Visiting the land of Volcanoes

“The Earth Moved Under Your Feet… Resting beneath your feet are the ancient remains of a volcano that erupted 10 million years ago. Strange animals once roamed here, like long-necked camels and three-toed horses. Today they are replaced by grazing cattle, deer, and domestic dogs. Slowly, over millions of years, this volcano uplifted, tilted on its side, eroded, and crept along the Calaveras and related faults to its present location.”-Interpretive panel at the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.


While I’ll be the first to admit that my college geology class did not exactly get me packing up the car with my picks and magnifying glasses, it still enhanced my appreciation and curiosity about the various characteristics of rock. I realized that it is the sense of timelessness relative to the human experience that has made an impression on me. To lay eyes upon something that has been in the same general area for millions of years, and to walk upon it, is truly awe inspiring. Further contemplating the circumstances of the formation of the ground you walk upon, knowing that long, long ago the rock you walk over was once flowing lava is equally fascinating. Then to be able to look at different types of rocks along the way and determine whether they were formed by landing in pond water, by the sputtering of volcanic vents, or colored by steam on hot fragments adds a level of geologic storytelling that brings the ground to life in a way that is not found in many other locations. This is one of the many reasons why Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve is one of the Bay Area wonders everyone should visit.

IMG_2352Interpretive panel at staging area

The above sign is one of many laid out at the staging area designed to give visitors an understanding of the phenomenons which contributed to the landscape they are about to travel through. I highly recommend taking a moment to look over the 3-4 panels before heading out on the hike. Beyond the various rock samples they have displayed to describe how each type was formed, there is a panel with volcanoes, prehistoric horses, and mastodons on it which does a great job explaining the time frame of the area’s formation…and did I mention it has mastodons on it?

The hiking at Sibley is relatively moderate with a few hills and some rooty, rocky sections of trail depending on the route you take, but the whole park only has about 4 total miles of trail in it. We took the loop trail out for 3/4 of a mile to the quarry pit where the labyrinth is located. The loop trail had just enough up and down to make it feel like it was burning up some of that infinite energy kids can carry around. After being treated to a crystal clear view of Mt Diablo we descended the final section down into the pit where the labyrinth awaited. Clearly a highlight for kids, the labyrinth adds another unique feature to facilitate the sense of wonder these places can inspire.


The hike out to the labyrinth, along with some exploring along the side trails and ponds was about perfect for our group. There are plenty of nice perches to set up on and enjoy a relaxing lunch before making your way back from whence you came. For those more ambitious, the volcanic trail picks up on the other side of the labyrinth, and travels almost another mile out into the park. The quarry trail is the other trail that also continues in the same direction and will lead you down to the pond trail, where frogs tend to congregate in the wet months. Being that the ponds are full in most places, and we found a good number of egg sacks incubating in the labyrinth pond, this should be a good spring to explore the ponds for signs of amphibious life.

IMG_2375Alien looking sacks of frog eggs.

We are truly fortunate to have this treasure in our backyard. It’s rare that a park is set up with so many resources dedicated to facilitating curiosity and wonder.  We highly recommend getting out there and taking a step back through time.

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