Saturday, April 30, 2011

Colby Trail Hike - April 30, 2011

Colby TrailEarth Day celebrations by the City of Glendora occasioned heading over to Colby Trail for a docent-led hike. I was eager to see what is in bloom and particularly get a look at the endangered thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia). I had also received an email this week from a hiker who told me there were new trail signs with mileage notations that were different from what I have posted on my website. So of course I'd want to check that out. Since my wife had the car for the weekend, I rode my bike to nearby Glendora.

Colby TrailI arrive at the trailhead at the upper end of Loraine Avenue at 11:15 and immediately start photographing the beautiful stand of matilija poppy that graces the trailhead gateway. Just then my friend, Dr. Ann Croissant, who leads the Glendora Community Conservancy, drives up. They do a great job in stewarding the trail and surrounding open space. As we chatted, a group of hikers led by Bob Bennett finished a hike. Bob is on the conservancy board and is an ISA certified arborist. Shortly, two ladies join us and so the four of us began sauntering up the trail.

As an arborist, Bob has an immense knowledge about trees and was generous in pointing out various tree facts as we strolled along.

Brodiaea reserveBrodiaea filifolia
On the brodiaea reserve, Candy gets a close-up shot of the brodiaea in bloom. Thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia) is an endangered plant protected by both federal and state governments. Its presence at this location is the reason this area was saved from the bulldozers and preserved as open space.

On the berm trail
Now heading east toward the “berm.” Bob points out some trees that they planted a few years back.

Open SpaceOpen space is a good thing! After Bob shows us the vernal poor and some other interesting things in this area, we head back. At the junction we part ways at 1:25 as they return to the trailhead and I continue up the main trail. The weather is gorgeous and the views out over the valley are striking. I enjoy strolling along and taking pictures. The non-native grasses are already turning yellow. I’m pleased with a beautiful stand of grape soda lupine to photograph. It really does smell like grape soda. I’m delighted to discover an occurrence of the tiny scarlet pimpernel. My first encounter with it was last week at Rancho Santa Ana, so it’s great to find it in the wild. I finally reach Glendora Mountain Road at 3:00, covering a whopping half mile since parting with the group at 1:25. It’s not a lot of mileage but I shot 290 pictures in that span. Love digital!

View south from GMR

View south from Glendora Mountain Road

View east across Little Dalton Canyon from Colby-Dalton TrailI turn around and head down. At the junction, 260 feet below GMR, I turn left and take Colby-Dalton Trail, which descends east .47 mile to Little Dalton Wash. It’s really a beautiful trial with rich vegetation. The down side is that once at the bottom, one has to climb a paved service road up to the berm trail. But I enjoy the scenery and exercise.

4:02 - Finish my hike. Glad to see my bike still chained up. I had originally hoped to check out more of the Earth Day festivities, but since they ended at 3:00, I’m out of luck. I enjoy a pleasant bike ride home. icon

Boot IconSee Colby Trail Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Colby Trail, Amgen Bike Race & a Solar Eclipse - May 20, 2012

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden - April 23, 2011

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic GardenPlants See Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages

For several years I've been hearing that Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is the place for native plants. As a hiker on a continual quest to learn more about my surroundings, I'm always on the lookout for avenues of learning. And now that I've been considering creating a native plant garden at my house, I finally decided it was time check out Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. It was a choice to give up a primetime spring hiking day, but the weather was gloomy and drizzly so I figured it was better suited to wandering around a garden.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Clermont is less than 20 minutes from my house. I arrived at 9:00 and planned to look around for an hour before joining a garden tour at 10:00. The gardens were founded by Susanna Bixby Bryant in 1927 on her ranch in Orange County and relocated to Claremont in 1951. RSABG is the largest botanical garden dedicated exclusively to California native plants.

Guided tour at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic GardenThis is an amazing place and exceeded my expectations. I had thought that the morning hours would be sufficient to get my fill and then hit the trail for a hike in the afternoon. I was sorely mistaking and ended up spending the entire day there. Closing time came at 5:00 and there was still more to see! But other things helped stretch the day as well.

A good chunk of my time was spent photographing plants. The annual flower show also was an added feature. And I had several engaging conversations with people like Cricket Florance...our knowledgeable docent, Bart O' and native plant guru, and Lara Hartley...a professional plant photographer. I can scrawl a lengthy narrative of the day, but I'll let the following pictures do most of the talking.

