CA – A Month of Seasons, Far NorCal Style (April 2022)

The month started with temperatures feeling more like summer, but thankfully Mother Nature decided to shake up the forecasters by sending us on a rollercoaster ride. From freeze and wind gust warnings, to low elevation snow, and finally to measurable rain.

When Whiskeytown National Recreation Area announced an April 1st opening of trails after a nearly 4-year closure, it was easy to wonder if this was an April Fool’s Day joke. But alas, it was true and I was first legal steps on the Papoose Trail. It was worth a dedicated post (link). A few days later my friend Rebecca and I took the main Boulder Creek Trail to Boulder Creek Falls. This view of the creek brings back memories of days before the 2018 Carr Fire.

The Park was a little tardy in removing their closure signs. The snowdrop bushes were loaded. Indian Rhubarb (top right) likes to grow in creeks, and I believe I initially learned about these beauties at Whiskeytown. Star Tulip and Hosackia stipularis var. ottleyi (bottom right).

I was ecstatic to join my friend Cathy for a jaunt in Trinity County where I was introduced to the Fritillaria purdyi lily. It’s a tiny little thing. My friend Bino Bob is about 1.25″ tall for reference.

I was treated to displays of Lemon Fawn Lilies and Lady Slipper Orchids, hidden in the leaf littered oak forests.

When the local forecast called for 90+ degree temperatures, I grabbed Poppy Pack and headed for higher ground. With no goal in mind except to turnaround at snowline. We found plentiful sights, smells and sounds of spring.

When I reached snowline, I was happy to soak in this grand view and dream of further exploration.

Home sweet home. Lulled to sleep by a nearby creek. Temp dropped to 44 my first night and 34 the second. I added this one pound tent to my quiver in 2021 (Zpacks Plexamid) and finally replaced my quilt with one from Enlightened Equipment (10 degree 950 fill). With my aging body I’m motivated to drop pack weight while maintaining safety and comfort.

Finding this display of Western Pasqueflowers was a highlight of this trip. I used this photo as a headline in my recent post about individual responsibility when it comes to caring for public lands (link).

This sunrise view was a reward for sore muscles after climbing 3,800 feet. My mantra was you need to do hard things if you want to do harder things.

One week later the trail was buried again (not my photo). I was giddy to delay spring!

Locally rain finally arrived! We are still far behind normal levels but more rain fell in April than in the previous three months combined.

When the storms cleared, I couldn’t resist a visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I was ecstatic to find the first of the season snow plants.

A ranger pointed out this goose sitting on her nest. She expected a hatch any day.

Since we were cheated out of winter, I need another snowshoe adventure and Mt Shasta offered the perfect opportunity.

I found icicle goodness and moody skies.

Nature’s decorations are better than anything we can mimic.

This storm made for a wonderful reason to delay my spring jaunt departure.

I might be feeling a little prickly after focusing on trip prep rather than enjoying daily adventures. Happily I still got out for daily walks where I could find roadside surprises like these yellow cactus blooms.

I’m super excited to get back into jaunting mode. If all goes according to plan, soon I’ll be frolicking among these beauties.

It’s going to be a challenging season as I work to avoid fires and smoke. My motto will be get out now, enjoy every day and hope for good air tomorrows. There are already big fires in New Mexico and Arizona.

Dino and Bino Bob are ready for adventure and nagging Jan to hurry with her final chores. Where oh where shall we go? Oh how I love the unknown with many opportunities awaiting exploration. Curiosity is a good thing!

CA – Whiskeytown NRA, The Reopening of Trails (April 2022)

“It’ll come back.” That seems to be a common phrase after huge wildfires. My response is it won’t return to what it was for many decades, if not longer. Where and how do you even start when 97% of a Park has burned? There are financial and environmental issues, there are priorities and resources to be considered. After four long years, several of the longer trails were opened. With expectations in check, I was excited to be the first legal footsteps on the Papoose to Boulder Creek Falls trail.

From the fire overlay on Gaia, with the red representing fire boundaries, it’s easy to see why the 2018 Carr Fire created a huge problem and restoration project.

