Our our recent camping trip to Yosemite National Park, we made a special effort to really observe the milkweed. This was made lots easier by the fact that there was lots of milkweed in the meadow near the campground.
The real story of the Showy milkweed in the autumn is the way the pods burst open to expose all of the seeds with their silky white hairs. The brown part is the seed and the white part helps the seeds fly away from the plant.
They remind me of dandelions because when you blow on the seeds they scatter to the wind. There are lots and lots of seeds in each pod. The information I read online said that the seeds are very viable and will grow in dry habitats including fields and road sides.
I think the milkweed silky haired seeds are very beautiful…look at them shimmer in the sunshine.
Yosemite National Park in the summertime is an outdoor adventureland. There is so much to do! This trip was very different from our usual summer trips because it ended up only being my husband and I that were able to go. It is a far different experience to have just the two of us as opposed to having all six of us hiking around the Sierra. Both of us love this place so spending time together here is a pleasure and a delight.
There was a large wildfire further south from Yosemite but the smoke laid thick all three days of our trip. It was worse in the mornings but afternoon breezes swept some of it away. Yosemite Falls was dry! The park rangers were calling it “Yosemite Wall” instead. I am so glad that we had visited last May and enjoyed the cooling mists of the waterfalls then and for this trip it changed the focus from the valley to the surrounding areas of Tioga Road and Glacier Point.
We came into the park from the Tioga Pass side (east) and stopped just inside the gates to hike up to Gaylor Lake. This new to us hike (part of my nature study goals for 2013) was at a high elevation which always adds an element of breathlessness as you climb the trail. This is the view back down the trail…we listened to thunder and watched the clouds closely to make sure we would not be caught in a thunderstorm.
The landscape was green and there were quite a few wildflowers to enjoy from my resting spot along the trail. There were few other hikers on the trail which makes it seem as if you own the place as you hike along. We did see a man hiking back from the lake with a sack full of fish he had caught.
The trail crests and you look down over a beautiful basin where Gaylor Lakes have formed. I was still a little nervous about the thunderstorm but it seemed to be moving off in another direction.
Here at the top of the trail the trees are growing slanted and I can imagine how the wind must howl over the top of the mountain in the winter.
This is the Middle Gaylor Lake and on this day we didn’t go any farther. We sat for a long time enjoying the view before heading back to the car and on down Tioga Road.
We stopped along the way and took a quick hike over to Lukens Lake to see if there were any wildflowers but the conditions are much like you would find in mid-September and there were no wildflowers at all. It was still a nice hike and we did see lots of Bluet dragonflies along the edge of the lake.
The next day we decided to hike up at Glacier Point, taking the Panorama Trail as far as Illilouette Falls and then back. What were we thinking? We have done this hike before and it is a killer! The sign at the trailhead says two miles one way but both of us registered 3.5 miles on our Fitbits. That wouldn’t be bad but it is a steep, steep hike back up that 3.5 miles and in the hot sun exposed for most of the way. Guess what? It was worth the effort!
Along the trail we saw this wasp nest in a decaying tree. The insects were flying in and out but I got just close enough to take a good photo.
Here is a view of the whole tree and nest. The nest is quite beautiful and amazing to see…we were wondering how long it took to build this work of art.
Here is my victory shot after making it to the top of Illilouette Falls. The bridge behind me is just back from where the falls spill over the edge and down a 340 foot drop. We stayed on the upside of the falls for a long time just enjoying the beauty with our eyes and ears.
I sat on the top of a rock where the water was running down and swirling into the pool below. I was a little sad that my kids weren’t there this time to jump in or dangle bare feet in the cold water. My boys have even slid down the rocks here like a big slide into a deep pool where there are fish swimming in the crystal clear water. Great memories.
That evening we walked through the meadows in Yosemite Valley which is my favorite time of day to view the granite walls. The golden sunlight makes them come alive and the cooling air is filled with the sounds of the twilight creatures like crickets. Later that night we sat and watched the bats dart overhead. There is just so much to take in…
Here is another sunset visitor to Cook’s Meadow.
