June 1 trip etc.

Forgot to post this from the first week of June:

Months before I started the master’s program at CSULB and before I had a permit to collect in the national forest, I started looking for off-trail routes into Ladd Canyon, first by hiking up the Silverado Trail to Main Divide on the east, then by biking up Black Star and along Main Divide from the west. It’s an absolute joy to get into places few others have and see the grandest old trees and lilies upon lilies. But the bushwhacking is also the bane of my research. It just takes time, and I worry that I’m less observant when I’m tired out or simply looking for my way. This is why I tried to get a good jump on route finding before the collecting season began.

From the beginning, I have been concerned about the time it takes to get to the lower canyon from public access points. I got permission from CNF to backpack a couple of nights in the canyon for this reason. So it was a huge help when CNPS’s Ron Vanderhoff put me in touch with Scott Breeden and through him Susan and Anthony Mack, who have allowed me to access the lower canyon from Ladd Canyon Road. I can’t thank them all enough! On May 10 and 11, I backpacked with Mike McDermott and was able to explore halfway up West Fork. There’s a beautiful little falls up there, and a plant or two (perhaps most worth mentioning is a population of Monardella hypoleuca, 1B.3, also found in the main canyon). Having already backpacked down the main fork of the canyon and up East Fork, I felt like I had covered most of the area. All of which brings us to recent goings-on in Ladd Canyon.

When spring finally came, there was a bit of easy collecting in easy-to-get-to places. Perhaps there could have been a bit more, but yeah, it’s been pretty dry. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve poked around ravines and ridges along Main Divide, as well as the lower canyon riparian area. I was also thinking about how to get to the middle section of West Fork that I still hadn’t seen. Down and back from Main Divide would be a long day. I explored a ravine halfway down the south ridge of Pleasants Peak (the Smashmouth use trail following SCE power lines is on this ridge) hoping for a short route, but I was stopped by the largest dry fall I’ve seen in Ladd Canyon, probably 40 to 50 feet -- not sure because safety first! I didn’t get too close. This week, after looking at topos and satellite images, I decided I would head down West Fork from Main Divide and try going up a different ravine to Smashmouth. If it worked, I’d have a good day, and if it didn’t, I’d have a good, long day retracing my steps.

The middle section was beautiful, with some huge big-leaf maples and white alders, as well as some year-round pools with four big groups of horsetails, Equisetum telmateia. My route up to the ridgetop worked, but I can’t say that I’m eager to repeat it. It involved a scree slope (there’s been Phacelia imbricata on every scree slope I’ve scrambled -- love those shapely leaves), and some stubborn chamise and manzanita. I collected some Collinsia heterophylla -- not a rarity in the Santa Anas but a plant I hadn’t seen yet. It reminded me again to pray for rain next year. The going got easier when I reached the large stand of knobcone pines near the top. It was a steep 1,000 feet and getting late, so I had a little lie-down and the last of my water. My last observation of the day involved those pines. Vogl (1973) said the knobcones in the area were all associated with serpentine soil, but I had doubted that because it didn’t look to be the case along the Smashmouth trail. Climbing up through these trees, though, I came upon yet another outcrop of friable white rock with rusty red streaks that I think is serpentine-associated silica-carbonate. I still have to confirm that, but I feel guilty for ever doubting Vogl. Asking questions, though, that’s just science, right?

Soon to come: exploring the east fork of East Fork and revisiting summer bloomers in the mint and aster families.

Posted by ddonovan17 ddonovan17, June 16, 2021 05:52

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