One of the most popular spring hikes in Yolo County is a trail that starts near the base of Monticello Dam, on Putah Creek. It enters the Stebbins Cold Canyon Preserve (managed by the University of California) and offers the choice of a zig-zag route up to Blue Ridge, a straighter path along the creek, or a loop that encompasses both trails. Last weekend, to brush up on some Coast Range botany and get some exercise, I hiked to the crest of Blue Ridge (1,240 feet in 2.0 miles on a very good trail).
Near the start of the trail, if the water isn’t too high, the safest way to cross Highway 128 is to go under it, through one of two large culverts.
Much of Cold Canyon burned in the Wragg Fire of late July, 2015. Many trees in the area are still blackened skeletons.
But the vegetation here evolved with fire and is well adapted to recover quickly, especially after a winter with well-above-average rainfall. The shrubs will take some years to regrow, and the trees will take longer, but the herbaceous plants are now well-fed, well-watered, and freed from much competition and shading, so their growth is exuberant!
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)
Tomcat clover (Trifolium willdenovii)
Purple nightshade (Solanum xanti)
Woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum var. achillaeoides)
Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum)
Golden fairy lantern (Calochortus amabilis)
A pleasant view of Lake Berryessa from the crest of the ridge. The reservoir is completely full now and draining through its spillway. Typically, there’s a barren drawdown zone visible above the water.
Looking north along the ridge. That gap in the middle distance is the narrowest part of Putah Creek canyon—and the location of Monticello Dam.
Looking north along the ridge.
Western morning glory (Calystegia occidentalis subsp. occidentalis)
Looking south along Blue Ridge Trail.
Looking into Cold Canyon from Blue Ridge.
It seems remarkable to find a fern (Polypodium californicum), sheltered under rocks on the very crest of this ridge — a place that is extremely hot and dry all through the summer and fall.
Large lace parsnip (Lomatium macrocarpum)
And finally, an unusually robust, net-like dodder (Cuscuta sp.) entwined among plants, right along the trail . . . .