Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eagle Peak (with light show)

Up early again after a days rest we had plans to hike the Yosemite Falls Trail up to the north rim. We wanted to visit the top of the falls, but our real destination was Eagle Peak, and time permitting, on to El Capitan. Eagle Peak is part of the jagged formation probably better know as the Three Brothers. At least that’s what the tour guides call it. To hikers, Eagle is the highest of the three spires situated just above and to the west of Yosemite Falls, and the summit is accessable by trail. I’ve done this hike before, but like so many of the hikes inside Yosemite’s granite cathedral, it’s always worth doing again if an opportunity presents itself. Sue has hiked the north rim on many occasions, but we were both looking forward to getting back up there.

The trail head is right behind Camp 4. As you walk out there from Upper Pines you pass right by Yosemite Lodge, and that’s always a huge temptation for me to stop off and pig-out on breakfast at the cafeteria. Kind of a guy thing I guess, but I resisted and hung with our hiking plans. Actually I wouldn’t have wanted to get loaded down with a heavy meal anyway. Just don't let me smell those hot pancakes after instant oatmeal and yogurt in camp.

Starting up the trail we both took out or trekking poles to help out on the gnarly rock trail tread. This trail has over 100 switchbacks from bottom to top. The lower section climbs up to a rocky ledge along the north wall. This part is mostly shaded, but once we were above the tree tops we could see over to the Sentinel Fall, and out over the valley. Soon the trail begins heading east and still climbing along the ledge or “bench” as John Muir called them. We saw a few wild flowers along here. Lupine, Paintbrush, and Pussy-paws mostly. After passing Columbia Point, the trail climbs a little more and bends around conforming to the cliff. Soon the low rumble of the falls can be heard. Coming into view the upper fall section dominated our view straight ahead, the mist and rumbling sounds becoming more intense. As we got closer, the air currents were swirling around carrying the spray like rain. More rough hewn switchbacks began bringing us higher. There wasn’t much sunshine, but on previous hikes up this trail I have seen many rainbows in the spray through here.

Climbing higher, the trail enters a little crevasse-like talus slope where you can no longer see the fall. In summer this is a really hot and dry section. The cliffs are imposing looming above on one side and you can study the granite layers while watching for raptors. The views to the east open up along here, and soon the snowy high Sierra peaks began to reveal themselves above the rim. Many switchbacks later, at the top we were greeted by dense mixed conifer forest and shade. Up on the cliffs are unusual areas with isolated pine trees that seem to be growing out of solid rock. We took the opportunity to filter drinking water, and hiked over to see the top of the falls. There is a railing and some stairs to an overlook that provides dizzying views over the brink of the upper fall and down to the cascade section 1700 feet below, Yosemite Creek meandering outward another 1600 feet below that. Not recommended if you’re afraid of heights. We skipped the 1-mile hike up to Yosemite Point which provides a higher view with more range of vision.

Off we went on the El Capitan Trail heading for Eagle. There was still a lot of melting snow on the trail up here, and standing water backed up among the fallen debris. The snow melt was running down the trail making it seem like more of a creek. In some sections, standing snow made the trail hard to follow, and we hiked over top of some snowy sections, some of which were quite unstable. When we reached the junction for Eagle the trail signs were almost buried in snow. At this point it was apparent that hiking on to El Cap might not be a good idea. The trail was not in good shape, and I did not have GPS. The trail to Eagle looked clear though. We climbed up the trail and out along the rock ridge leading to some rock formations. Some really nice views open up between the rocks. A short scramble up to the top of the highest rock formation and there you are at the precipice of Eagle at 7779 feet. The views from this point seem that much more spectacular because of the sheer drop off. I could imagine an eagle would feel at home here. Takes the breath away. Eagle Peak is named for the Eagles that once inhabited this place. James Hutchings reportedly saw seven at once out here in the early days when Yosemite was truely wild.

