I really missed those wonderful hikes with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy and when they listed a few of them recently as part of fundraising for land conservation efforts, I jumped at the chance. I had been on several hikes to and up on top of the Table Tops in the spring but never when the wildflowers weren’t the star of the show. One of the offerings was a hike to the top of Table Mountain to investigate the geology and cultural history of the Preserve, learning more about how our unique Table Mountains was formed.
Where: Sierra Foothill Conservancy, Ruth McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve
Distance: About 6 1/2 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 763 – 1,730′
Date: May 16, 2021
Dog Hike? No, dogs not allowed on Sierra Foothill Conservancy Ruth McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve
Our group met up with the docents at the entrance to the Ruth McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve. From the junction of Millerton and Auberry Road, I headed up Auberry Road about three miles, driving in the gated entrance on the left to the Sierra Foothill Conservancy property. These preserves are only available to be accessed through their scheduled hikes, classes and open preserve days. They are very special places with sensitive environments, some set aside for specific endangered species, while some are donated by landowners who want to see the land cared for and protected forever. A link to their website with their event calendar is at the end of this blog.
The Sierra Foothill Conservancy is the proud owner of nine nature preserves, totaling 50,180 acres preserved. My hike today was on the 2,960 acre Ruth McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve, which was acquired in trust from The Nature Conservancy in 1998. The property had previously been placed in a trust by its owner, Ruth Bea McKenzie, who wanted it to remain in ranching and open space after her death. The McKenzie Preserve is primarily grassland and oak woodland that slopes upward toward the basalt lava table lands that give the preserve its name.
Our docents on this adventure were Geologist and SFC Board Member, Craig Poole, and Archaeologist Sara Barnett. It started with a little walk up the road and along the way looking at granite, learning more about how it is formed.
Geologist Craig Poole demonstrated how lava flowed down an ancient stream, eroding the land below and adjacent to it over time, to create what we now call the Table Tops east of Fresno and I captured a video.
As we looked up at the Table Top, we imagined how this was done and looked closer at what remained of this ancient lava flow from an unknown volcano.
As we wandered up, we stopped at areas where Native American had lived. Grinding holes still remain where they prepared food.
We headed out and up toward the Table Top, being extra watchful of rattlesnakes. Increasing clouds created an ever changing view as we climbed.
We all found good spots to sit down, admire the view and eat lunch.
It was soon time for us to head down.
And, we didn’t see a single rattlesnake on our hike. . . but I bet some saw us!
As COVID restrictions ease up, there will more options for going on one of these guided hikes on the Sierra Conservancy land or easement. You can find these choices on their website linked at the end of this blog. You can sign up online and if you are a member, there is no cost. Don’t worry if you are not a member though because the cost is minimal, $10 for a hike. The funds go to a wonderful cause, protecting our foothill lands. They also have some Open Preserve Days which there is no charge to attend.
These preserves are only available to be accessed through their scheduled hikes, classes and open preserve days. They are very special places with sensitive environments, some set aside for specific endangered species, while some are donated by landowners who want to see the land cared for and protected forever. The hikes and classes are led by a very dedicated group of volunteers who are passionate about sharing the wonder of nature with visiting hikers. As they lead groups on the various properties, they share aspects of cultural history, habitat features, and facts associated with the specific property visited. Each of these dedicated hiking docents have varying backgrounds, lending expertise in a variety of areas.
Dog Hike? No
Sierra Foothill Conservancy Dog Policy: In order to protect endangered species and sensitive habitat, only service dogs are allowed on the preserves, with the exception of the Stockton Creek Preserve in Mariposa where dogs are welcome at any time.
Prior Blogs in the Area: