CA – Klamath National Forest, Kangaroo Lake Botanical Area (June 2021)

The Klamath National Forest is home to many rare and endemic species. As such they have several botanical areas which have been protected (link) including the Kangaroo Lake Botanical Area. “A 430 acre site located on the southeast edge of the Salmon/Scott River Ranger District  (T40N, R7W, SEC 14).  The area varies in elevation from 6000′ to 6857′.  It provides a diversity of plant habitats ranging from wet seeps and meadows to rock walls. The high level of habitat diversity is associated with a correspondingly high botanical species diversity. Sensitive plant species present include Phacelia dalesiana and Epilobium siskiyouense.” Source: Klamath NF

I have fond memories of Kangaroo Lake from my childhood when we camped nearby, and my dad spent hours fly fishing.

On this day though we were out to explore the Fen Nature Trail, a word that only came to my attention over the past few years.

We found plenty of fens with Darlingtonia californica aka Cobra Lilies or California Pitcher Plants.

We were hoping to find the rare Scott Mountain Phacelia, which I’d been lucky enough to stumble across unexpectedly a few weeks earlier at a different location (link).

Are you hiding down here?

How about here?

Success!

Calochortus elegans aka Elegant star tulip and Northwestern mariposa lily

Calochortus nudus aka Naked Mariposa Lily

Owl’s Clover with bug for extra credit.

Allium (onion) but not the rare one.

Sedum (aka Dr. Seuss trees)

Buckwheat, but not the rare species.

Blue Flax

Penstemon newberryi

Bladderpods

Intense butterfly or moth mating.

We enjoyed several views of Kangaroo Lake and distant views of three other listed botanical areas including China Peak, South China Peak and Cory Peak. Someday I’ll make it a priority to spend a day botanizing in those areas as well.

We hiked the trail to where it connected with the PCT. Our trip was less than 3.5 miles and about 750′ of elevation gain/loss.

Bonus: roadside botany on our drive to the trailhead

When I spied a group of rare California Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium californicum), I was giddy. They were freshly washed after a little overnight rain.

Apocynum andrsameifolium aka Dogbane

Shasta Leopard Lily

Sidalcea, Checkerbloom.

Rhododendron occidentale aka Wester azalea

Showy Milkweed (creative edit)

My botany fieldtrips have been such a fun rehab diversion. It’s highly unlikely in “normal” times I would have taken a day to drive 3-4 hours to spend 5 hours hiking 3.5 miles, followed by another 3 hours of driving. It was a wonderfully long 12-hour day filled with friendship, education, photography and visual delights.

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Paradise Meadows (June 2021)

What happens when you don’t use your resources like maps and books to plan a trip? Well you might end up making it harder than necessary. This wasn’t my first time to visit Paradise Meadows which is connected by two trailheads. The Hat Lake trailhead starts at 6,400′ while the Terrace Lake trailhead starts at 8,000′. Paradise Meadows sits about 7,000′. For me I’d rather hike the uphill on the way than in reverse. So you can guess the “mistake” I made on this day.

If I wasn’t still recovering from knee surgery and feeling tubby and out of shape, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.

According to my guidebook, “Paradise Meadow(s) is one of the supreme wildflower gardens in the park. . . . ablaze with color from a host of wildflowers, which typically reach the height of bloom from late July to early August.” Once again a little advance reading might have been helpful because this is the meadow I found in mid June.

I found a few blooms like these bright paintbrush.

The bees were quite happy.

Bog orchid and paintbrush.

I found purple and white varieties of monk’s hood.

Monkeyflower

I’m going to call this the highlight of my day as I don’t think I’ve seen previously. According to my Seek app, this is California Jacob’s Ladder aka Sky Pilot, Polemonium californicum.

Notice the bee flying away in previous shot.

Look at those details.

Just above Paradise Meadow is this view of Badger Mountain, West Prospect Peak and Prospect Peak.