The Papoose Pass Trail was one of the more recently constructed before the fire and had quickly become a favorite due to the shady canopy and feeling of being in a forest. It was also a great trail for fitness gaining 1,000′ feet in less than 3 miles. I was pleased to find this first stretch looking reminiscent of it’s past.

It quickly became a little less enticing but the grass tread was an indicator of the time given for the understory to recover. This is what four years looks like, and more along the lines I was expecting; after all, I’d spent this time hiking local trails opened earlier but just as burned.

Living with wildfire scars has taught me to focus on the ground level activity where I can find blooms, bugs and butterflies. The Woodland Stars were a great distraction.

The Mountain chaparral lotus, Acmispon grandiflorus var. macranthus, provided lots of color and were one of the most dominant blooming plants on this day.

My one hope for this particular day was that some Dogwoods survived and would be blooming. I was rewarded and also found several new tree starts. These will brighten the forest over the coming years.

Snowdrop Bush and Yerba Santa

Yellow False-Lupine (pea family)

These Kellogg Monkeyflowers (Diplacus kelloggii) made my day!

The ladybugs don’t seem to be bothered by the plentiful poison oak. With all the recent trail clearing, there isn’t any encroaching the trail, a huge win for many sensitive to this evil plant.

This was a new plant for me. It’s in the rockcress family, Lithospermum californicum.

This was perhaps the largest patch of wild ginger I’ve seen.

A benefit of hiking this as an out and back trail was finding these Bleeding Hearts I missed on my way to the falls.

Boulder Creek Falls still flowing, albeit a bit lower than normal due to lack of rain and snow.

Trail infrastructure like these bridges required replacement.

Trail crews are my heroes! When I found these loppers hiding in the shadows of recently cleared trail, I was happy to carry them out.

A friend recently shared her thoughts, “I see beauty in new growth from a fire ravaged area. It’s a testament to how resilient and insistent Mother Nature is.” These new trees speak volumes.

Date Hiked: April 1, 2022

Stats: 11.5 miles 2,400′ elevation gain/loss

Trail: Papoose Trail to Boulder Creek Falls (out and back)

Tips:

  • Plan for lack of shade
  • Avoid on windy days
  • Expect down trees
  • Adjust expectations, sadly this seems to be the new normal in fire susceptible forests
  • Pack a headnet. Whiskeytown is notorious for swarms of gnats.
  • There are three trails leading to Boulder Creek Falls
    • The shortest at 1 mile (one way) from Mill Creek Road Trailhead
    • Next shortest 2.6 miles (one way) from South Shore Drive Trailhead
    • Longest at 5.75 miles (one way) from Papoose/Sheep Camp Trailhead

Resources:

CA – Marching through March, Far NorCal Style (March 2022)

Drought brought a very early spring and no mass displays like I enjoyed last year.

One day I got super excited to take a walk in the rain. I used my windshield wipers for a few minutes to get to my walking trail. But the joke was on me as that was all we got, just a big tease.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies provided plenty of reasons to smile along the local trails.

Last year I learned about the pipevine plant and blooms, so when I stumbled upon a pop-up interpretative display I knew it must be time to see what I could find.

Sure enough I found vines, blooms, old seed pods, and coolest of all eggs! I learned they have a 3-5 day incubation period which means soon I should find lots of caterpillars.

With our county finally reaching low risk COVID status, the local Native Plant Society resumed their field trip hikes. It was great fun socializing again. Besides the usual spring suspects, we also found Yellow Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) and Cardinal Catchfly (Silene laciniata).

It was impossible not to smile with trails like this threading through green grasses and oak tree forests.

This wouldn’t be a year of the super bloom, although I don’t think the Warrior’s Plume got the message. “This plant likes to form a symbiotic relationship with moderate to high acid plants, shrubs and trees. It forms this relationship by searching for the root ball or root mass, then it entwines itself roots to roots, feeding off the roots to supply the plants needs.

It seemed I was always able to find something new and different to photograph. Since I can’t control weather and conditions, I decided to embrace it. Cheers to celebrating spring blooms! Speaking of symbiotic relationships, Broomrape is another. When I found the first of season Death Camas and was reminded of foraging, I was happy to offset with the Red Maids which indeed are edible.

