This is the second of two posts (see here for the first post) about a hike on the recently-opened Lacey Valley Trail. The area around the trail is owned and managed by the Truckee Donner Land Trust. The trail, located in Sierra County in the Tahoe National Forest, is 3.4 miles long, passing through two meadows and surrounding forested areas.
This post covers the southern portion of the trail, south of the Lacey Creek crossing. I had done the hike in what I hoped would be prime wildflower viewing season, and the wildflowers were indeed wonderful. Some of the identifications were assisted by a list posted on the Truckee Donner Land Trust web site.
This is a view of the upper meadow, signed Upper Lacey Valley, with an unnamed peak behind. The trail itself was covered by a puddle on the day of my hike.
An overview of the trail is shown in the GPS track in the first post; the trail generally follows Lacey Creek for 3.4 miles from the southwest side of Webber Lake to Forest Rd 86. The Lacey Creek crossing, about 0.7 mile from the trailhead, serves as the starting point for this post.
Once I had crossed the creek, dried my feet, and put my boots back on, I continued along the trail, still passing through the lower meadow. Soon I saw more belly flowers: needle navarretia (Navarretia intertexta). These tiny beauties are only about 0.1” in diameter. I found them when I stopped to investigate what turned out to be a large mass of almost-as-tiny Torrey’s monkeyflower.
Not far away there were some interesting flower clusters perched on top of tall (perhaps 18”) stems rising above the surrounding grasses and other plants. I’m pretty sure they are dusky horkelia (Horkelia fusca).
Out in the meadow several meters from the trail there was a lot of Bolander’s yampah (Perideridia bolanderi ssp bolanderi) with characteristic delicate compound umbrels of tiny white blossoms. This one was being visited by a small insect.
In the same area there was some pussy paws (Calyptridium umbellatum). These plants typically grow fairly close to the ground, with a cluster of basal leaves and very interesting flower heads. The flowers vary from off-white to pink.
Still in the lower meadow, about 1 mile from the trailhead I found a second area that was blue with a moderately dense display of camas lilies (Camassia quamash). This is one example; I am continually fascinated by the colors and details of the reproductive parts of the blossoms.
Among the typical camas lilies I noticed a single plant with white blossoms. When I find what I believe to be such a color variation I always pay close attention to the details of the plant; in this case it was perfectly obvious that this was a white version of the same camas lily.
After passing through the lower meadow the trail continues through a forested area for about 3/4 mile. In the forested area I found more violets (I had seen mountain violets near the trailhead). I think this one is a canary violet (Viola praemorsa), due to the shape of the leaves and the absence of purple on the back of the upper petals.
Not far away there were some stream violets (Viola glabella), whose leaves are wider than canary violets.
Before long the trail re-emerged into the upper meadow, with a sign indicating Upper Lacey Valley. Here I noticed more spikes of pink flowers. I could quickly see that they were elephant heads, this time “regular” elephant head (Pedicularis groenlandica). The plants are taller than little elephant heads, and the blossoms are both larger and pinker. Also, the “trunks” were longer than the little elephant heads I’d seen in the lower meadow. Finally, the upper petals seem to form more obvious elephant ears. The structure of this flower is pretty amazing!
Not far away I noticed some shooting stars; I think they are alpine shooting stars (Dodecatheon alpinum). Another possibility is Jeffrey’s shooting star (D. jeffreyi). However, Jeffrey’s has hairs on the stems and alpine does not; and these do not appear to have hairs. An interesting characteristic of shooting stars is illustrated in this picture: two of the blossoms point downward and one points upward. The upward-pointing blossom has been pollinated and has changed its orientation as an advisory to potential pollinators not to bother!
The upper meadow is much smaller than the lower meadow, and soon I was passing through another forested area. Here I encountered some stickseed, which could be either sierra stickseed (Hackelia nervosa) or Jessica stickseed (H. micrantha). My research suggested that stickseeds are difficult to distinguish, indeed are indistinguishable unless you are able to examine the seeds carefully. They are also called forget-me-nots.
