Okay, still charging forward with day-three of the #CityNatureChallenge2021. My friend Roxanne and I headed out around 6:30 to go up to about 3600 feet near the town of Alta in Placer County. We’d been told about possible wildflower sightings along the length of Drum Powerhouse Road, and went there hoping to see some species we hadn’t seen before. Because we up so high in elevation, we kept above the valley heat and got to bask in the cool air of the foothills.
On the freeway, going there, we were stunned to see no traffic. None. There were long stretches when we didn’t see another car. Felt very “apocalypticky”.
We stopped once at a rest stop and it was the nicest one I’d ever been to. The main building was built like a huge log cabin with double-sized restrooms on either side, and a breezeway that had one wall covered with vending machines (for sandwiches, snacks, drinks). Near the roofline of the building, Cliff Swallows had taken up residence and were flying back and forth, working on their nests. Entertainment with a place to go potty.
Once we got to Drum Powerhouse Road, we’d drive for a little while, get out and look around, drive for a little while… stopping more often if we spotted something interesting. At that elevation (3600+ feet), there was a beautiful mixed forest of pine, fir and hardwood trees with a varied understory.
In the first place we stopped, there were Bigleaf Maple trees dripping with their pendulous racemes of pale yellow-green flowers. Dogwood trees in full bloom, and some Incense Cedars and Black Oak. There was a trickling creek nearby, and under the trees were large, blooming trilliums (Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum). I think the trillium plants are sooooo interesting and alien-looking. They’re all leaves with a single beak-shaped flower in the middle of them. Stands of Pacific Bleeding Hearts were everywhere.
A little further down the road, and among the other plants we found Rainbow Irises, wild periwinkle, large mats of White Nemophila flowers, ferns, snowberry plants, and wild strawberries. Overhead were the looming trunks of Sugarpine trees and thinner willows (some of them in their seedy fluff) mixed in with the rest of the forest trees. Here and there, there were also Hound’s Tongue plants with their white-lipped intensely blue little flowers.
Another stop brought us Yellow Star-Tulips with their “furry” throats, orange Paintbrush flowers, and beautiful Western Star Flowers. The latter have large leaves with a single stem coming out of the center of them, and on the top of the stem is the flower. We also saw a lot of Brown Fritillaries.
Further on, we found spidery-looking Lemmon’s Catchfly flowers. They hang down like the lights on a chandelier. We also saw Western Waterleaf plants with their spotted leaves and phacelia-like flowers, larkspur, and more Bleeding Hearts. Actually, we started seeing the Bleeding Hearts so often that we got bored with them. Hah! The little yellow violets were pretty, though.
Where the side of the road got steeper and rockier, we were seeing thistles and lichens, Meadowfoam, phacelias, Resurrection Ferns, mustards and small onions. Inside some of the Meadowfoam flowers we were able to find tiny translucent orange Globular Springtails.
According to A Chaos of Delight: “…Springtails (Collembola) are ancient, six legged and usually very small animals that live in and around soil, as well as up trees, on ponds, and most other places you can think of. They’re complex, unusual, often intensely colorful, incredibly endearing and very tiny and common members of mesofauna worldwide. Springtails aid with nutrient cycling in the soil, helping to form soil microstructure as well as being a ready supply of food for many predators… They look cute and chubby, often with big, black eye patches and a tendency to turn their heads upwards, as if they were looking back…”
My feelings exactly. I tried to get some photos of them, but Rox actually got the best image.
In that same area, there were Buckbrush shrubs poking out here and there, and lots of Dudleya and stonecrop. A little further along and the general rocks turned into huge veins of shiny glassy-green serpentinite. So, interesting!
“…Serpentinite is a metamorphic rock that is mostly composed of serpentine group minerals. Serpentine group minerals antigorite, lizardite, and chrysotile are produced by the hydrous alteration of ultramafic rocks. These are igneous rocks that are composed of olivine and pyroxene (peridotite, pyroxenite)…”
Every now and then, we’d a get a panoramic view of the foothills and distant snow-sprinkled mountains. I don’t know enough about the area to know what mountain(s) we were looking at.
Around a corner in a shadier spot, we stopped to eat lunch in the car. There were more Dogwood trees there, large crops of Miner’s Lettuce, and some blackberry vines visited by pollinators, including an Edith’s Checkerspot butterfly.
