Spring showing its colors during Wildflower Days at Pacheco Park

By Charles Guest / cguest@losbanosenterprise.comApril 12, 2013 

Education, picnics, interpretive exhibits and a nature hike filled the morning for 80 people Saturday at Wildflower Day at Pacheco State Park.

"It was a perfect day," said Jennifer Morgan, a California State Park interpreter. "The weather was beautiful ... but we wish more people would have come to celebrate nature and enjoy the crafts as we celebrated our 12th Wildflower Day."

People will have that chance with nature walks, which continue throughout the month. Each Saturday will feature two hikes. The more strenuous one will leave at 9 a.m. and last from four to seven hours. Shorter, easier treks are scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

The centerpiece of the morning last week was a two-mile hike led by Dave Milam, a retired state park ranger.

Milam discussed the animal and plant life and pointed out the natural benefits and dangers of certain species. He talked about the many species of birds, reptiles, shrubs and trees.

"There's a pretty good variety (of flowers) this time of year," he said. "As the seasons change, the flower species will change as far as what you will find. It's (also) a good birding area."

Ellen Llewellyn of Los Banos said she enjoyed Milam's interpretive hike.

"It was a great experience," said Llewellyn. "It was really informative; they did a great job of explaining not just what the flowers are but also some of the medicinal properties or other uses for the native plants.

Milam directed the hikers to look down into a small valley at what is left of the Pacheco Pass portion of the old Butterfield Stage Coach road. Officially it is known as the Butterfield Overland Mail Trail The route was used to haul mail and passengers from Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis, Mo., to San Francisco between 1857 and 1861.

The hike included a short portion of old Highway 152. The now-crumbling asphalt road, which was in use during the 1920s, is slowly being overtaken by plant life, including large poison oak bushes.

Milam discussed the many iterations the road over Pacheco Pass has gone through before becoming the four-lane highway it is today.

Later, Milam directed the hikers' attention to more modern infrastructure, including a 165 wind turbine farm. Milam explained the turbines produce electrical power, which brings income to the park. He said the largest turbine is more than 300 feet tall and produces enough power for some 300 homes.

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