View of the Warner Mountains from Surprise Valley.
Rainbow obsidian scatter on the alkali flats.
Geothermal action in Surprise Valley.
Although the rest of the valley had barely awakened to spring, Mimulus guttatus (common yellow monkeyflower) was in full bloom on the warm, moist pool edges.
We have also spent a fair amount of time walking out into the woods, which would be impossible in most years. Our ramblings take us up small hills, down logging roads, past rocky outcroppings. Old snowshoe hare tracks caught M.’s eye on a walk up Dead Dog Hill, and she decided to make what she called a “Rabbit Catch.” The idea was that if she collected some enticing food items for the hare and set them out along with a soft place to sleep, she would be able to hide and observe the hare when it came by to nibble and rest.
I followed her direction as we collected dried out manzanita berries and evergreen leaves from greenleaf manzanita plants (Arctostaphylos patula), a miniature bouquet of coyote mint flowerheads (Monardella odoratissima), and tufts of chartreuse wolf lichen (Vulpia sp.) These were all carefully arranged on rocks and sticks in a small hollow that M. thought looked just right for a hare to inhabit. We have returned to check on her set-up, and so far there are no takers. I love that she has learned to navigate from our house right back to the same spot. I watch as she follows a logging road, peels off at a skid trail, climbs past a feature she has called the “Sitting Rocks”, and looks for three small firs that mark the spot.
Dried manzanita berries
Old coyote mint flowerheads — I never noticed how pretty these are, with their downy white calyces still attached to the plant.
Filed under Local, Winter
Adventure is relative when you’re three, and for my daughter, an hour-long excursion to the lakeshore via the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail certainly qualified. While M. was out cutting wood with her Papa, A. and I had a rare excursion together, just the two of us. The path twisted through dense forest and at times was barely visible under a dense carpet of needles. I trotted along on foot beside her, providing emergency braking on the downhills, and a few pushes on long uphills. We walked out to the lake on the far end of our journey. As always, A. filled her pockets with treasures, including feathers, fuzzy mullein leaves, and snail shells. The reward for her efforts? Whole-grain waffles, fresh-baked quiche, and hot cocoa at the Lakeside Cafe in Hamilton Branch. Yum!
You would think, that as a botanist, Table Mountain would have been a priority destination when I arrived in California eight years ago. But spring after spring rolled by without a trip to see what many consider to be one of Northern California’s most stunning wildflower displays. Finally, last weekend, we made the journey. North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve perches above the Central Valley on a sprawling basaltic plateau. Table Mountain is peppered with vernal pools and criss-crossed by basalt outcrops and ridges. Grooved swales carry water west, where several end in waterfalls that plunge off the plateau toward the Central Valley below.
We walked northwest from the imposing valley oak at the parking lot, and made it to Fern Falls. Not bad for a party that included four babes and preschoolers! Our timing was perfect. Above, A. checks out bright magenta owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta), pale bird’s eye gilia (Gilia tricolor), sunny goldfields (Lasthenia californica), and white and purple sky lupine (Lupinus nanus). Other showy species included Kellogg’s monkeyflower (Mimulus kelloggii), johnnytucks (Triphysaria eriantha), bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), and yellow carpet (Blennosperma nanum). But hands down, the highlight for the girls was this California newt that we found at the top of Fern Falls.
I had in hand a book that I purchased at the Chico Farmer’s Market the day before — Wildflowers of Table Mountain: a Naturalist‘s Guide, by Albin Bills and Samantha Mackey. Gorgeous photos, with helpful text on blooming periods and microhabitats found within the reserve. While most of the flowers were familiar to me, the geology was not. I loved the helpful explanations and illustrations that told the story of Table Mountain’s formation in a way that even to a geology layperson like myself could comprehend.
Filed under Fauna, Local, Winter
Filed under Local, Winter
Yesterday I walked along the Susan River where it winds behind Susanville east of the old Sierra Pacific mill. The water has certainly receded from its peak during the past week’s rainstorms, but the high water mark was still evident in a horizontal line of plastic bags that caught up in the willows when the river flowed high. This stretch of river never quite looks pristine, and the high water event has suspended and exposed the litter problem for all to see.
Out to Mountain Meadows yesterday evening to mark the passage from summer to autumn. I am happy to be at this fulcrum; to begin the tilt toward winter. Our summer fairly burst with hard work and play as we spun off in a million different directions to drink in the light while we could. We endured the frantic summer schedules of a botanist and a forester, where we must accomplish much work within the limited window that summer offers.
And now, I am ready to retreat, to pull back indoors, take a few deep breaths, and await our seasonal return to slightly simpler days. A crackling woodstove, extended evenings, falling snow.