Monday, July 7, 2014

On the way to Barker Pass, Part I

 After a great breakfast at the Firesign Cafe, we left Highway 89 and turned onto the road to Barker Pass.  Approximately 8 miles of paved road climbs nearly 2,000 feet to a point where the short climb up Barker Peak is highly tempting for those who like to "bag" peaks.  However, there was so much of interest along the sides of this road that I took around 100 photos at several stops before we ever reached the pass.  The first stop was only a couple hundred yards off Hwy 89 where I was impressed by the large number of big pine cones on the open forest floor of pine needs.  I picked up a particularly large one without getting stabbed by the spines on the scales, so I figured they must be Jeffrey Pine (above).  The rest of this narrative will continue after I mow our lawn.
2:53 p.m.:  I'm back.  Too hot to mow the lawn.  Maybe I should let the heat kill it.  Although I heard there might be some rain coming.  The cycle begins again.  So, on the way up the road to Barker Pass what is exciting to me is the illusion of stepping back in time.  Plants that reached their peak of blooming around Quincy in May are blooming a month or two later at 7,000' around Tahoe.  The Pine Drops (above) look fresher than the ones at home.  They also stand out more clearly to someone passing by in a car due to the more open forest.  I couldn't resist stopping to photograph this one, even though it's not substantially different than many I've photographed closer to home.
The same could be said for the Snow Plant.  The cluster shown above were still pretty red, even though past their prime.  They're in the same family as the Pine Drops and also Manzanita and Wintergreen.  In fact, the Ericaceae are sometimes called the Wintergreen family.
This nicely blooming Pennyroyal looks like Monardella odoratissima, a different species than we have around Quincy.  The flowers are nearly white and the leaves are hairless.  Same or similar fragrance, though, and one often discovers it by stepping on it before actually seeing it.
As I walked back to our parked car, the view up the road reminded me of the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County.  These trees aren't as big as the Redwoods, but the visual effect on this narrow road stirred pleasant memories or road trips.
A couple miles off Highway 89, the Barker Pass Road curved left and crossed over Barker Creek.  Since there was running water, we had to get out and look for signs of life.  The purple flowers below looked like some type of Penstemon, but I haven't checked the details carefully with a field guide in hand.  This bunch was only about ten feet from the creek.
A real highlight at this point in the trip was a small patch of Checker Mallow (below) which is a close relative of the Checker Bloom that I often photograph around Quincy - see recent examples around Oakland Camp by scrolling backwards for a week or so.
I moved in for a closer view.  This is a really pretty plant and the shade of red really glows against the background colors of this terrain.  Click on the photo for an even closer view.
Here's a view of Barker Creek from the very spot where the Checker Mallow was photographed.  Just to the left of center, near the top, the edge of Barker Peak can be seen.  At this point, it was still our goal, but still about 5 miles and over 1,000 vertical feet away.
Before heading on up the road, I had to get one more even closer view of the Checker Mallow.

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