Starting the New Year at the Top

Hundreds of hikers, runners, bicyclists and motorists ascended to the summit of Mount Diablo on New Year's Day to kick off 2014.

Kha Nguyen and Jay Mumford on the observation deck at the top of Mount Diablo on New Year's Day 2014.
Kha Nguyen and Jay Mumford on the observation deck at the top of Mount Diablo on New Year's Day 2014.
Written by David Mills

Some people wanted to start 2014 on top of the world... literally.

Hundreds of people drove, bicycled, ran and hiked to the summit ofMount Diablo on Wednesday to kick off the new year on a high note.

New Year's Day tends to be one of the busier days on the mountain. Rangers said this year the entire week after Christmas has been busy because of the unseasonably warm and dry weather.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, 100 cars and 145 bicyclists have crossed through the gate on Mount Diablo's north side. The ranger there said that doesn't count the visitors coming through the south gate, which is usually busier. It also doesn't count the hikers and runners.

The individuals who reached the 3,849-foot summit early in the day were a hearty bunch.

Jay Mumford of Walnut Creek and Kha Nguyen of Concord made it to the top about 9 a.m. They'd begun their quest at 7 a.m. at Castle Rock Park in Walnut Creek.

They weren't first ones there. They reported seeing other runners coming down as they were going up. Those runners had begun their trek at 6 a.m.

Mumford, an ultramarathoner, has now run to Mount Diablo's summit 34 times. It's the eighth year in a row he's done it on New Year's Day.

It was Nguyen's first time running up the dirt trails to the summit. He admitted it was tough but well worth the effort.

They still needed to run back down to their car at Castle Rock, but they seemed up for it.

"It's a great way to start the new year," said Mumford.

Nearby, Marty Kinsey, the cross country coach at St. Mary's College, and Brad Alban, a former runner at the Moraga school, had just reached the top.

They'd also begun their ascension at 7 a.m. and taken a different route than Mumford and Nguyen.

It was third straight New Year's Day summit run for Kinsey, a Moraga resident. It was the second straight for Alban, a Pleasant Hill resident.

"It's a better alternative than staying up all night and partying," said Kinsey.

They had a friend waiting for them at the top who was driving them back down.

Other New Year's Day adventurers were down the hill a bit, hiking the 6-mile Grand Loop route that circles the upper slopes of the mountain along several trails.

There was a couple who'd driven from Mountain View to Juniper Campground, where they began their hike.

Why'd they drive so far on a holiday?

"It's New Year's Day," the man simply replied.

There were two women who'd started in Mitchell Canyon and were headed toward the summit.

There were two men who'd begun their trek at the Regency gate in Clayton and were slowly making their way to the top.

Other groups had begun at either Juniper or Mitchell Canyon and were headed to Eagle's Peak before going back down.

There were several tents set up at Juniper from people who'd stayed overnight at the campground to enjoy a New Year's Day hike.

By noon, the parking lot at the Mount Diablo summit was nearly full with cars from people who'd driven up for a New Year's Day view.

There were also plenty of bicyclists. About 15 of them belonged to the Old Fart Cycling Team. They celebrated with a champagne toast in the parking lot.

Bill Bergman of Martinez was leading the group. He said the club has been doing the New Year's Day bike ride for more than 30 years.

It takes team members between an hour and a half and 2 hours to complete the 13-mile trek.

Why do they do it?

"We can eat more, live longer and enjoy the company of others," he said.

Among the club members was retired Contra Costa County Clerk Steve Weir. He's been doing the ride for years.

"It keeps you honest the night before," said Weir.

Sitting near the cyclists were members of the Orinda Hiking Club.This is the 17th year the group has done the hike.

Among them was Patrick Gelly of San Ramon and Eli Benaroy of Alamo.

It had taken the group slightly more than 3 hours to hike from the Regency area of Clayton to the top. After a lunch break, they were heading back down.

Their hike leader was Walnut Creek City Councilman Bob Simmons. He said the journey is a great way to start the new year.

"It's a challenge, but it's just a great hike," he said.


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