Tidy tips
Tidy tips (Layia platyglossa) / Sunflower family (Asteraceae)

Brittlebush (Encelia farinose) / Sunflower family (Asteraceae)

Common yarrow (Achiliea millefolium) / Sunflower (Asteraceae)

Showy penstemon
Showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis) / Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)

Owls clover
Owls clover (Orthocarpus purpurascens) / Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)

Common monkeyflower
Common monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) / Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae)

California poppy
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) / Poppy family (Papaveraceae)

Matilija poppy
Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) / Poppy family (Papaveraceae)

White sage
White sage (Salvia apiana) / Mint family (Lamiaceae)

Black sage
Black sage (Salvia mellifera) / Mint family (Lamiaceae)

Baby blue eyes
Baby blue eyes (Nempphila menziesii) / Waterleaf family (Hydrophyllaceae)

Coffee fern
Coffee fern (Pellaea andromedifolia) / Maidenhair Fern family

Coville's serviceberry
Coville's serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis ssp. covillei) / Rose Family (Rosaceae)

Lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia) / Sumac family (Anacardiaceae)

Morning glory
Morning glory (Calystegia macrostegia) / Morning-glory family (Convolvulaceae)

Wild cucumber
Wild cucumber (Marah macrocarpus) / Gourd family (Cucurbitaceae)

Blue-eyed grass
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) / Iris family (Iridaceae)

Yucca (Yucca Whipplei) / Lily family (Liliaceae) icon

Visit the website for Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Plants See Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - April 16, 2011

Fish Canyon Falls See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

Another springtime day where Vulcan Materials shuttles hikers through their quarry to the beginning of the trail to Fish Canyon Falls! I was eager to see what's changed in the plant community since my last visit on March 19. And I always look forward to the access days for the experience of shared community with the many hikers who show up. And indeed the story of the day was the crowds. Tons of people...hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people! In fact it hit a new all-time record high for numbers of people on a Fish Canyon access day. So if you were at Fish Canyon on Saturday, you were part of a remarkable day.

I arrive at the Vulcan Materials parking lot at about 6:55 to find myself in a line of cars. Vulcan changed the sign-in process and was doing it by car rather than at the table. I sign in and park. There are already a number of cars there. I jump in a van with few others and arrive at the bridge at 7:08 to find a large group of about 60 people waiting to begin. This was certainly a harbinger of things to come. I waste no time in jumping on the trail in front of the crowd.

Fish Canyon creek7:10 - Start hike. Temps are nice and the canyon is shrouded in early morning shade. Things are still green but lack the lushness of the March scenery after the rains. Much of the non-native weedy grasses are losing their greenness. The creek is flowing briskly. Not as much in bloom as I had anticipated. The poison oak now has its full foliage with rich green leaves, some are poking out into the trail. I snap pictures along the way but scurry along to stay ahead of the throng. In the "jungle area," the tree of heaven is coming to life. The alder, maple, sycamore, and elderberry are in full leaf now.

Creek crossing7:51 - Arrive at the creek crossing. The water is still running briskly and poses some challenges in crossing. I cross in time to see the crowd arrive behind me, reminding me of a line of ants being disrupted by a leaf falling on their route. I continue as the trail climbs the east canyon wall rising above the creek. The canyon is still shrouded in morning shade but the sun is now landing on some ridge tops.

Fish Canyon Falls8:06 - Fish Canyon Falls. The falls are gushing. A father and son (who later I learned are John and Jason) arrive with me and one man was leaving. The three of us had the falls to ourselves...for two minutes. Then the masses arrived as the group of 60 swarmed down upon us. At the cheers of his friends, one man in the group takes a swim in the frigid water. Smaller parties of hikers continue to arrive, including Nick and Jyoti, who I met previously in Fish Canyon on several occasions. Enjoy conversations with various ones. The large group leaves about 8:50. I consider leaving around 9:00 but notice the sun hitting the top of the falls and so I linger to capture the falls in full sun in about 20 minutes. Hikers continue to arrive, and arrive, and arrive. There is a deficit of departures to arrivals and soon the crowd at the falls is larger than I have ever seen. The line of people on the narrow trail coming into the falls was backed up like a line at Disneyland. I soak in the spectacle. Enjoy more conversation with various ones. The place is abuzz with kinetic energy.

