It’s not exactly a riot of color out there just yet, but there’s plenty for alert eyes to see. Oddly enough I’m still not seeing many California poppies in parks this season, but keep seeing tons growing along roads — must be they’ve adapted to breathing car fumes like the rest of us.
My original plan was to do the counter-clockwise Mount Sizer loop, which takes in the Poverty Flat Trail to Jackass Trail over to Hobbs Road and back along infamous the Short Cut. I got about a half-mile past Poverty Flat and decided spending the rest of the day trudging up and down Henry Coe’s most infamous hills wasn’t much of a vacation day. So I turned back and headed toward Frog Lake via the Middle Ridge Trail, which is in equal parts beautiful and brutal. I reached my point of despair (where I traditionally holler to the wilderness “When will this goddamn hill ever end?”) about quarter mile from the turn-off down to Frog Lake. Still put in about 12 miles, but at least I skipped the Hobbs Road Nightmare.
Taking the easier route freed up more time for taking pictures (and picking off ticks after sitting on the grass for closeups). I had better luck with the tight, close-in macro shots this time. Let’s get to ’em (not all flowers, by the way):
Almost stepped on this newt on the way down Poverty Flat Road.
A shooting star along Poverty Flat Road.
Last year’s fire scorched this sign good, but there was very little evidence of fire damage, just a few blackened tree trunks. (The Poverty Flat privy was unhurt, thank the Lord.)
Coyote Creek’s easy to cross.
White Baby Blue Eyes on the Middle Ridge Trail, which had the most flowers of the trails I hiked.
This thing is called Indian warrior (not to be confused with Indian paintbrush, which is orange). It’s not an especially pretty flowering plant up close — all those spikes give it a vaguely punk rock look — but from this distance it looks pretty nice.
You know me with my oak and sky pictures.
Blue-eyed grass from along the trail down to Frog Lake.
More shooting stars, these on the Flat Frog Trail.
An oak silhouette near the end of the Flat Frog Trail.
Hound’s tongue — a very small flower that is quite pretty on close inspection. These grow like weeds at Henry Coe.
To follow-up, I hiked sort of a figure-8 loop from Coe HQ, over Hobbs Road, past Frog Lake, up to and down Middle Ridge over Mt. Sizer to the East Fork Coyote Creek, north along the creek to Long Canyon, up to the top of Long Canyon and back down Water Gulch, upstream along East Fork Coyote Creek to the park boundary, and back via the Narrows Trail and Poverty Flat Road.
There’s a lot of charcoal up there, but also a lot of green. As others have said, the fire did some good things in clearing a lot of choking underbrush. It also leveled all of the tall, dry grass that makes crossing open fields so unpleasant. Some areas look totally sterilized, while just a few minutes down the trail, the damage looks minimal.
I saw the most flowers along Coyote Creek in the lowest elevation areas. I’ll bet if someone had the time to get back into the far eastern parts of the park, they’d get quite a display. We saw some poppies and quite a few shooting stars coming up, and a lot more I wasn’t prepared to identify.
I’d say the area new headquarters will be in major bloom in 2-3 weeks. The areas down in the large creek valleys perhaps a week or so sooner.