It was fantastic for us to be completely alone amongst the grandeur of this towering jagged pinnacle and decided to take a break and have some lunch. As we sat there I noticed a funny looking kind of rainbow effect in the sky to the southeast, and the sky began looking grey. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then we saw some very noticeable dark clouds forming to the east. Soon the weird upward sort of bell shape began to appear, and I remembered something I read about thunder heads. A great read is the book “Shattered Air” by Bob Madgic. The book recounts a fateful and tragic night when some hikers were hit by lightning on Half Dome. Just when the story begins building, right in the middle of the book, he suddenly devotes a whole chapter to the meteorology and formation of Sierra thunder heads. It seemed like an unwanted sidetrack at the time, but I plowed through the chapter resisting the temptation to skip forward. This chapter came to mind while looking out across the valley to the activity in the sky I was seeing. I then (slowly) realized that those very conditions were happening before my eyes. We watched for awhile, and soon it became obvious to us that a thunder storm was headed straight our way moving in from the high peaks to the east. We began hiking down the trail fully expecting to witness a display of Mother Nature's darker side first hand. We reached the junction at the falls and headed down the falls trail and soon the first lightning flashes flickered. The distance was still very far, over 18 seconds. For awhile it looked like maybe the storm was moving across and not coming closer. About the time we were about half way down the upper section we felt the first kisses of raindrops. By the time we were reaching the bottom of the upper falls where all the spray is we were getting pelted with hail and rain, and the thunder was about 6 seconds. The darkened sky was flashing brownish yellow so closely now that we couldn’t even tell which thunder clap was from which lighting flash. We got treated to a great light show. And did we ever get wet! Between the swirling spray from the fall and the rain and hail, we were totally wet. Sue loved it. She kept saying how much fun it was to be seeing this. I think she felt privileged. What a blast! We reached a point where some other people were huddled under a rock overhang. They asked if we wanted to join them, but we didn’t. We were already totally wet and just wanted to keep going and get off the trail. It was a great experience which I was happy to have had, but I did want to get out of the wet as soon as possible. I had this happen to me on Little Baldy in Sequoia once, but that was an easy return to my parked car. This time it lasted over 3 hours. We had a good laugh about it, but wondered about our campsite. All our gear was trashed and wet, but we made the best of it. Proper tent placement had been a very worthwhile forethought.

Click here to see the photos on flickr
Click here to see my 2005 photos which include Eagle Peak and El Capitan

Monday, May 25, 2009


Of all the features of Yosemite Valley, the most iconic among them must be the granite titian known today as Half Dome. Millions of tourists photograph and study it every year, and its image graces endless commemorative paraphernalia. As I write this I am sipping tea from my Yosemite Association member’s mug, which proudly displays a lithograph of Half Dome. Native American legend tells of an Indian maiden turned into stone by the wrath of the gods, her tears still visible on its face, they called it “Tissiack”. At one time officially deemed “inaccessible”, the rock’s summit was first ascended by a man named George Anderson in 1875. He did it by drilling holes in the granite and installing iron eyebolts one at a time. The first official cable route was established in 1919 making it possible for park visitors to hike to the summit. Since then it has become akin to a pilgrimage for outdoors enthusiasts. The first technical assent of Half Dome’s sheer face was accomplished in 1957 by pioneering climber Royal Robbins. But thousands of hikers make the summit every year by hiking the trail through Little Yosemite, behind the rock, looping around to the northern base. Steep rock steps take you up to “the saddle” where the cables begin for the last 400 foot scramble to the summit. This hike is daunting, having a total elevation gain of over 4800 feet from the valley floor. Proper preparation is essential. If you’re planning your first Half Dome assent I would recommend perusing Rick Deutsch’s website Hike Half Dome. Rick also has a book available. There are also lots of other web resources to research, but don’t try it unprepared.

