Posts

by Tim Hauserman 

While we are often treated to the same wildflowers and flowering plants year after year in the same location, other flowers seem to mostly disappear one year, and then come out in wild profusion the next year once the perfect amount of rain and snow appear the winter before. Two plants that I’ve noticed are having a very good year are Yarrow in Page Meadows, and Pine Drops all over the Tahoe woods. 

Wildflower season in Page Meadows on Tahoe’s west shore often means purple, orange or red flowers, but when I recently I took a ride through the meadows I noticed that this year the dominant color was bright white. Most of the meadows were covered in a wave of white yarrow. On a windy day it’s a wave of white.  

Yarrow can grow up to 3 feet tall, but usually in the Tahoe region they are more like a foot. They have bright white clusters of flowers and have a fernlike, lacy appearance. 

This also seems to be the summer of the pine drops. This tall narrow reddish brown curiosity of a plant must like those wet winters because they seem to be everywhere, growing fast and tall. I’ve got a half dozen that just sprouted together in my back yard, and within a few weeks they are over three feet tall. Next time you head out into the deep woods, keep your eyes open for them.

Perhaps pine drops got their name because they are commonly found in the pine forest. This is because the plant has just a bit of chlorophyll and instead gets its energy from a type of mycorrhizal fungi primarily associated with pine trees. The reddish-yellow stalks reach straight up, with small urn shaped flowers along the stalk. Following flowering the stalk gets darker, becomes brownish-black and stiff, almost wooden. The stalks can stay standing long after they appear dead. 

What flower have you seen that is particularly prolific this year? Get out there and find out. 

By Tim Hauserman

Here in the Sierra Nevada, Mother Nature knows that seasons can be fickle and short so she doesn’t mess around. Instead she gets right to doing what nature does best…producing off-spring, especially the plant variety. Even before the last flake of snow has fallen the melting cycle is in full swing. While the creeks are roaring with all that melted snow, the wildflowers are already popping up along the creek edges, eager to attract the bees and produce the seeds that will mean more wildflowers the next year. High elevation plants know that if you get it done fast, you will not have to worry about the early season snow wiping out a year’s crop.

Watching Page Meadows go through the cycle is a prime example of how fast the process goes. In the middle of June I approached Page Meadows and there were still lots of standing water with patches of snow still in the shady forest. The edges were starting to sprout flowers, but I skipped a ride through it because it would have been a muddy and buggy slog. A month later, I rode through and the trails were dry as a bone, in some places the flowers had come and were already going to seed, and the early signs of mid-summer were starting to appear: Grasshoppers.

The aspen tree leaves in the meadow are still a deep, dark green, and the grass remains green and vibrant. But before you know it, the grass will start to dull and turn brown, the yellow jackets will make a very unpopular reappearance, and the number of grass hoppers will explode. When they do, a bike ride through the meadows sets off a wave of flying creatures in your wake.

It will still be awhile before the first leaves begin to turn as the nights get colder. Fall conditions can last anywhere from a few weeks before the first snows arrive in October or cruise right on into November before the white stuff finally flies. Whenever winter comes, it puts the meadow asleep again for several months under a blanket of white…but wait, we are not there yet. Now is the time to enjoy the warmth, the green grass and the blue sky…but carpe diem, because nature doesn’t fool around in the Sierra.

The Tahoe Rim Trail from Tahoe City

By Tim Hauserman

The Tahoe Rim Trail (https://www.tahoerimtrail.org/)  reaches the lowest elevation point of its 170 mile journey around Lake Tahoe as it passes through the edge of Tahoe City and crosses the Truckee River. Two segments of the trail begin in Tahoe City. The first, starts at the Truckee River rafting access parking lot near the Tahoe City Transit Center, also known as 64 Acres. From there, the TRT heads south through Page Meadows, and past Twin Peaks into the Granite Chief Wilderness. The second, begins across from the Fairway Community Center above the Tahoe City Golf Course on Fairway Drive. It meanders north to the edge of the Truckee River canyon and travels to Watson Lake and a crossing of Highway 267 above Kings Beach on Brockway Summit. In the next posting you will hear about heading north from Tahoe City, but for now, let’s go south.

Tahoe City to Twin Peaks and the PCT

From the 64 Acres Parking lot the trail starts behind a gate. First on paved road, then dirt, you walk near the edge of the Truckee River. After crossing a gravel road you head onto single track trail, and begin a steady climb through a deep forest of fir, sugar pine and cedar. You pass close to the edge of the Tree Top Adventure Park at the edge of Granlibakken Resort (look for adventurers ripping through the air on ziplines), then begin to climb in earnest in a narrow canyon above a small stream. At two miles from the start you reach a junction at a snippet of meadow. Turn right and enjoy a mile of gentle climbing as you roll through twists and turns…great mountain biking terrain…to another junction. On this one you turn left and in short order reach Page Meadows.

Page Meadows includes five interconnected meadows. The TRT passes through one with a stunning view of Twin Peaks to the south, and wildflowers abundant in season. If you want to see the others, leave the TRT at the trail on your left midway through the meadow. The TRT is built on bricks to avoid any early season meadow mud. Past the meadow you begin a mile long descent to Ward Creek Blvd. First, passing an offshoot trail to your right. It leads to a Basque sheepherders oven, and another meadow bordered by aspen trees with a cool running stream for those who need to filter water.

Five miles from the Tahoe City Trailhead the TRT reaches Ward Creek Blvd. (good shuttle location). The trail now follows Ward Creek slowly uphill a mile and a half on an old dirt road, to a bridge crossing of the creek. Then climbing gets steeper as you begin a long ascent to the ridgeline. You pass fields of mid-summer wildflowers, McCloud Falls, and an ever enlarging visage of Twin Peaks.

Eventually, you reach the ridge at just over 5 miles from Ward Creek Blvd., where a junction has you turning right, and another mile of winding uphill brings you to a meeting of Blackwood and Ward Canyons, and a challenging use trail to the top of Twin Peaks. The TRT continues on to the Pacific Crest Trail and the Granite Chief Wilderness. At 6.7 miles from Ward Creek, and 12.7 miles from Tahoe City, you might have had enough, but hang a left and head gently downhill for the expansive canyon views just a hundred yards below the junction. From here, it’s another 4.8 miles through wildflowers, along steep traverses, and past volcanic knobs to Barker Pass. Enjoy!