Αρχεία Ημερολογίου για Αύγουστος 2015

Αύγουστος 01, 2015

Blackcap Basin Field Trip 21-25 July 2015

Storms brought in by Tropical Storm Dolores soaked the mountains in mid July. I hit the trail just as the storms were dissipating. Lighting is often beautiful when clouds are overhead, but lighting for photos of flowers can be a problem. Plants needed the drenching during this third year of drought. For some of them it was too late. Lupines never really had much of a chance unless they were close to the ground. Brewer's red heather and Labrador tea bloomed well in only a few places. Mountain pride lived up to its name and didn't seem to mind that it has been dry this summer. The plant I have been following, Lewisia leeana, bloomed in June but only a few flowers remained past mid-July. The high point of this trip was to be a visit of the highest elevation observation of L. leeana in eastern Fresno County, in the Blackcap Basin.

It wasn't raining but the sky was filling with clouds when I left Rancheria Trailhead at about 8:30. I got to the wilderness boundary and saw the first of many fields of corn lily in bloom. I have never seen so many, quite a few topping straggly and sickly looking stalks. Have I never been out when they are in bloom, or is this an exceptional year? Were all these blossoms the result of the nice rain we had in June? I have no idea, but I saw exceptional blooms through out the trip.

A little after noon, I reached the Woodchuck/Little Rancheria Divide and began traveling cross country toward Indian Springs. I stayed high and saw lots of Lewisia leeana, as much as I've ever seen anywhere. I had to work to avoid stepping on them. I passed by a hidden and seldom visited pond south of Indian Springs and its outlet stream was still running despite the drought. As I crossed granite slabs, Lewisia leeana disappeared and then I entered dense undergrowth dominated by Brewer's red heather and Labrador tea without a trace of L. leeana. Thunder started to pick up but rain hadn't fallen yet. Finally, the rain began around 1:30 and it rained off and on for the rest of the day's hike.

As the steep trail began to level out with the approach to Chuck Pass, Lewisia leeana reappeared. I had planned to stay high and travel cross country to Crown Lake, but with the dark, rainy skies, I changed my plans. My search for L. leeana on the east flank of the ridge would have to wait. It irritated me that the trail dropped to the southeast moving me away from my goal of Crown Lake, but I knew it would be the safest and quickest way there. After passing through Large Meadow I hiked passed a familiar ridge of volcanics and up through swamps on Scepter Creek. A little past 5:30, I found L. leeana again but didn't see it for long because the trail took me into the dominion of Scepter Creek. Soon I climbed into the flat country that surrounds Crown Lake. I spent way more time than necessary looking for a decent campsite near the lake but finally settled on a spot with partial protection under the trees. Day one observations: http://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/sekihiker/2015/7/21

Rain continued through the night so I wiped the tent dry inside and out as best I could before putting it away. I hoped to be in the Blackcap Basin at the end of this my second day. I made it up and out of the Crown Lake basin and an hour or so later I was up on Crown Pass and looking forward to the descent to Half Moon Lake. I made several observations of L. leeana and other flowering plants on the way to the lake. A little after 10, I crossed the Half Moon Lake outlet stream and headed around the ridge toward the North Fork Kings River. To my delight, I encountered many L. leeana plants on the way there. It found it hard to believe that L. leeana has never been reported in this area considering how much of it there is along the trail.

By one o'clock I began the ascent up Kings River canyon . I would see no more L. leeana until I reached Portal Lake. The area next to the river is much too wet to support L. leeana, the cliffs above much too steep. The trail was sloppy in places, but that is not unusual. I arrived at Portal Lake before five. A strong wind whipped over the lake and dried up my soggy tent in a hurry. I managed to cook dinner through the windstorm and there was enough light left to do a little exploring. I focused on the area between Portal Lake and the little unnamed lake to the north. Imagine my delight when I found several Lewisia leeana plants as well as Shasta knotweed and dwarf alpine Indian paintbrush. Day 2 observations: http://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/sekihiker/2015/7/22

I was excited to be on my way the next morning. I was looking forward to visiting the only reported locality for L. leeana in the Blackcap Basin somewhere between Pearl and Division Lakes. Between Portal and Pearl Lakes, I saw several more L. leeana plants. The ascent to Pearl involves finding a way up a steep wall and I found a way that didn't involve trail until the last 100 feet or so. Even though I have been to Pearl Lake a couple of times before, it looked very different from what I remembered. The dry, gravelly area sloping east toward the lake was sparsely covered with flowers. One of them, granite mousetail, Ivesia muirii, was new to me. In addition there was abundant dwarf alpine Indian paintbrush and eriogonum. I crossed the outlet stream where I found some nice little elephant head, Pedicularis attollens, and continued to the north end of the large lake. It didn't take long to ascend to Division Lake but Lewisia leeana was nowhere to be found. I climbed all the way up to Regiment Lake. I returned to Pearl Lake, disappointed that I hadn't spotted any L. leeana. It was only later in the afternoon, long after I had left the Blackcap Basin, that I realized that I should have checked an area west of the small pond between Pearl and Division Lakes. I guess I'll have to visit again next year.