Early in the morning the smoke was filtering the sunlight and obscuring an otherwise glorious view of Half Dome from Tunnel View Turn Out.
Our last day we rented bikes from Curry Village and took off to explore the bike trails. The path is nearly flat or at least a gentle up and down so going is easy. This is such a wonderful way to explore Yosemite Valley away from the crowds and hustle of the popular areas. We had a nice pedal around the whole loop which includes several bridges over the Merced River where you can stop to take a break.
I of course stop to take a few photos of wildflowers. The goldenrod was so brilliantly yellow pretty.
This was something new to me…yet to be identified so if you have any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated.
So there ends another glorious trip to Yosemite, the second in my goal to visit every season. We have a camping trip planned for late September and I am already looking forward to that time in a season of changes.
These topics I will be adding to my nature journal and hopefully sharing here on the blog as part of my nature study goals:
1. Mountain chickadee
4. Chinquapin (shrub)
5. Unidentified shrub with berries the squirrels were eating
In our continuing quest to fulfill my nature study goals for 2013, we took another new hike close to home. This particular hike has been on my list of things to do for a few years. My sister called me one day all excited about Winnemucca Lake and the number of wildflowers to be seen along the trail. I just have never been able to fit it in during July but my husband and I found ourselves without anything to do one day and so we hopped in the car and within an hour were standing at the trailhead. (Woods, Round Top, and Winnemucca Lakes Trail)
The first part of the trail winds along Woods Creek, in and out of the sunshine through the tall conifers. The trail is easy going and we enjoyed listening to the birds and glimpsing the creek but don’t stop too long to admire the flowers or the mosquitoes get you.
After a mile or so, the terrain opens up and we were delighted to see the hills covered in wildflowers.
We met two fellow hikers that were on a wildflower quest and they had a wildflower guide to identify the many, many flowers that were visible from the trail. I knew quite a few of them but there were some new ones.
So many colors painted the landscape…it wasn’t too hot and the breezes were delightful which was a relief from the 100 degree weather back at our house.
This was one of my favorite flowers from the day, Meadow Penstemon. I love finding “new to me” flowers along a trail. I thought it was a variety of penstemon but the color was so much more purple than I had seen before. I looked it up in my field guide when I got home and it was indeed a penstemon.
I have only seen this flower in Yosemite National Park so it was a delight to see it along this trail. We knew it as Mountain Lungwort but it is also called Mountain Bluebell. Pretty!
The trail climbs up big granite slabs and eventually you reach the lake. This is a panorama view of the terrain and wildflowers once you arrive. There were quite a few people up at the lake enjoying the view, fishing, and swimming too.
We sat on a big rock and ate our lunch, watching the clouds blow in and we wondered if there would be some thunderstorms later in the afternoon. This was the view behind where we were sitting…yes, there were that many flowers in bloom!
For some reason I didn’t take a very good photo of the lake but this one you can see the small waterfall and the snow still left around the edges. There was a big patch near the trail and there were people throwing snowballs at each other. It actually was quite warm up at the lake so I doubt the snow will be around much longer.
Hiking back down we took a side trail to see the water cascading down the rocks…just the sound of the water made it so peaceful.
This is the view as you hike down the trail towards the trailhead. The climb is gradual but you do hike up in elevation which at around 9,000 feet. Your body tells you to slow down and we just took it easy since we aren’t used to that altitude. I didn’t hurry anyway because I was stopping to take photos quite a bit.
What a great hike and a great day! It is on our list of July hikes from now on because it was truly enjoyable.
So that completes new hike #3 for us….working on those nature study goals has really encouraged us this year.
We all were aching to get on the road and start our week long camping trip in Oregon. Part of the joy of driving to Oregon are the views along the Northern California and Southern Oregon Coast. Amazing! The photo above is between Arcata and Crescent City along a stretch of the coast that at this time of year is ablaze with lupine…the fragrance is divine as you walk through the vegetation to the sandy beach.
