|Sierra Crest looking south. Owens Peak is on the right side of|
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|
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: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22700181
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.