You also get some different views of Lassen Peak along the upper trail.

Reading Peak is also visible.

Lupine was the predominant bloom along the trail.

I believe this is Cobwebby paintbrush.

I was grateful for these snow patches as I got quite warm ascending those 1,000 feet in less than 2 miles.

A friend shared photos she took on her recent jaunt so I was expecting to find the same. I was a little disappointed in my finds, but looking back at photos I feel more accomplished.

Nevertheless I decided to stop at King’s Creek Picnic area to explore the wet areas near the creek. I was pleased to find a nice collection of fawn lilies, even if they were at end of life.

There were mass displays of mountain heather.

First of the season Lassen Paintbrush, Castilleja lassenensis. This was the only group I saw blooming.

Just remember pick your poison. If you prefer hiking uphill first then use the Hat Lake trailhead; if down first is your preference then start at the Terrace Lake trailhead. The bonus is a stop at the end for a swim in Terrace or Shadow Lakes. As for Hat Lake, it’s just a mirage of days gone by and you’ll be disappointed if you count on that option for an end-of-hike swim. Of course for those a bit more ambitious I recommend starting at the Hat Lake trailhead, visiting Paradise Meadows and then at least Terrace and Shadow Lakes before reversing direction or coordinating with a second vehicle.

Other nearby jaunts:

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Manzanita Creek Trail (June 2021)

We were in the midst of a heat wave. At 5am it was 77 at my house; by the end of the day it would be 110 or more. I opened my weather app to find which nearby areas were at the lowest temperature and North Lassen was the winner at 49F. I’d been wanting to hike the Manzanita Creek Trail so I assumed I’d spend the day frolicking in the creek. It was 56 degrees when I arrived at 8am.

I found myself gradually ascending through a forest. It was quiet except for the birds. The terrain was mostly a forgiving sand that was easy to walk through. I met two backpackers coming in from a night in the park where they said they enjoyed cooler temperatures. I also crossed paths with a runner. Otherwise it was just me and a few blooms like this lupine.

I found one patch of snow. Funny it was on the trail and no where else to be seen except high on the mountain.

The first signs of Manzanita Creek is at about the halfway point. With this culvert bridge you won’t get your feet wet.

From this point on the trail parallels the creek but access is limited except at a couple places and near the terminus of the trail where creeks merge and it becomes marshy. It’s here you’ll find the best blooms like these elephant head orchids and marsh marigolds, both a bit past peak bloom.

Wandering around I found the prize of my trip, Monk’s hood, Aconitum columbianum. I believe the speckles are pollen.

Thankfully there were few bugs as I wandered through the secret gardens. I’m sure this can be a mosquito’s paradise.

I found tiny white violas.

Stickweed, Forget Me Nots.

The shooting stars buds were ready to burst.

Most of the aster were at the pre-bloom stage as well. In another week or two they’ll be peak. The thing I love about asters is they are one of the longest living blooms.

Pussypaws.

Loomis Peak is the only mountain offering clear views. If the meadow wasn’t so boggy I might have wandered further to see if I could get a better look at Crescent Cliff. According to my guidebook, most of the Manzanita Creek Trail use to be a road where travelers could reach a trail/path to summit Lassen Peak from the north rather than the south as it’s currently designed. “In 1925, Benjamin Loomis, an early settler whose photographic record of Lassen Peak’s eruptions is on display at the Loomis Museum, and a crew built a narrow road, which the trail initially follows, to the base of Crescent Cliff. From there, a 2-mile, 3000-foot trail climbed to the summit of Lassen Peak. That trail, which averaged a 30 percent grade and was twice as long as the current Lassen Peak Trail, fell into disuse after the completion of the modern-day route to the top in the 1930’s.” Source: Lassen Volcanic National Park, A Complete Hiker’s Guide.

As the day warmed, I was grateful for the water crossings and really enjoyed seeing all the plant life growing out of old logs and other debris.

