This was a hike I've been
wanting to do for a year or two, and while it was worth waiting for,
it was definitely one of the most difficult hikes I've done in
recent memory. It was also very special because both my daughters,
Teri and Jennifer, were able to join me, along with Wes Thiessen of
the Ramblers hiking group. Jennifer lives in Oakhurst, and she and
Teri both work, so it's difficult to schedule any kind of
activity with both girls at the same time.
In the fall of 2012 I
made the first of a number
of hikes on the western end of the San
Joaquin River Trail, starting at the Finegold Picnic area
trailhead. About a mile up the trail, it crosses over a saddle,
which is usually my farthest hiking point. Here unofficial trails go in both
directions perpendicular to the main route, and of course I wanted
to find out where these side trails went.
To the east, it's just a
short walk up to a hilltop, and from there the terrain drops steeply
down to the lake where it passes through a narrow section of the
river gorge. The trail to the west goes up a fairly steep hill to
the top of a knoll, and I made a couple of trips to this point.
However, this only whetted
my appetite for further adventure, because from this point you are
looking up at a rocky hilltop, similar in formation to the various
table top mountains in the area. This proved to be Pincushion Peak,
and I vowed someday I would get to the top.
Wes had made this hike in
the past, and advised me that it is a
fairly rugged climb, but that I should be able to do it if I took it
slow and easy. This is the way I always hike, so - no problem,
especially with Teri,
Jennifer, and Wes
for moral support - all of them younger and
better hikers than I am.
On February 20, 2016,
Teri came to my house, and we drove to the trailhead, where we met
Jennifer, arriving from Oakhurst, and Wes, who had a tight schedule
for the day and needed to have his own car there for a quick return
home. Wes and I had
hiked in Yosemite with Jennifer last year, but it was the first
meeting for Wes and Teri. After introductions, we got started up the
Between October and the
start of February we've had a lot of rain, so the grass is green and
flowers are coming out in good
numbers. It was a moderately warm
day, with a slight breeze, which became very strong and very cool on
top of the first knoll, and on top of the peak. Rather than going up
to the saddle, we took a trail that splits off about half way up,
and goes up to the first knoll, becoming steeper as you get farther
up. From this
spot, there is a trail down across a saddle to the
base of the peak, with another route splitting off to the left and
going around the base where you can come up the west side.
Wes advised us to take
the more direct route, which was steep but not difficult at first.
Then we came to areas where it was more a matter of rock scrambling
than walking. After we made it safely through this section, we had
another short, steep hike up an easier trail to the
All along the way we saw
many varieties of wildflowers, with some especially thick stands of
poppies and other species along the southern side of the ridge. The
top of the mountain rewarded us with views of Millerton
Sierra peaks, basalt topped table
mountains, and foothill terrain
covered with trees, grass, flowers
The breeze was strong
enough on top that I got out the long sleeve t-shirt from my pack
and put it on. We chatted briefly with another hiker who had arrived
there ahead of us, and he graciously took our group
photo. After enjoying our accomplishment and the view for a
short while, we took the "back" trail down. It proved to
be very steep in spots, but without the rocks of the other route. We
still had to make careful use of our hiking poles until we got down
to the level trail that ran along the base of the peak to the lower
knoll. Looking back, we saw that the top had become crowded
as a large number of people made their way up just after we started
Teri, Jennifer and I
continued down the trail that goes steeply down from here to the
main trail at the saddle, while Wes said his goodbyes and returned
by the route we took coming up, to get home in time to get ready for
a party at his home that evening.
Just above the saddle, we
found some rocks with places to sit, and enjoyed sandwiches and
snacks that I had brought. From here we went on down to the main
trail and started back to the trailhead. At the end of the hike we felt
like we had put in a hard day's effort, having covered 3.3
Everyone agreed that it
the most difficult hike they've done in the last five years, but we
were all ready to enjoy another outing together soon.
year I try to do some camping and/or hiking at Hensley
Lake, on the
Fresno River in Madera
County. Most of the time it's camping,
accompanied by short and long walks around the area, including the
two official trails. Last
year I camped there and the Ramblers came out for the day
and we hiked the Pohonichi
didn't want to be gone from home for several days, so on February 23
I drove out there for a day hike. Instead of my usual route, taking
Highway 145 off Highway 41 and then a series of county roads, I
stayed on 41 another mile or two to the 22
Mile House, where Road 208 crosses the state route. Here I
turned west on a narrow, winding paved road into the low foothills.
