Place: Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, California
Coordinates: 36.470975, -118.554916
Length: 1.7 miles of no trail cross country path-finding
It was still dark when I woke up in the morning of the forth day of our trip.I would have liked to stay in the sack some more but I had to answer nature's call. The air was quite chilly and dark clouds covered most of the sky. The clouds in the east just began to light up when the sky started dripping large, sporadic raindrops.
"But it's likely to get more intense," I added.
My friend exited the tend. If I was chilly, she was downright cold. Shivering, she wend down to the water while I started heating up water for the morning tea and watched the morning getting brighter.
It didn't take long for the blue patches to again disappear behind the cloud cover. By the time tea was ready it was all gray once more.
But then, all of a sudden, a rainbow appeared on the west. A beautiful rainbow shaft reaching from the clouds to the mountain ridge. We sipped out tea and enjoyed this wonderful treat until it slowly faded.
|Somewhere over the rainbow ... here I am!|
|3 stages of female cones. Sierra Foxtail Pine (Pius balfouriana)|
|Our hike from Spring Lake to Cliff Creek Campground as captured by my GPS. The no-trail part highlighted in purple.|
|Cliff Creek spilling out of Spring Lake. In the back - the huge granite peak we camped under.|
|Sierra Penstemon (Penstemon heterodoxus)|
|Pacific Mountain Onion (Allium validum)|
|Looking back upstream|
|Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.)|
|Kelley's Lily (Lilium kelleyanum)|
|Clasping Arnica (Arnica lanceolata)|
|Sierra Tree Frog|
|Marsh Checker Mallow (Sidalcea ranunculacea)|
|Yellow Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus)|
|Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolim)|
|Anybody in there?|
Just then the terrain became even more rough and challenging. We moved gingerly from one rock ledge to another, stopping frequently to assess our choices.
Naturally we paid a very close attention to the rocks we were stepping on, and not only to assess if they were stable enough to hold our weight - many had some pretty lichen growing on them.
As we progressed we were also losing altitude, and with the change in elevation came a change in the plant communities. Some of the species I've seen on Glacier Pass and in the Spring Lake area I wasn't seeing anymore. That upper Cliff Creek area was the last place I've seen the march larkspur on this trip.
|Mountain Marsh Larkspur (Delphinium polycladon)|
The sneezeweed intensely yellow blossom was brighter than anything else that was blooming on that slope. Perhaps in compensation of the cloud-obscured sun.
|Bigelow's Sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovi)|
|California Corn Lily (Veratrum californicum var. californicum)|
|Corn Lily, Groundsel and friends.|
That ledge was already dry. Not so many plants were growing on it and what did was very small. I was impressed by the red color of the stonecrop plants that grew in the crack lines of the rock.
This red color, so pretty to the eye, indicates that these plants were quite stressed.
Shortage of water, most likely.
|Ledge Stonecrop (Rhodiola integrifolia)|
I had a very good omen on the path I chose - a blooming crimson columbine!
A sure sign that we were headed the right way - downward.
|Crimson Columbine (Aquilegia formosa)|
|Upper Cluff Creek|
|Black-tailed Deer, male|
I wasn't worried that we wouldn't find the trail. As long as we were going down the north side of Cliff Creek we were bound to find it at some point. Besides, we were walking through such a lovely field of wildflowers. Worry wasn't on my mind at all.
That wildflower field held a not so pleasant surprise for us in the shape of numerous little, nasty thorny seeds that got caught in our clothes and itched where we weren't clothed.
Thorny seeds, however, are a small price to pay for the beauty we beheld.
|Fleabane (Erigeron sp.), and Bigelow's Sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovi)|
|Cliff Creek-Black Rock Pass Trail|
And about those three miles I will post separately, soon.
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying plants!