I crossed paths with a few others on my return trip. The trailhead is near a very busy campground so I was surprised it had such low use. I guess because it doesn’t offer any WOW factors. No lakes, waterfalls or views. When I returned home and looked at the book it says “few seem to tread this trail up the canyon of Manzanita Creek . . .” Well lucky me, just the way I like it! I was also surprised at how much easier this trail was than my previous jaunt to Mill Creek Falls (link) which was less miles and elevation, but this 7.5 mile 1100′ elevation gain/loss was just right for my current level of knee surgery rehab fitness.

What better reward than a little soak in Manzanita Lake with this grand view of Mt Lassen? Oh and the temperature at my car was 85F at 2:30pm.

Other jaunts at Lassen Volcanic National Park:

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mill Creek Falls (June 2021)

There are still trails in Lassen I haven’t hiked, including this one to Mill Creeks Falls. When a friend called with an invite I said YES!

I’d seen photos of the falls before and knew they weren’t WOWtastic but I figured with it being early season, they’d be at peak. What I wasn’t expected was to find peak blooms of Woolly mule’s ears and Arrow leaved balsamroot.

I have a hard time telling them apart in photos. In person I know the mule’s ears have soft and fuzzy leaves. My botany friend told me these in the photo below are Arrow leaved balsamroot.

Bleeding hearts and stickweed (NOT hounds tongue as I incorrectly assumed) were also in abundance.

California Stickweed (Hackelia californica). There was a lot. Initially I thought it was popcorn flower but looking closer I was sure it was the white version of hounds tongue. But I was wrong on that count also.

First view of Mill Creek Falls with a little paintbrush in the foreground.

Mill Creek Falls, much more impressive in person than this photo shows. According to my guidebook “this is a 75-foot drop and it’s the tallest in Lassen Park. It consists of 3 separate falls: East Sulphur Creek and Bumpass Creek tumble 25-30′ into a swirling pool before their combined waters plunge another 50′ to the base of Mill Creek Falls.”

We found a nice shady area next to the creek to cool off and enjoy lunch before working out way back to the trailhead. There are only about 3-4 areas along the trail with water access. The yellow blooms tried to steal the show.

Wooly Mules Ears with Brokeoff Mountain and I believe Mt Diller.

Nothing FLAT about this trail. You can see on the profile those steep areas that were super challenging for me at this point in my rehab. It was hard to believe the hike was less than 4 miles and less than 700 feet of elevation gain/loss. I’d always had this on my EASY list thus mostly avoiding it. I found out upon returning home it’s really considered moderate because of the incline and rocky terrain. For those looking for a bigger challenge or who have two vehicles to shuttle, the trail continues another 3.5 miles to Kings Creek Picnic Area. The bonus is seeing Cold Boiling and Crumbaugh Lakes as well as Conard Meadows.

Other jaunts at Lassen Volcanic National Park:

CA – Lassen NF, Twin Bridges Trailhead, PCT South (June 2021)

It was the dog’s turn. Our last few hikes were in Lassen Volcanic National Park where dogs aren’t permitted so we agreed to choose a dog-friendly trail on this day. The day started with a little surprise. It had been unseasonably hot and while we knew we were in for a break, we weren’t prepared to find snow on the pass as we drove toward the trailhead.

It seemed only appropriate that the first thing we saw was the largest snow plants I’ve ever seen. These registered 17″ using my hiking poles for perspective.

Upon closer inspection I thought they were the candycane or sugar stick variety. But alas just a striped variant.

I was hoping I’d find full fruit aka seed pods, but not quite yet.

One of the cool finds of the day. California Ground-cones just emerging. They are part of the broomrape family.

Views from our turnaround spot. What once was a forest of trees is now manzanita due to fire.

This section of the PCT will have to await until another day. It’s another 1.5 miles and 700′ to the Lassen Park boundary from here. We brought treats for PCT hikers but only met one. We heard there was another who passed through just before we arrived at the trailhead. Cool fact, this was where I provided my first trail magic way back in 2010ish.