208 goes only a short distance in this direction before coming to a
dead end at Road 209. This road comes out to Highway 41 between 145
and 208, and I had observed that they were doing construction at the
junction about a year ago. I soon found out that they had re-paved
the road for some distance. It was now a wide two-lane road with a
center line and very smooth, although still with enough curves to
keep the speed down to 40 MPH or so most of the time.
project of this type in remote areas usually means someone living
there has a friend on the board of supervisors, but this was not the
case here. The new pavement ended at the site of the Madera
Quarry, and had obviously been improved due to heavy truck
traffic from that location. I stopped once along this road because I
can't resist photographing windmills,
and the one I saw was in a very nice setting, next to a
creek and surrounded by oak-covered green
the quarry the pavement is old and slightly rough, but not really
bad, and the road ends at Road 406 a mile or so from the quarry. I
turned right on Road 406, which was a dirt road going north. I had
been over this route a few years ago, so I expected a dirt section.
Only a short distance up this road, I saw an old
corral with fences, cattle chute, and a shed, demanding to be
photographed. The surrounding green hills, covered with fiddlenecks,
also caught my eye.
spent about 15 minutes there, and when I got back in the car, I
thought it might be a good idea to double check my map. This proved
to be a VERY good idea, since I was on the right road, heading the
wrong direction. This was a good thing, since I got to see the old
corral, but I made a four point turn on the narrow road and went the
opposite way. A turn like that was also no problem, since this road
had no traffic. In fact, on the entire distance from Highway 41 to
Hensley, I probably saw fewer than ten cars.
406 in the right direction was paved, and went for several miles
through more foothill scenery, dropping down in elevation as it
approached the next road. As it went down, the trees also
disappeared, and I was back in open valley grassland.
to the dirt stretch that I had remembered from previous trips, where
warns that the road is impassible in wet weather. I have actually
driven this route on a day when we had snow in Mojave, and Highway
41 required chains near Coarsegold, and we got through the one or
two slightly muddy places with no trouble, but I would not drive it
during an actual rainstorm.
dirt road continued another mile or two to Road 400, the familiar
route that I usually follow most of the way after leaving Highway
145. After a few more turns, I arrived at the park, paid my day use
fee, and drove to the trailhead.
Pohonichi trail is officially a one-mile loop trail that goes up and
down over several ridges. Going clockwise, it goes more or less
east, turns south, then turns back west, but of course, the foothill
terrain dictates that at one time or another it goes in every
walked the trail a half dozen times or more, and always go
clockwise, up a steep stretch, then over a ridge and down, then more
ups and downs till it returns to the parking lot about 50 feet from
the starting point. The day was sunny and warm enough that I
hiked in a short sleeve t-shirt.
gone over the first ridge when I started wondering if I had got off
the trail. I did not pass a unique rock formation that I thought was
just over the first hill, and as I came down to a low spot, I did
not see the big blue oak tree with a bench under it that should be
there. Since this was ranch land, there are many old roads and cow
trails, and the main trail is quite overgrown, with very tall grass
along many parts. Eventually I spotted a landmark that confirmed
that I had gone off the trail. I cut across to the "other
end," a section of the trail near my normal end point, and
started to follow it going counter-clockwise.
was no problem, since I could continue this way and only retrace my
steps down the last hill (which of course, was also the first hill).
However, I had already planned to make an off-trail excursion. East
of the farthest stretch of the trail there is a ridge with some big
boulders on top which I have named Far Rocky Ridge. Traveling
the "wrong" direction, I spotted an old road which led
down to the base of a ridge, and I thought I could follow it and
make my way up to the top of Far Rocky Ridge. As I got to the
bottom, I saw a fence across the slope above me. In my younger days,
a barbed wire fence did not slow me down, but they make them tighter
these days, and getting through usually requires assistance, so I
cut to my left up the drainage, back to where I thought the trail
As I neared the top of
the hill I was climbing (mostly following cow trails and game
trails), I realized I was coming up on the back side of Far Rocky
Ridge, so once again a "wrong turn" led to a good result.
