Map Track Link
|Owens Peak at the head of Grapevine Canyon|
|Diminutive cemetery (labeled Mt Owens Cem on the FS map)|
|Oak and Gray Pine stand|
The sun comes up late in winter in these steep walled canyons, so birding was slow for a while. We saw the expected Bell's and White-crowned Sparrows immediately. At the first stand of pines and oaks we had a tough time finding much. But as the temperatures rose the bird activity did as well. By the second stand of trees things were hopping and remained so for the rest of the hike. Of particular note - Susan spotted a little puff ball in the top of a large pine, on further investigation with binoculars became a tiny Northern Pygmy-Owl hanging out and enjoying the warm sun on a cold day. West side Sierra Crest influence dictates some of the vegetation and species in these canyons as birds leak over and take up residence in the right habitat. Within all the large pines and oaks we found two pairs of Acorn Woodpeckers, Oak Titmice, a couple of Western Bluebirds, and many Western Scrub-Jays - all species that are tough to find outside the canyons on the west side of the valley.
|Owens Peak on the Sierra Crest and magnificent stands of trees.|
We worked our way up canyon along the south edge until it got very steep and explored the extensive vegetation at the head of the canyon. We pushed up a large flock of Pine Siskins feeding on the catkins from introduced Alder trees mixed in with native cottonwoods and willows. Turning back down following a slightly different x-country path along the arroyo for a while, we walked along wonderful habitat of pines and oaks, with much of the namesake grapevine hanging everywhere. A short distance later we were back at the car with a very respectable list of 26 species.
Indian Joe Canyon
Map Track Link
|Entrance to Indian Joe Canyon|
|Inyo California Towhee photographed on a previous trip to Indian Joe Canyon|
|Much modern "graffiti" on the rocks|
A primitive road went all the way to the lower garden springs but is long gone now with erosion and rockfalls. Thanks to the many wild burros in the area the trails are kept fairly open and navigable with some scrambling and route-finding occasionally necessary.
|The first permanent water is reach after only a short distance.|
|I'm sure the burros and other wildlife appreciate the easy access to water|
|Non-native trees choke the canyon in spots|
|Thanks to the burros for keeping the trail open|
|Much of the canyon is now an Ecological Reserve|
We continued over the ridge toward the upper garden viewing it from above as we moved farther up canyon following historic miner trails now well used by the local wildlife. We passed by Allen Springs and then Bainter Spring farther up canyon. At this point we were just wandering, following the most obvious trails toward Great Falls Basin to the north. We made it far enough to see into the canyon where the road to the parking area for the Basin and called it good enough. Someday we will connect the two trailheads.
|Indian Joe Spring|
|Indian Joe Spring|
|Historic Fig Tree roots|
|"Ancient" Fig Trees|
|Indian Joe Spring from above|
|Indian Joe Spring from the ridge|
|Hiking the ridge toward the north|
|Barrel cactus looking healthy with the fall rain|
|Argus Range above Great Falls Basin|
|Telescope Peak (Death Valley) and the Panamint Range across the valley|
|The Searles Valley|
|More outstanding rock formations in the Argus Range|
We made it back before the sun had set too low. It was a fun day in an area worthy of much more exploration.
|Open water near the upper garden area|
|A large rock cavity with evidence of occupancy in the past|