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Sutter Buttes: Walking through nature's smallest mountain range
Every morning, Karen Neilsen wakes up to see the sunrise illuminate the Sutter Buttes from her Yuba City home. The view she gets from the valley floor is something she cherishes daily.
But for Nielsen, who has hiked in many Northern California trails, being able to walk in the midst of the "world's smallest mountain range" is an even greater privilege.
"It's such a unique opportunity," said Neilsen, referencing the limited number of people the Middle Mountain Foundation is able to take on hikes through the distinctive terrain. The foundation has agreements with private landowners to allow for guided trips on their property.
Last Saturday, about a dozen hikers led by Joe Reusser, began a ridge ascent of Bragg Canyon. Starting at an elevation of 235 feet, the group walked along fire service roads, ascending 1,300 feet after walking just a mile and a half past bay leaf trees and plenty of blue oak woodlands.
Reusser, a native of Browns Valley, had never visited the Buttes before he retired and went on a hike to North Butte on New Year's Day 2006. Since then, he has worked as a guide.
"It's such a unique feature of the Central Valley. There's nothing like it," said Resusser, who stresses the need for providing public education for preservation of the area.
As the trek continued, a handful of the hikers used old ski poles as walking sticks as the party pressed up a steep hillside, giving way to views of the valley covered in patches of fog.
The group continued past a herd of cows and rock formations to their destination at 1,750 feet near the geographic center of the Buttes. Over lunch, the group basked in views of South Butte, West Butte, Twin Peaks and Goat Rock just to name a few of the sights from the ridge.
"It's probably one of the most challenging hikes locally," noted Neilsen, as she headed down with the others from the height, passing two reservoirs, manzanita trees, and for a time, walking along an old wagon road which connected Colusa and Marysville.
After walking just over 51⁄2 miles, the journey was complete. With legs exhausted but faces smiling, each hiker remarked on how stunning of a day it was to be in the Sutter Buttes.
"I love getting out and going outdoors," Neilsen said.