When the boys get out onto to the sand for the first time it is pure joy! They stretch their legs after a long car ride and enjoy the Northern California wide open sandy beaches. We walked a long way, looking for beach treasures as we went. Then it was back into the car for the last leg of the trip over the California/Oregon border and up to Brookings and our beloved Harris Beach.
Yes! This is our campsite this year which overlooks the Pacific Ocean…looking westward and perfect for watching the sun go down each day. We were surprised at how light it was late into the evening…sunset was about 9 PM each day but it was light much longer than that.
Two of the days we were there we were able to take advantage of the negative tide and do some serious tidepooling.
Lots and lots of anemones to be seen…large and small!
Look carefully in this image and you can see the sea star’s “feet” that are clinging to the rocks at low tide. There were so many sea stars of many colors, sizes, and types. I love being able to see up close all the things we learned about from books.
I brought along a Stomp Rocket for the family to use on the beach. This was a fabulous idea and the boys (and mom and dad) each had turns stomping the rocket and watching it propel off down the beach.
We spent many, many hours walking the beaches and collecting colorful rocks…sometimes my pockets were all filled to capacity. I enjoyed sorting my rocks by colors on the picnic table at the campsite. I left them out each night and in the morning the dew would make them shiny and shimmery again.
These were my favorites…the red, green, and gray ones.
I also like this colorful kind which sort of looks like wood. I have a couple more rock related entries to share with you next month as part of my nature study goals and collecting various kinds of rocks. This was a great way to keep nature study at the forefront of our trip..love a good goal.
Mr. A was my fellow photographer at the tidepools. He was willing to really get out where he might slip and get wet to capture some great images of his own. He uses his cell phone camera and they turn our really great.
Here is a shot of my other photography buddy…Mr. D. He is more of an artist with his camera and takes his time to get just the right shot with the right setting. His images are amazing. This was also the very first time that our Kona dog has gone camping with us. She settled right in and had a great time. The wonderful thing about Oregon is that dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are on a leash. She was able to take every hike with us…love Oregon!
We spent two different days in the redwoods hiking in the quiet stillness. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was so very refreshing. I already miss it. I am checking off another new hike on my 2013 Nature Study Goals, two down and two to go!
Can you just imagine how far you can walk on this Oregon beach? It was a windy day but it wasn’t cold so we took advantage of the open space and just roamed for a very long time. (I collected a few rocks too.)
Hello Mr. Snail!
Oh wow! These ferns were amazing! I loved seeing the black stems and the graceful way the fronds grow.
Aren’t they just incredibly pretty? I knew that our California Maidenhair fern had a black stem so I though maybe they were related. I looked it up when we got home and sure enough! This is the Northern Maidenhair fern.
On our last day we visited Crissey Field State Park which has a wonderful visitors center. We spent some time viewing all the nature displays and gathered some pamphlets for future use. We had a picnic lunch and then adventured out to the beach which is so very beautiful. Driftwood, dune plants and flowers, and a nice sandy beach are just what we needed to end our trip on a high note.
We were so happy that our trip turned out with gorgeous sunny skies for the majority of the week. We were able to do a lot of hiking, a lot of exploring, and enjoyed each other’s company while visiting the Southern Oregon Coast.
Until next time….
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This is the Oregon Coast Edition of the Wildflower and Weed Grid Study! I had a fun-filled week of hiking and beach-combing in Oregon and we had our eyes out for as many wildflowers as we could possible find. It wasn’t hard because each trail had an abundance of wildflowers for us to enjoy.
I tried to capture as man of them as I could to share with you in this post.
Blue Oregon Iris – These are a frequent flower along the trail.
Sea pinks along the shore…blowing in the wind, casting cool shadows.
Our campsite was filled with clover and daisies. Imagine…daisies so plentiful they seem like weeds!
Cow parsnip lines the roads and pops up along the shore. Some of these plants are super tall and the flower heads are enormous.
Inside Out Flower was found in the shady spots and it is one of my favorites from this trip. I decided to include a special page in my nature journal for it (see below).
