Thursday, March 27, 2014

Weekend Warriors

Thursday, March 20th- 23rd, 2014, will be a field trip for the memory bank.

It was a trip chocked-full of collecting. Sarah De Groot, a recent PhD graduate, assisted me in the field for three fun-filled days. There was so much to see and collect. The wildflowers were going crazy, especially the Gilia. Sarah decided that Horse Canyon will now forever be known as Gilia Lake Canyon. There was so much Gilia, is was out of control.
I am so thankful that the last rain event spurred this much growth. I can't believe that it was the right amount of water at the right time.

The field days for this trip were very long. Therefore, I've decided to document this trip as a photo-log with intermittent text.

We left RSABG Thursday afternoon and reached Bird Springs Pass around 8:00 pm. We set up camp, ate dinner and then it was lights out.

Friday, March 21st

I was glad to be back in my study site. I have been obsessing about it in my head. Where to go next? What will I find? Which canyon will be producing?
In the morning we started my mini project, "A Flora of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Kiavah Wilderness."
Bird Springs Pass. PCT trailhead
We collected and collected and collected.
Tragopogon dubious (?) a non-native 
Chamaesyce sp. So tiny. I have a soft spot for little plants
Lupinus concinnus. Common but cute
A different Poppy! Not the CA poppy!
Nama sp. and Eschscholzia sp. Beautiful spring colors!
After spending hours documenting the PCT we decided to check out the west side of Bird Spring Pass. To my surprise is was slightly on the dryer side but producing more than last year.
Green as far as the eye can see. Bird Spring Canyon
Although there were plants on the west side, the diversity was not happening. We collected what we could and moved on to Cane Canyon. Cane Canyon was disappointing. Lots of broken glass and trash and nothing much in flower. We drove over to Cholla Canyon and set up camp.

Welcome to Cholla Canyon
Day 2
Saturday, March 22nd
Camp at the end of Cholla Canyon Road
We broke camp and started our hike towards a large rock outcrop.

Sarah leading the way to the outcrop
Pterostegia drymarioides 
Cucurbita palmata 
Eriogonum sp. Tiny cute annual buckwheat
The plants in the rock outcrop were interesting but when we hiked up the sandy slope, things got really interesting.
A lupine and Camissonia claviformis
A capitate Gilia 
Bunches of California poppies
One of the most beautiful natural floral bouquets 
We ventured towards the end of the left side of the canyon and found even more!
Salvia carduacea!
Salvia habitat
Leaving Cholla Canyon as the clouds rolled in
We left Cholla Canyon in the evening and drove to Short Canyon. We were almost malled by a pack of "domesticated" dogs. Before the owner let his dogs loose, he reassured us that his dogs would not attack us. However, they came bolting after us, biting at our collecting bags and pants. We showed no fear and the owner hollered at his dogs to return to him.

Short Canyon was not short of surprises, it's where we possibly made a noteworthy collection of a fern!
Notholaena californica. Possibly the first record for Kern county!
Check out the chalky surface of this fern
We collected what we could and decided to go over to Walker Pass Campground to put my specimens in the drying press and then we called it a night.

Day 3
Sunday, March 23rd

In the morning I decided to go back to Horse Canyon. Last Saturday Horse Canyon was pretty impressive and I wanted to see how much it had changed in a weeks time. We started down Highway 178. I was explaining to Sarah how well the BLM portion near the highway was doing the last time I was there with Tommy Stoughton. We parked in a turnout and dropped into a wash to find a beautiful display of hundreds and thousands little flowers in bloom.
We collected what we could and realized that we could have spent the entire day in this one wash. But time was running short and we had to get over to Horse Canyon to see it in all of its glory.

Highway 178 desert wash. A lone Leptosyne
Bunches of Malacothrix glabrata on the bank of the wash
I hate ants, but I love them in their natural habitat 
A happy little sun cup
Xylorhiza tortifolia var. tortifolia. Finally! My first collection of it
Horse Canyon

We made it over to Horse Canyon and it was amazing! In over a week, the hillsides were painted with more color. More blue from Gila, more yellow from Leptosyne and orange from the poppies. I drove up the switchbacks to see how high in elevation things were growing.

And then I had to photo document something that continues to be a threat to my study site. OHV trespassing. Ugh. Seriously. Come on. Fresh tire tracks could be seen in the sandy soil. It seems that this year there is more illegal tire tacks in the Wilderness compared to last year. I also documented many broken "no motorized vehicles past this point" signs. I'm pretty upset that people feel the need to destroy signage and the Wilderness.

 The signs are not working. Spike strips might halt illegal activity
I call them the three sisters. I've been keeping a close eye on them. First time seeing bloom
Astragalus sp. such vibrant colors
An Allium sp. ? about to bloom!
Our last collections for the trip
Overall it was a super productive collecting adventure. Sarah was an amazing field assistant. It was an intense three days in the field because we collected and pressed so many specimens. I've said this before and I'll say it again, I can't wait to go back.

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