Hiking and Botanizing in Summer 2019

by Bill Finch

Although I didn't get in as many hiking days as 2018, this was a good summer nonetheless. I've moved toward shorter hikes - four were day hikes. Three others were overnighters and there was one longer hike.

Tokopah Falls Day Hike 19 June 2019

Since it was a big snow year, my first trip was a day hike to Tokopah Falls. I was surprised at how difficult the hike was and how slow I had to go. This was my first trip to the falls and it was well worth it. Despite this being a mid-week hike, there were lots of others on the trail. There were plenty of flowers along the way too.
Tokopa Falls
Tokopah Falls, Sequoia National Park

June 19 observations.

Hall Mountain Day Hike 2 July 2019

I've been spending a lot of my hiking time for the past few years mapping the distribution of a rare flowering plant, Lewisia leeana. In late June, an observation of the plant was made in a new area in the North Fork Kings drainage. It was on the Shorthair Plateau (named for several shorthair meadows in the area) about 2.5 miles south of the nearest location on Eagle Peak. Since the location on the Shorthair Plateau had been reached by a four wheel drive road, I decided to try hiking up Shorthair Creek. The canyon was choked with snow and I gave up my ascent up it quickly. Just down the road was a fenced off access road to Hall Mountain which I decided to take just to get a feel for the country. Hall Mountain is the location of an antenna array and its height and location gave me a feel for the Shorthair Plateau. I could have continued toward the new location, but the area is mostly heavily forested and trailless and I didn't have a good feeling about exploring it without a little more planning and preparation.
Spanish Mtn from Hall Mtn
Spanish Mountain from Hall Mountain, Shorthair Plateau, Sierra National Forest

July 2 observations.

Hat Rocks Ridge 13-14 July 2019

A couple of weeks later, I returned to the area. I went up the Hall Mountain road again and worked my way north to the new L. leeana locatation. Despite the wet winter the higher parts of the plateau were dry and I had to drop down into the canyons to get water. Eventually, I made my way to the ridge where the new observation was made and found a few dozen plants. I continued to the northeast where I eventually found one of the many branches of Shorthair Creek and set up camp. The next day I returned via a slightly different route avoiding the high point, el. 9,202 feet, because I figured the ascent would be too difficult. There were no other new locations of L. leeana found on the way back to the trailhead.
Hat Rx
Hat Rocks Ridge, Shorthair Plateau, Sierra National Forest

July 13 observations.
July 14 observations.

Little Lake 26-27 July 2019

A couple of weeks later I was looking for L. leeana in a part of Dinkey Lakes Wilderness I had never seen. The overnight hike was to Little Lake and L. leeana extended down the slope almost to the lake. The next morning, I hiked a mile or so below the lake but spotted no L. leeana so I decided to head back home.
Little Lake
Little Lake and Dogtooth Peak, Dinkey Lakes Wilderness.

July 26 observations.
July 27 observations.

General Sherman Tree Day Hike 3 August 2019

A few days later, I took one of my daughters and her two year old son to Sequoia National Park. We hiked to the General Sherman tree. I returned to the parking lot and drove to the handicapped lot below the tree and picked them up. It was a great day.

Eagle Peak Day Hike 10 August 2019

On August 10, I talked my old hiking partner, Craig Poole, into hiking to a new L. leeana location on Eagle Peak. We didn't make the summit but did find a couple of new locations of L. leeana on the south slope. In addition I got a little better feel for the Shorthair Plateau and the rest of the area south of Eagle Peak.
Eagle Pk from east
Eagle Peak from the east, Sierra National Forest.

August 10 observations.

Shorthair Plateau 23-24 August 2019

On 23 August, I decided to approach the Shorthair Plateau from the north. I started up the cross country route at about 8:15, and followed the outlet stream from Clear Lake. The cross country hike wasn't at all tricky and I arrived at the lake at a little after 10:15. Soon, I heard sounds from the south end of the lake. Four guys had taken a trail up from the south, one on motorcycle. They were there for a long weekend, some fishing and some target practice. I heard their pistols during the rest of the trip. I scouted the ridge east of Clear Lake for L. Leeana but didn't find any. I found a number of other flowering plants, though.

Most of the Shorthair Plateau is forested which makes navigation difficult without a GPS. So, I used my GPS to work my way over to the shorthair meadow where I had stayed on my previous trip to the area. I spent part of the way on an ancient trail that shows up on old maps and the GPS, and oddly, is marked by occasional fence posts even though the path is overgrown and virtually invisible. I found my old camp above the meadow and rested up for the next day's climb up point 9,202.
Clear Lake
Clear Lake, Shorthair Plateau, Sierra National Forest.

The trip to the top of 9,202 was way easier than I had anticipated. By 8:40 I had reached the edge of the forest surrounding the knob and L. leeana was abundant. It was like a different world up on top out of the trees. The barren forest gave way to an abundance of species on the bare summit. The usual higher elevation plants were present as well as several patches of Bridge's penstemon. Having visited what I thought were all the higher ridges where L. leeana might be found, I returned home at the end of the second day. After returning home and studying the map in more detail, I realized that there are a couple more ridges that I should check out, but those will have to wait until next year.
lotsa L. leeana
Abundant Lewisia leeana on the upper slopes of point 9,202, Shorthair Plateau, Sierra National Forest.

August 23 observations.
August 24 observations.

Minarets 4-8 September 2019

The last trip of the season was outside my usual stomping grounds. I was enticed into participating in an ongoing search for the remains of hiker/climber Matthew Greene who went missing near the Minarets a few years ago. The search has been conducted by various members of High Sierra Topix, an online outdoors forum. I was of little use in the search and instead introduced the group to mountain pennyroyal tea. Several very talented climbers and hikers combed the area for signs of Matthew but we came up empty handed.
Minarets Lake
The Minarets and Minaret Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Inyo National Forest.

September 6 observations.
September 7 observations.

16 November 2019