Dick's Adventures of 2017 - Part 5


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San Joaquin River Trail West

San Joaquin River Trail West

When I hiked on the east end of the San Joaquin River Trail at the San Joaquin Gorge on May 9, the warm weather convinced me it would be my last foothill 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.

I've 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.

Instead 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.

On 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.

It 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.

Flower 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

San Joaquin River Trail Photos


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window)

San Joaquin River Trail West

San Joaquin River Trail West

You can also launch hikes and bike rides Farewell-to-spring paints the hillside pink A spring bouquet
This venerable live oak stands above the little creek that crosses the trail a short way up Flowers gone to seed, probably phecelia This intricate flower is called elegant clarkia
This is my official "Resting Rock" Buckeye in bloom below the trail Millerton Lake looks to be a little fuller than it was a month earlier
Yellow madia, pink farewell-to-spring This bright orange flower grew along the creek; it's one I don't remember ever seeing before  A flower-lined section of the trail
Under the blue oaks some green grass remains An unofficial trail leads down from the parking area to this small cover These flowers grow on a low bush that was plentiful along the lower trail
Pink patches of farewell-to-spring can be seen on the ridge above the trailhead
Related Links
San Joaquin River Trail Finegold Picnic Area Millerton Lake

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Updated May 21, 2017