Today was spent hiking the South Fork of Big Pine Creek and driving to Onion Valley. Both were new to me so I am unable to comment on how they were compared to other years. They are both good places to see high desert landscapes and flowers. Many species are in bloom but neither is a place to go if you are looking for big colorful displays.
South Fork of Big Pine Creek:
We hiked out and back for a total of about three miles with 760 feet elevation gain and loss. This is a mostly dry high desert habitat with riparian areas along the creek. It was a hike to see high desert flowers and appreciate the landscape. The dominant plants were Brewer’s Angelica, Sulfur-flowered Buckwheat, Wyoming Paintbrush, Bitterbrush and Sagebrush.
Flowers in bloom along the road on the way to the trail were Paintbrush, 2 species of Buckwheat, Heavenly Blue (Eriastrum densifolium), Piute Morning glory and Evening Primrose. Also seen along the road were a Red-tail Hawk, California Quail and other birds we were unable to identify.
Flowers in bloom along the trial included Alpine Lily, Western Columbine, Blue Elderberry, Sagebrush, Brewer’s Angelica, Single-stemmed Groundsel, Interior Rose, Bee Plant, Sulfur-flowered Buckwheat, Opuntia Cactus (not in flower but close), Rabbitbrush, Wax Currant (bright red fruits), Coyote Mint, Bitterbrush, Scarlet Penstemon, Mt. Snowberry (in fruit), Western Eupatorium, tiny Gayophytum, Wyoming Paintbrush, Leichtlin’s Mariposa Tulip (mostly in fruit but at least one was found in bloom), Curl-leaf Mt. Mahogany (in fruit; some very old ones with massive trunks), Mt. Maple, Scarlet Gilia, Chaenactis, Long-leaved Aster .Prickly Phlox, and Ranger Buttons,
Birds identified along the trial included Stellar Jay, Robins (one that swam along the water almost acting like a dipper), Northern Flicker, Mourning Dove, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Western Tanager. There were at least several other birds we did not identify.
Butterflies seen were Western Tiger Swallowtail, Behr’s Hairstreak, Tailed Copper and unidentified blues.
Western Sagebrush Lizard, Chipmunks (probably Least Chipmunks), large unidentified dragonflies were also seen.
To get the trailhead: from the town of Big Pine on 395 you drive up Crocker Road, which becomes Glacier Lodge Road. All paved.
Onion Valley Road:
The drive is mostly high desert habitat and somewhat similar to the above. You won’t start to see flowers until you gain significant elevation. The best flowers were at the end of the road just before and around the parking lot.
Flowers seen along the road on the way up included Heavenly Blue (Eriastrum densifolium, Prickly Phlox, Scarlet Penstemon, Brewer’s Angelica, Southern Mountain Misery (Chamaebatiaria millefolium), Coyote Mint, a small purple Gilia, Naked Buckwheat, Scarlet Gilia, Chaenactis, Rabbitbrush, Piute Morning Glory and Rothrock Nama. Also White-throated Swifts were flying by.
Flowers seen at the top were Swamp Onion, Yarrow, Alpine Lily, Wyoming Paintbrush, Bistort, a white Erigeron, Green Rein Orchid, White Rein Orchid, Ranger Buttons, Arrowleaf Groundsel, Yellow Monkeyflower, Monkshood, Giant Larkspur, Slender Cinquefoil, Interior Rose, Cow Parsnip and lots of Brewer’s Angelica.
The Lupine bloom was over. The Corn Lilies were not in bloom and many were fried.
To get to Onion Valley from Independence on Highway 395 drive west on Market Street which becomes Onion Valley Road. You gain 5000 feet (4000-9000) in thirteen mileson well paved road. Watch for overheating on the way (turn air conditioning off if your engine is running warm) and down shift on the way down even with automatic or you may have brake problems.
- Eastern Sierra Wildflower Report: Rock Creek Road 7/13/12 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
- Yosemite High Country Wildflower Report 7/12/12 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)