We had views of Lassen Peak from our lunch spot. A colorful bird we both thought was a Tanager entertained us. My local birding friend confirmed they do visit Lassen. Cool!

Death camas.

I’ll just call it a lovely Lassen sunflower.

Wallflower

This section of the PCT parallels lovely Hat Creek, offering many opportunity to cool off or sit for spell.

It was a great day! I hiked 7.25 miles with nearly 800′ elevation gain/loss. My knee rehab is continuing to progress nicely. I can’t wait until I can hike for hours and hours but until then I’ll continue to focus on WHAT I CAN DO!

Other jaunts in Lassen National Forest:

CA – Trinity Alps, Stoney Ridge Trailhead (June 2021)

I can’t think of one trail in the Trinity Alps graded easy, so during my knee rehab it’s an area I’ve avoided. In general trails are rocky with plenty of climbing. The rewards are worthwhile but you work for the prize. However my botany friend invited me for a short wander along one of my favorite sections. She knows my limitations and is happy to share a few hours.

The yellow lupine were the stars of the day with an occasional iris to share the limelight.

I discovered the phantom orchids last year, I believe along this very trail, after being introduced to this species by my botany friend.

I was also introduced to the coralroot orchids last year. They were just beginning to bloom on this day.

Another favorite is the California Pitcher Plant aka Cobra Lily.

Rush Lily

Dr Suess-ish sunflower

Blue-eyed grass

Columbine

I love the variegated leaves on the not-yet-blooming Pyrola crypta, Cryptic wintergreen.

These Green-Gentian were just starting to bloom.

This bee was gobbling up the pollen. It was so loaded I don’t think it could have flown off this Pennyroyal. Look at those wings, so much detail. It gave us plenty of time to photograph.

While yellow was the predominate color of the day, we found a few lavender-colored lupine as well.

It was a great day to celebrate yellow! From my journal notes, “A big milestone day as I celebrated my 8-month rehab anniversary. Not only did I take a hike in my beloved Trinity Alps but I also climbed 1,500 feet over 4 miles while enjoying many of my favorite blooms.”

Other jaunts in the area:

CA – The Eddys, Gumboot Trailhead, PCT (June 2021)

I had so much fun on my recent PCT hike from the Parks Creek Trailhead (link), it seemed time to try another section. I’m lucky to have multiple access points within a couple hours of my home base. I hiked south on this day. Note: I believe this is the only KM sign on the PCT.

There’s Mt Eddy in the distance, near where I was the previous week. It’s about 15 trail miles between the Gumboot and Parks Creek Trailheads.

This is Gumboot Lake, the namesake for this trailhead. It’s accessible via a nearby road and might be worth a stop for a swim at the end of a hike.

The view of Gumboot Lake from near the trailhead.

The highlight of my day was finding Scott mountain phacelia aka Howellanthus dalesianus.

Near the beginning of the hike, the Mumbo Lakes become visible to the west. Once again not all the easily accessible.

A couple miles from the trailhead you reach the junction to swimmable lakes.

Lake Helen is probably the most visited with it’s easier access. Shown here are Upper and Lower Seven Lakes. Someday I want to explore the basin and make my way to all seven lakes.

Although not considered one of the seven lakes in Seven Lakes Basin, Echo Lake is on private property and doesn’t welcome trail visitors. It’s backed by Boulder Peak at 6,968′, not part of the private parcel. I’m sure the PCT Association would be interested in purchasing this property if it ever goes on the market.

A nice view showing perspective of the PCT in relation to Upper Seven Lake. The trail down looks to have been recently groomed. I remember access use to be quite dicey cutting through a lot of overgrown manzanita combined with rocky terrain.

Monkeyflowers were a tiny alpine variety.

The paintbrush was brilliant red.

Bladderpods of Astragalus whitneyi var. siskiyouensis.

