Table Mountain Wildflower Hike

Somewhere along the line, I said that I would blog about my hiking adventures and that just never seemed to happen.

While it’s still fresh in my memory, and since I remembered to take some pictures, I’ll talk a little about my hike to Table Mountain in Butte County, CA, near Oroville (yes, the same one with the busted dam).

On Sunday, May 7th, my dad and I had intended to hike the Feather Falls Trail and that just didn’t work out. He was going to bring one of the cars he’s fixing up and the thing didn’t clear half an hour on the road before overheating. He had to drive home to pick up my mom’s car instead to make the trip out.

Due to the lost time, he told me to pick a Plan B Hike that we could make in 4 hours or less.

A couple years back, I very strategically set myself up to win an insulated turquoise Klean Kanteen with multiple lids and a copy of “Hiking Butte County: 35 Great Hikes in and Around Butte County” from a White Elephant gift exchange at a dojo I don’t belong to. Not bad for having brought a jar of homemade kahlua with a hand-written recipe card as my contribution.

Using my copy of this handy little guide, I looked for a trail that was a shorter drive distance from our starting point, a shorter trail, and less of an elevation change. It wouldn’t be nearly as challenging, but we’d be able to finish it in the new time frame.

On page 15, I found Table Mountain Wildflower Hike. A 40 minute drive to the trail head, 3-4 mile hike, 400 ft elevation gain/loss. A clear difference from the 9 mile beast out in the middle of nowhere we had originally planned on.

According to my little guidebook, “The preserve consists of basalt grassland, volcanic outcrops and vernal pools ideal for the thin soils native wildflower thrive on.” The trail was a lot busier than most that I go on with my dad. We tend to do more challenging hikes, so we’re used to a little more solitude.

There were quite a few wildflowers, but we were about a month off of the peak season. Still, the lupines, buckeye, poppies, and other little pops of color I couldn’t identify were lovely. The volcanic outcroppings were gorgeous, though. Science was never really my “thing”, but I’ve always liked geology best of the sciences. The structure and shapes were really fun to observe, if a little precarious to trek over on the edge of a cliff.

The little streams reflecting the brilliant blue sky and intensifying it definitely caught my attention. Signs were out in force asserting to stay out of the water and especially not to drink it, but it was still pretty to look at. It wasn’t hard to see why, as small herds of cows wandered the area freely and would roam and block the paths at their leisure.

The paths could have used more trail markers, as there were well-worn trails in multiple directions until there just weren’t. The main trail we followed fizzled out into a grove of trees. We back-tracked to the wooden steps and took the path toward the creek crossing, but didn’t get very far before some cows with a more aggressive streak prevented further passage. Also, it was difficult to read the main path to get back to the parking area. You’d definitely want to follow it, though. Everywhere else has a really high, muddy water table that sinks you to your knees (guess how I know).

All in all, it was a nice little hike with lots of interesting things to see, even if it wasn’t as physically challenging as what I’m used to. If you plan on going, try to hit it mid-March to mid-April for the best flowers. Stick to the path and stay out of the water.

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