Very quickly views began opening up to the north, the great hump of Mt. Williamson and the hazy flat Mojave Desert. Bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens) with its spiky fruits began to dominate the trailside shrub community, and I saw a pair of red-rayed hulseas (Hulsea heterochroma) under the pines. Silky lupines (Lupinus elatus) became more and more frequent with some even blooming, and also there were Grinnell's penstemons (Penstemon grinnellii) in evidence with a few late flowers. As I rounded a turn I was suddenly confronted with an absolute mass of Parish's oxytheca (Oxytheca parishii var. parishii) covering the open spaces along the trail on both sides. One of my favorite flowers, the inflorescence appears in the midst of a cup formed by the fused involucral bracts which each terminate in a long, needle-like awn. I passed through areas which had been burned, and the blackened trunks of trees stood in stark contrast to the blue sky. At a mile from the trailhead (the first mile is more or less continuously uphill), the trail crosses a fireroad, and then levels out for most of the rest of the way to Little Jimmy.
I was keeping a sharp eye out for Pyrola plants and found one
little clump of somewhat leathery leaves that were faintly veined and
which I thought was a wintergreen, but without a flowering stalk I couldn't
be sure. About 1-3/4 miles from Islip Saddle, I reached Windy Spring,
a very nice little seepy area with fragrant shooting stars (Dode-
From there to Little Jimmy, the trail stays in the pine woods the rest of the way, perfect habitat for Pyrola, so I walked slowly and studied the trailside. Suddenly I saw peeping out under a dead branch a little clump of dark-green somewhat mottled leaves, with a flowering stalk and what was left of this year's bloom. It was white-veined pyrola (Pyrola picta). The veins on the leaves were not nearly as prominent as I had seen in some pictures, but I was in no doubt that it was what I was looking for. And now that I know it is along that trail, I can go back next year earlier in the season and photograph its flowers.
I rested briefly at Little Jimmy Campground, a very nice trail camp with stoves, picnic tables and even an outhouse, ate a bit of lunch, and headed back to Islip Saddle, feeling fairly contented that it had been a successful day.
NOTE: Subsequent hikes and further investigation have shown that the
red bristly fruits I saw on the gooseberry mentioned above belonged
to Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii).
I arrived at the parking lot at Islip Saddle about 9am in the morning, and it was so cold that I had to wear my woolen overshirt all the way to Little Jimmy. But it was another beautiful day with the intoxicating smells of the pines and the fresh air. Being a Sunday, I did pass a few other people, mostly a Boy Scout group coming down from having spent the weekend at the campground. I didn't waste any time getting to Little Jimmy because I wanted to continue on toward Mt. Hawkins. It had been several years since I had been up in this area before and I was eager to renew my acquaintance with this section of what has come to be called the Middle High Country of the San Gabriels. I did however stop at Windy Spring to do a little excavating. In discussing the willow-herb, Tom had mentioned the possibility of it's being ssp. glandulosum instead of the more common ssp. ciliatum. The most distinctive discriminant between them is the presence or absence of turions, which are little fleshy shoots with overlapping scales that overwinter on the roots of the plant, and are generally not visible unless one digs up a plant. I collected a couple of samples, and indeed, there were such basal shoots, so we could definitely identify this as glandular willow-herb (Epilobium ciliatum ssp. glandulosum). See pictures of the turions here.
A short distance beyond the campground, you pass Little Jimmy Spring, where water is available all year round although it might not be wise to drink it. I detoured to the spring which I had never visited before, and found there scarlet monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis), a little yellow Mimulus that was kind of slimy and turned out to be floribundus, and an absolutely gorgeous display of Bigelow's sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii). Further along the trail there was short-leaved cliff aster (Malacothrix saxatilis var. tenuifolia), Wright's buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii), tall stephanomeria (Stephanomeria virgata) and pussy paws (Calyptridium monospermum), also more leafy daisy and even more masses of Parish's oxytheca.
