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
Mule Mountain Area
Sacramento River Trails
Swasey Recreation Area
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.
After a couple days at Stevens Canyon (link) it was impossible to ignore the pull of the mountain. So on a Sunday, yes a Sunday, during peak summer tourist season, two crowd-adverse gals decided to test the waters. Joan and I left our campsite at 5:30am for optimal crowd-avoidance strategy. It worked! We got our pick of a parking spot in the main area at Paradise.
After a stop at Reflection Lake, we decided “sub alpine” filled with hordes of skeeters was less appealing than hordes of people at alpine. I was reminded of my hike around Mt Rainier on the Wonderland Trail in 2014 (link).
We couldn’t ignore a calling to the Skyline Trail. With much trepidation about my knee and body performance, we began our hike. The views kept me smiling. It was my kind of WOW per mile. So many views and wildflowers. I felt like I could touch the mountain. How lucky to have beautiful blue skies devoid of smoke and fires. Temperatures were warm but with plenty of water and snow we stayed comfortable. At the end of the day, I was thrilled with my recovery and performance. The long steep downhill tested my body but my hips complained more than my knee so I figured this meant I’d moved on from knee rehab to rebuilding general fitness.
The first section of the Skyline Trail is paved which really helps with dust and erosion given it’s high use. Notice the marmot laying on the big rock in foreground.
The marmots are such portrait hams.
This was a flower power tour.
The lupine smelled strongly of grape jelly.
We had a few snow patches to hike through and were wishing we’d carried our microspikes.
This is the Nisqually Glacier. Notice the waterfall. There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches, which cover about 35 square miles.
Nothing like Glacier Lilies to accompany the Nisqually Glacier.
Trail reality . . . we definitely weren’t alone. Funny this viewpoint is of the Goat Rock wilderness where Joan had hiked the PCT the previous week (link), and where I’ve hiked two times previously.
I was thrilled to find Sky Pilots (Jacob’s Ladder).
Water water everywhere, fields of green and loads of floral color.
This was my third day in a row to hike. I was beyond excited about my performance and recovery.
In case you missed the previous posts, I’m supporting Joan as she complete this section of the PCT (link to previous post). I’m chronicling what I found to do while Joan was hiking.
Days 9-12 – Williams Mine Trailhead on FR-23 (Mile 2229.9) to White Pass on Highway 12 (2295.9)
Mt Adams Wilderness – We both hiked north on the PCT. My destination was Horseshoe Meadow, Joan’s was White Pass 66 miles away. My reward was a meadow filled with pink paintbrush.
My timing was perfect to find many blooms, and I was ecstatic with my longest hike to date since my knee surgery including 2,000′ elevation gain.
The next day was filled with waterfalls and lakes as I traveled north on FR-23. First up was Big Spring Creek Falls.
Council Lake – “Council Lake is a drive up mountain lake on the north west flank of Mt. Adams. It has a U.S. Forest Service campground. It is stocked annually with catchable rainbow trout, but also contains eastern brook, brown trout, and cutthroat trout.”
Takhlakh Lake– “A very popular campground close to the shore of Takhlakh Lake. The Campground includes ten walk-in sites. The views across the lake of Mt. Adams are outstanding. The northern trails of the Mt. Adams Wilderness are nearby. Takhlakh Loop Trail # 134 originates in the campground and encircles the lake. It’s a 1.1 mile flat hike around the lake. You can also connect to the Takh Takh Meadows trail #136 that leads you to an old lava flow.” Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Olallie Lake – “This campground, on the shores of Ollalie Lake, offers 5 small sites and one larger area with room for RVs. The sites offer scenic views of Mt. Adams from the lake. It’s located in a high elevation stand of lodgepole and subalpine pine.” The trail around the lake wasn’t in as good of shape as that around Takhlakh Lake, the lake was shallower, more buggy and views of Mt Adams not as wow.
Chain of Lakes – This was the least desirable of the lakes I visited. There is free dispersed camping with picnic tables and fire rings but no restrooms. It was very buggy but maybe a fishermen’s paradise although no one was around the morning of my visit. You can access High Lakes Trail from there.
Horseshoe Lake – This was by far my favorite lake as it offered great swimming. It’s a first come first serve no reservation campground and was packed with a large father/kid group. Bugs weren’t too bad and there were views of Mt Adams. “The campground is a rustic site situated on a 24 acre lake, and offers most campers a view of the water. The campground is small with only 11 campsites. Fishing, boating (electric motors only), and hiking are available.”
At White Pass, I hiked north on the PCT to Deer Lake. This was a very somber day as I thought about Kris “Sherpa” Fowler (link) who went missing in 2016. I’ve been very involved behind-the-scenes with the search.
Old signs bring smiles, with another to add to my collection.
Good morning from a new-to-me wilderness.
I was excited to find blooming elephant head orchids.
Leech Lake – at the PCT Trailhead in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Joan’s last stretch was in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This is a favorite area of mine and I’ve hiked the Knife’s Edge portion three times.
Joan’s last section of the PCT to complete is from Rainy Pass north. We attempted this in 2016 (link) but I got shin tendonitis and we had to reverse direction. This time there were fires, and although the trail was open, access was a problem. The good news is that now we had time for more J&J adventures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The paintbrush and phlox were the most common blooms.
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.”
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)
Hairy star tulip
I only found one patch of paintbrush.
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.
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.
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.
July 8-14, 2020
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.
Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.