On top of the ridge I found a flat rock to sit on while I had a
snack, rested and took lots of photos.
I had also planned to go
north off the trail and around a big round boulder that I have named
However, I had been there before, and recalled that it was not
particularly interesting up close, so I went down the ridge and had
just a short walk up to the trail where it made its turn and started
west toward the parking lot.
Throughout the hike there
were lots of flowers, with fiddlenecks
being the most prominent. There was also an unusually profuse growth
of lace pods, a plant that usually grows about a foot high, with small
thin seeds on both sides of the stems. This year they were two
to three feet high, growing in patches a hundred feet or more
across. Because of the slightly tan color of the seeds, in this
quantity they looked like dry
grass from last season, but a closer
look revealed the truth.
I made it back to the
trail and the parking lot, although not without another
unintentional detour. This one just took me around one side of a
bunch of rocks, in a place where both the real trail and the fake
one were both fairly steep.
From the trailhead
parking lot I drove around to the road that goes to the boat launch
pad and parked next to but outside the campground. Here I walked
into the area north of the road and around Rabbit Rock, a pile of
granite boulders with various bushes and trees growing in them,
where I almost always see rabbits. This time was no
exception, and a flock of quail hopping through the rocks added
variety. I also saw hawks and squirrels.
Nearby there is a small
forest of bush
lupines, which were mostly in bloom, so I walked over there and
took pictures, then started for home, following my normal route.
Where State Highway 145 comes into Highway 41, I stopped and took a
number of photos of Little
Table Mountain, which lies east of 41 and south of 145.
Even with all my
wandering the hike only amounted to one and three quarters mile, but
I had plenty of hours of exercise, and the pleasure of being out in
the green foothills.
February an old Bootjack elementary school classmate, Larry Jordan,
started posting some nice poppy
photos on Facebook. People
asked where the pictures were taken, and the answer was, "along
I asked for
further information, and Larry gave me exact instructions on how to
find the spot. I had shared the photos with my Rambler hiking
companions, and Wes Thiessen suggested that we take a drive to the
location on February 28.
Dry Creek discussed in this report should not be confused with the Dry
Creeks of Fresno County, which are in the San Joaquin drainage.
Our trip was to Dry Creek in Tulare County, a tributary of the Kaweah
at my house at 8 a.m., and we drove south on State Highway 99, then
east into Visalia on
Highway 198. We stopped in this busy city for coffee, then continued to the tiny town of Lemon
Cove, population 308. If you stay on 198 from this point, you will
soon pass Lake
Kaweah, go through the village of Three Rivers, and eventually climb
up into the Sierra and enter the southern end of Sequoia National
turned northwest onto State 216, crossing the Kaweah River within a
mile, then east on Dry Creek Drive, also known as County
Road J21. From here it is 20 miles to the town of Badger, where
Larry lives, about eight miles from the southwestern border of the
national park. We were not going that far, since the prime poppy
location was half way between Lemon Cove and Badger, and of course,
we would make many stops to take pictures.
We had only
gone a short distance on the county road along the river when we
spotted a hillside of poppies and lupines, with a convenient parking
spot between the road and river. While we were taking photos,
another car stopped, and two women got out and joined in the picture
taking. As he always does, Wes offered to take a photo of them
together, using their camera, and also asked them about some white
flowers that we could not identify.
out that this was one of those fortuitous meetings that add to the
adventure - one of the women was an amateur botanist and knew the
names of several flowers we had not been able to identify in the
past. The particular specimen in question here was
white, somewhat fuzzy looking flower that we see all over the
ladies also gave us some additional important information. First
they told us that just up the road was Dry Creek
Preserve, which was worth a stop.