With an acceptable weather window, I decided to test my fitness and gear on a small section of the PCT. There was a little snow on the ground, plentiful water, and I stayed entertained watching the moon, sunrises, sunsets and beautiful clouds. Yes it was chilly and I was reminded of how condensation can accumulate on your bag/quilt. My body rebelled at too many miles with pack weight and I admitted I needed to work on realistic expectations of my still rehabbing body.

This was the most beautiful snowmelt stream. The water was the best of the trip!

This seasonal pond not only provided reflections but also one night it gifted me a frog orchestra.

With the early spring I was able to visit Trinity Alps where I found a few blooms including Warrior’s Plume, Toothwort, Viola and Shooting Stars. It was so nice being back in the forest.

I continued to be delighted by local blooms. There are several types of Euphorbia at our local arboretum. I was thrilled to find a new seedpod of the pipevine plant. I wasn’t able to identify the two flowers, most likely non natives. The pink dogwoods were a welcome sight along the river trail. Bonuses included first ladybug sighting and busy bees on the lavender.

March has been the month to observe the lifecycle of pipevine plants and butterflies. On the last day of the month I finally found caterpillars, albeit babies, who will soon litter the trails but for now they are safely munching on the pipevine leaves. Blooming iris were a signal the calendar was about to turn to April.

When phlox is more than phlox. This particular species is the Yreka Phlox, near my hometown. It was fun to go in search of this beauty. Bonus was views of Mt Shasta. “The Yreka phlox (phlox hirsuta) dots the landscape of Yreka’s hillsides and valley from March to June. The Yreka phlox is both a pride of Yreka and conservation concern. The recorded history of the Yreka phlox dates back to 1876 when Edward L. Greene described and collected specimens of the phlox hirsuta from the local area. However, the flower has since been placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State endangered species list. Efforts to conserve the Yreka phlox originally began in 1975 when, in a report to Congress, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution included it on a list of endangered plants. In 1984, The Nature Conservancy dictated that China Hill and Soap Creek Ridge warranted protection as part of their Element Preservation Plan. The City then became involved alongside The Nature Conservancy in 1986. In 2000, phlox hirsuta was placed on the Federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and an official Recovery Plan for Yreka phlox was released by the agency in 2006. Multiple organizations have come together to support recovery efforts, but the flower’s biggest conservation proponent was the late city attorney Larry G. Bacon, who died in 2004.”

While the bright pink Yreka Phlox stole the show, other finds included Popcorn flowers, Astragalus and Allium.

As the temperatures increased my computer screen was on refresh to watch snowline. Where oh where can I go without slogging through snow? GAIA maps have been a great resource. The darker the blue and pink the deeper the snow. We are officially in extreme drought. I’m fearful of the fire season.

I also spent time studying the 2021 fire boundaries to avoid early season trail problems. The darker and brighter the red, the more recent the fire. Sadly about 70% of the trails in the Trinity Alps have been affected, as well similar in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and a large swatch of the PCT.

Photos are from hikes and walks in Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity and Tehama Counties including,

  • Sacramento Bend Area Trails
  • Sacramento River Trails
  • Swasey and Muletown Recreation Areas
  • Trinity Alps Wilderness
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

CA – Early Spring Jaunting, Far NorCal Style (Feb 2022)

No precipitation since January 5th combined with warmer than normal temperatures has led to spring in February. According to my photo archives blooms are 3-6 weeks early. The good news is it gave me plenty of opportunity to race to find new blooms along a variety of nearby trails.

I continued to see blooms I’d already photographed and shared from my January jaunts, so instead I focused on the new hit parade. First up was Milkmaids. “Cardamine californica, or milkmaids, is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae, native to western North America from Washington to California and Baja California. It is common in a variety of habitats including shady slopes, open woodlands, chaparral and grasslands in the winter and early spring.”

Nature’s color wheel gifted me purples. Top and bottom left is Blue Water Speedwell found in Whiskeytown Lake where water receded during the winter. Top right is a nightshade, middle right is Tolmie’s Pussy Ears or Star Tulip, with lupine in the bottom right.

