Thursday, December 27, 2018

Round the Ring of Flowers: A Spring Hike of the Bailey Cove Loop

Date: May 14 and June 16, 2018
Place: Bailey Cove
Coordinates: 40.799609, -122.315810
Length: 3.1 miles
Level: Easy+

When I visited the Lake Shasta Caverns with my family last April I got a glimpse of Bailey Cove from across the lake. I didn't know at the time that I'll be back there for twice later that spring to hike around the cove. And that this loop hike will be one of the highlights of my spring hiking this year.
It started with a cancellation of a family group camping trip I had planned for April in the Mendocino Coast area because of a surprise storm that caused severe flooding there. It was too late to find an alternative place for that time but I did find an alternative campsite for June on the southeastern shore of Lake Shasta. I needed to do some preparation for the planned June trip and so when my friend came to visit me in May and we went on a week long California discovery road trip I included a day in the area of Lake Shasta in our itinerary. Trusting me to take her where there was nice spring bloom, my friend followed my plan without questioning.
After peering long at the maps I chose the Bailey Cove, which appeared to be an easy loop trail. After a restful night in the town of Lake Shasta my friend and I arrived at the trailhead, located at the Bailey Cove Recreation Area and started the loop clockwise.
Bailey Cove Trailhead
Just beyond the trailhead sign was a magnificent ceanothus bush in full bloom. As we hovered over it to inhale its intoxicating fragrance I realized that this hike is going to be a very slow one.
Ceanothus lemonii
And indeed it was. I promised my friend flowers, and flowers there were. Many. Many many.
Stipulate Lotus, Hosackia stipularis
In the beginning we stopped every step or two. Every plant was new, and every flower a new wonder.
Campanulate Campion, Silene campanulata
But when we first spotted the irises we had the cause for our first celebration, one f numerous we had on that hike.
We gave much attention to the first cluster of irises we saw. As we found out, these elegant flowers were quite common along that trail. With unquenched enthusiasm we kept admiring and photographing man of them during the hike. It always seems that each individual was prettier than the previous we've seen, or that a better photo could be taken in better angle and better illumination.
I think I got about 50 photos just of irises on that hike.
Slender Iris, Iris tenuissima
The first part of our hike was along the north facing slope of the cove, which was fully forested with a mixture of conifers and wide-leaved trees. The narrow trail undulated mildly up and down, and was mostly clear of vegetation which was a good thing, because much of the side vegetation was poison oak.

Soft sunlight sifted through the canopy and illuminate the forest floor to look like a shimmering patchwork. Forest lighting makes it difficult to photograph but it's does wonders to illuminate the soul.
Broad-leaved shrubs and herbs covered the forest floor, and nearly all of them were blooming. As we walked along I saw a familiar one just up ahead and called my friend to see - a beautiful crimson columbine.
Crimson Columbine, Aquilegia formosa
The columbine, one of the earlier bloomers, shared the red flower spot with the wavy leaf Indian paintbrush.
Wavyleaf Indian Paintbrush, Catilleja applegatei
The columbine and the indian paintbrush excited my friend a lot, as did a single cardinal catchfly that we spotted far away in the depth of the forest. The most exciting red flower of this hike, however, was et to come. Meanwhile, we kept our slow stroll, stopping for smaller and paler , more modest flowers.
Small-flowered Nemophila, Nemophila Paviflora

Small and delicate, the little white stars without which the forest isn't complete. 
Pacific Starfower, Trientalis latifolia

In some areas of the forest nearly all the ground cover was poison oak. My friend, who arrived from overseas, knew this plant but had not yet developed the instinctive avoidance motions that characterize the California hiker. Every now and then a pretty flower poked through the mat of poison oak and we had to take care to photograph it without touching the shiny lobed, innocent looking leaves that surrounded it.  
Twincrest Onion, Allium bisceptrum
Yellow asters are not very high on the list of flowers that my friend looks for but this modest arnica did attract her, and therefore my attention. It is a very elegant looking 
Rayless Arnica, Arnica discoidea
There were so many pretty flowers there that it was easy to overlook other pretty sights near the trail. But it worked well that we were hiking so slowly, because I could give more attention to other sights along the way.

The The best surprise for my friend was waiting just around the curve. I was hoping we'd see it and when I did my heart skipped a bit and I called my friend over with much excitement - a firecracker! 
It was near Crystal Falls, at Whiskeytown, not very far from Lake Shasta, where I've seen the firecracker for the first time, and there was a single flower there. I've seen them later on other hikes in the Shasta area but never in so many numbers as were blooming last spring along the Bailey Cove trail. My friend, needless to say, was very impressed indeed by this red beauty.
Dichlostemma ida-maia,  Firecracker flower
Just as I thought there would be no topping off the firecracker discovery I spotted the little hairy mariposa lilies. These I didn't expect to see at all because I've seen them blooming a month earlier along the Klamath and by the road to Lake Shasta Caverns and I was sure their bloom season would have been over. Yet here they were - blooming happily between the much more conspicuous irises and firecrackers.
My friend, who one of her trip aims was to see as many mariposa lilies as possible, was beside herself with excitement. This hike was to be the most bountiful of our trip together, wildflower-wise.
Hairy Mariposa Lily
More than an hour had passed since we begun our hike, yet we were less than a third of the way in. Slowed down by the exuberant bloom and not having any particular deadline to meet, we took it easy and walked slowly along the trail. The day was turning from warm to hot and we were thankful for the shady forest but as we slowly made our way around the peninsula we were also turning to face the east, getting more and more sunlight and heat as we progressed.