The next trail junction is Windy Gap, 0.3 miles past Little Jimmy,
where you have the option of doubling back uphill to Mt. Islip, going
down the south face of the mountain to Crystal Lake, or continuing on
toward Mt. Hawkins, Throop Peak and eventually Mt. Baden-Powell. From
this point you are looking down into the rugged canyon formed by the
North Fork of the San Gabriel River, with the peak of South Mt. Hawkins
slightly to the east. I continued on to find as the trail zigzagged
upwards a lot of Grinnell's penstemon (Penstemon grinnellii)
in fine bloom, and then quite a nice display of red-rayed hulseas (Hulsea
heterochroma). There were also many woolly mountain parsleys
(Oreonana vestita) but
they were done with their bloom. In the open areas along the trail,
there was rock buckwheat (Eriogonum
saxatile) in prime bloom. The views of the Mojave Desert became
more spectacular, and from some places I could see peaks ahead that
might or might not be Mt. Hawkins. I collected samples of a red-flowering
buckwheat which I was uncertain of, and then was very excited to find
first one, then two, then suddenly hundreds of diminutive Johnston's
monkeyflowers (Mimulus johnstonii)
in full bloom. I didn't even recognize it at the time and realized its
species only later when I consulted some experts, and then discovered
I already had pictures of it in my website. That's the problem with
having over 1,800 species; I can't remember what I've seen. There was
also some alpine sulphur-flowered buckwheats (Eriogonum
Recently I received an e-mail with a picture of what the sender thought was a Phacelia, wanting to know what it was. I e-mailed him back with my opinion that it was poodle-dog bush (Turricula parryi), and since he had told me that he took the picture on the way to Mt. Hawkins, I wanted to see if I could find his plants and verify it. And sure enough, coming up to a little ridge on the south side of the trail, I saw that they were all over the place, and even had blooms on them. By this time, lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana) had made an appearance with the ground being covered in some places with the distinctively small cones. I passed some wax currents (Ribes cereum var. cereum) with their little red berries, coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata), spineless horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens) and small-leaved creambush (Holodiscus microphyllus var. microphyllus), but there wasn't much of anything else new to be enjoyed. At about 1-1/2 miles from Little Jimmy I passed the trail junction of the Hawkins Ridge Trail leading off to the south which goes over or around Middle Hawkins, Sadie Hawkins and South Mt. Hawkins.
I came up onto a ridge and realized that it was another 15-20 minutes to the actual summit of Mt. Hawkins, and I was pretty tired and my feet were sore, so I decided to head back. I had had a pretty good day but due to having stopped so often to look at things, it was later than I had expected it would be. I plan on going back this coming Sunday with my friend Richard Sapiro and trying to get to Mt. Hawkins and possibly Throop Peak, which is probably another half-hour farther and about 300' higher. I want to get the subspecies of the Wright's buckwheat and the yellow Eriogonum umbellatum. I also want to look at and do some more photography of one of the grasses at Windy Spring that Tom has id'd as Idaho bentgrass (Agrostis idahoensis). The other species there he has informed me were blue wildrye (Elymus glaucus ssp. glaucus), a very common species everywhere, vari-nerved sedge (Carex heteroneura var. heteroneura) and fragile-sheathed sedge (Carex fracta).
On the way back, between Windy Gap and Little Jimmy I heard the sound of voices and around the bend came a group of about 20 people at least in their 60's, some of whom were probably 70. They were heading for Mt. Hawkins and it was great to see a bunch of older people in such good shape that they could contemplate such a hike.
NOTE: The red-flowered buckwheat turned out to be Davidson's buckwheat
My friend Richard Sapiro and I drove to Islip Saddle this morning to hike up the trail toward Mt. Hawkins. This would be my fourth time in the past two weeks (one was not reported on because I essentially found nothing new). I collected a sample of the tall goosefoot that grows alongside the trail close to the trailhead. Tom had said that it seemed to key to gaping goosefoot (Chenopodium hians) but that he needed lower leaves to be sure. Actually the choices in the key under lower leaf 1-veined were not possibilities, so it came down to either hians or incognitum, and Tom said that Chenopodium incognitum was a name that was no longer accepted. My sample from 6 September had only been of a bit of the top of the flowering inflorescence and I wanted to make sure that the lowermost leaves were indeed 3-veined. I looked at it under my hand lens and although the 2nd and 3rd veins were very indistinct, they were definitely there, making Chenopodium hians a certainty. I was hoping to get to Mt. Hawkins summit this time and possibly to Throop Peak. I introduced Richard to several species en route to Little Jimmy that were new to him, and we made it to the campground in about an hour and a half.
