Take a Hike! Spring Nature Hikes Around the North State

This week In a North State Garden has the pleasure of interviewing Scott Huber, Education and Research Coordinator of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves located near Forest Ranch about the reserve’s spring hike series which really brings this large expanse of beautiful natural land to life for the public visitor. Many groups in the North State offer guided hikes in State and National Parks, Forest Service Land, Bureau of Land Management lands and more. There is a lot to be learned and enjoyed in the company of these groups with knowledgeable people leading the way. This week’s essay discusses the BCCER and its spring hike series, as well as lists nature hikes/walks being offered by other groups of interest in the region. Some of the most consistent of these groups include the Shasta Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the CNPS, the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club. With this much opportunity – you have no excuse – get out and take a hike!

Hiking the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves:

Scott Huber likes to declare to most anyone who will listen that he has the best job anywhere. And if you are plant, wildlife or outdoor enthusiast of just about any variety, he indeed has an enviable job as the Education and Research Coordinator for the CSU, Chico’s Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves.

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is a parcel of 4000 acres, owned by the University Research Foundation of CSU, Chico and managed by the university’s Institute for Sustainable Development. The reserve as an entity came into existence in 2000 and 2001 – when a group of organizations and people joined forces to purchase two large private ranches for the purpose of managing the land with preservation, protection, and education in mind.

Cut into the land by the creek over time, Big Chico Creek Canyon is a deep and extravagant crease in the lay of the land to the north and northeast of Chico and to the west of Forest Ranch. It’s topography rises to over 2000 feet and descends to 700 feet. Its habitats include gentle grass and wildflower filled meadows, looking across iconic California oak woodland and lush riparian (riverside) corridors of the canyon floor, at sheer rock walls of the mural-like striated colors of lava, rock and sediment layers laid down over millions of years to form this section of Northern California.

This land is nothing less than epic in its beauty and in the diversity of plants and trees, wildlife and scenery that abound here.

According to the BCCER website the diverse habitats of the reserve support more than 600 plant species and 140 wildlife species. It is just this range of habitats and organisms that makes the reserve a unique and valuable resource for environmental education and research. “Education and research lie at the heart of the land’s purpose and the university’s purpose in stewarding it carefully and thoughtfully,” Jeff Mott, Director of the BBCER has told me in the past.

This dedication to environmental education is embodied in a range of ways, now overseen by Scott Huber, whose position was added to the reserve’s staff in 2011. Regional elementary school students come on intense field trip days each spring and fall with Kids and Creeks (www.kidsandcreeks.org); close to 20 graduate and undergraduate students annually doing advanced research projects on such topics as forensics and bone dispersal of carnivores, to guided hikes offered to the general community throughout the year, to Altacal Audubon (http://www.altacal.org/) bird banding and monitoring ongoing year-round on the property. Some days these activities come together and you have elementary students watching and even assisting Audubon volunteers in their work, or being guided through an academic research project. If you are not an elementary school student, or a researcher, one of the best ways to take in the beauty and educational resources of this unique land is to go out for a hike on your own, or sign up to attend one or more of their annual guided hikes for the public. See below for a full listing of the Spring 2012 hikes.

The BCCER lies within the boundaries of the Big Chico Creek Watershed, which starts at the source of Big Chico Creek 45 miles northeast of the Sacramento River at Colby Mountain not far from Lake Almanor, and so water, the watershed, the water table and our region’s precious aquifers are some of the more complex issues on the minds of the BCCER staff as they consider management and stewardship.

Much of what a team of year-round dedicated volunteers works on is restoring the land to as close to a natural functioning ecosystem as we can get it. Retired Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, Paul Maslin leads this group of volunteers along with Scott Huber and Jeff Mott.

It is a constant balance, trying to improve access to the land but not overdo the pressure on the land from public use and educational programs.

Each year, this year on May 12th, the BCEER holds a fundraiser called Candles in the Canyon – a romantic candle-lit, sit down, catered dinner at the headquarters barn. A band plays and people who support the work of the reserve come together to mingle, hear annual reports on projects and celebrate the season’s accomplishments. All proceeds from Candles in the Canyon go to programming and student research grants funded each year.

For information about BCCER’s ongoing programs and upcoming events for the general public, visit: http://www.csuchico.edu/bccer/

For more information about the Ecological Reserves, on the Spring Hike Series outlined below, to become a volunteer or to attend Candles in the Canyon, contact Scott:

Scott Huber
Education and Research Coordinator
Ecological Reserves
Field Office: (530) 342-1371

Public Offerings on BCCER:

Guided Nature Hikes
Each Spring we offer a series of free, guided hikes open to the public leading groups into Big Chico Creek Canyon. Come hike through the spring colors and pack a lunch to enjoy along the creek. These hikes will vary in difficulty allowing an opportunity for everyone.

