Friday, August 19, 2011

Eastern Sierras: South Lake & Lake Sabrina

We just returned from our summer vacation up in the Eastern Sierras today, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find the weather back home so unusually mild (low 80s). We were in Lone Pine yesterday, and it was 98F in the shade. Earlier in the morning we had driven up to Whitney Portal, which is only about a 25 minute drive from Lone Pine, and it was a comfy 62F. Wow. Our arctic weather-loving Akita, Hana, thought she had died and gone to heaven. What a difference a few thousand feet in elevation makes. The Eastern Sierras is not only a land of stark contrasts and stunning geologic features, but is also rich in human history and boasts an amazing diversity of flora & fauna. We've traveled extensively throughout this part of California over the years (a staple destination for our summer vacations) - so much so, that we would love to have our own little getaway log cabin out there up in the high country, preferably next to a creek under the canopy of Aspens, Jeffrey Pines and White Firs. Who knows, with the depressed state of real estate, we may actually find something affordable out there...

This year, we hit South Lake & Lake Sabrina (pronounced "sa-breye-nah" btw, which I just found out) in the Bishop area; Onion Valley (Independence region); Rock Creek; Mammoth Lakes; Lundy Canyon (just north of Lee Vining); Alabama Hills & Whitney Portal (Lone Pine region). The curse and blessing of digital photography is that I ended up taking about 1,500 photos. I kid you not. Anyhoo, I will be posting the highlights of our sojourns over the next few blog entries after I've sorted through the wheat and chaff of all these freaking photos. 

First stop: South Lake and Lake Sabrina. A major watershed in the Eastern Sierras, the Bishop Creek drainage is comprised of the north, middle and south forks of Bishop Creek. Lake Sabrina (9,132') is located on the middle fork of Bishop Creek, while South Lake (9,755') is on the south fork. Needless to say, I spent most of my time birding and botanizing. Kudos to Gil & Hana for their eternal patience...

8/14/11 West Line St. (Hwy. 168). Heading west from the town of Bishop to Bishop Creek Canyon. Inyo National Forest, Inyo County, CA.

8/14/11 Wyoming or Long-leaved Paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia). Bishop Creek Road, east of South Lake. 

8/14/11 Great Basin Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) next to Sulfur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum), both ubiquitous in the Eastern Sierras. Bishop Creek Rd., east of South Lake.

8/14/11 Sulfur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). Bishop Creek Rd., east of South Lake.

8/14/11 Sierra Angelica/Soda Straw (Angelica lineariloba). South Lake.

8/14/11 Ranger's Buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum). South Lake.

8/14/11 Wyoming or Long-leaved Paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia) and Big/Great Basin Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Bishop Creek Road, east of South Lake. 

8/14/11 Wax Currant (Ribes cereum). Bishop Creek Road, east of South Lake. 

8/14/11 Mountain Misery (Chamaebatiaria millefolium). Bishop Creek Road, east of South Lake.

8/14/11 Dusty Maidens (Chaenactis douglasii var. douglasii). Bishop Creek Road, east of South Lake.

8/14/11 Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus). Bishop Creek Road, east of South Lake.

8/14/11 Granite Gilia (Leptodactylon pungens). Bishop Creek Road, east of South Lake.

8/14/11 Great Red/Streamside Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata). South fork, Bishop Creek. 

8/14/11 Swamp Onion (Allium validum). South fork, Bishop Creek.

8/14/11 Owl's Claws (Hymenoxys hoopesii). South Lake.

8/14/11 Timberline Phacelia (Phacelia hastata ssp. compacta). South Lake.

8/14/11 Nuttall's Linanthus (Leptodactylon nuttallii). South Lake.

8/14/11 Mountain Pride Penstemon (Penstemon newberryi). South Lake. 

8/14/11 South Lake. Sunny, clear & 62F.

8/14/11 Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium). South Lake.

8/14/11 Lupine (still trying to ID this one). South Lake.

8/14/11 Brook Saxifrage (Saxifraga odontoloma). Roadside seep at South Lake.

8/14/11 American Dogwood (Cornus sericea). Across road from Weir Lake just before South Lake.

8/14/11 Alpine Goldenrod (Solidago multiradiata). South Lake.

8/14/11 Great Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), Ranger's Buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum),  Mountain Pennyroyal (Monardella glauca). 

8/14/11 Arnica species? South Lake.

8/14/11 View from South Lake.

8/14/11 Mountain Pennyroyal (Monardella glauca). South Lake.

8/14/11 Scarlet Penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus). South Lake.

8/14/11 Great Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata). South Lake.

8/14/11 Monkshood (Aconitum columbianum). South Lake (across road from Weir Lake).

8/14/11 Weir Lake,next to South Lake.

8/14/11 Glaucous Larkspur (Delphinium glaucum). South Lake.

8/14/11 Carpet Clover (Trifolium monanthum). South Lake. Flowers (1/2") are tiny!

