Place: Bodie Hills, Bridgeport, California
Coordinates: 38.194218, -119.050138
Length: about 1.8 miles
We left Bodie State Historic Park without seeing a sage grouse. The attendant at the park's gate informed us that these grouse are very shy and skittish and that we can't expect to see them in mid-day with all the people about. He instructed us to come back late in the evening or very early in the morning. "They come out to the road," he said.
We did go back that evening. The park was closed but we hanged around on the dirt road that leads to the park and strained our eyes for naught.
We agreed to return to the area on the morrow. While sighting a sage grouse was highest on our wish list, I had another perfectly good reason to go back there: the wildflowers I had seen on our visit to the park had left me with a strong taste for more.
Getting there at first light was out of the question. I did toy with the idea of waking up at 5 am and getting the chikas into the car still in pajamas and sleeping bags, but Papa Quail got me off it pretty quickly. We would be driving home after that and it would be too much for one day.
We still had our hopes to see sage grouse. We drove past the paved road and onto the dirt road that leads to the state park. We selected a dale that seemed accessible and parked the car on a gravel pullout.
The hills near the park are covered with low sagebrush scrub. On first glance it looked like nothing was in bloom. That impression had changed within the first few steps into the dale when I saw the first wildflower - a bunch of intensely purple penstemons.
|Meadow Penstemon (Penstemon rydbergii)|
|Brewer's Blackbird, female|
|Northern Bog Violet (Viola nephrophylla)|
Our natural reaction was to go on the hillside where the ground was dry. If that was good enough for the squirrels ...
|Popcorn Flower (Cryptantha sp.)|
I soon got another affirmation that my so called water proof shoes were only water proof from the inside out. I also found many lovely flowers that didn't mind the water the least bit. On the contrary.
|Toad Lily (Montia chamissoi)|
|Low Phacelia (Phacelia humilis var. humilis)|
For ever so long the green tailed towhee was at the top of Papa Quail's desires, having seen floating glimpses of it here and there but up until that morning it has always evaded photo opportunities. Now it was a prime opportunity :-)
|Green-tailed Towhee with nesting material|
A bright, red spot beckoned me from the slope. Papa Quail had seen it too and pointed it out to me. I knew that it must be an Indian paintbrush shrub and I said I was going to go there to get a good close-up shot of the plant.
So Papa Quail and the chikas sat down to rest and I clambered uphill through the scrub.
It took me a long time to get there, and not because the way was particularly challenging. It's just that there were too many pretty plants in bloom on the way, all of which so close to the ground that they were invisible to me from the creek below.
|Humboldt River Milkvetch (Astragalus iodanthus)|
|Curvepod Milkvetch (Astragalus curvicarpus)|
|Cushion Phlox (Phlox pulvinata)|
|Brewer's Navarretia (Navarretia breweri)|
|Suksdorf's Monkeyflower (Mimulus suksdorfii)|
I increased my pace.
|Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia sp.)|
|Desert Paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa)|
|Parrothed Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja pilosa)|
Eventually I got on my feet and followed my family up the creek. On my way I came across dish-like leaf rosettes, many of which had a dandelion blooming on their side. The dish-like plants are the native dinnerplate thistles. The dandelions are immigrant weeds.
|Dinnerplate Thistle (Cirsium scariosum var. americanum) with non-native common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)|
|Willow (Salix sp.)|
|Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)|
After some walking I noticed a shallow cave up on the hill and I informed Papa Quail that I was going up there to explore who might be living there. On the way up I came upon many little beauties, like this dwarf monkeyflower.
|Skunky Monkeyflower (Mimulus nanus var. mephiticus)|
|Dwarf Purple Monkeyflower (Mimulus nanus)|
|Small-flowered Blazingstaer (Mentzelia albicaulis)|
The space in front of the cave, however, was carpeted by a species of Phacelia that I had never seen before: the beautiful and delicate Twocolor Phacelia.
|Twocolor Phacelia (Phacelia bicolor)|
|Nevada Gilia (Gilia brecciarum)|
Once we stopped worrying about wetting our shoes we were making a faster progress on our way back. I was striding at the tail of my family, stopping now only infrequently for a quick shot here and there. Like these nice-looking old iris fruits that dotted the wider segments of the creek bed.
Eventually we got back to the dale we had started at. Papa Quail and the chikas headed directly to the car and started changing their shoes. I took my time and enjoyed the views.
|Sagebrush (Artemisia cana)|
I went up to the car in slow unwilling steps, the soil turning drier under my feet and the lush grass remaining behind. Stooping to say a last goodbye to one of the tiny residents of the Bodie Hills Sagebrush I got into the car and we drove off.
|Purple Mat (Nama densum)|
|Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum)|
|Desert Peach (Prunus andersonii)|
We will be back.