Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 101: Dead Fall Lakes to Rocky Knoll

Click, click, snap, click, crunch, crunch, crunch. The deer continued to graze around our camp throughout the night.  When we woke, a sea of tiny spiderwebs blanketed the meadow.

Several neighboring campers woke when we did, and I was surprised to see them down at the lake, taking pictures with our friends Shutterbug and Northstar. Little did we know that the group we had camped near the night before were all friends of Northstar and Shutterbug who had hiked in to meet them!

Down the trail, we soon reached a beautiful spring bordered by wildflowers: fire engine red paintbrush and columbine, pennyroyal, a mixture of yellow flowers, and bright white clusters of cow's parsnip. We met a few early morning day hikers, then hiked with Paws for awhile.

Suddenly we heard a crashing in the bushes near the trail. The three of us watched, frozen in place, as two brown cubs streaked across the trail, mother bear barreling along behind them. The mother bear chased the two nimble cubs up a nearby tree, then paced protectively beneath them.

Wondering what had frightened the powerful mother bear, I suddenly realized: we had. The cubs must have wandered too close to the trail. The mother bear likely became anxious when three hikers wandered up, and chased her cubs to safety.

Our trail meandered through forests and meadows, following the contours of several ridgelines. Just beyond a saddle on one of these ridges, we passed a swampy area by an underground spring. Mixed in with a colorful array of wildflowers were bright green cobra-shaped plants: the California pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant that traps insects.

Continuing down the trail, we passed several large deposits of serpentine. Smooth and glossy like obsidian, in shades of green ranging from pale mint to deep emerald, serpentine gets its green color from the mix of minerals in the rock. Reaching a rocky knoll of pale green serpentine, we decided to camp for the night.

Unfortunately, a swarm of yellow jackets soon encircled our camp. Although we could not find the hive, some species live in the ground, entering and exiting through tiny holes that can be difficult to find. We ate dinner on a nearby rock outcropping, only returning to our camp to sleep when we were sure that the yellow jackets had returned to their hive for the night.

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