February 10th brought me my first poppy.

It was easy to appreciate these non-native Cape Marigolds rather than the sad barren burned canyon. I also found a new friend I’m calling Bino (binoculars) Bob. “Dimorphotheca sinuata, the glandular Cape marigold, Namaqualand daisy, or orange Namaqualand daisy; syn. Dimorphotheca aurantiaca hort. is an African species of plants native to southern Africa.”

The early spring parade continued with bush poppy in upper left, which I first found last year at the end of April in peak bloom. This year the plants still look to be in winter hibernation stage but I found a few buds and blooms. It’ll be interesting to see if the bushes come back to life this year. Bottom left is phlox and sage is one the right. The details on the phlox leaves was a wonderful surprise.

One day when I didn’t find any new blooms I found these new leaves. The top row are oak leaves, I’m in love with the one on the left which is black oak. The bottom row is those nasty leaves of three . . . let them be, otherwise known as poison oak.

One day my color wheel was red, with the winner being Scarlet Fritillary.

It took two trips to get these amazing photos of the purple larkspur (Delphinium). February was a breezy month making photography extra challenging like with these red larkspur. It seemed longer than expected to see my first paintbrush.

It’s fun to find surprises like these white Blue Dips and white Hound’s Tongue. The photo in the top right is poison oak flowers, which I had no idea existed until a couple years ago. Bottom right is Hound’s Tongue nutlets (seed pods).

Chasing the blooms kept me mixing up my trails and interested. Top left, Redbud; bottom left, Violet. Top right is Wild Cucumber, followed by Sulfur Pea and Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill.

I was excited to find the small bloom in upper left of below photo, only to be disappointed to learn it wasn’t a native. Oh well, it’s a beauty regardless, Henbit Deadnettle. The blue are Scutellaria tuberosa, Skullcaps, ones I first learned about last spring. You can see size comparison with my new friend Bino Bob who’s about 1.25″ tall.

Finding blooming Fritillaria affinis aka Checker Lily became a game of too late, too early, marginal and finally just right.

I ended my month of wandering the nearby trails with these finds. Top left, Fringe Pods. Top right, Nemophila heterophylla (Small Baby Blue Eyes) and Claytonia parviflora (Miners Lettuce). Bottom left, Mountain Phacelia. Middle, Cream Sacs. Bottom right, Clematis.

I also continued my quest to find unique photographic subjects like this algae.

Acorn woodpecker granary. “With their sharp, powerful beaks, Acorn Woodpeckers excavate custom holes into trees that are the perfect size to hold an unusual food—acorns. Each Acorn Woodpecker group works together to maintain and defend its acorn collection. The same tree, called a “granary”, is reused over generations to store the winter food supply.”

Often it felt more like March with numerous high wind warning days. On those days I had to be a bit more strategic about my choice of trails in order to avoid crashing burned trees. Thankfully I had options. After a few months of closure (due to winter light festival) at the McConnell Gardens, I was off to see the early blooms. As if on cue Summer Snowflakes and Lenten-roses were awaiting my visit.

Neighborhood walks during these wind events had me finding first fiddleneck blooms. I pulled this photo from my archives as they were impossible to photograph on the day of my walk. “Amsinckia is a genus of flowering plants commonly known as fiddlenecks. The common name is derived from the flower stems, bearing many small flowers, which curl over at the top in a manner reminiscent of the head of a fiddle. Fiddlenecks are in the family Boraginaceae, along with borage and forget-me-nots.”

Winter finally returned toward the end of the month, but the lupine didn’t get the message. In my search for interesting things, I found this colorful weed. “A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation; a plant in the wrong place.” Well this one happened to be in the right place. Not only does it add a little beauty along a powerline dirt track, but it also helps stabilize highly eroded post-fire soil.

I found this interesting bud on some neighborhood trees. It looked tropical and out of place. However as the week progressed and I studied further I realized it was developing gumballs and before I knew it out popped some leaves of the Liquid Amber (Sweetgum) tree.

As they say a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case a perfect depiction of our lack of precipitation. Mt Shasta has bare spots in February and Lake Shasta has a very large bathtub ring (140 feet below maximum mid month). My apologies for this crappy quality phone photo.