We set out early at daybreak. For this hike I packed light on water because I was carrying my Katadyn water filtration system. The section of trail through Little Yosemite passes within close proximity to the Merced River at safely accessible locations for filtering water. And what delicious and refreshing water it is. Fresh, pure, high Sierra snowmelt. This a great way to go because it allows you to refill twice along the way, but I just love the experience of superior tasting water. You need lots of water. The maps show a spring somewhere up on the Half Dome trail, but I have never found it.

Hiking up the Mist Trail in spring there is a virtual assurance that you will get soaking wet in the spray from Vernal Fall. Using the John Muir trail is an alternative, but it will add 1.5 miles. I had brought my rain anorak, but that only kept my upper torso dry. My pants and boots still got soaked, but this all part of the experience. On a hike like this, you know you’re alive, and it’s all good. The weather was still too cloudy and hazy for good photos, so I may use some of my old fall pix. When we got to Nevada Fall the air currents were carrying the spray down river making it impossible to even get my camera out without diving equipment. At the top of the falls we could see that lots of people were up there, so I began to get anxious about how crowded the cables would be. I had a bad experience one year during summer when there were so many people on the cables, I was not at all comfortable with that, and gave up and went down without summiting. This time I discovered the crowds were not bad.

The John Muir trail eventually turns off and you begin the Half Dome trail. The trail is graded very well and the climb is not bad. I always pace myself so I don’t aggravate my knees, or get too short of breath. Speed is not a goal. We spotted some nice snow plant near the trail. There were lots of young mule deer around feeding on the new vegetation. They are so used to seeing people they have lost their fear of them. The forested area on the way up is thick enough to provide lots of shade in the morning too, and the aroma of the timber is everywhere. The crystal clean air scented of cedar and pine combined with the incomparable taste of the high Sierra river water is pure heaven.

As we arrived at the base of the rock the weather had cleared with an almost cloudless sky, perfect for the assent to the top. We stopped for a snack while looking out across Tenaya Canyon, and over to Indian Ridge, the domes to the north, and Snow Creek Fall. We still had nearly 1000 feet to go to the summit, but the views were already captivating. I made my way up the rock step section to the saddle. I would swear this is the toughest part of the hike, not the cables. The steep steps and the altitude make this section very aerobic. There were lots of people on the cables, but it really was not bad. People on the cables are like a brotherhood. Everyone seemed quite affable, talking to let you know where they are, and you can work with them. If you make it this far you are not a tourist. Outdoor people are a fine community.

Up on top there was still some snow hanging around, and people were sunbathing on the rocks. The 360 degree panoramic views are not to be matched from any point in the valley. Looking down on North Dome, it looks diminutive in comparison. The perspective is completely different up here. The cool high country breeze is like a gift from the mountain gods making the subtle sunlight deceiving in its intensity. The snowy high peaks seem to be whispering on the wind, and the air smells so clean as to be indescribable. The valley sprawling out below looks almost uninhabited from this far up. If you look you can spot the roads, bridges, and some large structures like the Ahwahnee Hotel, but they seem like toys; far away and insignificant. Giant tour busses just look like incredibly slow ants. The beautiful mature forests like grasses. This is not just a hike. It’s more like a pilgrimage to an outdoor Mecca.

Click here to see my photos on flickr
Click here to see my 2004 pictures which include a Half Dome summit

Sunday, May 24, 2009


One of the oldest trails in Yosemite is called the 4-Mile. The name is traditional but after countless repairs and re-routes, the actual distance is about 4.7 miles today. The lower trailhead is on the valley floor at the site of the old 1800s era Black’s Hotel (long gone). It’s near the famous swinging bridge, which doesn’t really swing anymore, and close to the base of Sentinel Rock, at approximately 4000 feet. The upper trailhead is at 7200 feet at Glacier Point. If you hike up this trail you have some options when you reach the visitor’s center at Glacier Point. You can loop around to the Panorama Trail and hike down to Nevada Fall, returning to the valley by way of the Mist Trail, or the John Muir Trail. Another option is to link to the Pohono Trail and hike on up to Sentential Dome, or even do the whole south rim tour looping around to the tunnel view area. Before there was a road to Glacier Point, this trail was the quickest route to the old hotel that once stood at the summit (burned down in 1960). Runners and mule trains made daily trips up and down this trail to keep the hotel running. Sue being a former volunteer ranger knows and loves hiking this trail, and it’s always been one of my top favorites. Sentinel Dome in the Miwok language was called "Sakkaduch" , and has always been a favorite hike destination for it's amazing views.

