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Yosemite National Park – Hikes and Wildflowers

Evening Primrose - Yosemite
Evening Primrose

Up until last year I would not have know what this flower was called but we focused on it during the Summer Series of challenges last year. There is something wonderful about being able to name a flower or tree or bird, making it a part of your world. You can own it.

Yosemite Creek Trail

We took two hikes in Yosemite while camping this week, one new and one familiar. We drove up Tioga Road towards Tuolumne Meadows and stopped at Yosemite Creek. We hiked down the creek about two miles, enjoying the sound of water running over the rocks. This creek eventually filters down to fill Yosemite Falls…the iconic waterfall that so many come to see from all over the world. This time of year it is not much more than a small stream coming over the top but come next spring it will be a torrent.

Yosemite Creek and Wildflowers

Here is another view of Yosemite Creek which right now is lined with wildflowers. We stopped and took a break sitting on rocks as we took in the sights and sounds of the wilderness. We only saw two other people hiking on this trail the whole afternoon we were out there. It is an amazing experience to have this spot of the wild all to yourself.

Ranger Buttons with Insect

Well, unless you count the insects. These Ranger’s buttons had a variety of insects enjoying the summer sunshine. We couldn’t name these critters but it was interesting to watch them do their work.

Tree with Bark Scratched by Bear

This trail was also home to quite a few trees that showed signs of bear scratchings. The bark on this cedar tree was roughed up by bear’s claws.

Tree with Bear Curls

I started calling these “bear curls” since they were where the bear had pulled the tree bark down making it twist into curls. Interesting? I think so.

Giant Fungus on Tree

We also spotted this HUGE fungus on the side of another tree…really high up. Can you believe the size of it? Amazing to see!

Taft Point Trail

The second hike we took was to Taft Point which is off Glacier Point Road. It is a favorite hike for the boys since there are lots of boulders to climb and the view once you get to the point is incredible….and high.

Taft Point

Here is a shot of the boys at the railing which is right at the edge of the cliffs….sorry no photos of the view to the valley or over across the valley to Yosemite Falls since my camera batteries were both dead. I broke my camera when we were at the Grand Tetons and I now have it duct taped shut but the battery door opens up and somehow the battery drains down very fast. I am in the market for a snew point and shoot.

Yosemite Snake - Rubber Boa

The hike was highlighted by a slithering Rubber boa crossing the trail right in front of us. He was about 24-30 inches long and not in a very big hurry. We were able to get a really good look at him. Funny thing is we were just talking about how we never see snakes while in Yosemite and then we saw this one….weird.


Okay, so if you are not into snakes, how about a pretty wildflower? This is Monkshood and I have only seen in two places at Yosemite so I was happy to catch it in bloom. The yellow in the background is Arrowleaf groundsel.

Bull Thistle and Milkweed - Yosemite Valley

We spent some time in the Valley walking the paths under the trees and I was on the look out for some thistles in preparation for the up-coming thistle challenge. I was pleased to find both milkweed and thistles growing right together along the trail. The thistles are in a variety of stages of life…some blooming, some going to seeds, and some getting very dry.

Dragon Fly on Bull Thistle

Guess who came along for us to observe? Mr. Dragonfly was enjoying the Bull thistles right along with us. So very pretty to look at!

Bull Thistle with Insect

Here is another insect coming to feast on the thistles…this one was very buzzy and I took a quick photo and then got out of his way.

Milkweed Beetle

The Showy milkweed is all producing large seed pods and we found this milkweed beetle crawling on one of the pods. These pods are amazing to see and touch…just like velvet.

Sierra Lessingia

So this is my new wildflower for the trip. We identified this lovely lavender flower as Sierra lessingia. We read in our field guide that Mary Curry (of Curry Village) called it Summer Lavender and I would agree with her that because it grows in such large patches in the flat spots along roads and in the valley, it looks like clouds of lavender. I love learning something new and now I can name that pretty flower that grows so profusely this time of year in the Valley.

So there you have our hikes and wildflowers, bears and beetles, dragonflies and snakes. So many things to enjoy and learn about when you get the opportunity to get to know a place….

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Wildflowers – Sierra Spring 2011 (Part 3)

Natural Bridge landscape
Perfect day for a hike but a lot of pollen in the air.

I was determined to take a hike last weekend even though conditions were still windy and the pollen count was off the scale. I did something I rarely do and that is to take an antihistamine. Sometimes they work just fine and then other times they make me feel worse so it was a gamble. Other than feeling tired more quickly, I think it ended up being a good day outdoors.

Wildflowers and Creek
Looking down from about half way to the water.

Some of the family had other plans so in the end it was my husband, my oldest son, and I who hit the trail. I like hiking in small groups so this worked out great for taking our time and quietly enjoying the views and wildflowers.There were a few other families on the trail but everyone was friendly.

