Dazzling display: Wildflowers on tap with guided tours available throughout the Sierra foothills
Special to The Union
Wildflower enthusiasts in Nevada County breathed a sigh of relief this week after a much-needed rain doused the foothills already awakening in spring bloom.
Every year, locals map out their favorite wildflower areas. Some take a short drive to Hidden Falls Regional Park near Auburn. Many visit Bridgeport’s popular Buttermilk Bend Trail winding above the South Yuba River.
Native plant lovers are especially fond of the “Mehrten meadow” of Hell’s Half Acre found on the western edge of Grass Valley, south of Rough and Ready Highway where botanists have recorded more than 100 species of spring flowering plants.
A number of guided hikes are available this spring for those who prefer to learn from someone with knowledge of native flora and enjoy the social aspect of hiking with a group.
Independence Trail with the Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society
The Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society will offer a wildflower field trip to Independence Trail March 30. Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Eric Rood Center, 950 Maidu Avenue in Nevada City for carpooling or at 10:20 a.m. at the trailhead located on Highway 49.
“We will wander up and down the trail for about two hours, enjoying and identifying the wildflowers we encounter,” said Roger McGehee, field trip coordinator for the Red Bud Chapter.
McGehee recommends bringing along a copy of, “Wildflowers of Nevada and Placer Counties, California,” available at local bookstores. Copies will also be available for sale at the carpool meeting spot at the Rood Center. Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately.
Table Mountain with Bear Yuba Land Trust
Sue Graf, Vicki MacDonald and Clarence Motter will lead two 4.5 mile moderate hikes for Bear Yuba Land Trust on Table Mountain in Butte County, known to be one of the best places to view carpets of wildflowers in Northern California.
The hikes are scheduled for April 4 and April 7.
As a bonus, hikers will view Phantom Falls, plus four more including Fern Falls one of a pair of twin waterfalls and the 100-foot drop, Coal Canyon Falls.
Table Mountain is an elevated basalt mesa formed millions of years ago from volcanic lava flows that solidified, said Motter. Shallow soils that remain are lush with wildflowers in spring.
“It’s the geology of Table Mountain that makes it prolific with wildflowers,” Motter said. Departing from the short walk it takes to get to Phantom Falls, Motter and Graf will lead the group up and over pathless rolling hills to the other, often-missed waterfalls.
“We’ll head out cross country… We’ll go out and view fields and fields of flowers,” he said.
Special to Table Mountain are Goldfields, Golden Clover, the water-loving Table Mountain Meadowfoam and the not-so-common Bitterroot growing out of cracks in solid rock.
The group will have lunch at Coal Canyon Falls.
“That’s really the most spectacular falls of all five of them,” Motter said.
The cost is $12 for members and $17 for not-yet members.
Learn more at: http://www.bylt.org
North Table Mountain is an Ecological Preserve managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Cattle are grazed on the timeless landscape offering a glimpse of what much of California must have looked like prior to the Gold Rush.
Fish and Wildlife offers guided tours every Saturday. The two-hour tours begin at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and typically sell out every weekend. Registration is available online: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/er/region2/northtable.html
South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport with Docents
Docents began leading guided two-hour walks along the Buttermilk Bend Trail last weekend and will continue to host walks through May 19.
Hikers meet at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sundays in the North Parking Lot, just beyond the concrete bridge above the South Yuba River on Pleasant Valley Road.
Wildflowers found on the trail vary according to the time of year. Early in the season Western Buttercup, Larkspur and Shooting Stars fringed the trail. Later, come swaths of golden Poppies and purple Lupine and more delicate Fairy Lanterns, Chinese Houses and Bird’s Eye Gilia. A special delight is the California Dutchman’s Pipe and its ability to attract the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.
“This is a spectacular show of wildflowers,” said Glenn Fuller of the South Yuba River Park Association, calling the spring wildflowers at Bridgeport some of the best in the state.
March 26, Docent Heather Barnes will lead a more difficult three-hour hike on the Point Defiance Trail.
Participants may see flowers that are not found on the Bridgeport hike such as the pretty Sierra Fawn Lily. The hike will begin at the North Parking Lot picnic table at 9:30 a.m.
Wear sturdy shoes and bring water, snacks and a camera. Dogs are not permitted on the tour. A $3 donation is requested. Parking for the day costs $5.
For more information or questions call the park at 432-2546 or go to http://www.southyubariverstatepark.org.
Sutter Buttes with Middle Mountain Foundation
The Middle Mountain Foundation has three guided tours of the Sutter Buttes this spring that highlight the wildflowers of the world’s smallest mountain range.
A challenging six mile outing titled, “Wildflower Study – Canyon Experience” will be March 30. Spring rains cause the dry Buttes hillsides to turn into a verdant, colorful wildflower garden.
Bring your hand-lens, wildflower field guide, food and water for this trek with a significant elevation gain and loss.
The cost is $45.
April 7, guides will lead hikers on a gentle stroll of the Dean Ranch.
This leisurely outing is designed for casual walkers and nature lovers who can navigate some moderate climbing and mostly uneven ground. Late wildflowers are likely. Bring food and water. The cost of this hike is $35.
Then April 13, guides will lead a moderate hike and Wildflower Study of the Dean Ranch.
Bring a hand-lens and wildflower field guide, food and water. The cost of this outing is $35.
For more information visit: http://www.middlemountain.org/
Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at email@example.com or 530-401-4877.
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