Place: The Brockman Property at the Sutter Buttes, Yuba City, California
Length: about 6.5 miles in and out
Every time I drive on highway 5 past Colusa I see in on the east: the cluster of toothy, rugged peaks, distinctly separate from the Sierra Nevada range, standing alone and aloof in the middle if the otherwise completely flat California Central Valley. These are the Sutter Buttes.
They look very enticing and I wanted to hike them from the first time I saw them. When I looked at the map, however, I saw that their location wasn't adorned with any park-marking green. On one of my stays in the area I asked about them and was told flatly that all the Sutter Buttes were private property and off limits to the general public. Driving around the buttes confirmed this as all the possible access ways were clearly marked as such.
I was disheartened. Every time I drove by I looked at the buttes wistfully. After several years if yearning I decided to find a way to hike there, even if that meant striking some sort of a deal with the property owners.
As it turned out, this was already done before me. I was happy to find out about the Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes (MMIH) organization, that lead guided group hikes in the Sutter Buttes. Four of the land owners have generously opened up their land to these hikes. By signing in advance and paying a fee (all easement fees, the guides are volunteers) one can actually hike the Sutter Buttes! Now it was just a matter of taking the right opportunity.
|The Sutter Buttes, viewed from Gray Lodge Wildlife Area (looking southeast)|
I was determined not to let two more years pass before booking again a hike at the Sutter Buttes so I left an open weekend in my quick-filling schedule and as soon as the MMIH spring hikes were posted I booked us a hike and crossed my fingers, and my toes.
On the morning of March 16, despite concerns over the elder chika's foot which was bothering her, we came to the Sutter Memorial Museum in Yuba City to meet our guides and the group we were to hike with. Following the check-in and a short introduction we got in the cars and drove in a convoy to the trailhead.
|At the Brockman Canyon Trailhead|
It didn't look like there were any wildflowers at first, but as we stepped on the grass I could see there plenty of little popcorn flowers.
|Slender Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys tenellus|
That area's Native people are of the Maidu Nation, the southern neighbors of the Yana, whose tragic history I first became aware of through the personal story of Ishi, the last of the wild California native people. The Maidu believe that the spirits of their dead are taken by wildlife up the buttes to their resting place. The Sutter Buttes are therefore a sacred place for them. Common folks, said our guide, are not supposed to go up there, only highly spiritual people. I don't consider myself a very spiritual person but I could certainly feel the majestic air of this place.
|Indian Grinding Rock|
|Walt Anderson's Cabin|
For now, though, the happy sound of running water filed the air and the sparkling flow dazzled the eyes.
Other sounds filled the air as well: birds were everywhere, sounding their spring songs. Pappa Quail and the elder chika found a bluebird high above them sitting in a mistletoe-burdened oak.
Now that we left the farmed area behind I started seeing more wildflowers. One common sight was the bloom of the blue dicks.
|Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum|
|California Man-root, Marah fabacea|
We paused a little after the last creek crossing to drink and take a breather before the real ascend begun. The elder chika used the time to sight and photograph a kinglet.
|Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia|
Besides, the vegetation there resembled much that of the East Bay Hills, all the way from oak to poison oak. I felt right at home.
|Bicolor Lupine, Lupinus bicolor|
Looking back we were able to appreciate how high we climbed so quickly. the valley appeared quite a distance below. We were in a different world now.
Whenever I managed to tear my gaze away from the magnificent view of the butte peaks it was to look down at the little, colorful wildflowers.
|Bird's Eyes, Gilia tricolor|
Everywhere around us the hard, angular rocks contrasted with the rounded slopes of grass-covered topsoil. It was a beautiful, wild scene.
The sheer rocks are home to white-throated swift and Pappa Quail managed to get one on camera, which is quite an achievement, considering how swift are the swift in flight.
|Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesii|
|California Saxifrage, Micranthes californica|
The air was dirty and visibility awful. Straining my eyes I could barely see the outline of a ghostly white bump on the horizon.
As with Shasta, I prompted Pappa Quail to get a zoomed image of the snowy peak and later cleared up the image to reveal that beautiful volcanic complex.
|Lassen Volcanic National Park|
|View Northwest from Brockman Ridge|
|The Sacramento River Bypass|
This winter California is officially out of the drought period. The reservoirs are full and the bypass is overflowing. The Sierra Nevada has the thickest snow pack seen in many years and there's more precipitation in the forecast. South Cal is experiencing an amazing superbloom which I am thoroughly missing this year. I can only hope that the wildflower show will be as magnificent here in North Cal when it peaks next month.
|The Sacramento River Bypass|
|Slender tropidocarpum, Tropidocarpum gracile|
|Fiddleneck, Amsinckia sp.|
|The Coastal Range and Snow Mountain|
|California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica|
|California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica|
|Miner's Lettuce, Clayton perfoliata|
Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes and the generous land owners who allow access to their property that make possible to explore this most fascinating landmark. Many thanks to Alison, Joaquin, Julie, and Paul, who led us on this wonderful hike!
Here's the link to Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes website.