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Best Notes from the 19th-Century Underground 

Black Diamond Mines

From the hot Contra Costa hills, burnished to a gold by the unrelenting summer sun, stepping into an old mine chamber gives you a chilling contrast. The Black Diamond Mines are the site of the largest coal mining area in California during the 19th century and sand mining in the 1920s. Weekend mine tours, available by reservation, give a taste of the subterranean life. For a taste of the hardness of the life, hike up one of the undulating Contra Costa hillsides to the long-deserted Rose Hill Cemetery and walk among the graves of 150 of the townspeople who perished from mining accidents, epidemics, childbirth, childhood diseases, and (very rarely) old age. Greathouse Visitor Center, temporarily closed right now for structural reinforcements and widening of the entrance, is unique in that it's located underground inside the old sand mine. 

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