Saturday, April 30, 2016

April's Done

All I can say at the moment is that April has been a pretty good month for hiking and wildflower watching, but not for blogging.  I've taken at least a dozen outings with camera and notebook, but only posted three times.  Rather frustrating.  Not enough time in a day, not enough Internet bandwidth at home, not enough time to wait for the slow uploading, and too many distractions - the rather scary presidential election campaign not the least of them.  I do have a growing archive of photos taken in April, so we'll see what develops here.  Exciting short drive yesterday yielded my first spotting of Scarlet Fritillary.  Lots of them!  Also, lots of Saxifrages blooming on rock walls, Hartweg's Iris blooming through the pine needles, and lots of Red Larkspur along the roadsides.  Hopefully, if I'm fresh in the morning, I'll catch up a bit with more photos and reports.  My wife got the above shot of me on the top of Monument Peak, looking more or less westward.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Table Mountain - Chapter 3

 I've taken a dozen short photo excursions since my March 26 trip to Table Mountain, but had little time to post the results.  Due to my poor Internet connection at home, it took nearly 20 minutes to upload these eight photos.  Maybe I can catch up at a local coffee shop tomorrow where the Internet speed is at least an order of magnitude faster.  Today's set of photos reminds me of something I read a long time ago in the anthropology literature.  In tracing the development of words for colors, researchers have found isolated indigenous cultures that have very few words for colors and these are presumably among the first words humans invented for colors.  Predominant are blue, green, yellow and red.  This makes sense - sky, water, foliage, and edible fruits, the basics for survival.  The above scene is typical of those sections of Table Mountain with rolling hills.  The four main colors can be seen here, especially if you click on the photo for a closer view.  Ah, the illusion of wilderness.
 This next photos, from a distance, looked like the Seep Spring Monkeyflower, but on closer inspection was one of the several local species of yellow violets.  I believe it's Viola purpurea.
A variety of this violet started blooming around Quincy a week or so ago, nearly a month behind Table Mountain.  I photographed our local variety yesterday, but I'll need to post another 8 or 9 blog entries before I get to it.
 Here's another view of Viola purpurea more in context.  The whole hillside was wet and muddy, and there were some of the aforementioned Monkeyflowers.  Note that the leaves of this violet are well-hidden by the surrounding grasses and leaves of other wildflowers.  The leaves are a distinguishing characteristic of the species.
 Great expanses of yellow wildflowers like this are iconic Table Mountain scenes.  The usual dominant species in such scenes are Golden Carpet and Goldfields.
 Here are a couple of views of the Common Fiddleneck, a "cousin" of the Forget-me-nots, Family Boraginaceae.
 Then, a strong reminder of the fact that I was not in wilderness.  But I did manage to imagine wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions swooping in to dine of the cows.
 Finally, a nice little crop of wild onions and Goldfields.
I plan to post at least two more chapters of my Table Mountain experience, then move on to the local photography I've been doing around Quincy.  What's most exciting for me is the entrance of various arthropods to the scenes of Spring.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Not Exactly Foetal, but...

...when I've had a rough day, I wish I could do this.  Found by the Snake Lake Road, under a piece of pine bark..

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Chapter 2 at Table Mountain

 I happen to be sitting in a place with high speed Internet.  I was able to add all ten of these photos in less than one minute.  With our pathetic service at home, it would have taken closer to an hour.  So, when I get home, I can spend some time adding the stories (text loads fast even there) to this and my previous post.  What's clear in my mind, but may or may not appear clear after I type, is a kind of linear story of the experience I had last Sunday at Table Mountain.  The story's skeleton is a sequence of observations captured by camera, but what will be added to the skeleton are the many conversations with my buddy Spencer that gave meaning to these observations.

4/8/16  Time flies, doesn't it.  Here I am, finally adding some text to this old post.  And I have at least two more "chapters" to add to my Table Mountain excursion.  Since that trip, I have made several more local trips around Quincy, including two brief walks this morning, which yielded more photos of Spring.

Back to Table Mountain.  These first two photos of Bitterroot were the first I found after the false alarm of red plastic that ended my previous post.  As you will see in later images, we eventually
found a large patch of fully-open Bitterroot. 

Several species of Lupines grow on and near Table Mountain.  These small ones were found near most of the streams, but not so much out in the open in areas that are already getting dry.  The one below appears to be an albino of the same species as the blue ones.

Bird's-eye Gilia (below) is one of the most beautiful flowers (to me) on the mountain, but the delicate details in each flower are easily missed in the sheer abundance of them unless one takes the time to get down on the ground for a closer look.  You can get the same effect without getting your pants dirty by clicking on the image.

Around Quincy, when we took this trip in March, the first yellow violets of the season, Shelton's Violet, were just beginning to bloom.  At Table Mountain, another species, Viola purpurea, the Oakwoods Violet, was blooming.  It's possible Douglas's Violet is also blooming down there, but we did not see any.

One of the many lilies, formerly known as Brodiaea, is the Prettyface.  It is now known as Triteleia ixioides, and is in a new family,  the Themidaceae.  We have a closely-related species at the higher elevations around Quincy. 


The Popcornflower were out in abundance. Click on the photos for an enlargement and you can see the kinship with the flowers of Forget-me-nots and Fiddleneck.

Scenes like this temporary stream are common at this time of year and tend to be where most species of flowers bloom, and also where frogs and salamanders can be found before they go into hiding for the long, dry summer and fall ahead.