We were up a first light. Something about the mountain air just naturally promotes a great night’s sleep, even if it’s only in a Tarptent. We had a quick breakfast, packed up, and began walking. Along the Merced River the currents make their music rushing along the rocks. Dogwoods are blooming along with the occasional Redbud, and the forest is alive with creature sounds. We found the trailhead and headed up. Pausing to look up at towering Sentinel Rock it’s a little daunting to contemplate that the summit of this massive granite peak is actually a low point along a jagged ridge that will eventually be below your field of vision and almost unnoticeable. The trail begins climbing right away switching back again and again. The trail tread is very rocky, and has remnants of old paving, and quite a bit of erosion damage. Many of the trails in Yosemite have this quality to them. Cobbled together with rocks, very uneven, and hard on the feet. Many switchbacks take you higher above the valley floor and soon the view possibilities begin to open up. The higher you get the better the views. As you switch back to the west the views are of El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, and the west end of the valley with the river meandering through groves of mixed confers and green meadows. Switch back to the east and Yosemite falls dominate your vision. Really the best available views of this fall are had from this trail, with all 3 distinct fall sections revealing themselves, and the slow rolling sonic rumble pulsing outward. The spray has the visual effect of making the falls look in slow motion. The rocky “benches” thick with vegetation, loved by John Muir, providing a stepped pedestal like some kind of alter.

At about 6800 feet the trail makes a turn and the view changes. A section of trail passes along a rocky ledge with a sheer drop off giving you dizzying views down to Yosemite Village. A few lingering snow patches were piled up next to the cliffs, which could create a slipping hazard. If you go off the side of the trail on this section, that’s going to be a big fall which you’d be lucky to survive. Sue couldn’t help tossing a few snowballs just to liven things up a bit. Able to look east now you get views straight up Tenaya Canyon to the high peaks framed by Half Dome on one side and North Dome on the other. I love the unique perspectives offered by this trail.

When we reached the visitor’s center at Glacier Point, predictably there were people around. This the big difference between hiking the south rim verses the north rim. Having a nice road brings bus loads of tourists. From Glacier you get to see the falls of the Merced from high above, and the snowy peaks of the high Sierra command attention. We decided not to hang around here and headed up the Pohono to Sentinel Dome. The trail heads up through fragrant mature forests of incense cedar, jeffery, and ponderosa pines, climbing 922 feet in about 1.5 miles. On the summit the cool breeze almost makes you forget that you are in direct sunlight. From this little rock dome the 360 panorama is a fitting payoff. Of course there is access to Sentinel from trails originating up on the rim as well, so expect to have some company. This early in the year it’s not bad. The views here are among the best in Yosemite.

Just out of coincidence, Sue happened to run into her mother at the base of the dome. Her brother Dave and his wife Diane were up at the summit. We were all camped out together, and they had driven up Glacier Point road for the day. That gave us the option of riding down in their car. Considering my plans to hike Half Dome the next day, that seemed like a good stroke of luck.

