Field Trips Log
August 2006

Saturday, 5 August 2006 (Devils Slide Trail, PCT/South Ridge Trail, San Jacinto Mts)

Today was one of the most gloriously beautiful days of recent memory, especially welcome after the tremendous heat wave Southern California suffered through a few weeks ago, and for me a great relief after ten days in France which was also in the grip of an extraordinarily hot and humid summer. I had not been able to get a permit for the Devils Slide Trail in advance, so I had to get up early and be at the Ranger Station in Idyllwild at the opening time of 8 am. With permit in hand, I was on the trail by 8:15 under a cloudless, magnificently blue sky, surrounded by that wonderful early morning light. My intention was to head for Saddle Junction, then go off on the Pacific Crest Trail to Chinquapin Junction and finally follow the South Ridge Trail to Tahquitz Peak. There were a number of things that had shown up on Tom's latest updated plant guide for these trails, things that he and James Dillane had found while I was in France.

I was at Saddle Junction by 9:45 and I realized that I had already gone by the location for several of the things I needed to photograph, so I decided to keep going and get them on the way back. The first thing I was looking for along the PCT was the beautiful hulsea (Hulsea vestita ssp. callicarpha) but unfortunately none of us have been able to find it where Tom saw it a couple of years ago. It was interesting to me that all the way up to Saddle Junction the red penstemon along the trail had been beaked penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus) with the anthers that look like a little pair of pants, and yet beyond Saddle Junction it was San Gabriel beardtongue (Penstemon labrosus) with the somewhat larger flowers and different-looking anthers. Some of the things we had seen before in good bloom were done, like the San Jacinto lupine (Lupinus hyacinthinus), but other things were in much better shape like the San Jacinto Mountains keckiella (Keckiella rothrockii var. jacintensis). The San Bernardino rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bernardinus) was just beginning to develop, but what I really wanted to see was the San Jacinto buckwheat (Eriogonum apiculatum). I hadn't gone far enough along this trail with Richard at the end of June, and it may not have been blooming then anyway, but this time it was, and I was delighted to see an amazing profusion of it in just one area. It is a short and delicately-stemmed plant that by itself would almost disappear from sight, but when there are hundreds of them growing together they create a lovely sight.

The first half of this trail is like the Devils Slide Trail, mostly in shade, but then it as it approaches Chinquapin Flats 1.22 miles from Saddle Junction it is out in the open. Chinquapin Flats is aptly named because of the tremendous number of chinquapin bushes there. The trail to the left there goes to Little Tahquitz Valley and Tahquitz Meadow but I went to the right toward Tahquitz Peak past several species of conifers and more chinquapins. The first thing I was looking for was rush bluegrass (Poa secunda ssp. juncifolia) which was not hard to find because it was right next to some easily recognized shaggy-haired alumroot (Heuchera hirsutissima), unfortunately just past its main bloom time. The bluegrass was in some cracks in the rock and was pretty unimpressive. Just past these things I got a picture of a little prince's pine (Chimaphila menziesii) with its anther tubes like those of Pyrola. There was also some nice Watson's spike-moss (Selaginella watsonii).

As I neared Tahquitz Peak, which is only 0.46 miles from Chinquapin Flats, I found the next thing on Tom's list I wanted to photograph, mountain holly fern (Polystichum scopulinum). Small-leaved creambush (Holodiscus microphyllus var. microphyllus) and several curl-leaf mountain mahogany shrubs (Cercocarpus ledifolius var. intermontanus) appeared next to the rocky trail, and then I arrived at the little side trail to the Lookout. I didn't take it because I wanted to continue down the South Ridge Trail to find a single specimen Tom had reported of San Jacinto prickly phlox (Leptodactylon jaegeri). The trail continues all the way down to the Idyllwild area, a distance of almost 4 miles. I found the prickly phlox which is distinguishable from L. pungens by its opposite leaves and flowers generally with six corolla lobes instead of five. Unfortunately the one flower that Tom had seen a week ago was now shrivelled, so I photographed the plant and pondered my next move. I had been very anxious to see the rare Tahquitz ivesia (Ivesia callida) but I now realized that it was on the south side of Tahquitz Peak, well down the steep South Ridge Trail, and since I had to return the way I had come I didn't think I could get to that today, so I headed back toward Chinquapin Flats.

