Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The beautiful, amazing Mt. Hough
On Monday of this week I had the pleasure of guiding a group of senior citizens on a car caravan up Mt. Hough. For lack of a better idea, I've posted the photos of wildflowers in alphabetical order by common names. That is, by the common names I assigned them at first. Some are known by several different names, and we will get to that later. It's been a long time since I've had so much fun with people my own age. Although going on 69, I tend to approach my outdoor adventures like a much younger person and take what some would call foolish risks in order to see amazing things - cliffs, rattlesnakes, etc.. My guests were not so nimble around camp, but the amazing scenery and crisp air at the top of the mountain seemed to make people instantly a decade or two younger. They were thrilled to be able to look through clear blue skies at Lassen Peak 40-some miles to the North and Sierra Buttes to the South. Eventually, we realized we could probably have seen Mt. Shasta if it weren't hidden from view by Lassen. We confirmed this on a map back at camp. We also saw the mountains around Tahoe, like Mt. Rose. It was also fun to spot relatively close by a butterfly-shaped meadow known as Butterfly Valley which they had visited two days before to view the various carnivorous plants.
We were professionally and delightfully hosted by my old friend, the lookout, Lucas, whom I met in this same lookout 30 years ago. Now the flowers:
First is the Arrow-leaved Balsam-root, Balsamorhiza sagittata. There were literally acres and acres of this beautiful sunflower up around the 7,000' level. When we got out of our vehicles and walked around, it was apparent that there were many leaves of Narrow-leaved Mule's Ears amongst the Balsam-root. The Mule's Ears and Balsam-root have very similar blossoms, but the former were not yet blooming. Also among the large yellow sunflowers were the tiny Sierra Onion, Allium campanulatum. Also, two kinds of Calochortus or Mariposa Lilies, one known as Beaver-tail Grass, C. coeruleus, and the larger, white one Leichtlin's Mariposa lily, C. leichtlinii (mis-spelled in my caption). Then there were small larkspur, Delphinium, whose specific name I was not able to determine. These were often blooming among the leaves of the Mule's Ears, Wyethia angustifolia. There were also mountain Violet, Viola purpurea, which are yellow! The Spreading Phlox, Phlox diffusa, were blooming among the rocks near the peak which were covered with snow only a few weeks ago. Lower down the mountain, I would estimate between 4,000 and 4,500 feet in elevation, we saw Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea, Mountain Whitethorn, labelled Blue Ceanothus in the caption, a relative of the Deer Brush, Buck Brush, and Mahala Mat, among many others. It is Ceanothus cordulatus. There was lots of Paintbrush, Castilleja sp., along the road and one specimen of Scarlet Gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata. Last, but not least, one of my favorites, the Pussy Paws, Calyptridium monospermum. It is fun to hang around long enough to see these start their day with their stems stretched out flat on the ground, then gradually rise as they appear in the above pictures, then lie flat again later in the afternoon as moisture enters and leaves their cells. Great adaptation for surviving this sometimes harsh environment. We also saw some very large piles of fresh bear scat, but I'm not supposed to mention it so I won't. :)