Place: North Table Mountain Ecological Preserve, Oroville, California
Coordinates: 39.59555, -121.54164
Length: about 1.5 miles to Hollow Falls and back.
Our original plan for spring break was to go south and see the bloom spectacle at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but a sad phone call to the BLM field office in Bakersfield, just a few days before our trip, had informed us that there is no bloom there this spring. "We got less than 2 inches of rain," came the sad voice on the other side. "It didn't even green up."
I remembered that not long before someone had posted on the California Native Plants Society page a photo of a magnificent poppy field, taken at North Table Mountain Ecological Preserve. After a short discussion with Papa Quail we altered our plans and headed northeast to Oroville.
|This is South Table Mountain, photographed from Table Mountain Rd. on our way north.|
The place is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. There are no officially marked trails there, just trails trodden by previous hikers. There are no proper trail maps available. The directions to the official parking area (with port-potties at hand) are online, but there's very little information beyond that.
Equipped with outdated USGS topo maps, a few sets of coordinates provided online by a fellow hiker from Davis, CA (Thank you, brthomas!), a few words of guidance from the rangers at the Lake Oroville SRA, and a newly purchased book about the Wildflowers of Table Mountain, we went exploring.
No poppy fields welcomed us. Perhaps they were already done for the season. I was hardly disappointed, though, because gorgeous carpets of blue patched with yellow and white checkered the green tablecloth that covered Table Mountain.
The dark volcanic earth by the large oak was very muddy. At that point I didn't pay much attention to that. After a few steps on the trail, though, we were walking along a little stream that collected the water seeping out of the mud.
|Table Mountain Meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii ssp. nivea|
|Valley Tassels (Castilleja attenuata)|
|Seep Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus)|
|White-tipped Clover (Trifolium variegatum)|
|Kellogg's Monkeyflower (Mimulus kelloggii)|
The sign at the trailhead warns hikers to stay a minimum of 300 feet from the cows. A bit challenging to follow when the cows graze right by the trail. Considering that the only time we've experienced any animal aggression on a hike was from a cow, we took the warning seriously and kept a respectful distance. As much as was possible.
|I am the cow in the sky (lupine)|
These rock piles held some nice surprises for us:
|Goosfoot Violet (Viola purpurea ssp. quercetorum)|
First, only a little:
Then it disappeared altogether. We have reached the falls.
The small sign said Beatson-Hollow Falls.
A few other hikers were looking down the cliff. One of the said in a sure voice that this was Beatson Fall. Considering how long it took us to get there (mainly because I stopped every second to photograph one flower or another), we believed it.
I noticed a newt that came to the surface a couple of times. It was very elusive, though. I had to settle for a photograph of the water bugs that rendered themselves to the camera with ease.
I also checked the flowers that were blooming at the base of the fall.
|Rock Phacelia (Phacelia egena)|
|A patch of yellow Carpet|
|Yellow Carpet (Blennosperma nanum var. nanum)|
|A patch of Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus)|
|A stonecrop patch|
|Dwarf Stonecrop (Sedella pumila)|
|Kellogg's Clarkia (Clarkia arcuata)|
|Ithuriel's Spear (Triteleia laxa)|
|Red Maids (Calandrinia ciliata)|
|Whitehead Navarretia ((Navarretia leucocephala)|
Not to say that we stopped looking for flowers, of course.
|Purple Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta)|
We returned to the car, cold and with mixed feelings. Our main goal, to observe the spring wildflower spectacle, was definitely met, and overwhelmingly so (and I posted here only a sample: there were many more flowers there!). But it was disappointing not to have reached the Ravine Falls, despite having a map and the coordinates.
As it turned out, we never reached even Beatson Falls. The only fall we've been to was Hollow Fall. Having believed that it was Beatson Falls thew us completely off. A hand-held GPS would have help. But more so would be taking the words of other hikers with a grain of salt, no matter how sure they sounded.
Either way, now we have a good reason to visit there again soon. Although we would probably wait for a rainier year to see the waterfalls flow.
|A patch of color: Poppy, Lupine (both sky and bicolor) and Clover|