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My Favorite Clayton Trail

Kevin writes about the joys of hiking Hetherington Loop Trail.

It’s known by many that autumn is my favorite time of year: The season of change.

It’s a time to morph, not wither. To lift up, not fall to earth. To reflect, not prepare for hibernation. To grow, not shrink from the challenge of passing time.

For some, myself included, a nexus of nature’s beauty makes the fall experience more whole.

We Claytonians have access to a treasured experience right in our backyard, the Mt. Diablo Trail system.

Just after the first rain of the season, I took a walk out of Clayton on the Hetherington Loop trail.

This little section of the Mt. Diablo State Park is easy to access and can be walked in less than two hours. It is not a stressful hike with only gradual changes in elevation.

I like to start by parking at the end of Regency Drive and hopping onto the Donner Creek Trail. From there, just walk south toward Mt. Diablo.

But, the Clayton trail system can take you directly to the Donner Creek Trail too.

In less than a mile, a signpost will direct the hiker onto the Hetherington Loop Trail. The departure marked by crossing a feeble footbridge.

This trail winds its way along side Donner Creek uphill before it crosses the creek upstream. Then, it makes its way back to the Donner Creek Trail.

Once back on the Donner Creek Trail you simply walk downhill toward Clayton.

While the creeks are still dry from the summer drought, some residual water remains in low spots.

But, autumn brings a kind of special scent and ambiance that fills the air. Your heart, among the oaks, toyon, manzanita and sage that line the trail.

I must give one word of caution. The poison oak is close to the trail in a number of places. Nevertheless, it’s easy to avoid by staying on the trail, which is what the park recommends anyway.

There is one spot along the trail that has special appeal. It is a grove of manzanita. With their black skin, smooth and cool to the touch, the grove produces a shady canopy that makes this spot special.

I intentionally did not photograph this grove. It is my hope one of our readers will venture there and post their own picture of this special place.

Will you be able to find it? Autumn’s whisper beckons you to try.

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