Private, Guided Group Hikes
Private group hikes are available by appointment only for group sizes up to 15 people. $200 fee per group for a full day. Contact the Reserve Director Jeff Mott at (530) 898-5010, via e-mail at jmott@csuchico.edu, or contact Outdoor Education Coordinator Scott Huber at whuber@csuchico.edu

Spring Hike Series 2012

April 8, Sunday
Flower Identification Hike (moderate)
Robert Fischer

This hike is meant for the wildflower enthusiast of any skill level. Our goal is to learn a few new foothill plants, take photos, share any knowledge we have on the characteristics that separate our local species, and learn their common or Latin names. We will develop a sharper eye for plants, large and small, and a few of the details that separate them from each other. For further details, such as the on-site meeting spot, call Robert Fischer 343-3620 or write to rdfischer@comcast.net. Bring your favorite identification book and a hand lens if you have one.

April 14, Saturday
Wildflowers, Geology, and Natural History (strenuous)
Dr. Paul Maslin

Dr. Maslin has spent the last twelve years learning, understanding, preserving and restoring the 4,000 acre Reserve and has an intimate familiarity with it’s natural history. Join him for an insightful exploration of the property. This hike is several miles on trails but over some rough terrain. Hikers should be in good physical condition.

April 22, Sunday
Spring Bird I.D. (moderate)
Dawn Garcia

8:30 am-12:30 pm
Join master bird banding expert and Altacal Audubon Society’s Conservation Chair Dawn Garcia on a bird identification walk through the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. Expect to see early arriving migrants like black-headed grosbeak, warbling vireo, Bullock’s oriole and yellow warbler. We’ll meet at the Chico Park-n-Ride (east lot) at 8:30 am and have you back to your vehicle at 12:30 (app.)

April 28, Saturday
Identifying Spring Bird Song (moderate)
Scott Huber

7:00 am – 12:30 pm
Learning to identify bird song will increase your ability to detect the presence of many bird species and greatly enhance your enjoyment of time spent in the outdoors. Scott Huber has led numerous workshops and field trips on western bird song identification, and in addition to pointing out songs, calls and the species they belong to, he will share tips and clues to audio identification. Bring your binoculars – you’ll want to match the visual field marks of the birds you see to their songs! Meet at the Chico Park-n-Ride (east lot) at 7:00 am and be back to your vehicle at 12:30 (app.).

May 5, Saturday
Outdoor Survival Skills 2 (moderate)
Scott Grist

Join Scott Grist for a day of learning ancient wilderness survival techniques as used by the Native Americans of this area. Tracking will be one of the topics covered on this outing, and we will look for animal tracks and scat in order to determine such things as: species, direction traveled, how long ago the tracks were made, gender, age, diet and even the health of the animal. Other topics may include shelter-building, fire-making and edible plants. Scott received a degree in Geology from CSUC and has since been practicing wilderness survival in several different environments across the country.

May 19, Saturday
Soils, Landforms and Vegetation of the BCCER (moderate)
Andrew Conlin, Soil Scientist, Natural Resource Conservation Service

The best way to understand why things live and grow where they do is to understand the soils and landforms beneath them. Andrew Conlin has spent the last 20 years conducting soil surveys of areas including Butte County and Lassen Volcanic National Park and has created the soil map covering the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. Join us to gain a ‘deeper’ understanding of how what you see relates to what’s beneath your feet.

Friday, June 1
BCCER and BCEP Annual Butterfly Survey (moderate)
Dr. Don Miller

Join the fifth annual butterfly survey on Friday, June 1. This event is part of the North American Butterfly Association’s national efforts to collect population trend data. Local expert entomologist Don Miller will lead the trip on the BCCER, and Don Hankins, geological sciences, will coordinate the trip on the BCEP.

Strenuous hikes are full day trips, allowing groups to access the most remote areas of the BCCER and discover the hidden treasures few are able to experience.
Moderate hikes are half day trips, descending into the Canyon on dirt roads and primitive hiking trails concluding with lunch beside Big Chico Creek. Those up for the challenge can hike back to the top after lunch; others may opt for a shuttle ride.

Easy hikes are half day trips, following the gentler contours of the canyon and walk the safest routes of the Reserve, taking time to enjoy the spring time magic.
Meeting Time/Place: All outings will meet at the Chico Park and Ride (eastern-most lot) at 9:00 AM unless otherwise indicated.

