Field Trips Log
Not really a field trip, this was rather just a hike up the Mt. Wilson Trail as far as First Waters to determine what kind of shape the trail is in after the incredible rainfall we have had in December and January (about 33" at my house in Sierra Madre!) Surprisingly the trail is in pretty good shape. This trail has some dedicated volunteer caretakers, and it was clear that they had jumped on the problems that did exist as soon as dry weather resumed. In fact we passed several workers coming down with shovels over their shoulders.
Being a Saturday and not having been able to hike in several weeks, there were a lot of people going up and down this morning. There were a few muddy spots at the beginning, and some places where there had been some slope slippage and minor earth movements onto the trail, but these had been fixed already. There was a great deal of water pouring down the canyon, more than I've ever seen before, and it made a roaring noise as we ascended the trail. A couple of Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team vehicles had been parked down at the bottom, which made us worry, but when we did encounter the group with their litters and other equipment, it was apparent that they were just on a training exercise.
Still being early in the season, not a whole lot was blooming, but
I did see wild cucumber (Marah macrocarpus), white nightshade
(Solanum douglasii), chickweed (Stellaria media), small-seeded
spurge (Chamaesyce polycarpa), a single stinging lupine (Lupinus
hirsutissimus), California everlasting (Gnaphalium californicum),
wishbone bush (Mirabilis californica), canyon sweetpea (Lathyrus
vestitus), and some hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius),
along with some introduced sweet alyssum, redstem filaree and Bermuda
This was my first field trip of 2005, and to a place I had never been before, Daley Ranch in northern San Diego County. I planned to meet my friend Tom Chester, and we were joined by James Dillane, who I have hiked with before at Anza-Borrego and who is one of the Daley Ranch naturalists, Wayne Armstrong of Palomar College whose websites I have often consulted, and a friend of his, Steve Disparti. Several other people accompanied us including a docent at Torrey Pines whom I met down there last fall. Daley Ranch is a beautiful 3,058-acre parcel of natural vegetation including southern oak woodland, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, grasslands and riparian areas with miles of good hiking.
A website of the City of Escondido says that "The hills and valleys of Daley Ranch were once frequented by native Californians of the Kumeyaay and other local tribes. Evidence of their presence is found in the soot-stained ceilings of boulder caves which provided shelter and in the mortars ground into the boulder tops that were used for food preparation. In 1869, Robert Daley became the first European to settle in the valley, building a log cabin and later laying claim to the property in 1875. A number of ranch structures remain as a living history of early ranch operations, when the property was used as a dairy. The ranch is one of the best examples of a preserved historic ranch house with related outbuildings in their original setting anywhere in the County."
There were several specific things that Tom had on his plant guide that I was interested in seeing, but the species I was most eager to become acquainted with was the California adder's-tongue (Ophioglossum californicum), an uncommon member of the Ophioglossaceae family. Our original plan had been to botanize the Rock Ridge trail, but James informed us when he arrived that it was closed, so we decided to head toward the Ranch House and go north from there on the eastern side of the Jack Creek Meadow Loop to the beginning of the Hidden Springs trail and start a plant guide there. On the way, James knew of a couple of locations where we could look for the Ophioglossum. The first place was on another closed road, so we continued to a second location, and after some diligent searching we found some, although they were still tiny and had not developed very much. But James knew of yet another location, so I was still hopeful of getting a decent picture.
The trails (roads really) were quite muddy in many places, a residual
effect of the recent storms, and we had to share the route with hikers,
bicyclists and horseback riders. The Ramona lilac or woollyleaf ceanothus
(Ceanothus tomentosus) is showing a good bloom on many individual
shrubs, and on the drier parts of the trail toward the beginning there
was quite a bit of Cryptantha, although by the time we decided
to try to key out its species, it had disappeared. Other things that
were starting to bloom were some Parry's phacelia (Phacelia parryi),
Once we started the trail guide, everyone except Margaret, James, Tom
and I grew impatient at the slow pace and decided to continue on the
loop on their own. I photographed some beautiful blooming ropevine (Clematis
pauciflora), which was new to me, as well as mariposa rush (Juncus
dubius) and ramona horkelia (Horkelia truncata). Finally
we got to the last Ophioglossum locality, and now that we had
a mental image of what to look for, we were able to find them at once.
