Unexpected Beauty - A
Hike up Lewis Hill
March 3, 2007
If somebody who has never seen Porterville, California goes there and takes a look
around they would see your typical Central Valley agricultural town. Porterville is a small
city of 40,000 people with your typical amenities tucked up against the foothills of the
southern Sierra Nevada. Not much is noteworthy about the town. But much is
noteworthy about those hills.
The hill just to the north of town is known as Lewis Hill. Looking up there from town it
looks sort of greenish-brown with not a tree or significant rock outcropping to be found -
basically just a bald grassy hill. And most people would never ever have the desire to go
explore it. But thanks to the Sequoia Riverlands Trust a portion of this hill is protected
and once a year it is open for the public to explore. That day was yesterday.
Todd dropped me off where the other hikers were congregating and he looked up the
hillside and didn't have much to say. Indeed, even when you are at the foot of Lewis Hill
it still doesn't look like it would be a worthwhile visit. All you see is grass and a few
rocks. Ho hum. But I trust that the preserve was created to protect something
wonderful. And I wasn't disappointed!
The Lewis Hill Preserve protects 110 acres of Lewis Hill as a conservation preserve.
Here there are two very rare flowers including the striped adobe lily (Fritillaria
striata). This flower only grows on a few scattered hills in the area and no where else on
earth. Why? Because it prefers a certain type of soil that comes from a certain type of
rock. Those that are familiar with the Sierra Nevada know that in its central and
southern portions it is mostly granite. Well, Lewis Hill ain't granite. It is made instead
of a mix of dark volcanic and metamorphic rocks. And wherever this rare rock type
occurs in this part of the world you may find this rare lily growing on it in late February
and early March.
The hike along the northern slopes of Lewis Hill isn't too hard but there is no trail and
the terrain is rough and uneven thanks to the numerous huge gopher holes hiding in the
grass so it isn't too easy, either. In about 1/3 mile you will come to some dark rock
outcroppings and it is here where we started to find the adobe lilies along with numerous
other flowers. I can show you how beautiful the lilies are by showing you a photograph,
but oh how I wish I could let you get a whiff of them! They smell heavenly! They are
closely related to the leopard lilies that grow higher in the mountains and like them
exhibit one of the best wildflower smells that I have ever smelled. So be sure if you
ever get a chance to meet this flower to get on your hands and knees and smell them, too
Along with the adobe lilies we saw blue dicks (yes, that's what they're called!), lomatium,
poppies, wild onion, fiddlenecks, popcorn flower, soaproot, and a lone rare white shooting
star. And some very cool rock outcroppings with very colorful lichen. And, oh yeah, the
views of the Sierra Nevada were drop dead gorgeous yesterday!
After walking amongst the wildflower gardens on Lewis Hill for a couple of hours, we all
headed back down. Back down to town with its quaint and not-so-quaint neighborhoods, its
strip malls, its traffic, and its noise. Ho hum.
|The Sequoia National Forest botanist Fletcher Linton
describes the Striped Adobe Lily
|Lichen adorns the rocks on Lewis Hill
|There they are! Striped Adobe Lilies
|Shooting Stars are rarely seen this low
|Lomatium was one of the plants eaten by the Yokuts
|What a beautiful view! Dennison Peak is in the
background left and Moses Mountain on the right
|Looking down across Strathmore, Lindsay, and in the
distance is Rocky Hill, which is another granite hill
|That's Plano Road going down into Porterville - on the
left is a hill composed of granite and dotted with oaks
|The California Poppy, the state flower, grows on
the south side of Lewis Hill