Sunday, May 11, 2014

Another Hike, A Few More Wildflowers

A friend and I hiked about 4 mi of Noble Canyon today. It's up on Mt. Laguna in Cleveland National Forest. We're now in the last phase of wildflower season, which is both sad and great, because this is when some of my very favorite flowers appear. Noble Canyon is a 10 mi trail that people often hike or bike one way. That involves 2 cars, one parked at either end. As you go, you go through many different altitudes and ecosystems, which makes it a beautiful and interesting hike.

To avoid the need for 2 cars, we just did a 4 mi out and back (a total of 8 mi) starting from the top. The bottom of the trail begins with chaparral before going into oak woodland, and finally up to pines, bay laurels, and black oaks. By starting at the top, we skipped right to the pines. In my view, we were richly rewarded for it, because the flowers were stunning.

To get to Noble Canyon, you take the 8 east to Sunrise Highway, and then drive north 13.5 miles. You can see down the east side of the mountain into the desert:

View of the Desert

But the hike is on the western side of the mountain. Compare the above photo with this one of the Noble Canyon trail:

Noble Canyon

Talk about stark contrast!

Beginning at the top we saw hairy vetch (pretty but not native) and lots of summer snow, a white flower in the phlox family that grows in so many large patches that you immediately understand how it got its name.

Common flowers on the trail were golden yarrow, yarrow, and California thistle, all in the sunflower family. California thistle is so large it could almost be an artichoke:

California Thistle

We also saw a lot of scarlet bugler, a gorgeous red penstemon:

Scarlet Bugler

Less common was showy penstemon, one of my favorites:

Showy Penstemon

Showy Penstemon

There were also some large patches of paintbrushes:


Less common were Mountain Violets, Sticky Cinquefoil, Wild Flax, and Chinese Houses (one of my all-time favorites):

Sticky Cinquefoil
Sticky Cinquefoil

Wild Flax
Wild Flax

Chinese Houses
Chinese Houses

My best finds today were a Fairy Lantern (a lily I did not get a picture of) and Cuyamaca Larkspur. The Cuyamaca Larkspur photo is terrible, but the structure of this flower is just so interesting. The two plants I found were a bit past their prime and they were in lousy light for a photo to boot.

Cuyamaca Larkspur

On the way back to the car, I also noticed a Diamond Clarkia. I got a terrible picture of it, but you can at least get a sense of what a spectacular flower it is.

Diamond Clarkia

In addition to these beauties, we also encountered several interesting looking birds (alas, I am not a birder and can't tell you what the heck they were) and a baby rattlesnake that was sunning itself on the trail. Fortunately for both us and the snake, we saw it and stopped before stepping on it. It was too young to have a rattle, but it didn't even attempt to shake its non-rattle at us. It stayed still, then registered there were a few large humans nearby, and slithered very quickly out of our way.

Perfect weather, perfect hike!

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