The Dwarf Monkeyflower has some of the most amazing color on the mountain.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Floral Abundance

 The floral abundance on Table Mountain at this time of year is truly awesome.  First impressions are made by the panoramas which must contain millions of flowers.  As we began our walk (Saturday, March 26) we soon began looking downward, both to spot individual species to photograph and to avoid tripping as most of the table top is covered with little cubes and random-shaped basalt.  We stayed off well-trodden paths for several reasons, to be explained later.  Click on any photograph for an enlarged view.  Identifications and comments will follow shortly.
It's dense patches of mixed species like this (above) that set my mind wandering between the near and the far.  It's hard to take in acres of this sort of abundance, so I get down on the ground and single out individual flowers for close-ups and to discover details, including visiting bugs, many of which are likely pollinators.  When I stand up again, my mind wanders over the expanse of flowers and beyond to the sky, the cloud patterns, and beyond that to who knows what?  Sometimes I feel like Thoreau felt in Chapter 9 of Walden when he writes about "two fish on one hook."  The prominent red flowers in the photo are Owl Clover.  Click on the photo for a closer look.
According to the Wildflowers of Table Mountain authors, Bird's Eye Gilia is rarely found singly, so the one above was a special treat.  It was the first one I saw on this hike.  But soon afterwards, we encountered the more familiar situation - dense clusters over hundreds of square feet (below).
Likewise, the Meadow Foam, here just a few blossoms at the edge of a creek, but mostly encountered in huge expanses at the edges of creeks on Table Mountain, then covering acres of meadow land off the mountain on the way to Chico.
The Dwarf Monkeyflower is a special type of bright red that results in "noise" on the camera's sensor.  The edges of petals in the photos tend to be a little blurry, or more accurately, seem to glow.
These yellow composites (below) are Yellow Carpet, Blennosperma nanum.  Until Spencer helped me out, I realized that I never before distinguished between these and the better-known Goldfields, Lasthenia californica. Once I learned the difference, I became more aware of the habitat difference and was able to distinguish them from a distance.
This next plant is Johnnytuck or Butter and Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha.  It's probably best to call it Johnnytuck, if you don't do scientific names, because there are several different plants that are known as Butter and Eggs.
The Filaree, or Stork's Bill, seems spectacular to me because we have a species in the Quincy area whose seed pods seldom exceed 2" in length while the species on Table Mountain have seeds over 4" long.
When I first saw the scene below, I thought I had found one of the main flowers I was seeking, the Bitterroot, but on closer inspection it was somebody's idea of hiding a plastic bag, otherwise known s litter.  Later on the hike, we did end up finding lots of Bitterroot.  That will be in the next "chapter."

Recent Wanderings

 A little over a week ago, I started seeing the first Spring wildflowers in the vicinity of Quincy.  Reports from Table Mountain, where Spring arrives much earlier, were tugging at me, but I really wanted to see Spring break here.  The first blooms I saw were Shelton's Violet on the FRC campus.  Shortly afterwards, I found the Henderson's Shooting Star (above) on the Old Keddie Highway.
 At the base of a rock wall at the foot of the Butterfly Valley Road, I found a great patch of Milkmaids (above), and it was a pleasure to see their return to a place where I've seen them before. 
 One my other favorite places to spot early blooms is the Greenville Y.  I had seen the early leaves on the rocks by the river several weeks earlier.  Several subsequent visits left me impatient for their return.  Then, we had a perfect sequence of rainy days followed by warmer sunny days, and Voila! here is the Elegant Rock Cress (above).

Now I'll get ahead of myself, skipping over Saturday's visit to Table Mountain, and mention my Sunday visit to the northern side of Indian Valley for a hike in the woods.  The following three scenes appeared at my feet as I stepped out of my truck.  First, a Damselfly resting on the edge of a leaf of Miner's Lettuce.  The weather was rather cold and windy, so with slowed metabolism, this insect stayed still for all of ten minutes, thus giving time to take a few photos with good focus.
 Nearby there were other patches of Miner's Lettuce blooming (bottom photo) and Chickweed (immediately below), in a setting where the surrounding grasses and shrubs could have rendered all three of these scenes unnoticeable.

Blooming Miner's Lettuce (above).

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Illusion of Wilderness

On Saturday, one week after my last post, I was standing where the person with an orange shirt in the photo is standing.  We walked around 4 miles away from the maddening crowd, and here and there were able to imagine we were in a wilderness.  But then wilderness is a human construct anyway, so I could have imagined the same thing at home while reading Thoreau, or looking through my Wildflowers of Table Mountain, and I'm sure Spencer could have done the same.   Actually, I ended up doing all three by the end of the day.  Spencer (the navigator) and I walked with our cameras from the overflowing parking lot to the nearest No Trespassing sign we could find.  Upon carefully moving out of the public zone, we spent the next several hours in relative solitude and talked wildflower photography, seasons, life/career stages and dreams, and all sorts of other things.  We hadn't hiked together for three years.  I use my amateurish photography as a means of telling a story.  Spencer is the pro photographer.  We even talked about pro vs. amateur and all the weight that distinction carries, especially at photographer meetings and shows.  For me, it's much more fun to be away from it all and have free-ranging discussions.  Walking for around 5 hours at a pretty good pace, punctuated by many brief photo stops, we figure we covered somewhere between 10 and 12 miles.  I took 327 photos, and now all I need is time to edit and post.  The above photo of Phantom Falls in Coal Canyon, took 4 minutes and 35 seconds to load into this blog post.  (We have inferior Internet service here.) While waiting for the photo to load, I dreamed of earlier visits to the huge cave at the base of the falls and of nearly stepping on a rattlesnake on the path down to the base.  A very satisfying day it was.
In the week between these last two posts I took around 50 photos near Quincy, and yesterday, I took a hike in the woods with my colleague Dr. Joan Parkin in the area north of Greenville.  We tried some video-taping for the first time, and I also took a couple dozen more stills.  I'm technically on Spring Break, so if I can get near a faster Internet access, I'll be posting lots of photos and stories during the remainder of the week.