We found patches of lupine along the Humbug Mountain Trail. This trail was a new one for us and what a view! It was a lot of fun to adventure up and we look forward to taking this trail again.
The Monkey flower was amazing! There were areas along the moist gully that just screamed yellow from this pretty flower.
A familiar sight along any redwood forest trail this time of year is the rhododendron….this one was a pale pink. This was spotted along the Shrader Old Growth Trail. This is a fun hike out of Gold Beach and worth the long dusty dirt road to get there. We had the trail all to ourselves on this morning. There is nothing like being out in the wilderness hiking along hearing the birds and nothing else.
One day we visited Crissey Field State Park which has an awesome visitor’s center and several trails. The beach there is wide and open which invites you to walk a long way next to the shore. This Sea Verbena was growing along the sandy dunes. My boys were entranced by all the driftwood and they spent about an hour just hunting among the piles for interesting shapes. Boys.
These are pretty little Seaside daisies….another one I really like and will be adding to my nature journal. I think the delicate fringe-like petals are the best part of this flower.
Smith’s Fairybells…another shade loving plant we saw a lot of as we hiked.
It always makes me happy to see where flowers naturally grow to make pretty color combinations. These sweet peas and daisies were found right along the edge of the bank in our campground.
Seaside Tansy…the interesting part of this plant are the fern-like leaves. They also grow right along the dry cliffside going down to the beaches.
This Tiger Lily was actually in Del Norte County, California. The drive up Hwy 101 takes you through Redwoods National Park where the Tiger Lilies are blooming profusely along the road. I had to stop and capture one for you! Gorgeous!
We found Wild Bleeding Hearts too! We have these planted in our garden here at home but it was fun to see them growing in their natural environment.
Aren’t these lovely? Western Azaleas grow in Harris Beach State Park and we always look forward to seeing their happy blossoms.
We saw many Wild Cucumbers blooming but this one had its fruit already formed. Isn’t it interesting? It is in the gourd family and you can see why when you see the fruits.
Here are the flowers from the Wild Cucumber.
I know this is a non-native invasive plant but we saw it on many of the trails. Wild Radish comes in a variety of colors…white, soft pink, light lavender.
This is my first unidentified wildflower…if anyone knows what it is you can leave me a comment.
EDIT: I think this is Yellow Parentucellia...figwort family. Range: Western Washington to NW California.
This is my second unidentified wildflower…yellow ones stump me for some reason.
This we saw in a pond at Lagoon Creek which is technically in California. Yellow Pond Lilies were blooming all over the pond.
So there you have all the interesting images that I could pull from my camera. We did see quite a few more and if you look closely at my Wildflower Grid nature journal page you will see them listed.
Nature Study Goal – Visit Yosemite in all four seasons.
Our spring trip to Yosemite National Park happened this past weekend…under brilliant blue skies and with warm spring breezes. Our original plans were for my husband and I along with the two younger boys to make the trip. When it came down to it, my nineteen year old and I were the only ones who were able to go. Fire season came early this year so my husband had to work a fire in Southern California. See? I always make plans but then remain flexible.
We were up and out of the house early and hit the road for the four hour drive to Yosemite. The time went by fast and I have to say it is super nice to have children that can drive me places while I enjoy the scenery flash by the window. After an uneventful trip there, we parked at Curry Village and took the shuttle to the trailhead at Happy Isles.
The trail to the bridge below Vernal Falls is mostly paved and sections are rather steep. The biggest obstacle are all the people! This is a popular day hike and on this particular Saturday….lots and lots people from all over the world. My son commented on how many different languages he heard as we hiked…Yosemite is a world-class destination for sure.
The one thing I really like about this hike is that you can hear and see the river as you hike. This makes it appear cooler and it reminds you that there will be a spectacular view just around every corner. I am always amazed at the power of water.
Here is what the lower trail looks like as you go from Happy Isles up to the bridge below Vernal Falls. Granite boulders and slabs surround you and the river runs along one side.
