the regenerative power of nature. Death begets life, which eventually dies, opening the door to new life.

This cycle has played out repeatedly on the East Bay’s beacon of a peak, which marks a boundary used in surveying Northern California‘s geography. The last big fire there was in 1977.

There is a broader personal meaning to the renewal taking place on the mountain. Just as the seeds from the pine cones are beginning to settle into the golden clay on its hillsides, a regenerative force is moving through me after a year in which my father and a nephew died and I left my newspaper career after three decades.

The power of that force is sweeping me away as I sense a Spring-like transition firing up a new life in me.

My bike computer confirmed this: On my second ascent of Diablo in a week, I rode stronger and faster than ever up the often-steep road to the summit. The Strava app that tracks such rides segment by segment showed that I set personal best times for 48 of 72 segments going up and back down the peak.

How do you like them apples?

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