Spring Scare

Mt. Diablo’s Mitchell Canyon is an accessible and exciting place to see wildflowers and wildlife in June. The path has an easy incline and levels off most of the way. Buckeyes are bursting forth with clusters of tiny white flowers. Ithuriel’s spear, which resembles a spear as much as a dalmation resembles a terrier, lights up the landscape with its small purple trumpet flowers. Bright yellow native coreopsis crops up occasionally along the trail, but is overshadowed by the more ubiquitous golden monkeyflowers. The lemon-colored globe lily (aka globe tulip) can be found along the creek trail rarely since it is endangered.

Several hikers told us about baby snakes they had seen including three king snakes, with horizontal black and white stripes. We saw one at dusk scurrying for cover. We also eyed a baby rattler in a treehole. All of us huddled and stared inside the hole to get a closer look. Not surprisingly, it was gone on our way back.

As the last ones to leave the park, there was no one with whom we could share our final discovery: three to four-inch brown tarantulas. We spotted two at dusk, a quarter mile apart, on their evening hunts. Although they look scary, with lots of hair and a circular geometric pattern on the thorax suggesting they’ve been imprinted with some alien signal, their bites are harmless. Harmless, but painful, so we stayed several inches away, just in case.

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