Between Chinquapin Flats and Saddle Junction, I saw a goosefoot along the trail that might have been what Tom had on his list as meadow goosefoot (Chenopodium pratericola). I am waiting on a confirmation for this but the leaves seemed to be at least 3 times as long as wide and densely mealy below which fits pratericola better than the fairly similar atrovirens. I reset my gps at Saddle Junction and headed down the trail to the place where Tom and James had found little-leaved mock orange (Philadelphus microphyllus). I found a single small shrub which had some very nice blooms on it, quite different from the much larger, non-native mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) that is seen often in planted situations or botanical gardens. In that same area there was also some western polypody (Polypodium hesperium) and quite a few of the San Jacinto prickly phlox, but these like the one on the other side of Tahquitz Peak were either not in bloom or had finished blooming some time ago.

I got back to the parking area around 6 pm. It had been another excellent outing, perfect weather, some good finds, and my frozen bottle of water had remained cold all day. The Leptodactylon I will have to look for again next year earlier in the season, and the Ivesia can be reached by ascending the South Ridge Trail from the bottom which I will probably do next week. Two other things I will also look for there are the short-flowered monardella (Monardella nana ssp. tenuiflora) which I saw once in the James Reserve after its bloom time, and the erect variant of Wright's buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii var. membranaceum).

Wednesday, 9 August 2006 (Green Canyon Trail, San Bernardino Mts)

Richard Sapiro and I took advantage of the closure of the lab today at the La Brea Tarpits/Page Museum where we both volunteer to drive up to the Green Canyon Trail in the San Bernardinos to look for mountain maple (Acer glabrum). This is where we had seen it once before several years ago and where I had been unable to find any in early July. Both Richard and I remembered having seen it toward the bottom of the trail, but I had gone about a mile on the trail last month and failed to locate it, so I assumed that perhaps I just hadn't gone far enough.

The trail is quite moist in its lower sections with numerous seepages right on the trail itself and of coarse with the creek in close proximity. There was broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) growing next to the road where we parked, and then many things like goldenrod, fleabane, paintbrush, Richardson's geranium, sulpher-flowered buckwheat, fuchsia, columbine, yellow salsify, St. John's wort, monardella, beaked penstemon, and Wheeler's cinquefoil blooming along the trail. We carefully scrutinized both sides of the trail as we slowly walked along, even though both of us remembered the maple having been on the left. Further along, there was a terrific patch of ragged-leaf bahia (Bahia dissecta). As we climbed higher along the extremely rocky trail, we saw lots of American dogwood (Cornus sericea) and Utah serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis) and masses of currants (Ribes nevadense and R. cereum). There were a couple of California evening primroses (Oenothera californica) in bloom, and also yarrow (Achillea millefolium), spineless horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens),Rydberg's horkelia (Horkelia rydbergii), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), and many low matted Wright's buckwheats (Eriogonum wrightii var. subscaposum), but no maples.

Higher up the trail at another moist and seepy area, we were pleased to see a lovely display of tall ranger's buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum) which I hadn't seen for a while. When the trail became drier, we noticed things like Parish's catchfly (Silene parishii) in bloom, and San Bernardino ragwort (Senecio bernardinus), Southern California draba (Draba corrugata var. corrugata), San Bernardino beardtongue (Penstemon caesius) not in bloom. I collected a specimen of an Arabis to send to Tom who is in the process of trying to straighten out our identifications of different rock-cresses we have seen in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mts.

We reached the junction of the Sugarloaf trail which we knew was well beyond where we had seen the maple before, so we had lunch and headed back down the trail. Several sources I have specifically mention Green Canyon as a location for Acer glabrum, and indeed it does seem like a perfect habitat for it. On the way down, we again carefully examined all the vegetation along the trail and as many of the shrubs as we could see along the creek without success. I can't understand why we couldn't find any, and especially the one we had seen in the past, but I will continue to look for it either here or in other locations. It is vouchered in Heart Bar State Park and in Van Dusen Canyon, so sooner or later we will find it.