Rattlesnake11:00 - Finally I leave the falls and start back. The canyon is now in full sun. My pace is slow and I take time to photograph plants. People still coming and going. Take a side jaunt to Darlin' Donna Falls, still flowing nicely. The numbers of people decrease as I saunter along. Getting hot as the temps are forecast to be in the 90s. Have a little lunch break at Old Cheezer's (the location of the Flora in Fish Canyon sign). Near the end, I encounter a 3-foot long rattlesnake crossing the trail. Rattlers are amazing creatures and I welcome seeing them occasionally as a sobering reminder that they are indeed part of our natural environment.

2:17 - End hike. Jump in the van driven by Erick from Vulcan. Back at parking lot, I chat with Denny from Vulcan and learn there were more than 600 hikers for the day...a new record!

Poison OakEpilog - Another rewarding adventure in Fish Canyon. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting lots of great people and look forward to staying in contact with some. Talked with hikers who came from Riverside, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Long Beach. I'm thankful I live 5 minutes away...ah, maybe it's 10. I always appreciate Vulcan providing these access days. And I thank them for printing the plant guide. Of the 22 flowers featured in the guide, I observed 13 of them in bloom (buckwheat, bush monkeyflower, wallflower, sunflower, golden yarrow, Mediterranean mustard, tree tobacco, Spanish broom, caterpillar phacelia, blue dicks, periwinkle, everlasting, and miner's lettuce. There were some other plants blooming as well, such as poison oak, sugar bush, spreading larkspur, thistle, wild pea, common yarrow, ceanothus, eupatory, bedstraw, wishbone bush, mulefat, black sage, stinging lupine, and more. I'm eager to see what will be blooming in May. icon

 plant icon See Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls Plants - May 28, 2011
PREVIOUS > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - March 19, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eaton Canyon Nature Center - April 10, 2011

Eaton Canyon sign Boot See Eaton Canyon Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

With springtime blooming, I focused my outdoor pursuits this weekend on wild plants. As a hiker, I have found myself drawn to know more about plants and their habitats. Over the years I've made it a point to visit nature centers and guided nature trails to learn about plants. And gradually I've come to be familiar with many of the plants that grace the environs of my hiking adventures. I'm not a plant expert, and there are still many plants that I don't know by name, but there becomes a real sense of connectedness with my environment as I hike along the trail and greet plants my their names.

Fire Ecology TrailLocal nature centers/trails that have been a great help to me over the years include Eaton Canyon, Monrovia Canyon, Bailey Canyon and Santa Fe Dam. But Eaton Canyon Nature Center has really been my go-to place for learning about plants. They are open 9 to 5 Tuesday through Sunday. They have a beautiful nature center, three self-guided nature trails, and several habitat gardens. It's one thing to look at plant photo in a book or on a computer, but nothing compares with standing there on a nature trail, seeing the plant in real life, and having a nice little sign that tells you exactly what the plant is.

So this weekend involved two plant adventures. On Saturday early evening I took the five-minute drive to the trailhead for Van Tassel Ridge/Fish Canyon to hang out with plants along side the San Gabriel River. Then on Sunday afternoon I headed to Altadena to revisit the nature trails of Eaton Canyon Nature Center. Below features some of the plants from those outings:

San Gabriel River

Golden currant
Golden current (Ribes aureum) is a native deciduous shrub among several members of the gooseberry family (Grossulariaceae) found in the San Gabriels. Its tiny yellow flowers, for which it gets its name, "golden," bloom from January through April. The absence of spines (little needle-like thorns) help distinguish the currants from gooseberries.

Golden currant
Golden current (Ribes aureum) produces small, smooth-skinned berries, first green, then they mature into yellow, orange, red or black. The ripe berries are edible but aren’t sweet like commercially grown currants.

Mediterranean mustard or shortpod mustard (Hirschfeldia incana) is a non-native biennial or perennial herb to subshrub introduced from the Mediterranean and can be quite invasive in local habitats. It grows profusely and produces allelopathic chemicals that prevent germination of native plants. It looks very much like black mustard (brassica nigra), which grows much taller.

Deerweed (Lotus scoparius) is native herb or shrubby bush in the pea family that grows up to 3 to 4 feet tall. It's common in our coastal sage and chaparral plant communities and easy to learn its identity because there is really nothing else to confuse it with.