Beyond that was another point of interest, the Homer Ranch
Preserve. And one of the women was in charge of the web page, Tulare
County Treasures, which documents Tulare County conservation efforts
over the years.
soon arrived at the Dry Creek Preserve, which overlooks Dry Creek
near where it runs into the river. The preserve was reclaimed from a
former gravel mine, and lies just below Terminus Dam, which forms
Lake Kaweah. There are several short trails that wind around through
the property, with plaques explaining the various trees and plants,
as well as a mural showing use and occupancy of the land over the
walked around and took photos, then got back on the road for the
short drive to the Homer Ranch Preserve. Here there are loop trails
that cover about a half mile between the two extreme ends, but which
offer a mile or more of hiking, along the creek and in
flower-covered low foothill territory. This location marked the
start of several miles of road with fiddlenecks thick on both sides,
and it is a certainty that individual fiddleneck plants in the
Sierra foothills must number in the high millions, maybe billions.
the Ranch we got some excellent photos of green fields covered with
fiddlenecks and other flowers, nicely set off by granite
outcroppings and oak trees.
we entered the valley of Dry Creek, the hills above us were party
obscured by mist, and we were concerned that it might not be the
best day for photography. We continued up the road, entering the
hills that were orange with
poppies, where Larry took his photos.
Although it would have been better to have bright sunlight, we still
took many pictures at our turnaround point, about ten miles up the
road from Lemon Cove.
observed that we were looking up at the poppies from a fairly low
angle, while Larry's
pictures seemed to have been taken from
somewhere higher on the hillside. I speculated that as a resident of
the area, he knew about all the back roads, where he might find a
better spot to shoot from, but I later learned that he has a drone
to take his camera up where the view is better. I've provided
links to two of his photos below.
told me he might be driving down "poppy way" but when he
saw the fog down the canyon and clouds around him at 3,000 feet, he
went up into the national park instead.
As for the
intrepid adventurers from Fresno, we were trying to get back in time
for something I had scheduled, so we finished up our photos and
headed down the hill and back to Visalia. We enjoyed lunch at
In-N-Out, then got back on the freeways and back home. Our trip was
about 80 miles one way, but close to two hours of driving due to the
narrow, winding condition of Dry Creek Drive.
fog and mist, we saw acres of
flowers, discovered some new places we
had not known existed, and enjoyed a fantastic drive in the country.
2015 I hiked on the Edison Point Trail twice, each time enjoying
a different batch of wild flowers. The first
hike was with the Ramblers, and we made the hike again this
year, completing the entire trail instead of the shortened
version that we accomplished last year.
the Ramblers on February 29 there
were masses of poppies on the hills and along the trail, as well as a
dozen other flowers in large numbers. What was missing was the
purple brodiaea, which was thicker than I had ever seen it on my
solo hike last
year. Therefore, I knew I had to make a second hike this year,
allowing another month for the development of the flowers that
thrive later in the season.
this hike, on March 26, I was joined by my daughter Teri and her
friend Monica. Neither had been on the trail before, and Monica had
not been hiking much recently, but was in good condition and an
outdoor enthusiast, and both were up to the challenges of
first part of the route is an easy, gentle walk up a dirt road,
leading out to Edison Point, where you get nice views of the lake Of
course, there were various wildflowers along the way, but the real
treat was yet to come. From this high point, the trail goes around
the point, then straight down the hill for about 100 feet before
settling into a long series of switchbacks down to a bench at high water
the crow's flight distance from the point to the bench is fairly
short, the long switchbacks make the trailhead to bench distance
more than half the 2.2 miles total. During most of this section, we
were walking through very tall
grass, just as the Ramblers had a
month earlier. However, since that time cows have bedded down in the
grass, creating many small "islands" where the grass is
flattened down. In some areas this has caused places where it is
easy to lose the trail and wander through one of the flattened
most cases, it was immediately apparent that we were going off the
trail, and we could quickly make a course correction. However, in at
least two places we got off the trail for some distance, and had to
work our way down the hill to a lower section of it.
the way we saw many
wildflowers, including varieties that had
started blooming in early spring. It seems that many flower species
are having a particularly long season this year, perhaps related to
the high rainfall levels in the first few months of the rainy
season. However, the best were yet to come.
our various cross-country missteps and the long back and forth
travel on the switchbacks, we were all ready for a rest when we
finally reached the
bench. Since my visit a month earlier, grass and
flowers had grown up through the metal mesh of our resting place,
but this only added to the enjoyment of our break.
had brought sandwiches for herself and me, and Monica also had a
light lunch. We probably stayed there a half hour, getting a good
energy boost for the final part of the trail.