Wear/Bring: Everyone should wear sturdy hiking shoes with lugged soles, long-pants, consider a hat or sun-screen and bring a sack lunch and water to enjoy along the hike. Binoculars are helpful on most hikes. Trips are rain or shine, so come prepared!
Maximum of 15 people per hike unless otherwise indicated. Trips are free to the public but charitable donations are gladly accepted. For more information and to sign up call our office at (530) 898-5010. Visit us on our web site at www.csuchico.edu/bccer/

Other upcoming guided hikes around the region:

Shasta Chapter of the CNPS:

April 14
Join Jay & Terri Thesken for an 8- to 9-mile hike to the Yana Trail area of the Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area north of Red Bluff. The bluffs adjacent to the Sacramento River are typically covered with wildflowers at this time of year. This will be a long, all-day hike that requires good hiking boots, water, and lunch. No dogs, please. Space will be limited, so call Jay & Terri at 221-0906 for time, directions, and further information.

April 29
The Davis Gulch Trail is a fairly easy 3.5-mile walk at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, but does have some rough terrain, so some agility is required. The trail starts out under a canopy of canyon live oak and black oak with an understory of snowdrop bush; transitions to bigleaf maple and white alder in a canyon with sword fern, chain fern, bracken fern, and maidenhair fern; climbs through chaparral and a thick grove of Brewer’s oak; and ends in a grove of ponderosa pine. Participants will receive a copy of our ever-increasing plant list for this trail. Meet at Redding City Hall’s south parking lot on Parkview Avenue at 9:30 AM, or at the trailhead at 10 AM. Parking permits are required at the recreation area. No dogs, please. For more information, call David Ledger at 355-8542.

Nature Conservancy at Vina Plains and Dye Creek:

The 37,540-acre Dye Creek Preserve is located near Los Molinos, and the Vina Plains Preserve is a few miles south of Vina. Because the preserves are working cattle ranches, the Conservancy’s semi-annual tours provide the public with an opportunity to view some of the region’s most spectacular landscapes with knowledgeable and entertaining guides, providing insight on many cultural, geological and biological points of interest.

All events are held rain or shine, with the exception of a serious downpour. Sturdy footwear/hiking boots are a requirement. The weather may be hot, or humid and wet, so wear layered clothing and bring waterproof clothing and a hat. Carry plenty of drinking water, and bring a lunch. Please arrive 15 minutes early. Space is limited to 25 persons, so visitors are advised to book early. To book a reservation or receive more information, contact Jackson Shedd of The Nature Conservancy at (530) 588-8013 or jshedd@tnc.org.

Vina Plains — April 14, 10 AM to 12 PM
During the spring the Vina Plains Preserve comes alive with colorful wildflowers, which carpet the grasslands and ring the vernal pools in spectacular bands of color. The pools support many rare, threatened or endangered species and attract a large array of waterfowl and shorebirds that feast on small crustaceans that fill the pools this time of year.

The one-mile hike is relatively flat, but the surface will be uneven and may be wet and slippery in places, depending on the weather. The hike will be led by California Native Plant Society botanists, who are extremely knowledgeable about the flora of the site.

Dye Creek Canyon — April 21, 10 AM to 2 PM
The four- to five-mile hike follows the course of Dye Creek itself, which cuts through a pristine setting of volcanic buttes, hills and extensive blue oak woodlands before flowing into the Sacramento River. Expect spectacular views; spring flowers; and occasional wildlife sightings, such as deer, golden eagles and woodpeckers (binoculars enhance the experience). You’ll also have a rare opportunity to explore a cave thought to be frequented by Ishi, the last survivor of the Yahi Indian Tribe.

Please note: A good level of fitness and agility is required to complete the hike. Hikers will have to traverse a creek and navigate steep, rocky terrain. Dogs are not allowed during these events.

Mt. Lassen Chapter of CNPS:

Nomlaki Trail, Mendocino National Forest. April 15, Sunday. Meet at Chico Park & Ride west parking lot (Hwy 99/32) to leave at 9 am. Leader: Marjorie McNairn, phone: 530-343-2397

Pulga To Mayaro, Feather River. April 29, Sunday. Meet at Chico Park & Ride west parking lot (Hwy 99/32) to leave at 9 am. Leaders: Wes Dempsey, phone: 530-342-2293 and Gerry Ingco, phone: 530-893-5123

The Sierra Club – Shasta Group

April 14, Sat. Clear Creek Day Hike (1A).
Join fellow day hikers for a 5-mile round-trip hike in the Clear Creek Canyon southwest of Redding. This trail walk will explore the history of Clear Creek and its restoration as a major salmon spawning stream. Exercise stations are located frequently along the trail. Duration is 3 hours. Meet 10:00 a.m. at Clear Creek Gorge Trailhead parking area, approx. 5.2 miles west of highway 273. Bring lunch, water, sun hat and appropriate clothes. Contact leader, John 530.243.4124 for car-pooling/information.