Monday, 14 August 2006 (South Ridge Trail, San Jacinto Mts)

On this unusually cool August day I drove up to Idyllwild to check out the South Ridge Trail and look for a few things that Tom had on his plant guide. This is another trail that like the Devils Slide Trail requires a permit, so if you're going stop first at the Ranger Station in Idyllwild. To get to the trailhead, drive south on SR243 a couple of miles from the center of town and turn left on Saunders Meadow Rd. Keep an eye out for Pine Ave. going uphill on the left and take it, turn right on Tahquitz View Drive and then right again on Forest Service dirt road 5S11. It has patches of pavement but is mostly fairly well-graded dirt and goes for several miles, staying left at the unsigned fork, and finally reaching a small parking area where there is a trailhead sign.

Tom had originally thought the buckwheat at the trailhead was Eriogonum fasciculatum, but quickly realized that it was actually Eriogonum wrightii var. membranaceum, which he could tell from the inflorescences. Once you get E. wrightii as an identification, it's easy to pin it down as var. membranaceum because it's not matted like the other San Jacinto variant, subscaposum, and the leaves are strongly rolled under not flat. It was not blooming yet, so I will go back next month. The area near the bottom of the trail is much more like chaparral than the Devils Slide Trail with all its different conifers, and it's much drier. Its common large shrubs are pink-bracted manzanita (Arctostaphylos pringlei ssp. drupacea), chamise (Adenostema fasciculatum), hollyleaf redberry (Rhamnus ilicifolia), chaparral whitethorn (Ceanothus leucodermis), coffeeberry (Rhamus californica) and several oak species. I photographed some pine dwarf-mistletoe (Arceuthobium campylopodum) which I had only seen once before at Mt. Hillyer in the San Gabriels.

Most of the flowering plants were done by this time of year, but there were some lingering southern mountain woolstars (Eriastrum densifolium ssp. austromontanum), San Jacinto buckwheats (Eriogonum apiculatum) and San Bernardino rubber rabbitbrushes (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bernardinus). I found the first plants that Tom had identified as beautiful hulsea (Hulsea vestita ssp. callicarpha), which I had looked for several times with no luck around Saddle Junction, and then saw many more of them as the trail ascended. Unfortunately they were well past the blooming stage so I will have to return next year to photograph them in flower. At mile 0.41 I entered the San Jacinto Wilderness, which was the reason for the permit, and there soon began a series of many switchbacks. At some points the trailside vegetation opened up and afforded me wonderful views of Garner Valley, Lake Hemet and Palomar Mt.

Just after passing the one-mile point, I found a lovely patch of short-flowered monardella (Monardella nana ssp. tenuiflora), which I had photographed once before in the James Reserve. Then it had finished its bloom, but these were still in good shape, and they were the only ones I saw along the trail. The switchbacks continued, and there wasn't much else floristically to be of interest so I tracked my progress with my GPS as I approached the point which was my goal today, a particular switchback at about 2.30 miles up the trail. A boulder-strewn gully came down to the trail, and after hiding my backpack behind some rocks I began climbing up a fairly steep and rocky slope covered with pine needles and loose gravelly sand. I was looking for the rare Tahquitz ivesia (Ivesia callida) which only grows around this one location. Tom's GPS coordinates put me within about 20' of one of the plants, so it was easy to find. Once I knew what to look for, I found many more plants, all in cracks and crevices in the granite boulders. It was exciting to photograph a plant as rare as this one, and I commend Tom and James for their good work in finding it!

That was the turnaround point for me, and after a nice long drink of icewater (I've been carrying a frozen 1.5L bottle of water with me lately and it stays cold all day), I headed quickly back down the trail. From the point where I turned around, it is about another 1.7 miles to Tahquitz Peak. I noted that there was at least one further taxon, limber pine dwarf-mistletoe (Arceuthobium cyanocarpum), toward the top of the trail that I will want to go back for sometime soon since I have never seen that.

My wife and I will be leaving in a week or so to take our daughter back east where she will be attending Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and we have a lot of things to attend to so this will be my last trip log for August.

Monday, 28 August 2006 (Harlem Valley Rail Trail)

Actually not. I am adding this final note for the month because we took a very nice walk on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in the hamlet of Amenia, about 30 miles east of Poughkeepsie. It is an old railroad right-of-way that has been converted into a lovely paved walking trail that will eventually extend for 46 miles through some of the beautiful countryside of the Hudson River Valley. I was able to photograph some of the wildflowers growing along the trail and although their identifications are limited in most cases, still it was nice to be able to enjoy them. Click here to see the page if you're interested in seeing some New York state flora.