energy would be needed as we followed the long, looping switchbacks back
to our starting point. The
trail ran parallel to the lake and fairly close to the high water
line for quite a while, but finally started up, with the tall grass continuing to
challenge us. I looked for a "shortcut" I took last time
that got me up from one leg of the trail to a higher one, saving a
few hundred steps, but did not see it. Instead we came to the place
that Wes and Julie had to navigate last month, where we had to walk
straight up the slope for about 50 to 100 feet. However, we were
soon to be rewarded.
the trail went into a shady drainage, we began to see what I
had come for - large fields of purple
brodiaea. They were thick just
like last year, and Teri and Monica were duly impressed. There were
small scattered patches in a number of places, and at least four
large fields, all on the shady slopes of the terrain.
and other flowers, including many lupines, a few poppies,
fiddlenecks, and unknown varieties, made the challenges of the trail
worthwhile. These included having to go around and over logs that
had fallen on the trail in three different places.
a journey of around four hours, but just over two miles, we came to
the last short uphill stretch to the parking lot, and enjoyed
another snack and the good feeling of getting out of our hiking
drove on a short distance past the trailhead to where there had been
massive poppies on the hillsides a month earlier. These were fewer
in number, but there were still some big orange patches for our
enjoyment. And to make up for the missing poppies, we saw and
stopped at a place where bush lupines in full bloom covered the bank
above the road.
weather was warm but pleasant, and storm clouds over the distant
hills to the east never drifted close to us. Overall
it was a delightful day, and I plan to return again next year,
hoping the rain and the flowers cooperate to put on another great
Joaquin Gorge Camp: I've lost count of how many times I've been
to the San Joaquin Gorge, since my visits there started around 1980.
I've even lost count of how many time I've camped there with the
motor home, although I could research it via my various travel
reports. I do know that the most recent camping trip was March
29 through 31, and that it was a good one.
going there to camp, I always call to make sure the group camp is not
reserved, since it's the only place where it's convenient to put a
motor home. I called every day for a week, and never got an answer,
and when I arrived at the location, I found out why. There was a
power outage and some damage at the visitor center, and they have
not been able to use it since late February. Shortly after I arrived
Tracy, the park manager, came by, and I got a cell phone number for future
use. I also learned that there were no conflicts the next two days
while I would be there, but that about 150 people were arriving on
the weekend for a mountain bike race.
I was there for more relaxing activities, mainly reading and hiking.
Once I got everything set up, I decided to explore the only trail I
have not walked on in the area - the River Access Trail that starts
by the new power house, about a mile down the paved road from the
campground and main trailheads.
I don't move my motor home once it's set up, I had to walk the road
before walking the trail. This is not my idea of good hiking, but at
least I was surrounded by green grass and flowers all along the
road, and there was almost no traffic. I had walked a few feet on
the trail several years ago, and knew that it went down fairly
steeply to the river, so I was prepared for the conditions. As I
hiked, I made a note on my cell phone of all the flower species I
encountered, coming up with an even dozen. These included red and
brodiaea, bush lupine, baby blue eyes, two
shades of tall ground
lupine, and several I could not identify.
"official" trail actually ends at a sloping rock outcrop
and does not go all the way to the river, but it's only about 50
feet of easy scrambling to get there. I have outgrown my scrambling
days, so I sat on the rock and had a snack and rested for a while,
then started my return hike. I did two or three additional short
hikes that day, the main one being a tour around the Nature
Trail. This has signs explaining various trees and plants,
listing the common name, scientific name, and the name used by the natives
who have lived in the area for 8,000 years or so. The most common
flower along the trail was a vine-like plant with one-inch blue
blossoms that spreads out over fairly large areas. One flower
identification web site describes these as fiesta
are several unofficial trails and various routes that I have walked
on over the years, and I covered two of these. One of them was
actually new to me - I noticed a good clear man-made trail running
south along the east side of the camp area to the fence that
parallels the road. This short trail then turns west and follows the
fence line to the junction of the main road and the road that runs by the camp. I
saw that I could then go up the main road a short distance, cross
over, and follow a cow path
along the fence on the upper or south side of the road, and added
that walk to my "to do" list for the next day. All
together my various walks the first day added up to 4.19 miles.
