rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Halfway between here and Sacramento, rising from the flat floor of the central valley is a round range of low mountains, ten miles across. They can be seen from a great distance, and are one of the most dramatic sights in California. They are called Sutter Buttes, and are classified by geologists as the world's smallest mountain range. The remnants of an extinct volcano, they are one of the most ancient pieces of land in the state.

The state would like to turn this unique environment into a park, but, for the time being, it remains in the hands of about a dozen private owners who use it primarily for cattle ranching. There are a few paved roads running through the area, and, for the physically fit, interpretive hikes to some of the more remote parts of the buttes are available in spring and fall. It is one of the places I would most like to visit. Driving down the ridge on a clear day, I see them rumpling the southern horizon. In their splendid isolation, they remind me of those volcanic islands in the South Pacific.

For now, I can only get a close view of the buttes from photographs. There is a small collection at the web site of The Middle Mountain Foundation, which show the grassy fields, oak studded valleys and rocky outcrops which are so characteristically Californian, yet strange, as this land reveals its age in this region of much younger landforms. The native tribes of the area, not surprisingly, considered the buttes particularly sacred, as a place of great power. This remarkable bit of geography continues to provoke that feeling today.

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