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 – 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 – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, a PCT Wildflower Jaunt

In addition to the debut of a PCT Swimmer’s Route (blog link), there were plenty of wildflowers to be found between swimming destinations. These photos were taken on a 35-mile section between Carter Summit and Man Eaten Lake.

Collomia grandiflora (Large-flowered collomia)

My book calls the blue in the center pollen; I assumed it was stamen. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen these so I was excited to find them along the trail. I’ve never seen them in groups or patches, always solo with maybe one companion. Hey, that describes me.

Allium

I should have taken more photos. These plants were so whimsical.

Lewisia cotyledon, Siskiyou lewisia

These beauties were fairly plentiful along this section of the trail.

Polemonium ? Jacob’s Ladder ?

I wasn’t able to easily identify these. These blooms were a rare sighting on the trail.

Penstemon and Paintbrush

There were multiple varieties of penstemon along the trail and it probably the most plentiful bloom on this trip.

There were several varieties of yellow flowers along the trail. They added a nice punch of color.

In wet areas I found Leopard Lily. Tigers have stripes, leopards have spots. At least that’s what I was told by a local botanist. 

Western Pasqueflower aka Anemone occidentalis

The first of the season Dr. Seuss mop heads. It was still a bit too early to find the best messy hair versions.

Pyrola crypta (Pine-drops)

This was by far my most exciting find. I had yet to see blooming pine-drops.

Lilium rubescens, Chaparral Lily, Redwood Lily

Not positive on the ID, but loved smelling these lilies before seeing them. They were just starting to bloom. I saw a lot more buds than blooms. Such showstoppers!

And a few more just because I can never get enough.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Tips:

  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.

Resources:

Links:

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CA – Trinity Alps Wilderness, Tangle Blue Lake Trailhead . . . spring jaunting

While you’ll find information for Tangle Blue Lake in guidebooks, it takes more than casual preparation to find the trailhead as there’s no signage at the highway junction. In fact this sign at the trailhead no longer exists. This is a photo from my 2013 visit. 

This is your 2020 welcome board.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone refer to this as the Grand National Trail, named for an old road to the Grand National Mine. This sign has been defaced since I took this photo in 2013. Maybe because the mileage isn’t exactly accurate. It’s now 3.75 miles from the trailhead to the lake although I’m not sure how far along the trail this sign is located.

This sign is long gone as well. I’d like to think it was removed by the Forest Service for maintenance rather than stolen.

Expect 1,200 feet in elevation gain on a well-used, rocky, easy-to-follow trail. According to Mike White’s Trinity Alps book, “Legend suggests that Tangle Blue Lake and Creek were named by an early resident of the area who started his trip into the wilderness after awaking from a long night of partying to find his feet tangled and the air blue.”

It’s a rare treat to get the lake to yourself like I did. There are far more private campsites along the creek or further up the trail.

Marshy Lakes

There are several options for exploring off the main trail, although signage is somewhat lacking and trails are not necessarily maintained. My goal for this trip was to hike to Marshy Lakes, then up to East Boulder Lakes, followed by a northwest jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail, then returning on the Tangle Blue Lake Trail which connects to the Eagle Creek Trail.

You’ll need decent navigation skills to find the lakes. Along the main spur trail, you’ll see a pond before finding a trail near a “no hunting” sign which leads to Little Marshy Lake.

There is a mighty fine camping area which is on private property, a carve out in the wilderness (shown below on the map). The memorial is for a mule or horse. They even have piped water to a faucet. So fancy!

The lighter shade on the map represents private property which includes a little more than half of Little Marshy Lake, the end with the camp.

At the far end of the lake, you’ll find this waterfall created from Big Marshy Lake’s outlet.

Big Marshy Lake.

East Boulder Lakes

I recommend reversing direction slightly from Big Marshy Lake to reconnect with the old road and current use trail to the PCT. Attempting a short-cut ends up being a lot more wasted time and effort. You can see my track on the above map photo when I wandered to the left of the trail.

When I hiked the PCT in 2015, I wasn’t inclined to add miles so I was excited to see the East Boulder Lakes basin. I explored the ridges on both sides of the pass but wasn’t motivated to hike down into the basin itself.

Pacific Crest Trail

The PCT provided spectacular views down toward Big Marshy Lake and the mountains towering above Tangle Blue Lake.

The close-up details of the rocks was worthy of closer inspection and pondering the geologic history.

You can expect snow on the PCT in early spring. Some patches had serious consequences should you slip.

I spent a night along the PCT where I got to watch this bald eagle hunting for it’s dinner.

It was a perfect place to watch the nearly full moon rise while smiling at this sunset view.

The next morning I enjoyed a brilliant sunrise with Mt Shasta hidden within.

I continued hiking northwest on the PCT. My next POI was Middle Boulder Lakes basin. It was filled with a frog choir. I’d need earplugs to camp there. I considered hiking the loop that connects these lakes with Telephone Lake.

