San Joaquin River Trail West
When I hiked
on the east end of the San
Joaquin River Trail at the San Joaquin
May 9, the warm weather convinced me it would be my last
hike of the season. But the weather this year is predictably
unpredictable, and following a short warming spell, it cooled down
again, to the point where I felt it would be comfortable to hike the
other end of the trail from the Finegold Picnic Area on Millerton
Lake, which I did on May 16.
written about this trail quite
a few times, so I'll keep this short. Unlike previous hikes in
this location, I had no plans to hike farther than ever before.
Instead I hoped to do some off-trail exploration, following various
cow paths through the drainage east of the upper part of the first
mile. The tall, dry grass, nearly obscuring the faint animal trails
and offering a selection of stickers to be picked out of my boot
laces, changed my mind for me.
I went up about two thirds of the way to the saddle, then headed
back down. Near the parking area the road ends in a paved circle
where cars can turn around, and off this section there is a
well-marked path that leads down to the
lake. I went down this
trail, which starts with a very steep 30-foot section, then becomes
mostly level. I believe it is used mainly for lake access by
fishermen. It continues on past a little cove and up a ridge between
the cove and the main lake, but I didn't go past the cove.
this path, which I had never walked before, I saw a couple of
flowers that did not appear on the main trail, but most common was a
low bush covered with tiny
yellow flowers. At the one place where a
creek crosses the main trail, I saw an orange flower that I don't
recall seeing anywhere else before. The most frequent flowers on the
San Joaquin Trail were the pink farewell-to-spring and yellow madia,
but there were also at least 20 other species on the two trails,
many of them appearing only in one or two places in small numbers.
One of the more unusual flowers, appearing in large numbers in one
spot along the trail, was elegant
clarkia. I saw these for the first time last year near the
bridge at the San Joaquin Gorge.
was 69 degrees when I started out, and about 70 when I finished, so
it made for a fairly comfortable walk. Apparently a lot of other
people had the same idea, since i saw at least 40 people on the
trail, and there were 16 cars at the parking area when I returned.
With the two trails I added 2.17 miles to my total for the month.
The drive to the trailhead, especially along Sky Harbor Road,
offered a number of views where the farewell-to-spring blanketed the
roadside, and there were some nice patches of pink high up on the
hills above Sky Harbor.
species for the record: Pale blue lupine, tall blue ground lupine,
elegant clarkia, fiesta flowers, popcorn flowers, pink owl clover, filaree,
fiddleneck, farewell-to-spring, madia, clover, thistles, tall plant
with tiny white flowers, buckeye, elderberry, orange flowers in
creek, Chinese houses, white spike flower, harvest brodiaea, datura,
Athurial's spear, the bush with little yellow flowers, white fuzzy round
head flower, and a tall plant with a small yellow flower, similar to
the head of a thistle.
--Dick Estel, May 2017
Joaquin River Trail Photos