Although I’d rather be traveling, I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue rebuilding my base conditioning while enjoying a blooming early spring. My body knows I need to keep climbing these hills if I want to enjoy the bigger mountains I plan to hike this summer.

Photos are from hikes and walks in the Redding area including,

  • Clear Creek/Cloverdale Area
  • Keswick/299W Area
  • Mule Mountain Area
  • Sacramento River Trails
  • Swasey Recreation Area
  • Westside Trails
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Yes there’s a lot of ugly in a burn, but views are open and when you look closely you find beauty in nature’s smaller gifts.

CA – Autumn Jaunting, Shasta/Trinity County Style (Oct-Dec 2021)

After spending a month in Washington followed by a couple of weeks in Oregon, including an epic conclusion in snow at Crater Lake (post link), I returned home to summer temperatures. There was only one thing to do, grab the paddleboard and head for Whiskeytown Lake.

Although we received record rain fall over about a month (14″) the leaves stuck around providing weeks of entertainment.

The dogwoods were showing off their pastel colors along the PCT in Castle Crags State Park.

I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon’. “That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf.

Thich Nhat Hanh

I found new growth in an area burned by the 2018 Carr Fire.

This is my favorite Madrone tree in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, she’s a buxom beauty.

After all the rain, I couldn’t resist visiting Crystal Creek Falls at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.

Whiskeytown Falls

Fungi seemed to be happy with all the rain.

Earth stars, a type of fungi. I thought it was the bottom of a pinecone.

When you look closely you might even find a stowaway.

This is a story of good, evil and humanity. The 2018 Carr fire burned this tree. I visited in spring 2020 when I took a photo of this wreath on the remains. When I processed the photo I found a surprise inside. This heavy chainsaw carved bear was a welcome gift representing hope at appropriately named Black Bear Pass. Sadly it was kidnapped in winter 2020. When I returned this fall I was thrilled to find a new bear hiding in the stump. Yes there is goodness in this world!

Lichen and moss seemed to enjoy the extra moisture as well.

And what would a jaunt be without a few blooms?

Although many were ready to spread their seeds.

Soon enough it’ll be time to welcome back the orchid blooms.

But until then I’ll welcome winter. The time for renewal.

I love being able to see Mt Shasta, from 100 miles distant.

One thing nice about having a home base at low elevation (500′) is nearby winter hiking options.

Nature offers up a holiday bouquet.

I wish my friends and followers a wonderful 2022, at least one filled with more peace, unity, kindness, caring, forgiveness, collaboration and love.

Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.

Shasta County:

  • Castle Crags State Park
    • PCT/Crags Trail
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
    • Davis Gulch Trail
    • Whiskeytown Falls Trail
    • Crystal Creek Falls Trail
  • Redding area trails
    • Blue Gravel Trail
    • Cloverdale/Piety Hill Trails
    • FB Trail
    • Flanagan/Chamise/Upper Ditch Trails
    • French Fry Trail
    • Hornbeck/Lower Ditch Trails
    • Princess Ditch Trail
    • Mary Lake Trail
    • McConnell Ranch Trails
    • Mule Mountain Trail
    • Sacramento River Trails
    • Salt Creek Trails
    • Trail 58
    • Westside Trails

Trinity County:

  • Trinity Alps Wilderness
    • Stuart Fork Trail
    • Canyon Creek Trail

CA – April 2021, Wildflowers of Shasta County (Part 2)

After a 3-week hiking hiatus, when invited to join my botany friends for a short hike at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, how could I say no? Special note of thanks to them for helping with identifications.

Firecracker flower (Dichelostemma ida-maia) was one somehow missing from my photo library. I’d found a few on my bike rides but they just didn’t offer the WOW I needed.

There were some nice patches of firecrackers.

The firecrackers contrasted nicely with nightshades.

I was quite excited to be introduced to the ginger bloom. I’ve taken many photos of the beautiful heart-shaped ginger leaves. I was enlightened yesterday about the hidden bounty. This is the most common variety in Shasta County, Hartweg’s Wild Ginger (Asarum hartwegii). The bloom in Trinity County is significantly different. “California has four species of wild ginger, all with similar habits and looks, but separated slightly by range or character differences. The two most common are Asarum hartwegii, or Hartweg’s wild ginger, and Asarum caudatum, or creeping wild ginger. Hartweg’s wild ginger is the most common in the conifer forests around Redding, while creeping wild ginger is commonly found in Trinity County and along the North Coast. Though called wild ginger, this plant is not related to the ginger normally used in the kitchen. The wild ginger name comes from the aroma that the leaves emit when crushed, or that the rhizomes (underground stems) emit when broken apart. Researchers have now determined that wild ginger plants contain poisonous chemicals that are harmful to humans if consumed. “Seed dispersal in wild gingers is significantly aided by ants, which benefit from the location of the flower on the forest floor. some researchers have suggested that pollination occurs by flies and gnats attracted to the rotten-flesh color and the sometimes musty, rotting smell that the flowers produce. However, other researchers have found that wild ginger relies heavily on self-pollination instead.” Source link

Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida) was another I wanted to see. We found one unaccessible patch and then a little later we found the gold mine! This is in an area burned in the 2018 Carr fire. I wonder if that heat contributed to seed distribution.

It was a great time to be on the trail for a wide variety of blooms. There were several colors of iris.

The trail was lined with California snowdrop bush (Styrav redivivus).

The Purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) had clearly found perfect conditions in which to grow. The plants were 3-4 feet tall.

Clustered broomrape (Aphyllon fasciculatum) is a parasitic herb, producing little or no chlorophyll; instead, they draw nourishment from the roots of other plants by means of small suckers called haustoria.

The clematis looked like it was having a bad hair day. They were quickly passing peak bloom.

Stipulate lotus (Hosackia stipularis)

Sulfur Pea (Lathyrus sulphureus)

Creeping or Sonoma Sage (Salvia sonomensis)

Brodiaea

Hairy star tulip

Sedum

I only found one patch of paintbrush.

Phlox

Dogwoods were just starting to bloom.

With little spring rain, I don’t expect April showers to bring May flowers; however, I suspect I’ll still find plenty. I hope you all get out and enjoy a few blooms as well.

CA – April 2021, Wildflowers of Shasta County (Part 1)

I was on a walking/hiking timeout after pushing my knee rehab boundaries so when I was told about these fields of Tidy Tips (aka Tidytips) and California Goldfields, I just had to see for myself. I found fields along Millville Plains and Manton Roads.

Little did I know I’d also find among those tightly packed blooms, this mystery plant I later learned was Woolly meadowfoam Limnanthes floccosa, California Rare Plant Rank: 4.2 (limited distribution). Source: Calflora

I didn’t know if these had bloomed yet but according to a local botanist they hadn’t and he gave me the location of where he found some blooming. In a ditch! Yes these plants like water and are often found near vernal pools. They are tiny. The pods are only about 1/2″ in diameter. So after wandering around for about an hour I found success!

I sent a friend out to see for herself and even though I said 1/2″ pods and 4-6″ plants she was expecting something much different. This provides better size perspective.

The fringe pod displays were enticing as well.

The Dwarf Brodiaea were just starting to bloom.

White Brodiaea

The Blue Dips/Dicks shared center stage with the Tidy Tips.

Even the bees thought this was a marvelous treat.

They may be my new happy flower.

I was especially grateful I could access these beauties with very little effort. They truly are roadside flowers.

CA – April 2021, Wildflowers of Tehama County

Probably the best area to hike and see wildflowers in Tehama County is at the Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area (link).

This area offers amazing wildflowers viewing in the spring. The rolling hills of this oak woodland are carpeted with purple and yellow in all directions. The Hog Lake Plateau and the Yana Trail are great locations to view open expanses of blooming wildflowers.” Source: BLM website

The displays aren’t as splashy as at North Table Mountain Ecological Preserve in Butte County which I shared previously (link), and you might need to share a bit with the cows, but it’s much less busy with several trailheads providing access and varying terrain. The 360-views are phenomenal on clear days where you can see the snowy peaks of Lassen, Shasta, the Trinity Alps and Yolla Bollys.