On my way out of Blackcap Basin, I spotted just one more L. leeana plant. Next up was Crown Basin. The trail to the basin was hard to follow, but I managed to get to a viewpoint where I could get a feel for the area. Getting into the basin would have involved significant elevation loss and of course gain to get back out. I decided to put off exploration of Crown Basin to a later date. I returned to the Blackcap Basin trail and dropped down canyon to the trail junction with the Half Moon Lake trail. The map shows two streams descending from the south, one from Maxson Basin and the other from Maxson Lake. The stream I chose to ascend curved westward and I soon knew I was not going to make it to Maxson Lake that evening. I returned to forest south of the Half Moon Lake trail and set up camp next to what I figured was the outlet stream from Maxson Basin. Day three observations: http://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/sekihiker/2015/7/23

The next morning, I hiked a short distance through forest until a steep, rocky section came into view. It became obvious that there were many more than two streams flowing from the south. By the time I figured that out, it became way more important to just find some kind of way up the steep section, not necessarily up just one of the two outlet streams. I didn't know it at the time, but I chose a drainage that was parallel and a little east of the outlet stream from Maxson Lake. A little after 8 o'clock, I spotted my first L. leeana and I saw many more all the way to the top. I wasn't sure exactly where my path would lead, but to my surprise I rounded a corner and there was lovely Maxson Lake. Even though I was unsure about descending next to the Maxson Lake outlet stream, I decided to risk it. It was probably a little more technically difficult than the ascent route, but I managed it, full pack and all. I was back at the Half Moon Lake trail by 11:30 and began my return on familiar ground.

I made just a few observations on the return to Crown Pass. My goal was to move cross country from Crown Pass toward Woodchuck Lake and maybe camp at one of the little ponds along the way. Instead, I made it all the way to a campsite at the south end of Woodchuck Lake. I saw lots of L. leeana along with the usual eriogonum, mountain pride, and the occasional lupine field. Day 4 observations: http://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/sekihiker/2015/7/24

Day five dawned with clear skies and I was eager to get home. I hiked cross country on a ridge west of the trail. Before long I was making my way toward Chimney Lake but before getting to the junction, I dropped down cross country to the south fork of Woodchuck Creek. As soon as I crossed the creek, I was back in Lewisia leeana country. I took a more westerly track than usual and soon ran out of L. leeana. By 9:30, I was on the Woodchuck/Little Rancheria divide and heading down toward the trailhead. I made a few more observations before reaching the Rancheria Trailhead at 1:15. Day 5 observations: http://www.inaturalist.org/calendar/sekihiker/2015/7/25

Overall, I was happy with the trip. The disappointment of not finding L. leeana between Pearl and Division Lakes was offset by all the observations north of Portal Lake. The abundance of L. leeana between Half Moon Lake and the North Fork Kings River was a pleasant surprise. The trip to Maxson Lake turned out to be fun and worthwhile. The cross country walk from Crown Pass to Woodchuck Lake was rewarding. Although is was wet the first couple of days, my equipment performed well and made the trip as pleasant as could be expected.

Αναρτήθηκε στις Αύγουστος 01, 2015 0526 ΜΜ από sekihiker sekihiker | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Αύγουστος 05, 2015

Bench Valley Field Trip 4 August 2015

At Dinkey Creek, I turned east toward Courtright Reservoir where I was to start a four day trip to Bench Valley. Smoke began to fill the air and I wondered if I would be able to hike. It dissipated as I approached the turnoff to Courtright and hope returned. I left the Maxson Trailhead and my nose started running and my eyes burned. By the time I reached the head of Long Meadow, I had decided to turn around. In 60 years of hiking, it is the first time I have ever quit a hike. In addition to the thick smoke, three years of drought had left the country dry and unattractive.

On the return from Long Meadow, I managed to make five observations, despite my dismal mood.

Αναρτήθηκε στις Αύγουστος 05, 2015 0916 ΜΜ από sekihiker sekihiker | 5 παρατηρήσεις | 1 σχόλιο | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο