Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pretty in Pink

May 15, 2017

Hike track link

The word was out, the lower Kern Canyon was exploding with Clarkia flowers. Whole hillsides were covered in pink/purple. A few photos were circulating through our inboxes that were almost impossible to believe. This we must see. 

The location was a small pullout on the side of Highway 178 in the lower Kern Canyon. But just go see flowers and not hike? Not happening! I looked at the old topo map and found some 4X4, ranch, and Forest Service roads and put together a hike. We hoped the roads still existed and were passable!

Our friend Brian decided to join in the fun. How could he not when my text to him started off with "Crazy hikers invitation." We arrived at the location with thick cloud cover and a cool breeze. It stayed cool all day, below 65F, hard to believe it was mid-May. While it appeared to be windy everywhere else, our route stayed mostly protected and pleasant. That's a good thing when you are our looking at delicate flowers. From our parking spot we knew we were in for a treat  - whole hillsides of color. 

We followed my route up the steep hill and the trail turned out to be quite good. Once on top we connected to some ranching/forest service roads through some nice oak grasslands (even with the cows), did a few miles on the paved Breckenridge Road, then descended back on an obscure ranch road past some nice springs and creeks. The last couple miles was a repeat of the steep hillside with incredible flowers. Cameras clicked hard all day.

The predominant Clarkia were Clarkia cylindrica (Speckled Clarkia) and Clarkia unguiculata (Elegant Clarkia). Some other late season flowers, including another Mariposa Lily!, made and appearance and the California Buckeye were ablaze in flowers. 

Clarkia unguiculata (Elegant Clarkia)

California Buckeye

Clarkia cylindrica (Speckled Clarkia)

Leptosiphon montanus (Mustang Clover)

Collinsia heterophylla (Purple Chinese Houses)

Walking the Breckenridge Road

Triteleia laxa (Ithuriel's spear)

Coyote Spring

Delphinium hansenii (Hansen's Larkspur) 


California Buckeye flower

Clarkia cylindrica (Speckled Clarkia)

Some late blooming poppies

The Kern River far below
Calochortus venustus (Butterfly Mariposa Lily)

Photo by Brian's selfie-stick

Just across the road, the malevolent Kern River roared down the canyon. And to think we still aren't at peak of snow runoff. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Chimney Peak

We - Susan, Bob and Brian, wanted a good half day work out, to go somewhere new, and not to have to drive for hours. Chimney Peak seemed to fill all three needs. Internet searching turned up very little, but it did appear to be doable from the PCT, so we figured we would give it a try.

Chimney Peak

We started out going north from the Chimney Peak campground on the PCT and after a few miles started heading cross country to a ridge that appeared to head to the peak. Bird song was all around us and we had many Plumbeous Vireos, Black-throated Gray Warblers, and Gray Flycatchers. All the expected species and in excellent numbers with the plentiful water around.

The map showed that Chimney Peak is two high points separated by a quarter mile or so.  We decided to go to both.  Brian’s altimeter indicated that the unnamed peak was four feet lower than the named peak.  Both had nice views of Sawtooth, Owens, Lamont, and then the other direction Olancha, Langley and Whitney.

We came off the summit a different route and enjoyed a beautiful canyon with beautiful mature Sierra Juniper.

Ascending the first summit

Looking at Nine Mile Road and the Indian Wells Valley
Langley and Whitney to the north
Owens and Sawtooth to the southeast
Peak baggers. Photo by Brian Veit
Photo by Brian's selfie-stick