Posted by: Sandy Steinman | June 24, 2019

Central Sierra Wildflowers June 17 to 19, 2019

Kathi Dowdakin reports other trip criss-crossing the Central Sierras–

June 17:  Taking I-80 through Sacramento to the junction with Hwy. 20.  From there, take 20 West to Bowman Lake Rd.  Plenty of flowers in the first 4 miles of BL Rd. including Bleeding Heart, Pretty Face, tiny Mimulus in pink, Skullcap in white, Keckiella, Clarkia, Bi-colored Lupine, Foothill Penstemon, Milkweed, slopes of Yerba Santa, creeping Ceanothus, Sierra Currant, Buckbrush, and everywhere butterflies: Painted Ladies, Sara Orange-tips, a tiny Metalmark, Checkerspots, the striking Tortoiseshell.   BL Rd. is paved for 10 miles, then gets rocky with potholes, not 2-wheel drive country.

Returned to I-80 eastbound.  Checked out Castle Peak trail at Donner Summit, to find lots of snow on the ground, and snowmobiles still in use.  The rocks at the west end of Donner Lake yield more Pretty Face, Manzanitas in bloom, Ribes, Mt. Pride Penstemon, Sulfur Buckwheat, lots of Serviceberry.  Green everywhere.

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June 18:  On Hwy 89, north of Truckee abt. 7 miles is Sagehen Creek.  It has no marking, but does have a highway bridge with parking on the north end, east side.  A locals’ trail heads towards Stampede Reservoir.  Good description to be found here:  http://blog.tahoemountainsports.com/sagehen-creek-trail/   The final meadow before the Reservoir is still flooded, but the trail itself is dry.  Camas are to be found in the meadow, thousands of Mule Ears (more than one species) line the first part of the trail.  The Peonies are about done & have a good seed-set.  Clumps of Columbines wave in the breeze.  Three species of Ribes are in bloom, attracting hummingbirds.   Several Ceanothus species hereabouts, humming with bees.  Valerian scents the air.  Web-worms are already hatching on the Antelope Bush; couldn’t tell if the caterpillars eat the leaf or the flower.   The find of the morning was Fritillaria atropurpurea /Mountain fritillary which is very cute & quite small.   Tortoiseshell Butterflies are everywhere – please drive slowly on the highway to give them a chance to float over your car instead of smashing into it.

Further north on Hwy 89 is a turnoff for the Kyburz Flat Interpretive Area.  The sea of pink on the SE side of the turnoff is hundreds of Alliums.  The cutbank displays Wallflowers, brilliant red Snow Plant, & Phlox, while the meadow has bands of deep blue that resolve themselves into Camas.  Kyburz Flat is two miles in, and is the intersection of several historical sites.

Another few miles north on 89 brings you to Fiberboard Road/FS Road 7.  Not very well marked, a huge snowmobile parking area, info board & vault toilets let you know you’re in the right spot.  We drove west as far as Webber Lake, something like 8 miles.  Still snow in patches.  Lots of mosquitoes.  Shooting Stars, Buttercups, Corn Lilies just sprouting, water running in all the ditches.  Webber Lake is very full, and if anyone knows the function of the metal apparatus on the side of the old barn (?) there, please let me know.

Backtrack to Truckee, down to the Lake, and over Mt. Rose to Hwy 395 in it’s new form, Hwy 580.  The Lake is a zoo, Mt. Rose has been draped in rockfall-retarding wire, and new housing is creeping up the Mountain from the east side.  Big houses, no solar, lawns everywhere.  Humph.  A stop at Washoe Lake to watch White Pelicans, two Bald Eagles, Bullocks Orioles nesting, Magpies, Valley Quail and Woodpeckers feeding young.  Swallows chasing the mosquitoes.   Again, the Lake is very full; water kissing the picnic areas.  Overnight in Coleville where the frogs are calling and the Walker River is over its banks in places.  Flood advisories are up.  Cottonwood fluff like snow drifts along every edge.  The Carson and Antelope Valleys are lush.

June 19:  Morning cattle lowing.  More Orioles in the trees, Brown Towhees, Cottontail Rabbits on the lawn-clover.  Retrace our path north on Hwy 395, to Hwy 89 and Monitor Pass.  Parts of this area burned in 2015 and again in 2017, and is still recovering.  The flowers at the top of the steep climb, across from Big Springs Road, include Phlox, Phacelia, Viola, Checkerbloom, Lupines, Solidago, Asters, Mariposa Lilies, Sulfur Buckwheat, Paintbrush, and Iris.  A short run up Leviathan Mine Rd. adds Delphinium, more Alliums, and a few Whorled Penstemons to our list.  The Peonies here look fried, or perhaps the late snows froze them before they could flower.  Only small patches of snow remain around the Pass.

Through Markleeville, to Hwy 88 – more snow remnants here.  The roads to Woods Lake and Kirkwood Lake are still blocked by snow.  Mormon-Emigrant Road has a very large snow bank across it, a half-mile in.  Despite this, Scarlet Gilias and Wallflowers are blooming, the Aspens are fresh, and the Willows are just beginning to open leaves.  There’s been a lot of logging along Hwy 88 – hope some of it, at least, is management for fuel reduction in case of wildfire.  Mule Ears give way to Poppies to grasses, as the Highway descends into the heat of the Central Valley.


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