And these were much better developed, with the little spore-bearing
stalk sticking up from one or sometimes a pair of sterile leaves. See
photo here. It is a strange
little plant, very un-
It turned out to be almost a 9-mile hike, and it was getting dark when
we returned to our cars, but the company had been excellent, the day
had been beautiful, and there had been botanical rewards aplenty.
Ever since I was introduced to Ziziphus parryi (lotebush) several years ago on a field trip with Lorrae Fuentes of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, I have been trying to find it in bloom. We were at the Mission Creek Preserve in the Morongo Pass area, and it was late in the spring, so there was no evidence of either fruit or flowers. I went back the following year a little earlier in the season with the same result. Munz's Flora has Feb-Apr as its blooming period, so last year I went in March to find that it was already in fruit. So this year I decided that I would go in January and keep going until I found it in bloom.
The Mission Creek Preserve is owned by the Wildlands Conservancy and is located in a transitional zone between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, and between the San Bernardino Mts and the Little San Bernardinos. Mt. San Jacinto provides a massive backdrop to the south. Coming from Los Angeles, you exit the 10 on Rt. 62 going toward Yucca Valley and 29 Palms. Drive about 5.7 miles to Mission Creek Road (a dirt road), turn left, and proceed approximately 2-1/4 miles to the gated entrance and parking area. Later in the year, Mission Creek is usually dry, but with all the recent rains there was a good deal of water flowing down the wash today.
You have the option of either walking up the road or picking your way up the rocky wash, which is an easy thing to do but takes more time to get to where the lotebush is located. The road passes several empty stone buildings and continues for at least several miles. The lotebush is about a mile up the road and that is as far as I have gone. It was clear that the blooming season has begun here at the elevation of about 1500', and on the way in I saw many Fremont's pincushions (Chaenactis fremontii), numerous popcornflowers (Cryptantha sp.), desert dandelions (Malacothrix glabrata), California mustards (Guillenia lasiophylla), phacelias and bright yellow brittlebushes (Encelia farinosa). Near the gate itself there was bladderpod (Isomeris arborea)and desert-fir (Peucephyllum schottii), and walking up the road, I passed royal goldfields (Lasthenia coronaria) beginning to cover the ground, mustard evening primrose (Camissonia californica), green encelia (Encelia virginensis), chia (Salvia columbariae), common fiddlenecks (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia), a single Coulter's lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus), and a lot of white fiesta flower (Pholistoma membranaceum), redstem filaree (Erodium cicutarium) and desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana).
There is a point where the road splits, following the wash if you take the left fork, and winding up around some small hills if you take the right. And it is along and on top of these hills that the lotebush is located. And Glory be! It was in bloom. The inflorescences are more or less umbellulate, and the greenish-yellow flowers have a hypanthium surrounding the base of the ovary, with five prominent sepals and five stamens. You have to look closely to perceive the five tiny petals that sort of hide behind and are not much bigger than the stamens. See pictures here. The twigs are thorn-tipped so be careful as you are handling it. It is a good-size shrub (to 10' or 12' tall) and there are a couple of them along the road on the left, and many more up on the hillside above. When I climbed up there, I also found some blooming desert asters (Xylorhiza tortifolia var. tortifolia).
The second part of my trip today was to investigate the Pipes Canyon
Preserve, which is another piece of Wild-
In any case, it was clear that at around 4000', Pipes Canyon is still
in the grip of winter, and the only flowers I saw were a few tiny Cryptanthas
or Plagiobothryses, and some of the ubiquitous redstem filarees.
I met a Ranger in Mission Creek last year, and he told me that Pipes
Canyon is a really beautiful area for wildflowers, so I will return
there later in the spring.