addition to my physical efforts, I managed to fit in some napping,
some loafing, some eating, and a lot of reading, followed by TV
watching after dark, when I normally run the generator. During
the day it was fairly warm and sunny with a few clouds, but around
4:30 a wind came up and it cooled off. There were dark clouds up
river to the east, but it never became fully overcast. During the
night the clouds mostly dissipated, and there was a good view of the
stars, with no moon. Late in the night, actually closer to 6 a.m.,
the temperature got down to 37 degrees.
longest trail in the area is the San Joaquin River Trail, which runs
about 12 miles to the South Finegold Picnic Area on Millerton Lake,
at the end of Sky Harbor Road. I will never walk this entire trail,
but I've been trying to go farther on it each time. I set a new
record walking the trail with my daughter Teri in
February, and I decided this time I would go past the farthest
point we reached.
next day I got up and had a good breakfast, then read and rested
while it digested a bit before starting on my journey. The SJR Trail
is not strenuous except for a few very short stretches, but it
offers lots of up and
down. It heads south away from the trailhead a short
distance then turns west, and from then on mainly parallels the
river, but high up above it for the first two miles or so.
first it goes through gentle hills but after a mile or so it is
built into the side of a steep slope. I started my walk by taking
the trail that runs by the camp, then went into the field above the
road and walked on the cow trail. I knew there was a fence between
where I was and the main trail, but there is an unlocked gate.
This trail sort of fizzled out as it approached the fence, as cow trails
often do, and I cut across toward the gate and got on the real
along my route there were flowers large and small, and I again made
a list. I saw many of the same flowers that I had noted on the River
Access trail the previous day, but also quite a few new ones,
including poppies, vetch, gillia,
blue dick, tiny lupines, filaree,
fiddleneck, harvest brodiaea, redbud, phacelia, mustang clover and
elderberry. One of my favorite finds was a flower that used to be
common in the foothill area where I grew up, but that I have not seen
much of lately, ham
& eggs. These have reddish foliage and
egg-yellow asymmetrical blossoms. The most common flowers were the
daisies and the gillia, which covered large sections of the grassy
hillsides in many areas.
were also plenty of unidentified flowers, which are listed in my
notes with such descriptions as "like blue dick but white and different foliage,"
"1/4 inch almost star shaped," "white 1/8 inch,"
yellow," and "tiny yellow."
a fair amount of walking, I recognized the point that Teri and I
reached in February, and kept going for a few hundred yards more. My
goal was to walk a total of at least three miles, so I checked my
cell phone hiking app to make sure I had gone half that amount
are numerous interesting things to see close to the trail, but also
some intriguing things off the trail that you can't see in detail
without leaving the path. One thing close to the trail, but visible
only because I stopped to rest on a log, was a tiny frog in the
A little less than
a mile from the trailhead, I took a detour up a slope to where I
could see a water tank (a low, open tank used for livestock). When I
got closer I saw that the tank was surrounded by a fence, although
it was open on one side. It also turned out that there were FOUR
tanks in the area, at least one of them bent and cracked and not
usable, and one of them filled
I took an
indirect route back to the trail, and before long arrived back at my
motor home, with 3.06 miles on the odometer. After a rest I did a
little more walking, over to an old dam that I had noticed a year or
two ago a few hundred feet north of the camp. From there I walked
cross country toward the main parking lot and down along the fence
on the west side. This walk brought my total for the day to four
The next day was
March 31, my last day. Since it's a very short distance to home, I
was in no hurry to leave, and had breakfast and read a while before
doing my final hike. This consisted of a meandering walk along the
trail next to the camp, through the field above the road on the cow
trail, and down along the fence west of the main parking lot. I went
through the fence at a place where some wires were missing, through
the fields to the Bridge Trail, and then back to camp on what I call
the Equestrian Trail - a shortcut path that goes more or less
directly to the road across from my camp, avoiding the main parking
lot. There is an official Equestrian Camp about 100 yards from the
group camp, and the trail I was on is used by riders who plan to head
down the Bridge Trail to the river. This walk was 1.04 miles, giving
me over nine miles for the three days.
there were a lot of people around, especially for mid-week, for the
most part no one was around my camp area. A truck and travel trailer
drove in the first evening and parked on the opposite side of the
parking lot, but left after a half hour or so. The main parking lot was
pretty close to full a couple of times when I went by it, but I saw
very few people on the trail. When I arrived there were several
riders with horses at the equestrian camp. They rode by my camp, but
were gone when I returned from my walk.
