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.

2020 – Blooming April, Spring Doesn’t Care

I recently read a poem about how spring goes on regardless of this pandemic. Since spring brings me joy, I’m choosing to spend as much time seeking out the treats mother nature provides in this all-too-short season.

2020 is proving to be a spring I’d rather forget. I like many others, most likely including yourself, are wishing we could fast forward into summer and be done with Stay Home orders. I’ve learned to let go of things I can’t control and instead focus on those things I can such as my personal happiness. The dark short days of winter can bring on bouts of depression, something I’m more likely to avoid in spring when I happily languish in the warm sunny days. Instead of travel and backpacking, I spent time running, biking and walking primarily from my house. My car didn’t leave my garage for three weeks.

I discovered and fell in love with these rock roses.

Since I’m missing my wilderness wildflowers, I really appreciate neighbors who share their blooms.

The Sacramento River runs through town bordered on both sides by about 20 miles in trails. It’s within walking distance of my house and gives me plentiful green space and a place to breathe.

The trail harbored these colorful jewels.

When I finally decided to drive 10 miles to a dirt trail, I found so much joy.

With flowers lining the trail, I didn’t even mind hiking through lands dominated by fire.

I’d never seen such a mass dispersion of pussy ears (aka Calochortus tolmiei). If this was all I’d seen I would have been happy.

But no, my treasure hunt continued. What a delightful way to spend a few hours.

I stopped at Black Bear Pass where I found this wreath, which I though was a lovely tribute to the aftermath of the 2018 Carr Fire. When I got home and was processing my photos I couldn’t believe what I saw at the base of the stump. It took some work to lighten enough to see the surprise. I still can’t believe I didn’t see it when I was taking the photo. My guess it was hauled up on horses.

I finally decided to drive a bit further for my next hike and was thrilled to find these beauties.


I closed out the month hiking among more of nature’s jewels. I hope you all made the most of this forced pause.

What will May bring? Maybe some waterfalls to go along with more wildflowers? The draft policy for opening my home county indicates a ban on non-essential travel out of the county. Will I continuing being just a tiny bit of a rebel? We topped 90F degrees so that’ll be my motivation if nothing else. Air conditioner vs wilderness?