The Trinity Alps, the tallest mountains in the Klamath Ranges, are one of my favorite places to hike in California. My love is due to the combination of spectacular views:
and excellent rocks.
In the picture above, marble dominates foreground and Sawtooth Ridge in the background is granite. While both of these rock types have edaphic specialists–plants that only occur on that rock type, the Trinities are particularly famous (among geologists and botanists, anyway) for their large amounts of serpentine–the rock type that is home the most rare plant species.
I was really excited to hike to the Caribou Lakes in the heart of the Trinities this past week because my previous Trinity trips occurred much later in the summer. There were many early-blooming species I wanted to catch up with. It turns out there were two problems with this plan. 1) There wasn’t that much serpentine along the route, and 2:
Yeah. It’s really hard to botanize in the snow.
Not impossible though! Here’s a little plant in the tomato family (Solanaceae) that I stopped to photograph in pretty bad conditions
It’s a good thing I did, too. I’m pretty sure this is Chamaesaracha nana (Dwarf Five-Eyes), which is a species found in the Cascades, but according to my resources, it hasn’t ever been documented in the Kalamaths before. It was growing in a recently burned area, and unusual plants do sometimes pop up from the seed bank after fire. I will have to investigate this further.
The trip wasn’t all snowy conditions, however, and I made sure to take some pictures while the sun was shining. First, three widely distributed pink flowers. Penstemon newberryi (Plantaginaceae) has one of my favorite common names, Pride of the Mountains. In addition to being here, it’s a commonly encountered flower on pretty much any hike in the Sierras.
Kalmia polifolia (Bog Laurel, Ericaceae) is one of the few plants I learned while in college in Maine that I encounter commonly on the west coast. I love the folded buds.
And Diplacus (formerly Mimulus) nanus (Dwarf Monkey Flower, Phrymaceae)
Next, a couple range-restricted species with tiny, yellow flowers: Eriogonum diclinum (Jaynes Canyon Buckwheat, Polygonaceae)
and Draba howellii (Howell’s Draba)
Per usual, I’ll end with the showy and rare. Lewisia cotyledon (Cliff Maids, Montiaceae)
and Cypripedium californicum (California Lady’s Slipper, Orchidaceae)
These last two beauties were the two species I most wanted to see. Therefore I would rate the trip a complete success, despite the snow!