The most prevalent bloom of the day was Mt Eddy Lupine, named for this mountain range dominated by serpentine soil.

As is typical for hundreds of miles along the PCT you are granted views of Mt Shasta.

I love this trail image.

I believe these are Torrey’s Blue-Eyed Mary, Collinsia torreyi. These are tiny plants at only a few inches tall. The flowers are less than 1/4″. I can’t believe they are recognizable as the wind was blowing and I figured I’d get a big blurr.

What makes Jan happy? Cool geology, views and blooms. Oh and maybe hiking on the PCT! The terrain was a little rockier with more rolling hills than I remembered but I had a fun day tromping a few miles. I met several hikers out for multiple nights, one gal who was hoping to make it a few hundred miles before returning to her teaching job in late summer. There were also a handful off to the lakes for a swim.

Previous jaunts in this area:

I’m surprised I haven’t blogged more about this section of the trail as it was where I walked my first steps on the PCT. The year was 2008. I’ve been on this section many times with one of my most memorable getting to visit Echo Lake on a snowshoe trek.

It was a magical day where I saw my first and only Circumhorizontal arc.

CA – Wildflowers of Trinity County, May 2021

What if you get invited to join some botany friends on a roadside fieldtrip to see some rare blooms? You say YES of course. I may not be able to hike but I can photograph. So YES, I’m happy to be invited and even happier to get to see some gems I’ve had on my list. In this case three rare Lady’s Slipper orchids and the Klamath Mountain Catchfly, plus a few bonuses.

Mountain Lady’s Slipper Orchid, Cypripedium montanum. California Rare Plant Rank 4.2.

California Lady’s Slipper, Cypripedium californicum. California Rare Plant Rank: 4.2

Clustered Lady’s Slipper, Cypripedium fasciculatum. California Rare Plant Rank: 4.2

Stream orchid aka Chatterbox, Epipactis gigantea (not rare)

Klamath Mountain Catchfly, Silene salmonacea. California Rare Plant Rank 1B.2

Shasta Lily aka Leopard Lily. Lilium pardalinum ssp. shastense

YES I felt like I won the lottery. What a wonderful botany fieldtrip. It was exciting to find more blooms on my bucket list. Thanks friends!

CA – The Eddys, Parks Creek Trailhead – Let’s Go Hiking! (May 2021)

It’s time for another chapter. Graduation doesn’t mean I’m ready for epic adventures but with increasing feelings of normalcy it’s time to HIKE! The challenge is finding easy trail and this is where time spent on the PCT comes in handy. I knew this stretch would be a perfect test. While most head south to the Deadfall Lakes or Mt Eddy summit, I hiked north toward Cement Bluff and Bull Lake.

Early spring blooms gave me reason to take it slow. Recently I watched a video about botany in the area (Serpentine Botanical Wonders) which taught me I’d been erroneously been calling these Pasqueflowers when instead they are Anemone drummondii.

With their very distinctive leaf shape, I learned these are Viola lobata.

These are very tiny lupine, most likely Lupinus lepidus var. sellulus.

I thought this might be a rare Mt Eddy Lupine, but my botany friends burst my bubble by indicating it is Astragalus whitneyi var. siskiyouensis.

Blue Flax

Hydrophyllum occidentale.

The paintbrush and phlox were the most common blooms.

Lewisia nevadensis.

Claytonia obovata, Spring Beauty.

As I walked toward Mt Eddy I couldn’t help but remember the day nearly 9 months ago when my knee said POP (link). I’ll be back, I have no doubt especially after this hike. I felt strong and ready to start rebuilding my strength and endurance.

My journal post, “I took my knee for a walk and what did I find? Yes miles of smiles! I’m learning to accept #WhatICanDo and making each of those moments meaningful. I hiked 5 miles! YES 5 miles without any complaints or setbacks.”