Another positive is that there are several opportunities to spend time along the Sacramento River, either dipping your toes or viewing the soaring eagles and others who fancy flight.

These photos were taken primarily from my hike starting at the Iron Canyon Trailhead. The Bird’s-eye Gilia tickled my fancy. I couldn’t get enough of these bright cheerful flowers.

This was my introduction to Glue-seed (Blennosperma nanum). There were plentiful as were Popcornflowers.

Possibly my favorite find was Padre’s Shooting Star (Primula clevelandi). This was my first year to notice white shooting stars and I mistakenly thought they were all the same variety but discovered that Henderson’s can also be found in white and various shades of pink.

Johnny-tuck aka Butter and Eggs Triphysaria eriantha plus a bonus Goldfields

Not positive on this one. The Seek app identified as Smallflower Woodland Star (Lithophragma parviflorum).

Isn’t this a great name? Definitely descriptive. Cowbag Clover (Trifolium depauperatum).

White Brodiaea Triteleia hyacinthia

California poppies and Mediterranean Stork’s-bill

Nature’s perfect bouquet.

By mid to late April the wildflowers fade away to be replaced by brown grasses, rattlesnakes, and stickers while the beauties go into hibernation waiting to spring forth the next year.

CA – April 2021, Wildflowers of Butte County

I was introduced to this volcanic area in 2013, before it was popularized, regulated and overrun by the masses. With the exception of last year I’ve been traveling every spring since then and haven’t had the opportunity to return. Last year it was closed due to COVID, this year I was determined to return. It was one of my knee rehab goals. But I have severe crowd anxiety. I’d prefer to skip these opportunities rather than share with the masses. I also have a no regrets policy so I was determined to find a way to enjoy regardless of it’s popularity.

This 2013 photo clearly shows I didn’t know about not crushing the blooms, but then again it taught me to behave like the cows.

I clearly remember visiting the waterfalls, especially making this sketchy descent to explore the cave and cool rocks below one of the waterfalls. I hear a rope now exists to assist with that steep section.

It was worth it, but I can say been there, done that, don’t need to do that again. There are 9 waterfalls that can be viewed during the rainy season on an 11-mile cross-country loop (link). I’ve only been to a few so someday I’ll go back and hike this complete loop.

My goal this trip was much different. My knee was a little extra sensitive so my plan was to take it easy and see what I could see given my limitations. To minimize crowd encounters I arrived on a weekday at 8am and followed the cow paths rather than the waterfall trail. The poppies were still sleeping, so while I waited for their 10am wake-up call, I roamed and found many more photography opportunities.

Kellogg’s Monkeyflower
Seep Monkeyflower
Meadowfoam
Fringe Pods
Prettyface

“Created by ancient lava (basalt) flows, the approximately 3,300 acre North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is an elevated basalt mesa with beautiful vistas of spring wildflowers, waterfalls, lava outcrops, and a rare type of vernal pool, called Northern Basalt Flow Vernal Pools.” Source: North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve webpage

Jan’s perfect bouquet!
Owl’s clover, Bird’s-eye Gilia, Blue Dips/Dicks, Lupine, Poppies, Popcorn flowers and green green green!
Owl’s clover and Bird’s-eye Gilia
Bird’s-eye Gilia and California Poppies
California Poppies, Lupine and Blue Dips

I enjoyed seeing the vast color swatches.

It was a great day to hang out with the cows.

On the other hand far in the distance I could see the waterfall trail conga line.

When I arrived just before 8am there were maybe a dozen cars in the parking area. When I left around noon there were hundreds with hordes of people every which way. My strategy was successful and I didn’t encounter others until the last few minutes of my day. For those wanting to explore the large variety of wildflowers, the season covers several months and includes over a hundred varieties. You can download this botany guide (link). For further information and preparation, be sure to visit the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve website (link) to purchase your day use permit, CDFW Lands Pass (link). If you go please respect private property signs and fences, and carry a litter bag to clean up after those less thoughtful.

Peak wildflower season is short. Usually 2-3 weeks in late March to early April. Once things start drying out, the large stickers pictured below will ruin your shoes and socks, which will keep you to the main trails.