I saw buttercups in several locations along the trail. Here is a water plantain buttercup (Raununculus alismifdius).
In a smaller meadow I found some western bistort (Polygonum bistortoides), with characteristic egg-shaped flower heads at the top of long stems. This one had an insect visitor. There was also a butterfly, possibly a fritillary (Boloria sp.), visiting several flower heads—but not pausing long enough for me to get a clear photo.
In a forested area I found a new-for-me type of phacelia: low phacelia (Phacelia humilis). The plants are quite small compared to all other phacelias I’ve observed, and the flowers can occur individually rather than in the characteristic curls. In order to illustrate this individual plant I needed to gently pull away some other plants that were growing next to it, almost hiding it and confusing the identification (some of the foliage was Brewer’s lupine). A blue-eyed Mary is just in front of the phacelia, which is less than 1/2” in diameter.
Not far away I found some sierra lewisia (Lewisia nevadensis). Note the delicate veins in the petals, as well as the yellowish area at the base of each petal, which presumably helps draw pollinators to the center of the blossom.
Approaching the southern end of the trail I encountered more puddles, as well as a couple of places where mini-tributaries of Lacey Creek crossed the trail. Unlike the Lacey Creek crossing, however, there was virtually no current and there were enough down tree branches to accomplish the crossings with dry boots.
At the southern end of the trail there is a slight elevation gain, less than 200 feet. I was a little surprised to find some snow on the trail. It was easy to make my way around, or across, it.
As expected, about 3.4 miles from the trailhead I arrived at the southern end of the trail at Forest Rd 86. Within sight of this intersection I could see snow covering the road looking in both directions. It was not really a lot of snow, but I was glad I hadn’t needed to drive my low-clearance car there.
After reaching this point I turned around and began to make my way back north, stopping for a lunch break at a small clearing perhaps a tenth of a mile back along the trail. It was a pleasant place to enjoy the view and some corn lilies that were getting ready to bloom.
The return hike was as pleasant as the outbound hike, though I stopped less frequently for wildflower study. I did notice that, toward the north end of the trail, I could see a blue stripe across the lower meadow denoting Webber Lake. Notably, the trail does not go to the shore of the lake, which is opening to the public (mainly for fishing, I believe) later in 2017.
After I returned to my car I started my drive 8 miles back out to CA-89 at Little Truckee Summit. I had decided that I would stop along the way to investigate interesting-looking splashes of color that might signify wildflowers. I ended up stopping several times. Among my finds: seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), woolly mule ears (Wyethia mollis), paintbrush (Castilleja sp.), and sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). When I checked out the mule ears, behind them I found several Leichtlin’s mariposa lilies (Calochortus leichtlinii).
And as I was checking out something else I found some tiny monkeyflowers, I believe Layne’s monkeyflower (Mimulus layneae). I had to carefully hold the flower in order to facilitate getting a picture at least somewhat in focus. The fat-finger look is due to the close-up view of my camera! This flower is less than 1/4” across and looks different from the Torrey’s monkeyflowers I’d seen on the trail. The Torrey’s monkeyflowers had bilateral symmetry, while this one had more of a radial symmetry.
At the last stop I found scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata), which I always consider to be a treat. These flowers are much bigger than what I would consider to be the common gilia species. And the color is very intense.
My hike on the Lacey Valley Trail was well-timed, as evidenced by the great variety of wildflowers I found. I didn’t see everything on the list, but that’s not surprising given that the spring wildflower season generally encompasses several succeeding waves of different types of blooms. I also saw several that were not on the list.
I would like to note that the 8-mile drive between CA-89 and the trailhead is a very pretty drive. There are several places worth pausing to enjoy views across Perazzo Meadows, which is not far from Webber Lake and the Lacey Meadows.