By Michael Collier
The East Bay’s tallest peak, scorched in September by its worst wildfire in decades, is coming back to life.
Brilliant clusters of orange poppies cover parts of the 3,850-foot-tall Mount Diablo. Recent rains have turned the dry grass from brown to verdant.
Such an explosion of new life would be visible by Spring, experts said after the 3,000-acre blaze, which was sparked by target-shooting practice on private property. The fire was the mountain’s worst since 1977.
The unfolding show of wildflowers, known as “fire followers,” are bringing hikers, cyclists and motorists to Mount Diablo State Park.
The palette is very likely to get more colorful in April and May, said Seth Adams of the preservation group Save Mount Diablo. Besides poppies, the post-inferno comeback should include star lillies, golden ear drops and wild cucumbers, he said. The best place to view nature’s art gallery is along Summit Road, which goes to the top.
Still, large swaths just below the peak’s highest regions remain distinctly barren. Watch this video on how the fire changed the mountain. (It was produced by Save Mount Diablo, Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, California State Park Foundation and the Thomas J. Long Foundation in partnership with Joan Hamilton at Audible Guides to the Outdoors.)
Reforestation will take more than a few seasons. But the mountain appears to have dodged, thanks to an unusually dry Winter, the prospect of major erosion in areas of the peak scarred by the fire.
Still, drought conditions have prompted water restrictions in the park, including the shutoff of drinking water and the closure of rest rooms with flushing toilets. Park officials are asking visitors to bring their own water, especially if they plan to go on longer hikes.