Saturday, April 13, 2013


While much of the country is just shaking off the mantle of snow and ice that is a rugged winter, out here on the left coast, we are about half way through spring.  An annual trek I take is to visit the display of wildflowers carpeting Table Mountain outside of Oroville in Butte County, California.  I’ve done it on every motorcycle I’ve ever owned beginning with that Honda Trail 90 back in 1970.  And I’m never disappointed.

This day, the road through Cherokee which “backdoors” the flat top of the mountain was dry and clear and travelled by a least a couple of motorcycle clubs as well as a group of vintage British sports car enthusiasts.  While it is said that the journey is as grand as the destination, it’s tough to suggest that the destination itself wasn’t pretty damned grand.

A relatively dry spring has rendered the creeklets across the top of the basalt mesa pretty impotent.  Yet they provide enough sustenance for a nice display of whatever these little white gems are that grow along the banks of the rivulet. 

Exploring the area, I find myself walking on a carpet of clover – clover abloom with dainty pink blossoms.  Each one I want to savor and not step upon.  Each one making me glad I stopped at this popular place to stretch my legs a bit.

Cattle country, this has become, since the gold played out 150 years ago.  Intrepid ranchers attempted to carve up the land by wire-fencing sections planting wooden posts into a basaltic hardpan that must have required dynamite in order to pierce.  Eventually the hand-hewn posts rot and the once-taut wire lies across the top of the mesa.

Underfoot, acres of lupine stretch in all directions.  Where the environment is just so, a cluster of owl clover may rear it’s beautiful head.

Poppies tend to seek the sunnier, drier locations…

…while a Monkey Flower has found a home in the middle of a seasonal stream course.

Atop the dry, chunky basalt, an alligator lizard hopes to be overlooked.

On this April Saturday, flocks of people enjoy this renowned locale.  The further one ventures from the parking area on Old Cherokee Road, the less dense the number of visitors.  Here a hiker and her companion explore a verdant hillside looking so much like someone you might spy in the amongst the heather in some Irish musical.

Through some sort of cooperative venture, the public is allowed to explore this rangeland.  Port-a-Johns are set up at a parking area from which trails branch out in all directions.  But no matter where one hikes, they are always beneath the watchful eye of a bovine sentinel or two.

Table Mountain affords a delightful display of wildflowers as well as a commanding view of the northern portion of the Sacramento Valley.  The best times to visit are from mid-February to mid-April depending on the season’s rainfall.  Folks traveling State Route 70 northeast out of Oroville would do well to plan on an hour’s saddle respite up this way.


Nearby Oregon City Covered Bridge
Today’s Route:  State Route 70 to Oroville; exit Grand Avenue.  East on Grand Avenue; left on Table Mtn. Blvd.  Right on Cherokee Road (a couple of blocks.)  Cherokee Road twists up through basaltic draws.  Six or eight miles on, a parking area is evident.  Return:  Continue on Cherokee Road to the old Cherokee town site – consider taking a stroll through the historic cemetery.  Continue north-northwest to State Route 70.  Left takes you back to Oroville.  Right leads up the incomparable Feather River Canyon to Quincy through the northern-most reaches of the Sierra.

© 2013
Church of the Open Road Press

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