A mosaic of flowers carpets the landscape.
Purple, orange, yellow and white are the predominant colors, with a bit of fuchsia here and there. The dark basalt rock and vibrant green grasses provide contrast.
Oak trees break up the terrain. A few cows munch on the grass, paying no attention to the multitudes of people out on this last day of March.
Table Mountain is awash is color with an array of wildflowers every spring. The abundance and peak season all depends on the winter rains.
Much of the land is covered in gold fields, which makes it look like yellow paint has been strategically dispersed. Sky lupine is interspersed at various locations. The frying pan and foothill poppies are robust. Owl’s clover, bird’s eye gilia, bitterroot and so many other flowers can be found throughout the approximately 3,300-acre North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.
While the Table Mountain meadowfoam only grows in this area, it did not present itself to us on this particular day.
Most of the flowers are short, with only a few reaching 6 inches in height. This is in large part because of the volcanic terrain. Soil here is not great. The height, though, does not take away from the splendor.
In addition to the spectacle of color are an array of waterfalls. They, too, are dependent on rain.
“Typically fissures in the basalt soak up winter rains, forming seasonal streams and waterfalls. In a few places, however, the underlying basalt is impermeable to water forming a temporary pool. Soon to dry up after rains end, only specialized plants and animals adapted to this habitat can survive over time,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages the reserve.
Sutter Buttes is often visible. Sawmill Peak was in the near distance. Snow covered mountains farther away.
In all the six of us put in 3.12 miles, which included treks to Hollow Falls and Ravine Falls.
The uneven rock is going to be difficult for some to navigate. In a one-week period ending April 7, search and rescue crews were called out to Table Mountain four times. One was for a fatality; a woman fell 100 feet at one of the falls.
This is a reminder that Mother Nature, as beautiful as she can be, is also still a wild place that needs to be respected.
- California lands pass required for everyone 16 and older. They are $4.89 for the day or $27.26 for the year. They may be purchased online.
- Table Mountain is about 7 miles north of Oroville.
- Directions: From Chico, take Highway 99 south to Highway 70 to Oroville. Exit at Grand Avenue. Go right, then drive for 1 mile. Go left on Table Mountain Boulevard for a tenth of a mile. Right on Cherokee Road for 6.3 miles north to the reserve.
- Elevation gain was 208 feet, with the lowest 1,198 feet and highest 1,334 feet.