We kept going and he enjoyed seeing the Parish's oxytheca which was another species new to him. I was on a new medication and I noticed that whenever I bent over and then straightened up, I felt a wave of dizziness which was very unpleasant. Also my mouth was dry but fortunately I had plenty of water. I pointed out the Johnston's monkeyflower and longstalk phacelia, which Richard had never seen before, and we continued upward. I was feeling quite fatigued and had to stop frequently, something that he would not normally have to do since he has been running 14 miles a day for about the past 20 years, but we used those stops to look at various things like the red-rayed hulsea, another new one for Richard. I collected a sample of the Wright's buckwheat that was so prevalent in order to determine its subspecies. Later when I keyed it out, it turned out to be subscaposum, no big surprise. There was a very nice Santolina pincushion (Chaenactis santolinoides) in bloom, and we saw a single mountain prickly phlox (Leptodactylon pungens) in bloom, and then up around the junction of the Hawkins Ridge Trail a lot of mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos rotundifolius var. parishii) with its cute little white berries. We stopped for a bit of a rest, and as we looked down at the ground, Richard noticed a little prostrate lotus sprawling amongst the pine needles. I collected a sample and later keyed it out as Davidson's lotus (Lotus nevadensis var. davidsonii). Although I had looked for it, I never did see the yellow-flowered buckwheat I had seen before that was probably a ssp. of Eriogonum umbellatum.
It was about 30 minutes or so from that point to when we started nearing
Mt. Hawkins. I had thought that there was a trail to the summit because
Robinson's Trails of the Angeles National Forest book suggested
going past the peak and then doubling back up to the summit from the
north. As we were looking for any kind of a peak path, we found a whole
lot of San Bernardino beardtongue (Penstemon
caesius) although its blooming time was clearly past, and I
even saw a single prickly lettuce plant (Lactuca serriola)! How
that non-native species got there I don't have any idea. We finally
decided that there was no peak path and that the summit was accessible
only by scrambling several hundred feet cross-country up a steep slope
to the top. We reached the junction of the Dawson Saddle trail, beyond
which is another uphill section to Throop Peak, then Mt. Burnham and
at last Mt. Baden-
On the way back, we noticed another clump of the longstalk phacelia
right by the side of the trail that I had missed on three previous passes.
Just goes to show that you can't see everything on a single hike. And
then, a bit off the trail, another little blue-flowered phacelia that
I haven't id'd yet. We only stopped a couple of times and made it back
to the car at exactly 6pm. My feet were quite sore and my new boots
had given me a blister, something I haven't had in years. But it was
a terrific hike. I just wish that the Dawson Saddle trailhead was accessible
because I've done about all I can do with the Mt. Islip trail, at least
for this time of the year. But there's always next year.
Saturday, 24 September 2005 (Mt. Baden-Powell)
Having done four hikes in the Islip to Mt. Hawkins area, I decided to hike up Mt. Baden-Powell at the eastern end of the San Gabriels to see if there was anything different on that trail. It begins at Vincent Gap, which is where the Angeles Crest Highway is closed on the Wrightwood side, and the elevation there is about 6580'. Plants around the parking lot area include San Bernardino rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus ssp. bernardinus), bur-ragweed (Ambrosia acanthicarpa), mountain sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana), canyon live oaks (Quercus chrysolepis), jeffrey pines (Pinus jeffreyi), few-flowered naked buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum var. pauciflorum), Munz's buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. munzii) and California squirreltail (Elymus elymoides ssp. californicus). It was a beautiful morning, with cool air and a lovely breeze blowing as I started up the red dirt trail.
Almost immediately a second blooming buckwheat appeared, this time Wright's (Eriogonum wrightii ssp. subscaposum). I saw a few fairly pathetic-looking Grinnell's penstemons (Penstemon grinnellii) and a dense display of Nevin's bird's beaks (Cordylanthus nevinii) both with no flowers, and then some leafy daisies (Erigeron foliosus var. foliosus). One thing I hadn't seen on my previous few hikes was nodding bedstraw (Galium hallii). Then California fuchsias (Epilobium canum ssp. latifolium) began to appear and became the dominant red-colored plant on the trail, whereas on the Mt. Islip trail it had been beaked penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus). I saw some Parish's tauschia (Tauschia parishii) well past anthesis, and then a number of large wax currant shrubs (Ribes cereum) covered with red berries. At one point I was confused because an obvious Ribes shrub had both smaller red berries about 5-6 mm in diameter and larger spiky red fruits about 15 mm in diameter. Later, based on a conversation with Tom, I realized that it was probably a Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii, with the larger fruits) growing up amongst a wax currant shrub with its smaller non-spiky berries. I was glad to see a definite Ribes roezlii plant because I had never been able to identify it before, having never seen either its flowers or fruits.