Previous jaunts in this area:

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Flowers, Ice and So Much More (May 2021)

As the snow recedes in the high country, Snow Plants (Sarcodes sanguinea) welcome spring. When I caught wind they’d arrived, I made it a priority to go see them the next day. These are the most pristine specimens I’ve ever seen.

Snow plant has no chlorophyll; it derives nutrition from fungi underneath the soil, and for this reason the plant is called “mycotrophic”. These fungi are the mycorrhizae (“fungus-roots”) of conifers, an interesting topic by itself. Many conifers (among other plants) require these fungi to live normally. Mycorrhizae are composed of strands of cells (mycelia) that grow about in the soil; these strands are quite numerous and extensive, and the conifer uses them to bring water and minerals to itself. In return, the conifer provides the fungus with some of the products of its photosynthesis. Snow plant takes advantage of this felicitous arrangement by parasitizing the mycorrhizae of the photosynthate provided it by the conifer, which makes sense, given that it is a plant without chlorophyll, and therefore a plant that cannot photosynthesize. In this indirect way, Sarcodes is a parasite of conifers; this is why they are always seen beneath (or very close to) them.

https://www.fs.fed.us/…/plant…/sarcodes_sanguinea.shtml

The snow plant emerges like a bright red nose.

Soon they look like a red pinecone.

As the plants matures, flowers the candle-like leaves open revealing a flower. Eventually fruit will fill the flower. “The fruit is a capsule containing sticky seeds. Once ripened, seed is released through an opening at the base of the style.”

Seeing the aquamarine ice of the melting lakes had been on my must-see list. While the lakes are conveniently located next to the road, winter closure keeps them inaccessible until the road is plowed unless you want to walk or ride about 5 miles from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. This is Helen Lake with Brokeoff Mountain, Mount Diller and Pilot Pinnacle in the background.

What causes the color? I’m guessing it has to do with (1) the minerals in the water and/or (2) glacial silt. There are no longer active glaciers at Lassen but maybe there is enough silt remaining? I wonder how long it’ll take the lakes to melt? This is a closer view from Emerald Lake.

Most trails are still buried under the snow and with limited mobility I was limited to wandering around mostly snow-free lakes although Summit Lake still had a bit more than I should have navigated. This is a view of Lassen Peak from the shores of Summit Lake where there is a one-mile perimeter trail.

One of the views of Lassen Peak from the 2-mile trail around Manzanita Lake.

Reflection Lake offers this reflection of Chaos Crags and Lassen Peak as one wanders the one-mile loop.

This view of Chaos Crags was captured from the road. It was shocking to see it nearly barren of snow in early May. But then again it’s been an extremely low snow year and I read this is the earliest the 30-mile road through the park has opened in 40 years. “The road clearing process in 2019 wasn’t finished until June 22, and it went all they way to July 26th in 2017.”

Lassen Peak should be buried but instead it’s ready to be hiked, and in fact on this day the road opened there were at least a dozen vehicles in the parking lot.

I returned ten days later and found a few more blooms including these Marsh Marigolds.

These were tiny Fawn Lilies.

Not to be outdone in the tiny flower department, these were miniature violets.

There are lots of plants hiding their identification including this one, although a botany friend guessed Pedicularis attollens aka baby elephant heads, another favorite.

Lily pond was filled with yellow buds. I’m looking forward to a colorful mat on my next visit.

I anticipate this meadow showcasing Pilot Pinnacle will be filled with Corn Lilies.

Meanwhile Helen Lake was still in the melting stage.

Another round of snow plants were emerging from their winter nests. My goal is to find mature plants sporting seed-filled fruits in the flower.

Just outside the Park on the southern end is Child’s Meadows and I was hopeful to find mass distribution of camas. It appears I should have stopped during my previous visit.

I never regret stopping to enjoy this view of Brokeoff Mountain from Child’s Meadows.

What will June bring? I plan to return to Lassen regularly to enjoy the transition from spring to summer. It’s a great place to continue to work on my knee rehab as many of the trails are gentle. Until then . . . .