Mountaintop Escape from Black Friday Mayhem

GTS-sunset thru tree
by Graciela Tiscareño-Sato and Benjamin Tiscareño

Some scenes of the annual Black Friday spectacle have nearly grown into cultural traditions. The repeated images of people lined up in tents, mobs of consumers shouldering and trampling each other on the day after Thanksgiving are sadly all too familiar to us. On this day of advertising-induced shopping when many Americans head towards local malls, my family practices a tradition of our own; we travel up a nearby mountain, in the exact opposite direction of the mall goers.

GTS-boy at summit

Little boy proudly overlooks the Sacramento River Delta from the top of Mount Diablo

Last year, we traveled to the Sierras to explore the Black Chasm Cavern near Volcano, California. As desperate mothers fought in the toy aisle over insane deals, this mother showed her children the insane creativity of nature. Instead of spending this day surrounded by battery-operated noise makers, we marveled at the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and rare helictite crystals that quietly form a millimeter or less each day. A large family portrait taken beneath one of nature’s chandeliers (a particularly large and spectacular stalactite), hangs in our home as a memory of that special adventure.

Our family loves Mount Diablo closer to our east bay home. There is so much to explore, and the views are breathtaking! On Black Friday, there’s the additional bonus of having no crowds. This late November day, we decided to go up and explore the damage and renewal caused by the September fire. We wanted to investigate the changes and effects on the mountain since our last trip up earlier in springtime.

GTS-blind child touches tree

Child who is blind uses her hands to explore a trunk charred by the September fire

After a brief visit to the visitor’s center at the summit to review the official photo album of fire fighting photos, we hiked the Mary Bowerman Trail to witness the sunset from the north side of Mount Diablo. Setting out on a family hike near sunset means gorgeous color for family photos. It also means braving a memorable hike with three children: our blind child and her white cane, our 7 year -old boy and our bouncy 9 year-old daughter that included the narrow, scary south side, bisecting a ghostly, charred mini forest with very little light.

The Rockies Mountains where I grew up in Colorado are three times taller than our Bay Area mountains, but I admit I love the accessibility of these smaller mountains; smaller means our three young kids can enjoy the feeling of climbing and enjoying summits.

GTS-girl on summit

Queen of the mountain atop Mount Diablo, conquers an outcrop of shale and chert.

My favorite part of our day was reading the trial guide at all 14 stops and expanding their vocabulary with words like greenstone, charcoal, shale, greywacke and chert. My children especially enjoyed finding “nature’s black chalk” created when the fire burned trees and shrubs. Here are a few photo highlights that I hope encourage you to take the drive east to explore Mt. Diablo. It’s the best $10 I’ve ever spent on Black Friday!

GTS-burnt tree as charcoal pencil

Charcoal pencil used to write on her new “slate” of chert and burnt bay leaf

My family watches the sun setting from Mount Diablo. 30 minutes later: “Mommy, we’re the only family hiking this mountain in the dark.” “Yes, we are honey.”

Photo Credits: Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, School of Environmental Design, where she earned a degree in Environmental Design/Architecture while completing the Aerospace Studies program as an AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program) scholarship cadet. She was commissioned as a second lieutenant atop the Campanile on the Berkeley campus, completed aircrew training and was blessed to travel to and appreciate four continents of our planet during her decade of military service. She is the author of the award-winning book Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them, which highlights Latino environmental entrepreneurs innovating in green economy industries. Graciela is a sought-after speaker on entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership. She’s a key team member of the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit held annually at Stanford University. Graciela actively mentors students needing education and career roadmaps. LATINAStyle Magazine named her “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Washington D.C. in 2010.  After winning three awards at the International Latino Book Awards in New York for Latinnovating, she published her first bilingual children’s book,Good Night Captain Mama (Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá), in July of this year.

On Twitter @GraceTiscareno


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