My impression was that there was not as much that was floristically interesting on this trail, an impression that was only reinforced the higher I went, at least until the top. Maybe the season is just over. I was following along on Tom's plant list for Mt. Baden-Powell, and I did see a few white catchflys (Silene verecunda ssp. platyota), flannelbush (Fremontodendron californicum ssp. californicum), wild tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), and the southern monardella (Monardella australis) he had listed, then some smallish rock buckwheats (Eriogonum saxatile). There were quite a few people on the trail going up and down, boy scouts and others. The views from that trail especially as you get higher are simply stupendous.
When I reached the bare ridge just below the summit, I was in limber pine (Pinus flexilis) territory, and I stopped to photograph a few of the more aesthetically-pleasing trunks. Alpine sulpher-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. minus) was present with its beautiful deep-red balls of flowers. Gray monardella (Monardella cinerea) was blooming nicely along both sides of the trail, and I also saw a few San Jacinto Mountains fleabane (Erigeron breweri var. jacinteus) that I had seen before up there. I passed the Wally Waldron tree, which has a sign put up by the Forest Service and the Boy Scouts that says: "Dedicated as a tribute to Michael H. "Wally" Waldron for his untiring efforts for the Boy Scouts of America. The Wally Waldron Tree is estimated to be 1,500 years old." It was only a few more minutes to the top, and the wind was blowing fiercely across the summit which is at 9499'. The plant that covers the summit area with little cushion-like patches is southern alpine buckwheat (Eriogonum kennedyi var. alpigenum). On the other side of the top, where the trail continues down a ridge-line to the south, I found some Davidson's buckwheat (Eriogonum davidsonii) and some coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attentuata), both blooming nicely. I also noticed a few small Santolina pincushions (Chaenactis santolinoides) including one in full bloom. It's amazing that anything blooms up there.
The wind made sitting around fairly unpleasant so I waited until I was back down in a more protected area to sit down and eat my lunch. A couple on their way up asked me if I knew anything about birds. They had heard the owl-like call of some bird they said had yellow feet, but I was not able to help them out. Richard would have known what it was, and I actually heard it on the way down, but never saw it. It only took me 1-1/2 hours to get back to the parking lot (it's an 8-mile round-trip with 3000' of elevation gain), and I was pleased that my feet were not especially sore and I was not nearly as tired as I had been last weekend going up Mt. Hawkins. I think the four upper-elevation hikes I have done recently have improved my conditioning. I did collect samples of a couple of things to send to Tom, and I want to hike this trail next year in June, July and August to see what's blooming then.
On my way back, I stopped at Blue Ridge and walked a short distance
along the PCT to see if there was anything new growing along there.
Lo and behold, I found a nice display of thorny skeleton-plant (Stephanomeria
spinosa) in full bloom which I had noticed on Tom's plant list
but had never been here late enough in the season to see before. Then
I saw another Stephanomeria, this one a small intricately-branched species
which looked to me like S. exigua. My pictures of it didn't turn
out particularly well so I will have to go back and re-photograph it,
since it turned out to be another new taxa, small wirelettuce (Stephanomeria
exigua ssp. coronaria). Also saw some southern mountain woolstar
(Eriastrum densifolium ssp. austromontanum) and a gorgeous display
of mountain sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana) in
NOTE 10/1/05: Upon returning to Mt. Baden-Powell with my wife one week later, I realized that one of the mystery plants I had collected on the ridge below the summit was a plant that Tom had on his plant list but which I had never heard of before. It is called showy cycladenia or Sacramento waxy dogbane (Cycladenia humilis var. venusta) and since it blooms May to July, it will be one of the things I will look for earlier in the season next year. We were also treated to a spectacular show by a sailplane that was riding the thermals and swooping low over the summit. It was a lot warmer than it had been a week ago, and the Mojave was hazier today which may have been due to smoke blown from the Topanga Fire.
NOTE 11/16/05: My friend Jane Strong read the above mention of the
bird with yellow feet that sounded like an owl and knew it to be a band-tailed
pigeon. My copy of Birds of North America says, "Locally
common in western oak and pine woods, especially in summer. The call
is a low-pitched owl-like coo-coo." Thanks, Jane.