Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wildflowers of Ojai's Ilvento Preserve

Img52.pngLast month, The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy guided a private hike on the Ilvento Preserve in Ojai, providing hikers with a once a year opportunity to experience the 80-acre property.  I heard about the hike from Rich Handley, Preserve Manager for the OVLC, the nonprofit which owns and manages the property, and decided it was time to get some fresh dirt on my boots.

We made our way to the trailhead which abuts Thacher School just east of the Horn Canyon trailhead at the east end of the Ojai Valley.  About 20 hikers joined the 2-mile trek, with notebooks and pencils at the ready to record wildflower sightings.  The preserves chaparral ridge, known for its dramatic topographical relief, plant diversity and important wildlife corridors, was deeded over to the OVLC by the Ilvento Family in 1997 and became the Conservancy’s first successful land acquisition.  Rich served as our guide and plant expert for the 2-hour botanical expedition.

Though 80% of the preserve was burned in a wildfire in 1999, its recovery has been steady and strong, yielding tremendous spring color and lush green plant life.  Rich pointed out many of the property’s 150 plant species, most of which were in full bloom.  Among the wildflower sightings were: Sticky Monkey Flower, Fiesta Flowers, Chinese Houses, Blue Larkspur, Hummingbird Sage, Wild Peony and Wild Hyacinth.

We marched our way single-file up the narrow trail and soon reached the high point of the Ilvento at 2,024 feet.  We took a moment to take in panoramic views down the valley to Lake Casitas and up to the Topa Topa Mountain and Chief Peak.  Rich pointed out the important geological features of the preserve and its surroundings using an old, but still relevant, Thomas Dibley map.

As we made our ascent, many of us had to stop to flick and swat away dozens of heat-seeking ticks!  It seems that recent rains provided a perfect breeding environment for the little buggers.  Having forgotten one of the cardinal rules of hiking by not dousing ourselves in DEET, we found it necessary to perform an on the spot de-lousing.  Fortunately, no one got bitten, but we all vowed to remember the bug spray next time.

With notebooks filled with flora findings, the wildflower seekers concluded the hike more than satisfied.

The OVLC conducts a series of free guided hikes on their properties, sometimes providing access to areas you normally can’t get to.  Hikes focusing on plant and bird life are offered on a regular basis, and self-guided enthusiasts on horseback or bicycle will also find excellent trails.  For more information on the OVLC or to find out about their guided hikes, check-out their website at for dates, times and reservation information.

Published April 2006 in the Sierra Club's Condor Call.