Go on a Wildflower Hike
And Sonoma County Regional Parks has a strong lineup of hikes coming up at parks known for their wildflowers, including Sonoma Valley Regional Park (3/21), Foothill Regional Park (3/28), Crane Creek Regional Park (4/4), Steelhead Beach Regional Park (4/11), Shiloh Ranch Regional park (4/18), and Riverfront Regional Park (4/25). All hikes are on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Learn the details here.
On Sunday, March 15, I joined about a dozen hikers for a cross-country hike on 60-acres of privately-owned property in Sonoma Valley. Essential riparian habitat, the land has been protected as a conservation easement since 2002 by the Sonoma Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
This stunning property protects ancient lava flows, which, in some locations, seem to form walls and rooms. Agua Caliente Creek was running, big broad meadows were filled with wildflowers, and beautiful pipevine swallowtail butterflies fluttered about. As we moved uphill the views became expansive and far-reaching, always dominated by the surrounding Mayacamas Mountains.
The 3-hour hike, open to the public, was sponsored by Sonoma Ecology Center; it was led by the organization’s Executive Director, Richard Dale, and was the first public outing on this untouched land. There were no trails, so we made our way carefully through high spring grasses, scampered over and across lava boulders, and jumped from rock to rock to fjord streams.
It was slow going, but adventurous and lots of fun. At one point we startled a wild turkey, which took off in an awkward but very speedy run straight down a slope and into a wood copse. A deer that didn’t see us coming until we drew close made a swift getaway with a series of forward-moving leaps into the air—something akin to a four-footed pogo stick.
“Biodiversity in California is impressive,” Dale said. “Pulitzer-winning Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson considers a handful of places on earth to be ecological ‘hot spots,’ places where, were we to conserve them, we'd save the lion's share of all species found on Earth. The California Floristic Province, stretching roughly from Northern California into Baja California, is one of these biodiversity hotspots.”
Dale adds that Sonoma County’s biodiversity is extremely rich, thanks to its complex geology and its setting on the Pacific Coast and San Francisco Bay where many types of habitat exist, such as “redwood, fir, mixed-hardwood, and other forests; oak woodlands and savannas; coastal prairie and other grasslands; serpentine; chaparral; freshwater, saltwater, and riverine wetlands; to mention a few—this place is packed full of unique habitats in a small space.”
Sonoma Ecology Center's initial estimate of local species indicate that as much as 20-25 percent of California's biodiversity can be found in Sonoma Valley alone. “For this reason,” Dale says, “it is critically important for all of us lucky enough to live and visit here, to take care of this place for the future.”
While another hike on this particular piece of land isn’t scheduled at this time, Sonoma Ecology Center regularly offers hikes in Sonoma Valley. In April the Center has scheduled five separate dates (April 1, 4, 8, 11 and 22) for hikes through the privately-owned Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve. The hikes are free, but reservations are required. Visit sonomaecologycenter.org for details and registration.