Thursday, May 1, 2014

Secret Scodie Canyon and Pigmy Poppies

April 25th through the 27th, Rachel Poutasse decided to join me in the field again. I was super excited to find out that she wanted to go back to the Scodies. I'm so glad she came along with me. If it wasn't for her, I probably would have left the field a day early and in sad spirits.
Thankfully Rachel is super supportive, adventurous and level headed. When I wanted to call it quits, she kept me from throwing in the towel. I'm so glad I listened to her and not myself. This field trip was filled with some of the most extreme weather I have had to endure in the field and she handled it all so well. Thankfully we found, Canbya candida, Pigmy poppy which brightened our spirits and made the trip one of the most memorable ever.
One of Rachel's favorite little plants. Loeseliastrum matthewsii
Day 1
Saturday, April 25th

We drove up after work on Friday and were immediately stuck in traffic on the 210 freeway. The amber alert  indicated that it would take 51 minutes to get to Devore. I can handle getting stuck in traffic every once in a while so we stuck through it.
Then passing through Kramer Junction we hit the eye of a huge storm system. It was raining so hard the windshield wipers were on full blast mode. Eventually we made it to Ridgecrest and got a room for the night.

In the morning we headed to Cow Haven Canyon. Rachel has been there before and I wanted to see how much had changed since the last time I was there. When we got there the wind was cold and unbearable and I was shocked to see how fast the color had faded from the hillsides. I was a little saddened to see that the spring field season in the lower elevations are petering out. I wanted to find Pholisma arenarium in the wash. Although I didn't find it, Rachel found Canbya candida! It was so cute and tiny. I have been wanting to see this plant for a really long time. I could not believe that we were finally seeing it! 
Pigmy poppy! Canbya candida
It was adorable. In fact there was only one in the wash. We wanted to find more, so we were on the hunt. We scoured the hillsides but couldn't find any. Right when I was about to give up looking we stumbled upon a huge population of it! There were hundreds! It was spectacular.

Eriophyllum pringlii trying to fit in with Canbya
Rachel for scale
Canbya habitat
We got what we were looking for and also saw things that we weren't expecting to see. The sphinx moth caterpillars were everywhere and we even found a scorpion! I must say the caterpillars are the most disgusting things I have even seen in the wild. The worst thing about them is that they are everywhere!
oooooohhhhh! Neat! Not very lively at all. We think it was on it's way out :(
After being terrorized by caterpillars I wanted to see how Horse Canyon Road was fairing. We drove to the top and started down the crazy 4x4 road. After driving a couple of miles in, we were impeded by a difficult impassable section of the road. Rachel and I decided that it was not the right time to try to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, so we gracefully backed up and turned around. The great thing was that there was a fair amount of snow at the top. The soil was saturated. It was nice to see how Friday night's storm impacted the Wilderness.

Snow on the ground
Puddles in the road 
Beavertail cactus in the snow
After checking out the road we talked out our options and decided to head back to Ridgecrest for the night. It was 34 degrees by 5:00 pm. 

Day 2
Sunday, April 27th

A while back I received permission from the California Fish and Wildlife to access Scodie Canyon. Scodie Canyon is a part of the Canebrake Ecological Reserve and it is behind a locked gate. Since the wind was not howling and the weather warmed up I decided it was time to check out Scodie Canyon. I'm so glad I finally got the chance to explore it. I think it might be my new favorite canyon. Most of the canyon is not included in my study, but access to remote locations from this canyon is feasible.

On the road to Scodie Canyon
We reached the end of the road at the base of the hills and began botanizing. It was a neat area. Lots of perennials were in bloom, as well as annuals.
Salvia dorii looking good
Delphinium in the sagebrush
Hiding in the hills with Fremontodendron
We dropped down into a wash, near Scodie Spring and found many things in vegetative form. Which means that I will need to return to find them in their flowering stage. This is a rugged and wild spring. We found a cow skull under a huge Populus fremontii. 

Refuge under a cottonwood
Populus fremontii old and weathered 
Down in the spring. A Salix forest! 
After exploring the spring we decided to get back to the truck. Right then the winds kicked up and that was our cue to return home.
Farewell to spring