From the bridge up the trail to the falls the trail turns into slippery wet granite steps. You can tell how steep they are by observing how much the hikers are leaning over as they climb.This part is called the Mist Trail because you get the spray from the waterfall drenching you with water. I didn’t capture it this time but you can see whole rainbows in the misty air coming off the waterfall as you look over and back. Amazing!
At last! I am up at the top of Vernal Falls after a last heroic effort of encouragement from my son. He was such a great hiking partner and really cheered me on when I thought I had gone as far as I could up the HUGE granite steps and then inching my way up the last ledge with just a hand railing to keep me from falling off the cliff. See my smile? I was happy to up there and it was so very much worth the effort for this 50+ year old woman to be there. It helps that I have lost 40 pounds in the last three months…not so much weight to haul up the trail.
We had lunch and then hiked further up the trail to the bridge below Nevada Falls which was beautiful this time of year. We took our time going back down the trail and called it a day. Our tent cabin at Curry Village was super clean and comfortable. I think I slept better that night than I have in the last six months. I highly recommend the tent cabins at Curry Village for a camping experience without the fuss of taking your own equipment.
Milkweed with Half Dome in the distance
Our second day was spent biking around Yosemite Valley on the bike trails. This is my favorite way to take in the sights and we made the grand loop from Curry Village to Yosemite Village and then around the Swinging Bridge back to the Lodge and then on back to Curry Village where we had our car parked. There are 12 miles of biking trails around Yosemite Valley and you can rent bikes from Curry Village or Yosemite Lodge.
My son took a panoramic photo of the valley floor with Half Dome in the background and me on my bike. Awesome morning ride and we can hardly wait to go back and do it again this summer.
We are always sad to leave but we made some great memories and I feel great for having accomplished the hike to the top of Vernal Falls.
These were the blossoms on the Western Redbud a few months ago, before the leaves appeared.
This is what it looks like now.
Western (or California) Redbud
Usually a shrub 7 to 18 feet high.
Leaves are round and heart shaped, winter deciduous
Bright purple flowers appear in early spring on naked branches, followed by bronze colored leaves that soon turn green.
Seed pods appear in July.
Grows below 4,000 feet.
Drought tolerant and sun-loving.
Native Americans highly prized this shrub and used its autumn wine-red branches for basket-making.
I am hoping to have this redbud as part of my lovely front yard for many, many season to come.
I have long wanted a redbud in my yard and when we did our front yard remodel we left a space for one in the front section. I planted poppies around the base and this spring I got to discover how beautifully they work together in my yard. I need to remember that you are to prune it in the fall, winter, or early spring after the leaf drop.
I challenged myself to hiking four new trails this year and we are excited to share the very first one with you because it was such an awesome hike! My husband and I had an afternoon to spend together last weekend and he picked the destination. We packed up a few snacks and filled up our water bottles, traveling light. The sun was hot and had the feel of late spring/early summer….I made sure to put on sunblock and secure my hat before setting off on the dusty trail. Northern California doesn’t stay green very long in the spring so I will share with you my green hills while I can.
Our new trail at a familiar spot..the Down and Up Trail at Cronan Ranch. The Bureau of Land Management has a huge section of this foothill property down to the river set aside for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. We opted to hike…I love the slow easy pace that we take and the ability to easily stop and take photos of all the amazing sights.
The rolling foothills give way to a river canyon about two miles from the parking lot. Now you can see why this particular trail is called the Down and Up Trail. The gentle ups and downs make it interesting and around each new corner and on top of each new hill there is another sight to take in as you go along. The soundtrack is birds in the distance, slight breeze blowing over the grasses, and the buzz of bees and other flying insects.
We usually hike the Long Valley Trail but this time we heading up hill and along the ridge. The Fiddlenecks are in full glory and I kept trying to pick just the right spot for a photo. This view is looking up from the trail to a hilltop oak….so very Sierra Nevada foothill in flavor. This IS my habitat.
There were many, many butterflies flying and landing on the wildflowers along the trail. Some places had so many that I thought they were going to fly into my face as I hiked. I don’t complain about dodging butterflies because I love them so much.
