Anxiously waiting for spring in the mountains

Is it spring? I hold my breath. I walked
around the backyard today to assess the
flowerbeds and grounds. The snow has
melted and the sun is warm, but I know the
weather can take a turn. Checking the
extended forecast I discover storms are
predicted. So I will wait a bit before working
on the yard.
I remember the warnings longtime
residents gave when I first moved from the
valley into the mountains. They told me
about freshly planted flowerbeds devastated
by a frost in June. They said it could actually
snow any month of the year.
In the foothills, flowers are blooming. I
take a look at an article I wrote last year
about wildflower blooms in the Lassen
National Forest. I am reminded of the advice
given by Kirsten Bovee, assistant forest
botanist with the U.S. Forest Service, and my
source for the article.
“To maximize your wildflower viewing,
follow an elevational gradient. Start at lower
elevations and move up along the gradient as
the season progresses, she advised.
She said April is a good time to experience
foothill vegetation. Her recommendation was
Deer Creek Trail located on Highway 32 just
south of Potato Patch Campground. On a
recent trip to Chico I looked for the trailhead
and found it near a bridge that passed over
the creek. There’s parking on the east side of
the highway. I plan to make that
recommended hike this April where there
are promises of western redbud, pacific
dogwood, yellow star-tulip, scarlet fritillary
and wild ginger.
In early May she recommended a trail off
Highway 36 before Paynes Creek at the
gateway to the Ishi Wilderness where there is
access to vernal pool vegetation and oak
woodland. Bovee said the site was High
Trestle Trail/Hogsback Road. She said there
are all sorts of spring ephemerals, which are
annual species that respond to spring rains.
Also, goldfields and meadowfoam blanket
the ground.
Another location that is not too far is
North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.
Just north of Oroville, this reserve is open
dawn to dusk. I went a few years ago to the
site where streams flow through fields of
wildflowers. April is an ideal month to visit.
Perhaps I am attracted to “wildflower
walks” because I would take them with my
grandmother as a child. I lived out in the
country in a place called “Latrobe,” which
was surrounded by grazing land for both
sheep and cattle. When she came to visit we
would walk and look at the various types of
flowers growing along the route we took. My
sisters, brother and I knew the local names
for the flowers and she liked to hear what we
called them. They were “scrambled eggs,”
“popcorn” and “itchy britches.”
The love of walking landscapes was
something she had acquired as a child and
was passing on to the next generation. She
walked the English countryside with her
father and brothers and sisters. Her father,
J.C. Morley, would take along his art supplies
to paint or sketch for he made his living as
an artist.
I suppose chasing after fields of
wildflowers is “in my blood.” So until the
spring flowers bloom in the higher elevations
(and in my garden), I will seek them out and
plan wildflower walks.