Click here to see our photos from this hike
Click here to see photos from our Pohono Trail hike in 2007

Mariposa Lilies

After returning from our Yosemite trip at the end of last week, we had just gotten things settled, and Sue and I decided we needed to go on a hike at Henry Coe. Apparently this is a good time to see Mariposa Lilies, and I spotted some that were really unusual. We hiked a loop in the Hunting Hollow area at the southern end of the park, and we saw lots of them. Early on it was very foggy. It was so foggy that we were hearing fog drip raining down from the trees, and our clothes and boots were getting soaked from brushing against the high vegetation. Heading up Steer Ridge trail I was seeing a great many yellow mariposa lilies, but they were not blooming because of the grey conditions. Feeling cheated as we moved on, I was making plans to climb back up Steer Ridge later on in order to see this display in the sunlight. The sun actually didn’t begin to come out until much later after we had already hiked all the way past Wilson Camp. But when it did, I found lots more Mariposas. Along part of Wagon Road I began seeing a type of Mariposa Lily that I had never seen before. I’ve seen many of the White (butterfly) variety usually having purple and yellow accents. I’ve also seen many of the yellow type having dark purple accents. But I had never seen a Mariposa Lily which was primarily a rose colored shade with purplish and yellow accents. There is a section of Wagon Road where many of this striking rose colored type are blooming right now. Heading down toward Hunting Hollow Road there were many more yellow lilies being frequented by butterflies. The displays were awesome enough to make me change my plan to go back up Steer Ridge to see more.

Click here to see the pictures

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yosemite Spring 09 Trip

One of my all time favorite places to be in spring is within the glacial sculpted granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley. With warming spring temperatures the Sierra snowpack begins melting, sending it’s bounty down the jagged slopes into a myriad of intricate nooks and crannies; culminating it’s mass together until the streams and rivers become raging torrents, and the waterfalls within the valley come thundering to life. Early in the season, just before the Memorial Day crush of tourists flood in, the falls are at their best, thick with pure high country runoff. The crushing water striking the rock bases atomizing into the most refreshing spray. The emanating sonic waves vibrating at a palpable wavelength that I would swear can promote a physiological healing. Many seasonal falls and cascades can only be seen during this early period; falls that most visitors to Yosemite never even see at all. Horsetail Fall, Sentinel Fall, Snow Creek Fall, Staircase Fall, Royal Arches Fall, the list goes on. It’s a season of less intense sunshine with pleasantly cool nights in the 40s to 50s, and the valley is still somewhat quiet. In summertime the granite walls make this place seem like the world’s largest pizza oven, and the crowds are oppressive. Better to be in the high country then, although the Hetch Hetchy area has awesome wild flowers in June.

We were camped out at Upper Pines for 5 nights and got some nice hikes in. I will do write ups of these hikes as time permits. All of our available time since our return has been spent cleaning up and sorting out our gear. On our first morning, Sue and I hiked the 4-Mile up to Sentinel Dome. This was her choice because she likes the views. She says the 4-Mile is the real Panorama Trail, and I have to agree. The trail they call Panorama has very limited azimuth of view in comparison.

The next day I did my 5th Half Dome summit with Dave and Diane, my in-laws. This was on Saturday the 16th, only the second day of the cables being up. I’ve never been that early before. Of course we got soaked climbing up Vernal Fall, and the spray from Nevada Fall was so intense I could not even get pictures standing down stream near the Mist trail. The whole time on the steps of the Mist Trail we were surrounded by wonderful sonic vibrations.

Next, we took an easy day and went birding for water ouzels along the Merced, riding our bikes, and relaxing in the meadows. After close to 10,000 feet in only two days I needed some nice mellow time. We were up early the next morning headed for Eagle Peak and had the experience of watching from the summit as thunderheads were developing out over the eastern high peaks, and eventually sent a nice little Sierra storm our way, pelting us with hail and rain while descending the Yosemite Falls Trail in the spray and swirling air of the peak waterfall, with intermittent lighting flashes and accompanying thunder claps. What a blast! On our way home we had a car full of wet gear, but we had time to stop off at Hetch Hetchy and did the short hike out to Wapama Fall. Excellent spray here too. Crossing the footbridge at the base of the falls was enough to render us soaked from head to toe, but it feels good in the heat of this rock oven.

