Despite their hard-bitten reputation, the Red Hills show their hospitable side to hikers willing to overlook their superficial scruffiness, and to learn how both their history and vegetation have evolved into something truly special. Covered in chaparral, the Red Hills stand in stark contrast to the lush ranchlands that surround them. From a distance, they look to be upholstered in threadbare corduroy. The hills are composed of serpentine, the California state mineral, a rock (and soil) that is toxic to most plants, save for a few specially evolved species. Because of its inhospitable soil, the Red Hills have always been considered marginal land. To the Miwok, they were desolate of the oaks and game that supplied their food. Gold miners found but paltry pickings here, leaving behind disgruntled names like Sixbit Gulch, Hungry Hill, and Poor Mans Gulch.
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