May 12, Sat. Whiskeytown, Davis Gulch Hike (1A).
Join fellow walkers for a cool weather stroll along the south side of Whiskeytown Lake. This walk is along an established trail with about 200 feet of elevation change. Length will either be 3.3 or 6.6 miles, depending on weather or group experience. Meet at north side of Whiskeytown Dam at 10:00 a.m. Bring lunch or a snack and water. Duration is 3 hours. Parking permit required. Contact leader, John 530.243.4124, for further information.

The Sierra Club – Yahi Group

Saturday, April 7 – Table Mountain Hike (grade 2, class A) Enjoy the spectacular wildflowers, views and waterfalls on this 6-8 mile hike. Bring plant guide, camera, lunch, water and sturdy footwear. Rain cancels. Meet at Chico Park & Ride at 9 AM or Spring Valley School at 9:30AM. Return time around 4 PM. Leader: Julian, 893-1994

Sunday, April 8 – Dye Creek Preserve Hike (grade 2, class B). Enjoy a natural  Easter on this moderately strenuous 6-7 mile private day hike into the spectacular Dye Creek Preserve Canyon managed by the Nature Conservancy. Dye Creek is a large acreage foothill terrain featuring a variety of wildlife, precipitous cliffs, a Native American village site, cave and Dye Creek itself. We will hike beyond the usual route for a spectacular view of the surrounding area and to visit a historic site. Bring boots, lunch and water. Cost: $2 per person, plus carpool $. Approximately an 80-mile round-trip drive. Meet at Chico Park & Ride at 8 AM. Limited to 20 participants. Bring, lunch, plenty of water and carpool money. Wear layers. Light rain does not cancel. Sign up with leader: Alan, 891-8789 or ajmendoza@prodigy.net.

Saturday, April 14 – Deer Creek Hike (grade 2, class B). Experience the full spring beauty of the Deer Creek trail in a 5-6 mile round-trip hike. Deer Creek in spring offers several small waterfalls as we pass through the newly green buds of Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and incense cedar. Bring lunch, water, carpool $ and a camera. Rain cancels. Meet at Chico Park & Ride at 9AM. Leader: Julian, 893-1994.

Saturday, April 21 – Feather Falls Hike (grade 2, class B) Come enjoy the 6th highest waterfall in the U.S. and the beautifully flowered and shaded, 8-9 mile round trip trail to it. We’ll take the lower trail to the overlook, then go above the falls for lunch by the creek and return via the upper trail. Please wear boots or sturdy hiking shoes and bring lunch, water and carpool $$. Rain cancels. Meet at Chico Park & Ride at 8AM or at the NW corner of the Oroville Wal-Mart parking lot at 8:35AM. Leader: Julian: 893-1994; Asst. Leader: Dave, 566-1500.

Saturday, April 21 – Earth Day in Bidwell Park 1 – 4 PM. Organized by Bidwell Park volunteer coordinator Lise Smith Peters at 896-7831. Call leader or Lise for meeting place and more information. Leader: Carla, 891-6977.

Sunday, April 22 – Thomes Gorge Hike (grade 3, class B). A 10-11 mile hike in the foothills of the Mendocino National Forest following a portion of the historic Nomlaki Trail, featuring views of the Sacramento Valley and descending 1100′ to the deep sparkling pools of Thomes Creek. Wear layers and boots, and bring water, lunch and $ for drivers. Rain cancels. Meet at Chico Park & Ride at 7:30 AM or in Orland at the Burger King restaurant at 8 AM. Return to Chico about 6 PM. Driving distance about 120 miles. Call leaders: Jeanne, 899-9980; Bill, 527-8203; Michelle, 865-9491 for more info.

Sunday, April 29 – Pulga to Mayaro Hike (grade 2, class A). Enjoy pretty views, a waterfall and the remains of an old resort town along the Feather River. This is a loop hike of approximately 7-8 miles. Please wear comfortable walking shoes, bring lunch, water and $ for carpool. Meet at Chico Park N Ride at 8:00a.m. Leader: Kellie, 892-1744; Asst. Leaders: Jeanne, 899-9980; Alan, 891-8789.

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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell

In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.

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