Unidentified Flower 2

I had my usual wildflower game going where I try to name the flowers as we pass them by…mostly in my head but sometimes out loud if the guys happened to stop to point one out. This plant is something new and we almost missed it growing right along the trail in a rock face.

Unidentified Flower
How it can manage to grow stuck right in the crack of the rock is amazing. You can see the delicate yellow flowers with the cute little pansy-like faces. It is always frustrating to me when I can’t readily identify a plant, although I think I learn more when I have to really break the plant down and look at its parts to work with the field guide. I will come back to edit if I discover the name of this one.

Poppies in the Rock

Here is another angle where you can see a poppy determined to grow right in the same crack. The rock is along a steep section of the trail and there was much graffiti scratched into the surface.

Ferns in a Rock

How about a fern on the same rock?

Back to the hike…it was warm and there were birds singing practically the whole way down to the water (which was our destination).

Hiking Landscape
We had parked at the top of the canyon and began the trail which wound around and down a steep grade. We took our time and noticed quite a bit of poison oak already flourishing at the trail’s edge and I was so glad we didn’t have the dog with us. She is oblivious to poison oak.

This plant is growing in patches alongside the trail on rocky outcrops. It is a striking color and seems to grow right on the rocks. I believe it is a variety of Dudleya, perhaps this one.

Chinese Lanterns
More Chinese lanterns in the shady spots….love this flower.

I have been noticing the abundance of thistle this year. It is very pretty right now with its purple flowers.

Tidy Tips

This is one trail where I know to look for Tidy tips. Look carefully and you will notice the notice the difference between this and other yellow flowers.

Maverick Clover

I really want to take the time to record this flower in my nature journal, partly because it is my favorite color but also because I like the way when you slow down to observe it closely it has the purple dots on the petals that seem to point the way for insects to come and investigate its pollen.

Natural Bridge
So this was our destination….the natural bridge. The creek comes right through the rocks here in this spot….looks like a cave but it is more like a tunnel. You can wade through the water and come out the other side if you want to, which I don’t. We were content to enjoy the sound of the water rushing through the rock and seeing the water cascading down at the opening.

Natural Bridge 2

There are formations on the top that are covered in moss…stalactites from the top rock that hang down. Sort of on the creepy side but still very interesting.

We reached our destination and found a place to sit on the rocks to rest and enjoy the setting. There were quite a number of birds including robins, towhees, swallows, and one bird that sang and sang and sang. I had my mini binoculars with me and I was able to capture a glimpse at him in a tree on the other side of the creek. Between the song and the quick look, I identified him as a Black-headed grosbeak.

We sat near the water for quite a long time just enjoying our first real spring hike of the year. We drank some water and then started back up the hill to the car. Even with allergies, allergy head, and with the heat, I was able to keep up with the men.


One last interesting image from the day….bright orange lichen covered many of the rocks. What a punch of color!

Hope you enjoyed seeing our spring hike and some of our wildflowers….more to come. You can count on that.

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Spring Walk: Thistle, Ladybug, Daisy

Yesterday afternoon was a perfect time to take a walk on our local walking/biking trail. The weather has been rainy the last few days and we were ready to get out and enjoy some fresh air. The clouds kept drifting in and covering the sun but it was still warm and spring-like.

Three of the children decided to come and we had an enjoyable time walking and talking and just spending time together….as they get older that doesn’t happen as often as I would like. My middle son brought his scooter and he was zipping in and out as we just walked along.

The photos in this entry are an experiment in uploading for me so forgive me if the captions are not exactly with the photos. 🙂

This is some kind of flowering clover…I think. It sure looks like some kind of clover but this is really close-up.

Look at this guy….after all my observations yesterday of the ladybug larva, I was happy to see this shiny insect as we walked along.

Then there was this daisy and I am pretty sure this is a Mariposa Lily.

Okay, this was definitely some kind of thistle.

Don’t you love the view from this part of the trail?

“The thistle is covered with sharp spines, and these serve to protect it from grazing animals. It has beautiful purple flowers, arranged in heads similar to those of the sunflower.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 526

There is a whole section in the Handbook on thistles starting on page 524.

“Every child loves this flower (daisy), and yet it is not well understood. It is always at hand for study from June until the frosts have laid waste the fields. However much enjoyment we get from the study of this beautiful flower-head, we should study the plant as a weed also, for it is indeed a pest to those farmers who do not practice a rotation of crops.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 522

There is a section on white daisies in the Handbook starting on page 522.

“The clovers enrich with nitrogen the soil in which they are planted. They are very valuable as food for stock. Their flowers are pollinated by bees.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 594

There is a section on clover in the Handbook starting on page 591.

Sorry for all the vague descriptions but I didn’t have a lot of time this morning to get a firm identification on all of them. I will try to come back and update as I have the time to research.

This is a life project I decided.