Walking through wildflowers: Sierra Nevada group raises money with hike | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Walking through wildflowers: Sierra Nevada group raises money with hike

Gregory Crofton

The South Fork of the American River flows in the background with native stone crop sprouting from a rock formation.

COLOMA – It was 60 degrees on a Sunday when we set out for Bill Center’s single-story, wood-stained home overlooking 40 acres of pines, oaks and grass.

His back yard dives into a deep canyon that hugs an S-shaped stretch of the South Fork of the American River. Floating in this stretch of the river, about 20 minutes north of Placerville, yellow and red rafts made their way through two sections of white water in the murky green river.

Center, a former El Dorado County supervisor, decided to host a wildflower hike along a trail that zigzags down to the river to raise money for the Sierra Nevada Alliance. The group formed in 1994 and is dedicated to protecting and restoring the natural environment of the mountain range.

The April 10 hike attracted about 30 people – some from Nevada City, some from Garden Valley and others from South Shore. The wildflowers were in bloom, a fleeting situation that lasts until about Memorial Day in the wettest of years.

Brilliant blue lupines overwhelmed the canyon, but orange poppies blazed and in certain areas the cup-shaped flowers outshone the lupines.

“The poppies are starting to peak and go away. The lupine will go as long as we get rain, probably into June,” said Center, a board member of the alliance. “I’ve never seen the grasses green beyond Memorial Day. It turns brown.”

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Tiny white popcorn flowers, clovers blooming red, purple and violet strands of flower and birdseye gilia, delicately pedaled flowers of purple, dark purple and yellow grew among tall grasses.

“I have allergies so I took a pill today,” said Barbara Rivenes, of Nevada City. “But it is so wonderful to be standing in all this. It’s just beautiful.”

Her husband Don kept busy with binoculars. He spotted the orange and black colors of the Northern oriole, a turkey vulture, a red-tailed hawk, an acorn woodpecker and a swarm of swallows diving in and out of an oak.

Back on the grass-matted trail, rock outcroppings covered with brown and green moss, thick ferns and odd flowering plants interrupted the trail every couple of hundred feet. Within more open areas, wild oats swayed with the breeze, their long green stems and black-and-white tips bathed in sunshine.

The hike ended up with a steep climb back to the house. A table set out under a tree next to the driveway offered cookies, apple slices and lemonade. It felt good to get out of the sun.