Going around another bend in the road, the hillside gave way to a small meadow. But the meadow was full of pick-up trucks and men shooting a wide variety of guns, including some semiautomatic rifles. The ground was littered with hundreds of spent shells. So much noise and mess. What jerks. We didn’t feel safe going by there, so we decided to turn around and head back down the way we came.
Oddly enough, on the way out, we saw things we had missed when we drove up like Callery Pear trees, Bay trees, Fringecup plants, Canyon Love Oak trees, Saskatoon, and even some Wolf Lichen.
On the highway, on the way home, we noticed lots of lupine in bloom, along with Scots Broom and white ceanothus. It was a long day in the car, but totally worth it. We saw sooooo many different things!
Because we were in the car for most of this trip, I didn’t count it toward my #52HikeChallenge.
- Aphid, Family: Aphididae
- Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
- Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
- Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sp. [looks kind of like mule’sears]
- Beaded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia apinnata [hoary green with black back, black spots on thallus]
- Bedstraw, Galium sp.
- Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
- Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
- Brown Fritillary, Fritillaria micrantha
- Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
- California Bay, Umbellularia californica
- California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
- California Bumble Bee, Bombus californicus [yellow ruff around the neck]
- California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
- California Saxifrage, Micranthes californica
- Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
- Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
- Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
- Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
- Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Coastal Woodfern, Dryopteris arguta
- Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
- Conical Trashline Orbweaver, Cyclosa conica
- Creeping Snowberry, Symphoricarpos mollis
- Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
- Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia [gray on rocks, brown apotheca
- Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus [white]
- Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii [“mouse tail” cones]
- Edith’s Checkerspot Butterfly, Euphydryas editha
- Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
- Foothill Desert-Parsley, Lomatium utriculatum
- Foothill Larkspur, Delphinium hesperium
- Fringe Cups, Tellima grandiflora [leaves similar to Crevice Alumroot]
- Funnel Weaver Spider, Family: Agelenidae
- Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum
- Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata [Technically it’s not an insect, it’s a hexapod. It has internal mouth parts instead of external mouth parts.]
- Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
- Groundsel, Senecio sp.
- Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
- Lemmon’s Catchfly, Silene lemmonii
- Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
- Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostrates
- Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
- Manzanita, Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
- Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
- Metallic Woodboring Beetle, Anthaxia inornata
- Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora [very small]
- Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
- Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris heterophylla
- Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
- Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata
- Mountain Pink Currant, Ribes nevadense
- Narrowleaf Mule-Ears, Wyethia angustifolia
- Narrowleaf Sword Fern, Polystichum imbricans
- Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra Formosa
- Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
- Pacific Hound’s Tongue, Adelinia grande
- Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Purple Nightshade, Solanum xanti
- Rainbow Iris, Iris hartwegii [wild, ragged looking]
- Rapeseed, Brassica napus
- Rayless Ragwort, Senecio aronicoides
- Resurrection Fern, Pleopeltis michauxiana
- Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
- Saskatoon, Amelanchier alnifolia [white spidery flowers]
- Scots Broom, Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
- Scytheleaf Onion, Allium falcifolium
- Sidewalk Mite, Balaustium sp. [red mite]
- Silverleaf Phacelia, Phacelia hastata
- Snapdragon Vine, Maurandya antirrhiniflora
- Solomon’s Plume, Maianthemum racemosum
- Sticky Cinquefoil, Drymocallis glandulosa
- Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
- Stream Violet, Viola glabella [yellow violet]
- Sugar Pine, Pinus lambertiana
- Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
- Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus
- Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis [live oak]
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Wavyleaf Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
- Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
- Western Star Flower, Lysimachia latifolia
- Western Stoneseed, Lithospermum ruderale [yellow flowers, petals curve out]
- Western Sweet-Cicely, Osmorhiza occidentalis
- Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
- Western Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum occidentale [kind of looks like phacelia]
- White Meadowfoam, Limnanthes alba
- White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
- Wild Strawberry, Fragaria vesca
- Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
- Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]
- Yellow Star-Tulip, Calochortus monophyllus [“furry” inside]
- ?? Pink gall on Mountain Misery
- ?? Purple Mustard-like plant
- ?? Weird pale translucent insect pupa
- ?? Tiny “glass” spider