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 – 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.