The time always goes too fast when I go to the Sierras. It’s a bit of a shock to come back to the anthill and return to work after sleeping like a baby every night in the mountain air. Maybe I should have been born a hillbilly.

Click here to see the first day pictures on flickr.
This is just a little taste. More to come:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ohlone out-and-back

With the weather warming up again, and our Yosemite trip coming up, this was the time to do my annual spring hike on the Ohlone trail. The trek to Rose peak from Del Valle is a classic butt kicker, making it a nice training hike for the rigors of ascending Yosemite’s granite. This trail also provides a great diversity of wild flowers throughout the spring, which is the main reason I do it every year during this season.

With my permit expired, it cost me 8 bucks with day use fee, but now I’m set for the next year of trail use. The map they provide is better than most. I really like the trail marking system they have in place for the Ohlone trail. They use numbered markers which correspond to exact locations on the map, making them unmistakable, even if totally unfamiliar with the trail. The map has exact mileages between points, and even though it’s not a real topo map, it does provide a very rough elevation profile along one edge.

Beginning at Del Valle at 750 feet, the trail has some steep uphill sections leading up to the Boyd trail camp. Various wild flowers bloom along these sections. Lots of Chinese houses, Blue eyed grass, Ithuriel’s Spears, Wind poppies, and lots of others. Soon after cresting the first little ridge at 2380 ft, the trail then turns right and heads downhill again switching back a few times giving back some altitude. This section brings you down to Williams’s gulch at 1890 ft. After crossing the creek begins the section call “big burn”. This is a fairly relentless uphill section, but if you really like wildflowers, this will be your favorite part of the hike. There’s lots of colorful variety to keep your head turning and camera clicking. Poison oak is in abundance along the narrow single track setion, which is often subtly camouflaged amongst other vegetation, and sticking out right into the trail. You need to be mindful of exactly what you may be brushing up against, and of course there may be ticks. I put on my long sleeve UV shirt just for safety until clear of all the over-growth. There are some view opportunities to the north, and out to the surrounding ridges and grassy dales dotted with oaks hosting masses of leafy mistletoe. When you reach Schlieper Rock at 3080 ft, a short climb to the top provides sweeping views to the east. On a clear enough day you would definitely see the Sierra Nevada. Lots of view opportunities open up along this high ridge topping out at 3640 feet, and be sure to close the cattle gates behind you along this gently rolling section. I skipped the side trip to Murietta Falls this trip. It seems to only be running well right after some good rain.

When I reached Rose flat junction at marker 32, there was a couple of hikers there studying a map. They asked if I knew how to get to Discovery peak. I told them I had heard of it, but it’s not on the map, and I don’t think it on the trail easement. Undaunted, they turned off trail to attempt to find it. I was tempted to go that way, because I already know that there is a much easier route to Rose peak than using the Box canyon route of the official Ohlone trail. But I decided to hang with the red marked Ohlone easement. Later back at the parking lot I met some other hikers who had failed to meet up with their hiking group who were going to Discovery peak that day, where ever that is.

Up on Rose peak I had a nice little break enjoying the views in the shade of a tree. There were a lot of swallow tail butterflies fluttering around, and I made numerous attempts to get a picture of one. Butterflies are frustratingly hard to photograph when you only have a little autofocus camera with very little zoom. They usually make a fool out of me, but I finally did get a decent shot as a swallow tail was lulled into calmness by the sweet nectar of a nearby Blue Dick. Earlier I had gotten a shot of a Checkerspot that was similarly entranced on a yellow Mariposa Lilly. The first Mariposa Lilies I’ve seen this year, all of them the more rare yellow variety.

