|Flooded meadow near Pinto Lake|
Place: Mineral King area, Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, California,
This is the continuation the latest post - the second part of our hike from Spring Lake to Cliff Creek Campground, on the forth day of the backpacking trip in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park.
|Our hike from Spring Lake to Cliff Creek Campground as captured by my GPS. Established trail part labeled purple.|
My friend took the lead. She preferred a continuous stride whereas I would stop briefly to check out one plant or another. Still, I walked more and stopped less than before.
|Western Cow Bane, Oxypolis occidentalis|
|View of Pinto Lake|
And then, there was that smell.
It was a strong, overwhelming at times, odor. And it reminded me very much of the male blossom of carob trees, or that of, pardon me, human semen.
|Sierra Chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens)|
|Sierra Chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens)|
|Lewis's Flax (Linum lewisii)|
We did stop, however, to look at a pretty butterfly that fluttered to and fro and then settled on a rock and posing for a photo. My friend had a good eye for them - nearly always she was the first to see the butterflies, and then she would point them out to me.
We were lucky enough that the cooler weather had slowed down the butterflies, enough to allow me to photograph them.
|Pale Mountain Monardella (Monardella odorosissima var. pallida)|
I chose to ignore that sign for the time and focus on the beauty and serenity that surrounded me all around.
|Water Cress (Nasturtium officinale)|
The moment we set foot in that meadow we realized it was flooded. The trail too. We walked slowly, trying to find the balance between not soaking our shoes and not trampling the vegetation. I don't think we were 100% successful on either one.
|Clouds in the meadow|
Loud squeaks from a nearby pine grabbed our attention - there was a squirrel up in the canopy. It hopped from branch to branch, emitting loud, shrill cries. I don't know what had upset it. I didn't see any predator near. Eventually the squirrel jumped to a smaller tree, and from there to the ground. Then it run off and disappeared from our view.
With some reluctance we scrambled to our feet and hoisted our packs. The next part pf the trail was hidden from our view but looking at the map (which I did ever so frequently now, after the embarrassment of getting across the wrong pass), I could tell we had to go down quite a bit still.
|Downstream of Pinto Lake Campground|
|Western Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)|
The creek took the fastest way down and jumped off the cliff in a beautiful cascading waterfall.
|Glaucous Willow Herb (Epilobium glaberrimum)|
|Sierra Bog Orchid (Platanthera dilatata var. leucostachys)|
|Ranger's Button (Sphenosciadium capitellatum)|
|Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja sp.|
|Sierra False Bindweed, Calystegia malacophylla|
|Beaked Penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus)|
|Black Elderberry, Sambucus nigra|
|The view down Cliff Creek Canyon|
|Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans|
The now familiar smell of the chinquapin bushes filled the air again. Th patches of chinquapin were separated by other shrubs, also growing n their own patches, not mixing as much. For the first time on our way down now, we were seeing manzanita.
|Green-leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula|
|Broad-leaved Lotus (Hockasia crassifolia)|
It turns out that Cliff Creek runs in two arms high above where we had descended from, and they drop down the cliff in two cascading waterfalls. We were walking down the northern and narrower one, which was mostly hidden from our view until we were right below it. The south one came rushing down the side canyon wall. We've seen that one continuously throughout the latter half of our descent and now we were sitting right below it, giving some respite to our legs.
But soon we felt large droplets splattering on us and the rocks we were sitting on. At first, with some denial, I think, we thought it might be the spray of the waterfall. But we weren't sitting all that close to it. A few more seconds later we could no longer deny it - the rain has returned. We quickly packed our stuff, got our rain cover out and headed down the trail to the nearest grove of trees.
That rain was the last goodby of the overcast morning we've had and was short-lived. Soon we were walking in sunshine again. The trail now was narrow, almost overgrown in parts with lush vegetation. We were now completely out of the alpine zone.
But then again, I was seeing new plants around every curve of the trail.
|Richardson's Geranium (Geranium richardsonii)|
We came across more backpacks that were making their way up the trail. Most of them were aiming to get to Pinto Lake campground. I held my tongue and avoided telling them about he bitch of a climb that they still had before them. I'm sure they knew already that they had more uphill to go and I remembered how upset I was with the depressing daunting description I got from a downhill hiker when climbing up the Sawtooth Pass Trail on our second day. I figure it would be better to hold my tongue on that slope so I just wished them a good trek.
For some time we were walking close to the creek again. My friend wanted to stop and rest, and to wash her face in the water. I felt hot and wished to find a good shade to sit under so I urged her on. But after a short distance the creek suddenly dropped in altitude, probably by a waterfall that was hidden from our sight. The trail, however, remained high above the water. We were going down alright, but always remaining far from the creek. We did have a stop in the shade, but it was a dry stop. My friend had to wait until the very end before she had had the chance to freshen up in tn the creek water. (Sorry, Y!)
Wilderness etiquette dictates that when a camping place is occupied one should look for another one and not crowd other solitude-seekers. But Cliff Creek Campground is the only suitable campsite in that area. Plus, it was already late and we were too worn out to get any further. Perhaps it would have been polite to ask if we could share the space, but since there was no option for us of accepting a 'no' answer, I did not ask for permission. I simply went there, introduced myself and my friend, and said plainly that we'll be neighbors for the night. They smiled and nodded and I was relieved. We pitched our tent in a small flat area at a respectable distance from theirs and used a tree stump as our table for making dinner. My friend, who had carried a thin plastic tarp all the way had pulled it put in triumph and spread it on the dusty ground.
The sun set unceremoniously, hidden behind the trees. As we were getting ready to get in the sac more people came down the trail. They, too, had nowhere else to go that night. Before nightfall there were five tents crammed in that small campsite, and a hammock was hanging between two trees. Only the minimally-necessary words were exchanged - everyone was dead beat. A short time after nightfall we were all fast asleep.
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying plants!
A link to the post of the fifth and last day of this trip.