I felt like I was one in a million, the pink among the blue.

It was a no-regrets day. If it wasn’t a 4-hour round trip drive, I’d return more frequently to find individual blooms like the fairy lanterns.

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
― Claude Monet

CA – March 2021 (Part 2) Wildflowers of Shasta County

WordPress has decided it’s time for change. Can my old brain adapt? Well, this is the message I receive repeatedly, “Updating failed. Sorry, you are not allowed to edit this post.” Fun, right? Please let me know if there are any problems with content.


I spent the month of March on the trails around Redding delighted when I found new blooms. The elevation was 500-1000 feet. I’ll repeat a few from my previous posts so you can enjoy the progression of blooms through the month.

The below photos were taken on the following trails:

This is the best resource for current status of Redding area trails (link).

Blue Dicks photobombed by my friend’s dog. They’ve recently been renamed Dipterostemon capitatus and slowly will be referenced as Blue Dips.
California Buttercup Ranunculus californicus seem to be the first show of color in this area.
Another sign of spring are prolific spreads of Indian Warrior or Warrior’s Plume.
Pacific Hound’s Tongue Adelinia grande
Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii
The first white I’d seen of Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii
Pussy Ears aka Tolmie’s Star Tulip Calochortus tolmiei
Pussy Ears aka Tolmie’s Star Tulip Calochortus tolmiei

I was introduced to these lilies last year and have been obsessed since, always on the alert for these hard-to-miss gems. They appear as dead or dying plants but when you look inside or catch the light they are A+ beauties.

Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii and Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Checker Lily Fritillaria affinis
Red Maids Calandrinia menziesii
California Dutchmans Pipe Aristolochia californica (not a wildflower but cool and my first sighting)
Popcorn Flower Plagiobothrys tenellus 
Henderson’s Shooting Star Primula hendersonii and Saxifrage
Stork’s Bill Erodium cicutarium
Baby Blue Eyes Nemophila menziesii
California Poppy
California poppy and a Blue Dick
Nightshade

I was pretty excited to find this one. I don’t believe I’ve seen it previously. No evidence in previous March photos. I haven’t checked my April files yet, so maybe . . . .

Fivespot Nemophila maculata
Redbud
Fiddleneck
Wild Cucumber
Fringe Pods and ? maybe non-native radish
Purple Sanicle

I spent days in search of these. Friends kept spotting them but my timing was wrong and finally it was my day. Of course it was a breezy day so I got lots of blurry photos but in the end I was happy to have a few blog worthy!

Scarlet Fritillary Fritillaria recurva
Viola
Phlox

I took some friends to see the Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespots. They were way more plentiful than when I’d been there a week earlier and we also found this surprise. Upon investigation we found this to be a Desert Bluebell, not something native to this area. A little more detective work and we discovered mixed wildflower seeds were given out after the 2018 Carr Fire and included was this beauty.

Desert Bluebells Phacelia campanularia

The wildflower seed packets also explains why the Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespots were found growing in proximity. We had our own theories until we found this much more likely answer.

Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespots

This baby fivespot was too cute not to include.

Fivespot

With the help of my friends I was introduced the Skullcaps.

Scutellaria is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. They are known commonly as skullcaps.
Tomcat Clover Trifolium

Spring would not be spring in California without poppies.

California Poppy

This is the first year in many I’ve been “home” to enjoy the local spring blooms. My knee rehab is continuing to progress and being able to spend time on easy trails adorned with flowers has made the time pass quickly. I’m looking forward to expanding my geographic region in April in my quest to find more spring blooms. For those of you in cooler climates I hope these photos bring you smiles.

Knee rehab bragging rights:

  • Longest walk – 8 miles
  • Most elevation gain – 600 feet over 6.5 miles
  • Max pace – 2.8mph (on flattish pavement)
  • Flexion – 130+ degrees (equal to other side)
  • Squat – Full heels on the floor backcountry potty position!

I’m currently working on speed and agility training. I feel like I’m getting ready for soccer or football. My gait still needs work but I’ve seen huge improvements over the past few weeks.