Box canyon down to north fork Indian creek was killer on the way back. It was in the 80s, and after all that uphill you then lose altitude again back down to 3200 feet with another steep climb back out. At marker 32, I paused under an old oak tree with several large critter burrows under it. Hoping they weren’t from snakes, I fished out a packet of Emergen-C, mixed it, and sipped it down with a Clif Bar. I got the idea that my trekking poles were causing me to use more energy. I have read that use of trekking poles can actually increase the aerobic quality of hiking. I decided to stow my poles and started back on the trail. Before long I felt much better and kept up a strong pace clear back down to William’s Gulch. After slogging back uphill to marker 37 my legs were like rubber, but I wasn’t breathing all that hard. I took my poles back out for the last big downhill back to the parking lot. The last time I used a GPS on this hike I logged over 6000 feet of total elevation gain over 19.6 miles, but I don’t know if that was accurate. I will be getting a better unit soon.

Click here to see the photoset from this hike on Flickr
Click here to see photos from our hike together in 2007

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Drizzle

Strange little rainy system that came in for this weekend. Not much actual rain, but plenty of lingering drizzle and accompanying grey skies. Another detour in the spring warming trend. If you’re a seasoned hiker, and inclined to see the proverbial glass half full, you have to be thinking; “this will encourage others to stay indoors”. “We’ll have the trails virtually all to ourselves”. True enough as the saying goes. In my experience this has proven this to be dependable. The temps will be cool, and the air cleansed. On the other hand, this type of weather does not bode well for long range views, or for wild flowers, except for species that prefer to be protected from direct sunlight anyway. Weighing the balance, and factoring in our loath to waste the weekend by staying indoors, Sue and I will predictably decide to go on a hike. We might spend extra time analyzing weather reports, choosing gear, and juggling our regular activities a bit, but outdoors and away from the city “buzz” is where we always want to be.

We did sleep in a bit, and not wanting to go on a long drive, we decided on one of our usual “go to” venues called Rancho Cañada Del Oro. Driving in along Case Loma Road we stopped to avoid some male ring-necked pheasants that were hanging around in the middle of the road. They almost seemed to be deranged or something, but perhaps it was some kind of mating thing. There were no females around that we could see. Usually any bird species will flee from a moving vehicle. Turkeys are kind of slow and stupid, so you have to watch out for them, but these silly pheasants wouldn’t budge for some reason. All males. My camera was in my pack in the trunk, so I couldn’t get pictures. I was getting a little nervous about being stopped near a curve, so I slowly and incredulously slalomed around them. I don’t know if that is some expected behavior for them or not. If so, I am amazed we don’t see more road-kill of that species.

As expected, when we arrived at the parking lot there were no other cars there. There was a lot of Lupine and Winter Vetch blooming in the field adjacent to the parking area splashing the green grasses with swathes of purple. Donning our Go-Lite umbrellas, we headed up the Serpentine loop to the Catamount trail, climbing up to Bald peaks in the light drizzle. We were able to enjoy lots of wild flowers despite the wet and grey conditions. I was amazed at how many globe lilies (a.k.a. fairy lanterns) were coming out. I am used to seeing them, but not in such numbers. I think most people tend to not notice them because they do not possess the kind of striking colors that usually draw all the attention. This year I am also seeing a lot more Pom-pom Onions for some reason. We also saw lots of Blue dicks, Checker bloom, Winter Vetch, and others. The open conditions up on the ridge top was chilling prompting us to layer for wind. We walked right past Bald peaks without even thinking about having a view. No chance! Longwall Canyon got us back down into the woods. The trail tread was just wet enough to get sandy, muddy, buildup in our boot waffles which prompted frequent stops to clear it as best we could. On Mayfair Ranch trail we found lots of Wind poppies, and a few Chinese houses. The information at the kiosk said that Giant trilliums were out, but I never spotted any. By the time we reached the picnic table strategically placed at a high clearing, the showers had stopped, and some of the clouds had cleared away providing a view. There were some grazing cattle along part of this trail, but not many. We didn’t see any other hikers all day. This was a short loop, but proved to be satisfying. Cañada Del Oro never fails to be a pleasant hike. Not far away, but secluded enough to enjoy the day.

Click here to see the photos on flickr