Sunday, April 5, 2015

One year and counting...

Sierra Crest looking south.  Owens Peak is on the right side of
the horizon.
One year from now, Susan and I will start the Pacific Crest Trail - thru hiking from Mexico to Canada.  It was appropriate that yesterday we hiked a section of the trail from Chimney Creek campground (mile 680) to the ridge (mile 687) overlooking the Domelands Wilderness.

Domeland Wilderness

This section of the trail is only about 45 minutes drive from our house in Inyokern and it's too bad we had never hiked it before - it was excellent! Starting at an elevation of 5500 feet in a mixed Pinyon and Gray Pine forest, we ascended gradually to 8000 feet at the ridge.  The final couple of miles passed through an old burn that was slowly recovering and had some sporadic low level habitat.

The trail continues beyond where we stopped into Rockhouse Basin at the edge of the Domeland Wilderness.  From there it parallels the South Fork of the Kern River to Kennedy Meadows at Mile 702.  Kennedy Meadows is the last stop in civilization before entering the High Sierra Nevada and many miles of wilderness.

This section of trail passes the old Fox Mill mining site with a spring close by. Water was burbling out of the spring below the willows, but the pipe into the trough was barely a trickle.

Fox Mill Site

Fox Mill Spring 
Horse trough at spring

Trail Flowers
Flowers along the trail were decent at times, with some coreopsis, blue dicks, evening snow and others down low, and phlox up high.  

Of course we never go in the mountains without looking for birds and this trip didn't disappoint. Soon after leaving the car a Brown Creeper was seen foraging in the mixed pinyon and gray pines.  While there we heard a flycatcher singing.  The only flycatcher that breeds in this habitat is Gray, and while the song was a dead ringer, it wasn't until later in the day that Susan got one in view to confirm. Based on location and song, we had at least two males on territory in a mile plus stretch of trail. The date seems a little early for Gray Flycatcher, but with the mild winters these days, who knows...  We also had another pinyon forest specialist, a singing Black-throated Gray Warbler clearly on territory already.  Some other birds of interest in the pine forest were Mountain Chickadee, Oak Titmouse, Pacific White-breasted Nuthatch, and Lawrences Goldfinch. Both Western and Mountain Bluebirds were seen in the burn area above 7000 feet elevation along with Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Hairy Woodpecker.  In all we had 27 species which is pretty good for the habitat and early date.  Our total bird list for those interested:

We chose this hike to avoid the high winds forecast in other parts of the mountains and it worked out well for us.  It was calm all morning, the wind picking up to a still tolerable level in the early afternoon.


  1. Except for the bird info coming so late in the post it was perfect. Great Debby loved it also

    1. Just for you John, the birds will be first next time. :-)

  2. Looking forward to more, Ptarmigan. Lovely pix and bird sightings. Is that Darwin Canyon in your background picture?

    1. Good eye, it certainly is! Photographed from Lamarck Col.

  3. Love Rockhouse Basin and Domeland. First hiked there 55 years ago, still feels like going home whenever I drive over the El Paso Mountains and I can see the southern Sierra in the near distance. Thank you for your descriptive blog and memories.

  4. You live in such a beautiful wilderness area, and your photos are always a treat to view. Looking forward to your grand adventure, that is something I always dreamed of :)

  5. Hi Bob, Trying to enter a comment for the third time. I enjoyed reading your blog which your uncle Bill sent me and love the bird photos up top. Only suggestion would be to put the birds names under their photos for us sometime birders. Aunt Liz

  6. Yours is a "One year and counting", mine a year and a half, give or take, and counting to the day I pick you up at Manning Park! What a great Blog, Bob! Good, your training schedule seems to be " on time"! I don't have to crack the whip, just yet, ��

    All the best to you and Susan, Kwan

    1. Ha! It will be so awesome walking to your house! :-)