Mount Ashland Meadows - July 12, 2008
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

It's strange, last week I got beat by snow at under 4000', Saturday we hang around 6000' to 7000' and never see a hint of the stuff.

Not that I'm complaining, of course. This hike stayed on the PCT, a marvelously level sojourn through the ample meadows surrounding Mt. Ashland while stepping side for marathoners who were racing on the PCT. We settled for just walking 6 miles or so, but we looked happier than some of the racers we saw. As an aside, I now burn with desire to backpack this section of the PCT.

Predictably, flowers abounded. Top performer awards go to paintbrush, penstemon, bog orchid, broadleaf lupine, valerian, bistort, and certainly not least: skyrocket (or scarlet gillia). 

What was interesting were some of the lesser-known species. I found a thick and exstensive patch of broomrape, a small chlorophyll-less plant that is a funny brown-purple color with no leaves. Had I not been focusing on an orchid, I'd have never noticed. I also got to see a Siskiyou monardella, endemic to the Siskiyou Mountains.

There were large mats of Ashland lupine, a miniature lupine that reaches an inch in height, but only if it stands on its tippy-toes. The only place this plant grows is on Mt Ashland, so it was kind of thrilling to see it. 

The open rocky slopes were covered with alpine buckwheat, a pussy-toe that also is known by the name, and I kid you not: dirty socks. One whiff of the thick "perfume" alongside the trail and it becomes readily apparent why it's called dirty socks. Unpreturbed, bees and butterflies flit from dirty sock to dirty sock. Nothing quite like it on a hot smoky day. 

Speaking of smoke, it wasn't too bad but due south above Yreka it was horrible. Mt Shasta was hidden completely from view.

After a perfunctory ramble to the Grouse Gap Shelter where we repasted, some of us continued on the PCT to a saddle between Mt. Ashland and Siskyou Peak. The views were great in spite of the smoke. Ray found a cooler with beverages that a trail angel had left for long distance hikers. Our hiker's morality prevented us from helping ourselves. 

Near the end of the hike, there was a large "nest" made of branches and some silliness was involved as Gaoying, Mimi, and Lois provided the entertainment posing in the nest. Another great hike.


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