8/14/11 Sierra Rein Orchid (Platanthera leucostachys). Roadside seep, South Lake.

8/14/11 Cool roots. South Lake.

8/14/11 Small-leaved Cream Bush (Holodiscus microphyllus). South Lake.

8/14/11 South Lake.

8/14/11 Hana & Gil,moseying back to the truck.

8/14/11 Underside of a Mountain Chickadee. South Lake.

8/14/11 Hooker's Evening Primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hirsutissima). Bishop Creek Rd.

8/14/11 Enroute to Lake Sabrina.

8/14/11 Middle Fork, Bishop Creek.
8/14/11 Middle Fork, Bishop Creek (Lake Sabrina).

8/14/11 Middle Fork, Bishop Creek (Lake Sabrina).

8/14/11 Interior Rose (Rosa woodsii). Lake Sabrina.

8/14/11 Showy Penstemon (Penstemon speciosus)? Lake Sabrina.

8/14/11 Lake Sabrina.

Look at that sapphire-blue water! Like Switzerland in Cali (oddly enough, there seem to be more Europeans around here than us natives). 

8/14/11 False Solomon's Seal (Smilacina stellata). Lake Sabrina.

8/14/11 Heading back to Bishop from Lake Sabrina.

8/14/11 Piute Shoshone Cultural Center on W. Line Street in Bishop. Wasn't open when we stopped by, so just took some photos of the building's exterior.

8/14/11 One of the many murals painted on Bishop's buildings. This one was on the side wall of "Amigos" Mexican Restaurant on S. Main Street.


  1. Wow! Arleen, what a great post! You could make a photo book from all these pictures. My brother is starting to do that and they're really neat,...not expensive at all! How wonderful to see all these flowers in their wildness.
    I like the combination of Big sagebrush and sulfur flower together and would like to try that here in the garden.
    I like how slender Hana's legs look under her fluffy body in the photo of her walking, elegant.

  2. I've never been to that side of the mountains. What a beautiful place! Being a blogger that has been attempting to identify what I see one species at a time and looking at all your beautiful pictures, I am so impressed with your extensive IDs. What book(s) do you use?

  3. Sue, that's a great idea! I been looking at, which has some great templates for photo books. The silvery foliage of Great Basin Sagebrush is a great contrast to the yellow blooms of sulfur buckwheat in the garden. Would also pair well with some of our native penstemons. Btw, Hana is getting a bit too "fluffy," if you know what I mean, so I think we'll have to cut down on her snack regimen - lol!

    Katie, if you've never been to the east side of the Sierras, I highly, highly recommend it! Much less crowded and spectacular in every possible way. My fav field guides for this area are the Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada (by John Muir Laws), Sierra Nevada Wildflowers (by Elizabeth Horn), Falcon Guide's Sierra Nevada Wildflowers (by Karen Wiese), and Wildflowers of the Eastern Sierra and Mojave Desert & Great Basin (by Laird Blackwell). In fact, anything by Laird Blackwell is superb. Just to be sure of my ID's, I also cross check with (for Jepson manual treatments) and local plant lists from resources like Kern County CNPS.

  4. Your photos are always so lovely. And you're such a whiz at identification!

    I have to ask, how do you pronounce "breye?" Bray, like in donkey? Or brigh, like in briarpatch?

  5. Thanks, Lisa! Not sure that I'm a whiz at IDs, but I'm trying to get them right, and also correcting, when they turn out wrong...:). 'Breye' is brigh like in briarpatch, ala 'eye.' For years, we had been calling it Lake 'Sabreena.' Dead giveaway that we weren't from them there parts...

  6. Oh my. What an amazing collection of scenic views and wildflower photography. I love it. As to the ID's methinks the only one I might have recognized was the False Solomons Seals. It's a differnt world out there from the prarie. :)

  7. Troutbirder, I think you'd love the Eastern Sierras, because it's a trout fisherman's paradise. There are Rainbow, Golden, Paiute Cutthroat, Lahontan Cutthroat, Brown, Alpers, Lake and Eastern Brook populating the multitude of creeks and alpine lakes up in this region.

  8. On a hike near Baldy, I and another one of your fans were gushing over your posts. Lovely work, and such a treat.

  9. Wow, Karin - I'm touched. Really! :)

  10. I'm extra-impressed with the two different paintbrushes. The common name of the giant species had me extra-confused, too. All these years I'd though the "mini" in species with "miniata" in their names had to do with size. Gosh I've been wrong all these years, since your post sent me off doing some research that now tells me "miniatus" in Latin means bright red.

    I hope the trip was as spectacular as the plant photos you returned with!

  11. James, hilarious! I also, for years, misinterpreted "miniata." I'd always assumed they meant little mini paintbrushes, and indeed, some of the ones I saw in the montane seeps & creeks were diminutive but I'm sure that was because they were young'uns.