our stay in February, we saw hundreds of millipedes on the road,
trails and grass each night. Teri was here a few weeks ago and saw
only one or two, and I also saw just
one. I asked the ranger about
it; she had seen a few around, but was not aware of the mass numbers
we experienced. She speculated that it might be some type of
When I returned
from my walk the final morning, I got everything ready for the
return trip. When I camped with a travel trailer, I had to deal with
the hassle of hitching and unhitching, but preparation for departure
with the motor home mainly consists of three things: Making sure
anything that can fall or slide around is securely in place,
bringing in the slide-out and closing the vents, and driving off the
leveling blocks and loading them up.
got underway around noon, heading home with memories of the beauty
of the California foothills, and about 250 photos to sort
written about this hiking area a number of times, so I'll try to
keep this short and focus on aspects that were new this time. My
most recent walk here was on February 20 with my
two daughters, Teri and Jennifer, and fellow Rambler, Wes Thiessen.
We completed the somewhat arduous climb to the top of Pincushion
Peak, a short distance west of the main trail. On April 6 I had no
thought of repeating that hike, but instead had a new goal in mind.
trail winds mostly uphill for close to a mile, crosses a
continues on to the San
Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Management Area, a total of 12 miles. Of
course, I don't expect to ever hike that distance again, but I had
decided I would go past the saddle at least a little farther than I
had ever gone before. I went about a quarter mile beyond several
years ago, and knew that the trail was fairly level for some
first part of the trail, which is on the north side of the slope,
there were plenty of
flowers, which I once again listed on my phone.
Species that had been dominant earlier were reduced to a few
individuals here and there, and the most common now were several
types of yellow daisies, which appeared in patches large and small,
sometimes covering a quarter acre in bright yellow.
be said that I have no certain knowledge that "daisies"
is the correct name for these flowers. It's the name I apply to any
yellow flower that is more or less an inch in diameter and not known
by me to have some other name. There seem to be several
species that look the same until examined up close. Looking at
my photos, it appeared that there were three different flowers
lumped in the "daisy"
category. I've placed photos of each side by side in the photo
section of this report so you can judge for
reached the saddle, I rested and took some photos, and chatted with
two men who rode up on bikes. They had done an 8-hour ride the
previous day, and wanted to test their ability to go out and do a
second grueling ride.
continued my walk, the trail went around to the south side of the
ridge, and was in full sun nearly all the time. The weather was just
starting to warm up, so it was not terribly hot, but there was no
doubt that cool days were coming to an end.
different conditions on this side provided a real treat - an
entirely different batch of flowers, with poppies and lupines
crowding the trail on both sides, and covering the hillside above
and below. Poppies had been at their peak two months earlier, and I
thought they would be all gone, but there were still large numbers.
There were also a lot blue dicks, another flower that had appeared
in large numbers early in the spring. It appears that some of the
early species are having an extra-long season this year. Whether
this is due to the good rainfall we had or other factors, I don't
know, but it certainly adds to the delight of foothill hiking.
flowers that appeared in fairly large numbers included purple
brodiaea, fiddlenecks, phacelia, yellow (or harvest) brodiaea,
popcorn flowers, owl clover, and the usual "unidentified."
the most interesting things on the trail, something I have not seen
before, were tall, thin ant
hills, somewhat resembling the ones you see in Africa, but very small. The tallest was about two
inches, but most were barely a half inch. All were about a quarter
inch in diameter. I also saw and managed to photograph several quail
that were making their way across the trail.
As I walked through this
sunny, flower-strewn area, I began to wonder if would find any shade
or any place to sit and have my lunch. Then, about a half mile past
the saddle, the trail went up a drainage, and there were two big
live oak trees, one above and one below the trail, creating a nice
shady area. As a bonus there was a flat rock jutting out from the
bank just below the trail, and I was able to sit there, with my legs
dangling over into the drainage, and enjoy food and rest.
After a good lunch break,
I started back down the trail, enjoying the flowers and
a second time. There were a lot of other people on the trail for
mid-week, probably taking advantage of the excellent spring
conditions we've enjoyed this year.