I caught a little cell signal for an updated weather forecast which told me no lollygagging.

I found a great view of the northern side of Caribou Mountain and other major peaks of the Trinity Alps.

I tried to find a view down to West Boulder Lake but without a trail and steep cluttered hillsides, I wasn’t too motivated to play hide and seek. However, there’s a trail junction on the PCT for another lakes basin which includes Mavis, Fox Creek, Virginia and Section Line Lakes.

The lakes aren’t visible from the junction but if you hike up a bit and explore the ridge, you can find this view of Mavis Lake.

I was able to see Virginia Lake with my naked eye, but it was hard to capture with my camera. It’s tucked just below the granite side of the mountain. I met a group who were staying at Fox Lake. They said it was a great base camp from which they’d spen one day hiking to all the lakes in the basin and the next up to the PCT and down a side trail to Wolford Cabin. So many options for loops and trip extensions. Be warned though, trail conditions are a big unknown especially given recent fires.

Bloody Run Trail / Eagle Creek Divide / Eagle Creek Trail / Tangle Blue Trail

I reversed direction back to this trail junction. I had no idea if I’d find remnants of trail or if it would be a big mess or . . . it was a big mystery but one I was willing to at least take a stab at ground truthing. I was happy to at least see this sign on the PCT (it reads Bloody Run Trail and Eagle Creek Divide).  As you may recall I found the sign for the Eagle Creek junction when I was on my way to the Marshy Lakes.

Step 1, go the 1/4 mile to the divide. Take a look around and see if I could find a trail that matched my digital map.

I found the divide without incident on a fairly well used trail to a campsite. From there I wasn’t able to find the trail that connects to Wolford Cabin but found the light use trail continuing down Bloody Run to this junction. By this time I was beyond hopeful as I’d dropped quite a bit of elevation and was not looking forward to reversing direction.

I was thrilled to find this sign at the junction of Eagle Creek Trail and Tangle Blue Trail.

According to the map you can connect to/from the PCT to the Tangle Blue Trail. I didn’t find any evidence on the PCT but I found this sign along the Tangle Blue Trail and it looked like a fairly straight shot through an open meadow but I didn’t check it out so it remains a mystery.

I found a few old trail blazes on trees. I wouldn’t attempt this trail without excellent off-trail navigation skills. When you temporarily lose the trail, backtrack and watch the digital map as the old trail stays fairly true to what’s shown on the maps.

Cairns were well placed in many spots, and very helpful with the navigation game.

It was a beautiful area filled with meadows, flowers, streams and views.

The lower section is more in the forest and bit messier than the upper section. Had I been paying better attention and not gotten off track a one point where I found myself in a manzanita quagmire, I would have been 100% thrilled I’d taken this alternate. Buy hey, I came, I explored, I survived.

I was especially excited to find this sign on my way back to the main trail. Yes, the Tangle Blue Trail exists!

After that wild day, I found a cozy spot to call it a night. If I hadn’t gotten off track, I probably would have camped along the Tangle Blue Trail where I would have had more open views. But that too is all part of the adventure and something that will keep this trip memorable.

Grand National Mine

On a previous trip I took the side trail to explore the mine. I didn’t find a sign this trip, but it’s pretty easy to spot the old road. You can see the red roof of the old stamp mill in the lower left corner of this photo I captured as I was coming down the Tangle Blue Trail from the Marshy Lakes/Eagle Creek junction. You can see the old road above the mill. Someday I want to come back and continue further up the road to the ridge. I’m sure it would offer excellent views.

As of my 2013 visit there was lots of debris left behind. According to the Trinity Lake Revitalization Alliance, “The Grand National Mine produced about 1,500 ounces of gold, 2,200 ounces of silver, and 1,900 pounds of copper between 1934 and 1937. A few ounces of gold and silver were produced in 1930 and 1931. Nearly 54 percent of the gold was from quartz veins, which assayed at an average value of $23 per ton. The owner estimated that some 22,600 tons of material was in the three veins of the main mine diggings as of the late 1960s. At some $20 per ton, that was a value worth pursuing. Of course, now that the mine is wholly within the Trinity Alps Wilderness, it has been retired for all practical purposes.”

Flora and Fauna:

Early spring flowers were abundant on this trip. I was especially happy to see the lavender pasqueflowers just waiting to become Dr. Seuss blooms.

Although I thought these were all bleeding hearts, it appears a couple are really steersheads, all in the Dicentra family.

This trip was devoid of bears, instead my wildlife was this snake and a lot of frogs.

For a high-use trail, it had very little trash or obvious TP. I picked up quite a lot of micro trash on the first section and later on found these sunglasses. They were covered in mud and looked like they’d been lost a long time ago.

A little something new to get used to as we experience this COVID-19 global pandemic.

Adventure Dates:

  • June 2-5, 2020

Hike Details:

Resources:

Links:

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