Seeing so many special and magnificent flowers had put us in a euphoric state of mind. Still, we did not neglect the smaller, less conspicuous bloom. Though I must admit that we spent much less time looking at them. 
Violet Draperia, Draperia systyla
Lake Shasta is a home to four floating communities. As we curved our way around the peninsula we could see the one of them through the trees. It looked very tranquil and I wondered how nice it would be to live in such a place for some time. When I hiked this trail again one month later this community seemed to have doubled in size - the summer tenants had moved in.
Holiday Harbor
While wildflowers were both plentiful and diverse, animals remained mostly out of our sight. Mammals we didn't see at all, and the birds chirped at us hidden well within the trees. We did see insects, however. The colorful butterflies were a happy sight.
California Sister
I noticed also the empty molts of cicadas clinging to the trees. I didn't hear the adults around us, they must have been busy somewhere else.  
Cicade molt 
Walking on the east-facing slope  we came upon more openings in the trees and more view points on the lake itself. 

Across the lake we could see a tall rocky peak. A large scree slope, bare of vegetation was visible like an ugly scar. At the top of the rock slide was a shiny dot. I raised my binoculars and immediately identified the place. 

It was the bus stop at the entrance to the Lake Shasta Caverns, where I was with my family a month earlier.
Entrance to Lake Shasta Caverns
I pointed it out to my friend but since we had not planned to visit the cave on our trip we didn't linger over it and moved on with our hike.
We ere walking faster now, moving southward. That part of the trail was considerably more exposed, and the plants were different - less forest and more chaparral. The were different wildflowers there too.
Acmispon grandiflorus
Other than insects and birds we also seen some lizards, too quick for me to photograph.  But our most exciting reptile encounter was a rattlesnake that crossed our path and vanished quickly into the bushes below. After that I kept a much closer watch on the trail and the side vegetation, but we didn't see any other snakes ratters or other, for the rest of the hike. 
We did see more butterflies. 
Pipevine Swallowtail on Many-flowered Brodiaea,  Dichelostemma multiflorum
At that time we were walking along the south-facing and the most exposed part of the trail. Still, the trail would curve inward at times and we enjoyed some respite from the heat in more shaded forest areas.

The sunlight, now coming straight from above, played magic in my eyes as it filtered through the broad-leaf canopies.  The photos don't do it any justice.
50 shades of green 
Around the curve - a pretty bush poppy in bloom. I snapped a few photos, and then to my chagrin, the camera battery was exhausted.
Dendromecon rigida
With a third of the hike still to come, my camera was reduced to a useless dead-weight. I thought of using my phone but then my friend offered to share her photos with me. I happily accepted her offer. In the end, I only use one of Anenet's photos- that of the pretty bicolor lupine we've seen as we left the trail for a brief exploration of the lake's waterfront.
Lupinus bicolor
The reason was that one month later I was back on that very same trail with my family camping group and then I had my camera fully charged and ready. What I didn't have on my second hike there was available attention to give to anything other than my group.
One of the things I intended to photograph was a species of St John's wort that grew densely along the south-facing trail segment. When my friend and I were there in May we saw only the immature floral buds. Many of them. Toward the end of our hike we did see one plant that was blooming, but I was hoping to see the big bloom upon my return there in June.
Well, I did see these pretty flowers blooming. It was, however, a non-native species. 
Klamathweed, Hypericum perforatum

I saw many butterflies on my second hike too but didn't bother to photograph them. The children in my group, however, found a caterpillar and insisted that I photograph it.

Shortly after my camera died on my May hike my friend and I took a brief break in the shaded nook of a small creek. I went about exploring a little and found a log with some interesting structures growing from it. I knew it was fungi but didn't know which. I dragged the log over to where my friend was sitting and she was excited to see these - the bird's nest fungus, without the 'eggs'  - they had already dispersed the spores.
A month later the log was still there where I had left it so I showed it also to my group.
Bird's Nest fungus
The sunlit south-facing trail segment cut through high chaparral of mostly manzanita and low oaks. On the May hike my friend and I were already sweating a good deal there. The June hike was even hotter. It was the best place to go down to the lakeshore, to the water.

There are several places along the south-facing trail with access to the shore. The problem was that the water had already receded considerably and near the water there was not a speck of shade. Even closer to the train shade was sparse and not very cool either. Still, we needed a break and so down we went to cool off in the water a little bit.

It was somewhat difficult to tear ourselves from the water and get on with the hiking but we needed to make it back to the campground, and so I gathered my group and we went on to complete the loop.

We didn't stop again, but I did stoop briefly whenever I saw something pretty like the whitehead fruits of the clematis that I've seen blooming there a month earlier.
Pipestem, Clematis lasiantha
With the change in seasons there were flowers blooming there that my friend and I did not see on our May hike, it was too early then.
Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa 
But all and all there was much less bloom in June, and nearly everything I've seen blooming un May was already done and in fruit by our June hike.
Western Thistle, Cirsium occidentale

Near the road to Bailey Cove was a pole with a large osprey nest on top of it. When I was there with my friend in May the nest was empty. When I was back there in June the osprey was standing on its nest. I saw it there on my drive out of the cove's parking lot and stopped to say hello, and goodbye until next time.

Many thanks to my friend Anenet for identifying the wildflowers! Do visit again soon!


  1. Of course I'll follow your plans without questioning! you always take me to the best places, since we were kids!
    thank you for the reminder of this wonderful hike!

  2. Wonderful area with so many beautiful flowers! The osprey picture is very impressive