Deerweed (Lotus scoparius) has tiny yellow flowers along its long, skinny, green stems. It generally blooms from March through August, but blossoms can been seen early as January. It's an important honeybee plant. The flowers turn from yellow to orange after they have been pollinated, which is a nice way to alert pollinating insects to not waste their time on it.

Brittlebush (Encelia farinose) is a native shrub in the sunflower family and blooms from March to July. The stems easily snap under pressure, thus the name brittlebush. The silvery white leaves look similar to white sage, and without the presence of flowers, the novice might confuse the two. But the robust aroma of the sage clearly sets it apart.

White sage
White sage (Salvia apiana) is a native shrub among several sages and aromatic plants that make the chaparral smell wonderful. This was an important plant for Native Americans. It's also an important bee plant, thus the name apiana, which refers to honeybees.

Chia (Salvia columbariae) is a native annual herb in the mint family. It's flowering structure looks similar to black sage (Salvia mellifera), but chia is a small ground plant that sends up it's flowering stems to a height of only 12 to 24 inches.

Chia (Salvia columbariae), usually produces 2 spiky ball-like purple flower clusters on slender stems. Only a few of the buds are open at one time. The plant is a high-protein seed/food plant and was used by the Native Americans and today is sold in health stores. The name Salvia means healing and wellness.

Showy penstemon
Showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis) is a native perennial herb that grows up to 3 to 4 feet tall. It blooms from April through June.

Eaton Canyon

Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry
Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) is a perennial shrub in the gooseberry family (Grossulariaceae) among several gooseberry and currant species in our local foothills and mountains.

Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry
Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) blooms from January to May. It has spiny stems and fruit, as do other gooseberry species, which distinguish them from the currants.

Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea) is a native evergreen tree-like shrub that is found in many habitats and grows up to 10 feet tall. Its leaves and flowers produce disagreeable odor.

Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea) produces showy clusters of yellow flowers and distinctive inflated green pods. When dry, the pod resembles a paper lantern that rattles (the seeds inside rattle around).

Scarlet bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius) is a native perennial herb in the figwort family (not to be confused with California fuchsia (Epilobum canum). It grows up to 6,000 feet in elevation, so you may see it along the trail above the chaparral in the pine forests.

Rattlesnake! I know that this guy is not a plant, but I couldn't resist featuring him here. He (or she?) is on exhibit at Eaton Canyon Nature Center and labeled a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus). It's a good reminder that these venomous pit vipers are a native part of our local habitats.

California coffeeberry
California coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica) is a native evergreen shrub in the buckthorn family and grows up to 16 feet tall. It produces yellow-green flowers from May to June that turn into little black berries that resemble coffee beans. But don't try to brew a cup of joe from them; the won't yield coffee!

Popcorn flower
Popcorn flower (Cryptantha muricata, maybe) is an annual herb that produces tiny white flowers from February to June. I read that there are about 11 different species of Cryptantha in the San Gabriel foothills and canyons and they can be very difficult to distinguish. Complicating matters, some members of the Plagiobothrys genus appear almost identical to those of Cryptantha. So feel free to call any of those plants "popcorn flower."

Dodder (Cuscuta spp.) is a unique and distinctive native plant widespread in the San Gabriels and beyond. It has many common names but the one I'm most familiar with is witches hair. It is a parasitic vine that takes its food supply from a host plant. The plant that I see it most on is California buckwheat, pictured here. Thankfully, dodder does not usually harm the host plant. icon

Plants of the San Gabriel Mountains CDRecommended resource: Plants of the San Gabriel Mountains: Foothills and Canyons / Interpretive Guide on CD (Nature at Hand, 2007) by Gabi and Cliff McLean. The McLeans have been associated with Eaton Canyon Nature Center for many years and have played a vital role in educating the public about nature. They have created an amazing interactive CD featuring 258 plants with 1,800 quality photos. They have really made botany enjoyable and accessible for the non-botanists, like me. Detailed descriptions are given for each plant in easy-to-understand language. An extensive glossary of terms is only a click away and they provided audio pronunciations for botanical names and key botanical words. A variety of search options makes it easy to find the plant you are looking for. This user-friendly resource has been immensely helpful to me as a reference in plant identification and writing my blurbs about plants. It's the best 20 bucks I've ever spent on a plant guide! To purchase the CD, visit

Boot See Eaton Canyon Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

Plants  See Plants and Wildflowers of the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages