Saturday, April 3, 2010

Treks on the Santa Rosa Plateau: Vista Grande Trail & Waterline Road

With the Easter holiday we have a three-day weekend. So, on Friday, Gil and I continued our series of hikes on the plateau. We headed down the fire road behind the visitors center to the Vista Grande trail, with the game plan being to loop back via Waterline Road. Another great spring day, full of sunshine with temps in the upper 60s.

4/2/10 Trailhead a short distance down from the fire road.

 4/2/10 Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), Vista Grande Trail. 

The virtues of Deer Grass, both in the native and cultivated landscape, are unrivaled. They were and are used in Native American basketry, and make for dramatic specimen plants in the garden. At their best, they may tower at 5' tall by almost as wide. They are also drought tolerant and stunning in drifts or on banks (good for erosion control). I have about half a dozen of these planted along our slightly sloping driveway. Propagation is quite easy, by root division or seeds. 

4/2/10 A "Tenaja," or basin where water is collected and retained from otherwise seasonal creeks. Vista Grande Trail. Habitat for California Newts, Red-legged frogs and Western Pond Turtles.

4/2/10 Vista Grande Trail

4/2/10 Acmon Blue? (Plebejus acmon) on Angel's Gilia (Gilia angelensis). Vista Grande Trail. I'm still a greenhorn with our six-legged critters, so if you know better, please don't tase me sis or bro!

4/2/10 Vista Grande Trail.

4/2/10 Ground Pinks (Linanthus dianthiflorus). Vista Grande trail.

4/2/10 Propertius Duskywing? (Erynnis propertius) on Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitutum). Vista Grande Trail. Again, I'm no butterfly expert, but am relying here on the Kaufman Focus Guide "Butterflies of North America."

4/2/10 Vista Grande Trail.

4/2/10 Meadow Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila pedunculata). Vista Grande Trail.

4/2/10 Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus). Yowzah...looks like a Medieval weapon of torture, but the prickles are actually on the soft side. Not something you'd want to use in your salad, though.  Vista Grande Trail.

4/2/10 Angel's Gilia (Gilia angelensis). Vista Grande Trail.

4/2/10 Johnny Jump Ups (Viola pedunculata). Vista Grande Trail. I would love to try these in my garden, but can't find a nursery or seed source. 

4/2/10 Checkerbloom (Sidalcea malviflora ssp. sparsiflora). Vista Grande Trail.

4/2/10 Dove Lupine/Miniature Lupine (Lupinus bicolor). Vista Grande Trail. 

4/2/10 An unusual white-flowered form of our native iris, Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). Vista Grande Trail.

4/2/10 The regular form of Blue-Eyed Grass, with bluish-purple blooms (Sisyrinchium bellum). Vista Grande Trail. 

4/2/10 Wild Hyacinth/Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum). Vista Grande Trail.

We meandered along the Vista Grande trail for about a mile until we reached the junction with Waterline Rd., and then veered right in that direction for a leisurely hike back to the Visitor Center. 

4/2/10 Vista Grande Trail at Waterline Road.

4/2/10 Trail junction, Vista Grande Trail & Waterline Road.

4/2/10 Long-Beaked Filaree (Erodium botrys). Waterline Road.

4/2/10 Red Maid (Calandrinia ciliata). Waterline Road.

4/2/10 Red-skinned Onion (Allium haematochiton). Waterline Road.

4/2/10 Owl's Clover (Castilleja densiflora). Waterline Road.


  1. Nice... I'll have to check out those trails some time. Great pics!

  2. So glad you know all the names of these plants - they are so beautiful glistening in the sunlight. You've had a great weekend hiking. What was the temperature like on your walks?

  3. Thanks, Jennifer! The Plateau is a great place to visit, especially if you're one for enjoying spring wildflowers and some cool views.

  4. Rosie, my husband thinks I'm an absolute nerd because of my love of botanizing (albeit from an amateur's perspective). But this fun obsession, along with my neverending garden tasks, help to keep me out of trouble in my spare time!

  5. I'll have to admit that in all these years in Southern California I've never been to the Plateau, even though I've passed by it heading to and from other destinations. But the wide views with the rolling hills dotted with oaks and boulders definitely make it look like an amazing place. And then just add a great pile of wildflowers. Does life get any better?

    As for Viola pedunculata, CNPLX,, shows that it's available a few places, including Ginny Hunt's Seedhunt, a firm I've dealt with several times.

  6. James, the Plateau is a really special place that transports you back to a place and time in SW California's history when there were large expanses of native bunchgrass prairie, oak woodland, vernal pools, and abundant wildlife. There are also many remnants of the "rancho" days, including the Adobes, which are believed to be the oldest surviving structures in Riverside County (ca. 1846), along with a rich Native American history (the area was home to the ancestors of the Luiseno). The hiking is easy and the vistas are endless, so go check it out before the vernal pools dry out!

    And, thanks so much for the seed source for Viola pedunculata. This viola is a real gem, and I had all but given up trying to find a source for it. CNPLX is now bookmarked on my favorites.