Forget black cats; a randy tarantula crossing your path can really get your heart racing. Rose Hill Cemetery in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is a spooky mix of spirits, spiders and tombstones. The 6,286-acre East Bay park was once covered by five coal-mining towns that thrived for a half century beginning in the 1860s. Lying among the departed in Rose Hill is Sarah Norton, a beloved midwife who died when she was thrown from a buggy on her way to nearby Clayton. Legend has it that Norton’s spirit still appears as the “white witch,” staking claims on both boneyard sepulchers and park visitors alike. In addition to Sarah’s apparition, anthropologically inclined visitors can spot headstones dating back as far as 1865 (pick up a pamphlet with the names of the deceased at the cemetery entrance). Also keep your eyes peeled for large, fuzzy spiders. Though tarantulas are normally nocturnal, this is the time of year when males spend their days prowling for female companions. With ghostly tombstones, an old white witch, and horny arachnids, Rose Hill is one freaky treat.
Pick up a brochure about Rose Hill Cemetery from the visitor center. The cemetery is a .5-mile walk (one-way) on the Nortonville Trail from the upper parking lot in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. To explore the park further, continue another 1.5 miles on the Nortonville and Coal Canyon Trail to “Jim’s Place,” a tiny underground dwelling with a square skylight and stovepipe hole.