There are some magnificent oaks in this part of California and we could hear and see woodpeckers as well as swallows flying over and around the trees. I dream of having a home with a huge old oak on the property. I love the shape of them and the smell of the hot oak leaves in the sunshine is a wonderful fragrance…one you don’t forget.
I wondered about snakes as I climbed up on the rock for a better view and to take a few photos. I also stood on the top of this rock for a long time having some FaceTime with my daughter who is living in Bolivia…the reception was perfect up there on the rock and my daughter got to see some of the view that she has been missing.
Then we hiked down the trail and I saw unusual metallic bugs on some grasses and I stepped off the trail to investigate. As I stepped back onto the trail my husband starting yelling at me that there was a snake. A snake indeed! It was a huge rattlesnake and it was stretched out across the trail…I hopped over and out of the way and the rattler moved quickly up onto the hillside into the grass. A little way down the trail we saw a much smaller snake but he was a gopher snake…much to my relief. We think this rattler is a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake.
We made it down to the river at last and I took off my shoes to cool my toes. We had a cool drink and watched the whitewater rafters float by and on down the river. It was so refreshing! Two hikers came along as we rested and we told them about the snakes…showed them some photos and swapped snake stories. I love the camaraderie of hikers who share their passions and interests. One of the guys told us of his sighting of a rattlesnake on the trail to Half Dome in Yosemite and we tried to decide how high in elevation rattlesnakes are found. We decided to look it up when we got home. (We read in our field guide that there is a rattlesnake that is found up to 11,000 feet in elevation.)
The water was high and there was very little beach so we opted to sit on the granite rocks and enjoy the sound of the water rushing by. The sun was hot but the water was still freezing…melted snow.
Back on the trail again we found a large area of lupine blooming, this one was in the middle of the trail. The bees were buzzing and it reminds me how much I love the purple and green combination.
Here are some more lovely wildflowers that were clustered along the trail.
I learned about the Monkeyflower a few years ago and now can spot it in the moist parts of our area. These were growing along a little moist ditch with just a bit of water and a bit of shade.
One more snake…snake number three was another gopher snake and he was quickly moving across the trail in front of us as we hiked up the hill. You can read and see the difference between a Rattlesnake and Gopher Snake on the CaliforniaHerps website.
And here is one last look at the trails from the top….left to the Down and Up and right to the Long Valley Trail. This is one of our favorite local hiking spots and there is one last trail to try before we have tried them all. (Don’t you love the panorama setting on my iPhone?)
The East Ridge Trail is on the list of things to do in May before it gets too much hotter. I will be glad if we don’t see any more snakes but I am anxious to explore a brand new area of this park. My goal for the year 2013 is four new hikes…one is accomplished and three more adventures to go!
Spring wildflowers cheer my very soul. They seem to sing out to all of us that warmer days are coming and we don’t need to stay so much indoors anymore. We took a walk near the river yesterday and found so many pretty little flowers to enjoy. Above there are Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespot…there were whole patches of them on a sunny little hillside.
Round every corner there were more blue flowers….how many blue flowers do you know?
Okay, I have to admit that this is by far the best image I have ever taken of this particular flower….and it was with my iPhone! I love that you can even see a little ant enjoying the golden yellow color in the sunshine. These meadow buttercups are everywhere right now and they make the day seem brighter.
Here is going to be my first shrub for my Nature Study Goals for 2013. I will do my research and identify the shrub and add it to my nature journal…watch the blog for more information on this one.
We had a flock of Cedar Waxwings come through yesterday and I was able to capture some pretty images of them up in the trees. They don’t ever stay long but I love to watch them…..we usually hear them before we spy them up in the trees. They have such a distinct sound.
So enjoy a couple of images of my friends the Cedar Waxwings.
They came on a Project Feederwatch day when I was observing the feeders. We have had fewer birds but more of a variety now that the season is changing. I say bring on the springtime weather!
The trees all continue to pop out with colors and this finch was spotted up in the tree just singing away.
What a great time of year to observe some birds and record the experiences in your nature journal.
So what birds have you seen in your yard this week?
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