THAT ONE MAGNIFICENT FLOWER... or bird or peak or trail or canyon can pull a lot of focus for the intrepid hiker, even as they remain aware of taking in and enjoying all of their surroundings. If you've ever ventured into a new area of wilderness at the recommendation of a friend, that same friend very likely mentioned a detail that captured his or her heart in the past. "Be on the lookout for the foxgloves" or "watch for the sunning lizards" or "tarantulas are plentiful this time of year," they might say, and soon that's where a lot of your attention is going. It's a fine way to approach a fresh hike, but it can leave other pleasures and mysteries of your nature walk out of the picture, a picture that is enhanced by having a dozen or two dozen or a million different things to look for along the way.
OKAY, perhaps you won't memorize a million distinct features of Mount Diablo State Park from the brand-new "The Hiker's Guide to Mount Diablo State Park," but it'll go rather further than pointing out a single flower or insect to keep an eye out for, like a sweet if narrow-focused friend might. The $18 book is flush with the wonders of the Walnut Creek-close expanse, some 20,000 acres of canyons and meadows and cliffs and so many buzzy, chittering, skittering residents that you could spend all day awaiting the next butterfly or bird sighting. Is this a park you hike often? Or you've been meaning to try out after a day in and around the East Bay? There are 50 hikes to choose from.
THE MOUNT DIABLO INTERPRETATIVE ASSOCIATION... is the organization behind the tome, a tidbit-filled book thick with wild knowledge. There are maps, too, to help hikers chart a course, and suggestions for the just-starting-out-er (like half-mile trails to take on for the very first time). Just find one of the five areas the book is divided into -- the four points of the compass plus the interior -- and get to studying terrain, flora, fauna, how easy or challenging a trail is, and the wonders of Mount Diablo. Will your New Year's resolution be outside more? This is a fine initial step in that direction. And the next time a knowledgeable friend tells you to keep an eye out for the hawks or chaparral or the oaks, just smile sagely and inform them, with kindness but candor, that you're keeping an eye out for absolutely everything.