Drum Power House Road, 05-02-21

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”.

No traffic on the highway…

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.

Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

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.

Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata [Technically it’s not an insect, it’s a hexapod. It has internal mouth parts instead of external mouth parts.] PHOTO BY ROXANNE MOGER.

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)…”

CLICK HERE for Album#1 of photos.
CLICK HERE for Album#2 of photos.

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.

Edith’s Checkerspot Butterfly, Euphydryas editha

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.

Saskatoon, Amelanchier alnifolia [white spidery flowers]

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.

Species List:

  1. Aphid, Family: Aphididae
  2. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  3. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  4. Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sp. [looks kind of like mule’sears]
  5. Beaded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia apinnata [hoary green with black back, black spots on thallus]
  6. Bedstraw, Galium sp.
  7. Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
  8. Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  9. Brown Fritillary, Fritillaria micrantha
  10. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  11. California Bay, Umbellularia californica
  12. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  13. California Bumble Bee, Bombus californicus [yellow ruff around the neck]
  14. California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  15. California Saxifrage, Micranthes californica
  16. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  17. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  18. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  19. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  20. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  21. Coastal Woodfern, Dryopteris arguta
  22. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  23. Conical Trashline Orbweaver, Cyclosa conica
  24. Creeping Snowberry, Symphoricarpos mollis
  25. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  26. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia [gray on rocks, brown apotheca
  27. Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus [white]
  28. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii [“mouse tail” cones]
  29. Edith’s Checkerspot Butterfly, Euphydryas editha
  30. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  31. Foothill Desert-Parsley, Lomatium utriculatum
  32. Foothill Larkspur, Delphinium hesperium
  33. Fringe Cups, Tellima grandiflora [leaves similar to Crevice Alumroot]
  34. Funnel Weaver Spider, Family: Agelenidae
  35. Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum
  36. Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata [Technically it’s not an insect, it’s a hexapod. It has internal mouth parts instead of external mouth parts.]
  37. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  38. Groundsel, Senecio sp.
  39. Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  40. Lemmon’s Catchfly, Silene lemmonii
  41. Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
  42. Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostrates
  43. Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
  44. Manzanita, Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  45. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  46. Metallic Woodboring Beetle, Anthaxia inornata
  47. Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora [very small]
  48. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  49. Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris heterophylla
  50. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  51. Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata
  52. Mountain Pink Currant, Ribes nevadense
  53. Narrowleaf Mule-Ears, Wyethia angustifolia
  54. Narrowleaf Sword Fern, Polystichum imbricans
  55. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra Formosa
  56. Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
  57. Pacific Hound’s Tongue, Adelinia grande
  58. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  59. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  60. Purple Nightshade, Solanum xanti
  61. Rainbow Iris, Iris hartwegii [wild, ragged looking]
  62. Rapeseed, Brassica napus
  63. Rayless Ragwort, Senecio aronicoides
  64. Resurrection Fern, Pleopeltis michauxiana
  65. Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  66. Saskatoon, Amelanchier alnifolia [white spidery flowers]
  67. Scots Broom, Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
  68. Scytheleaf Onion, Allium falcifolium
  69. Sidewalk Mite, Balaustium sp. [red mite]
  70. Silverleaf Phacelia, Phacelia hastata
  71. Snapdragon Vine, Maurandya antirrhiniflora
  72. Solomon’s Plume, Maianthemum racemosum
  73. Sticky Cinquefoil, Drymocallis glandulosa
  74. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
  75. Stream Violet, Viola glabella [yellow violet]
  76. Sugar Pine, Pinus lambertiana
  77. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  78. Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus
  79. Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis [live oak]
  80. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  81. Wavyleaf Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
  82. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  83. Western Star Flower, Lysimachia latifolia
  84. Western Stoneseed, Lithospermum ruderale [yellow flowers, petals curve out]
  85. Western Sweet-Cicely, Osmorhiza occidentalis
  86. Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
  87. Western Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum occidentale [kind of looks like phacelia]
  88. White Meadowfoam, Limnanthes alba
  89. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  90. Wild Strawberry, Fragaria vesca
  91. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
  92. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]
  93. Yellow Star-Tulip, Calochortus monophyllus [“furry” inside]
  94. ?? Pink gall on Mountain Misery
  95. ?? Purple Mustard-like plant
  96. ?? Weird pale translucent insect pupa
  97. ?? Tiny “glass” spider