Although spring is a ways off, there has been plenty of material out in the woods for table centerpieces. On one of our recent walks, A. helped me to collect incense cedar branches (Calocedrus decurrens), a few twigs of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium) and the expired flowering stems of last year’s Plumas County beardtongue (Penstemon neotericus) and coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima). Best of all were the paired, linear, maroon-colored, seed pods of spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), which we have watched split along their sutures and explode into a fluffy clouds of tufted seeds. We also included branches of green leaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula) that were very prematurely in bud. Once inside the house, they broke into clusters of bell-flowered blooms.
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After a morning in the oak woodlands near Finley Lake, where Lasthenia californica (goldfields) and Viola douglasii (Douglas’ violet) were both blooming, I spent my lunchbreak on a detour down the High Trestle Trail. Nearly a decade ago we backpacked all the way down to the North Fork of Antelope Creek. Yesterday, however, there was just enough time to peel off the canyon rim a half a mile or so, where the trail descends through oak woodland and thick foothill chaparral to cross a small drainage that has cut through exposed Tuscan mudflow. Not many annual species out. Perhaps they’ve already come and gone, or perhaps many didn’t bother to make an appearance after the dry winter. But Cercis occidentalis (western redbud), Clematis lasiantha (chaparral clematis), Marah fabacea (California man-root), and Calochortus monophyllus (yellow star-tulip) were all in bloom. More flower pictures to come!
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.
Normally our precipitation falls as snow this time of year, but for the past few days we have been pounded by a series of rainstorms. Rain! And it is practically Oregonian in nature, steady and relentless. The girls and I took advantage of a brief lull between storms to do some puddle stomping out in the woods. I even got out for a run in the woods. Each run I have taken during the past month feels like it will be my last. Any day now, I think to myself, I will be swapping my shoes for skis. But each snowfall has yielded to unseasonably warm temperatures. Mount Lassen is again cloaked in snow, a happy sight, but here at 5,000 feet not a lick of snow remains.
Yeah, I know you can’t pin any particular event in any particular place to climate change. But maybe I’ll plant tomatoes next year just in case.
Next Saturday (July 14th)I am helping to coordinate a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt with the California Native Plant Society and Mountain Meadows Conservancy. Our quarry? Brasenia schreberi (watershield), an aquatic plant that occurs across the northern United States but is rare in California. I am quite excited. Most rare plant surveys involve hiking, but for this one I get to dust off the kayak and paddle around Mountain Meadows Reservoir in search of a plant last documented here in 1955. Readers, please contact me if you are interested in joining us! We will be meeting up at 9:30 am at the Westwood Visitor Center, then driving to Indian Ole Dam to put in. I’ll have images of Brasenia on hand for reference, as well as aerial images of Mountain Meadows so that we can focus our search.
View a flyer for this excursion here.
This post-snowmelt, pre-mosquito time of year is always a special interlude. I was quarantined for most of the week with a sick babe, but managed occasional sips of outdoor time here and there. Spring has really and truly arrived in the mountains. Last week’s solid foot of snow seems but a distant memory. A landscape full of promise, as birds scope out nesting sites and radishes explode from their seeds.