Sunday, March 11, 2012

Part II, Trilliums are Out

Bush poppies blooming along Ward Road
This week I had the notion to go out and try to find some blooming clintonia in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I found it strange that I did not see any clintonia at all last year, but I usually see it early in the season in forested regions, especially those having lots of redwood. I have seen it in this region when flowering in reddish pink, and also when it’s showing dark blue berries. The best examples that I have personally seen (locally around the south bay) have been at Portola State Park in the Peter’s Creek region.

Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum)
Hiking solo again this week, I decided to hike into the Peter’s Creek grove using the infamous inverse route originating from LongRidge OSP. With gas prices reaching over 4 dollars per gallon in California, it was a lot shorter drive this way; but that’s really just a fun fact for my green fetish. The real reason I used this route is simply because I enjoy it. I wanted to hike the section along Slate Creek east of the Page mill site. This trail section leading along the creek bed is thickly wooded, festooned with mountain greenery, and the flowing waters of the creek adding its gentle sounds makes it a very pleasant afternoon walk in the woods. Using the route originating at Portola headquarters is much easier, but would skip this beautiful section of trail. This is a much more challenging route which has a daunting uphill return, so it’s a choice each person should weigh for themselves. I also ran into some adverse trail conditions along the upper section connecting with Ward Road, which could have been troubling for some hikers. This section has not been maintained very well in recent years, and at one point there is a large redwood that has fallen directly across the trail along a slope, bringing a collection of other smaller trees and undergrowth down with it. The result is a thickly tangled mess that is all but impossible to get around. When I first encountered it, I tried to find a way around it only to find myself on the wrong side of a drainage to reconnect with the trail. I circled back and had to climb over the heap to get past. I hope this trail gets some maintenance soon because the whole upper section between Ward Road and the creek bed has lots of debris and issues. I may consider finding some time to volunteer for some trail work as I have done before in years past, if the park remains open. Hopefully it will. You need a good sense of adventure to hike it in current conditions. Again weigh it for yourself.

Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum)
Beginning at an access point along skyline (hwy 35), gate LR01 is about 1.7 miles north from the junction with highway 9, which provides access to Ward Road (trail). I would recommend having both a MedPen South Skyline region map (available at the trailhead), and a Portola map for this route. You hike down from the oak woodlands through some chaparral with lots of manzanita, and with bush poppies and lupine blooming in spring. The view out to the ocean was quite obscure on this day. With luck there are fine views. At about 1700 feet the trail levels out and passes through an area dominated by Douglas fir, and soon intermingled with redwood. After making a couple of turns to avoid private property the trail begins heading downhill again. The second turn, which is not as well marked as the first, is the junction that become Slate Creek trail after which you are in Portola. The trail continues descending to the creek bed at about 900 feet. I was so glad I decided to take this route because I began seeing great displays of Western or Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum). This entire section is blooming with trilliums, but unfortunately no clintonia was to be found.

Sequoia Sempervirens
After enjoying the creek route, I found my way to the Slate Creek trail camp where you find the junction with Bear Creek trail. This trail leads up and over Doherty Ridge topping out at about 1466 feet, and then down into the confluence of Peter’s Creek and Bear Creek where the Peter’s Creek grove is located at an elevation of about 675 feet. This is where I have found clintonia before, but on this trip I found nothing. I’m not sure why, but I hope to find some before the season is over. I had to settle for the nice displays of the trilliums, and a few other species just beginning to bloom. The secluded Peter’s Creek grove is always a nice peaceful time, providing some nice relaxation before beginning the long steep climb back out.

I really enjoyed the hike, but the nice displays of trilliums along Slate Creek, which were the highlight of the day, could have been enjoyed with a much simpler and less strenuous route from park headquarters. In hindsight, considering that I was not able to spot any clintonia, which was really my goal, I could have skipped the Peter's Creek diversion altogether. But who doesn't love a good challenging hike. "Nothing ventured nothing gained" is a good cliché; but I just love to hike. In any case, if you enjoy trilliums, now is the time to get yourself into the deep woods while the blooms are at peak. I created a photoset from this hike on flickr if you want to see more. I also recorded a track log and uploaded to EveryTrail.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Trilliums are out

Aged cluster of redwoods
We’ve had a lot going on lately, but I took some time out for hike last Saturday and got the notion to hunt for trilliums. They usually start coming out early, and one of my favorite places to look for them is Purisima Creek. This is a great little preserve situated in the coastal mountains above and just south of Half Moon Bay. The trilliums come out in lots of other places, but they just seem to flourish here for some reason I have never been able to discover. I’ve had many cold, foggy, and wet visits here including last year when I got thrashed by rain and hail, so it was great to finally enjoy a beautiful sunny day for this route. I enjoyed great Pacific Ocean views from vantage points on top of Purisima’s ridges. So nice were the views that I could actually spot the Farallon Islands from points along the North Ridge and the Harkins Ridge trails with the naked eye. I almost wished I had gone to Montera Mountain instead to get the full 360 degree sea air imbued panorama including the bay, but I had come here for a specific purpose. I also took some time to admire some of the remaining examples of old growth redwood that somehow got missed when this area was logged many moons ago. Despite the logging history the terrain here is mostly thickly wooded with many tall conifers and a thick canopy. It’s a beautiful place to hike any time. The best displays of Trilliums are on the Craig Britton and the Whittemore Gulch trails. When spring arrives in earnest, there will be lots of other wild flower varieties. We spotted two types of nightshade, two types of violets, chaparral current, wild cucumber, and hounds tongue, but these were just beginning to show and weren’t really photogenic yet. The better displays are yet to come.

The route that I used for this hike begins at the main trailhead up on Skyline. The track log I’m linking here is actually my same exact route from last year. The route is an “inverse” hike requiring a steep uphill return back to 2000 feet. Another more remote trailhead can be accessed by driving to the south side of Half Moon Bay and taking Higgins Canyon Road a few miles to the rather small parking lot. Getting there takes a lot more driving, but will allow you to begin at the lowest elevation in the park giving you a downhill return. I would recommend getting there early if you want to that because on a nice day, this place is popular. As I was leaving in the early afternoon, the parking on skyline was full and people were squeezing their parked cars along the highway. It wasn’t a crowed hike though. I have attached a few photos below, but you can also click here see my photoset on flickr.

Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum)

Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum)

Giant Trillium (Trillium chloropetalum)

Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum)