Place: Cold Canyon, Lake Berryessa (right by the dam), Solano County, California
Length and Difficulty: The full loop is 5 miles, strenuous. To Old Homestead and back: 2.5 in and out, moderate.
After another sweaty night we woke up on Sunday morning to yet another scorcher. It would be the last day of our friends at this camping trip because of prior commitments on Memorial Day, but we had time for one more hike together before they would leave. I feared that yesterday's hikes at Smittle Creek and Pope Canyon in the triple digits may have drained all will of hiking away from our group, but everybody seemed to have slept better than me and were in an energized mood. So after breakfast we got into the cars and drove south to Lake Berryessa dam, to the trailhead of Cold Canyon.
|Trail Illustrated on Aerial Photo. Photograph from a post sign at the trailhead.|
The dam is quite a drive from Putah Creek Campground. When we got there we found that the heat didn't deter other hikers, and that the parking lot was full. We managed to squeeze our cars along the road and nearly died of heat during the short segment of road we walked to the trailhead. It was clear to everyone in our group that we won't be hiking the entire loop that day.
The trail looked well shaded, though, so we set up to go to the Old Homestead, about a mile and a quarter up the creek.
|California Buckeye blossom.|
|Winecup Clarkia (Clarkia purpurea)|
I didn't dwell on that beer for too long. There were so many clarkias about.
|Bunchleaf Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus)|
|Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillar on the trail|
And in the chaparral, some very familiar bushes.
|Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus)|
The flowers were pretty, though.
|Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis)|
The Old Homestead is the remains of an old settlers stone house in the forest, and a water duck built from the creek to where the house had stood. The forest was deep and the shade very pleasant. We stayed there for quite a while.
At some point we were accompanied by a sister butterfly:
|California Sister Butterfly|
|Woodbalm (Lepechinia calycina)|
|Forest and chaparral|
|Pincusionplant (Navarretia sp.)|
|A view down Cold Canyon, roofed with blooming California Buckeye|
We stopped for ice cream on the way back to the campground. The children had earned it. I got a sixpack and shoved it inside an ice box.
It was nice to have a cold one, back at the campground. The children went to the water again. Our friends broke camp and packed their things. Then we sat down for a late lunch. A visitor that joined us at the table had all the childrens very excited. It seemed harmless enough and had no interest in us or our food. It merely sat still and posed for the camera. That was the first time any of us saw a mayfly.
|Mayfly on the picnic table|
As far as insects go, the mayfly is a pretty one. I love its sickle posture.
Then our friends departed and us quails were alone at the campsite. It took one look at Papa Quail, sweltering semi-conscious by the table, for me to realize that our time there has ended as well. We did make one last attempt to find a worthwhile trail for the morrow, but were too tired and hot to make the effort real. Everyplace we were told we should find water turned out to be bone dry when we fount it.
We returned to the campground and broke camp, Papa Quail in silence and me with low grumbling. We packed the car, took a final look at the lake, bade farewell to the osprey and drove home one full day short of our plan.
|Lake Berryessa, right by our campsite at Putah Creek|
When there is a serious heat wave inland there is really only once place to go for a decent hike, and that's the Pacific Coast. I entrusted Papa Quail with the job of finding us a good place to hike and he found the perfect place: Mori Point, at Pacifica.
Many thanks for members of the California Wildlife Appreciators group for their help in identifying the mayfly!