"Vetter Mountain, In Service"

Day Four: Visitors

8:15 amTwo early morning visitors eager to photograph butterflies are disappointed. Alas, because the overnight low was 54°, the butterflies do not appear today until 10:30 am. The camera enthusiasts content themselves with photographing the lookout and the plants in bloom.

Perennial plants here on top of the mountain are low-growing, struggling to survive the harshest of conditions--everlasting wind, intense radiation, and gravelly soil. What little rain that falls, falls in the winter when it is cold and the plants are dormant. In order to endure, they must store the water in their roots to use throughout the droughty summer.

These plants have, in general, small, gray leaves covered with hairs to reduce the surface exposed to evaporation, and many small flowers that are attractive to insects. The statuesque rock buckwheat with its symmerical rosette of wavy, red-edged, thick, oval leaves is a prime example. The pretty little woolstar with its tiny sapphire-blue flowers and cobwebby, prickly leaves is another. Both are blooming now on the north-facing slope near the restroom.

8:43 am The cab is sparkling clean when I open up this morning. Pam, George and Kermit, along with a new volunteer have been there over the Fourth.

There is bear fur on the can with the faucet just outside the gate and two patches of it in the yerba santa plants just under the north catwalk as well. I suspect George is the bear who put it there.

8:56 am"Angeles, Vetter Mountain, in service."
10:32 amThe Callippe Fritillary is the most common butterfly today. There is great variablity in color and age from pale, worn brown and buff specimens to fresh, brilliant orange and black ones. They chase each other or display their intricately patterned wings horizontally.

Shiny-leaved yerba santa has finished blooming, and California buckwheat is the most popular nectar plant. A dozen or so Hedgerow Hairstreaks can easily be found on a single plant.

11:05 am A couple from Germany are ecstatic to see the hummingbirds at the feeder. It is the first time they have ever seen any except for pictures in books.
12:32 pmThe duskywings--Funereal, Mournful, Propertius and Afranius--appear much later in the day than other butterflies. This is a great day to compare all four of these species, flying together, as they are, at the same place and at the same time.
1:30 pmA "visiting fireman" from LA County in Lancaster who used to work on the hand crew around Warm Springs wants to know the fire history of the area. We could remember the Mill Creek fire with its awe-inspiring, fearsome firestorm, the Sage fire and one in Upper Big T. The area around the Barley Flats Trail has even-aged fire-sprouting ceanothus indicative of a fire there awhile back as well.

The Wolf Creek Nature Trail at Charlton Flat Picnic Area has an interpretive plaque describing the origin of the Charlton fire. I can, as a child, remember the Penny Pines Plantation growing there. Today, because of the fine growth of the trees, I can hardly recognize the place. This area, Charlton-Chilao Recreation Area, has one on the finest stands of mixed coniferous forest, to my mind, on the whole of the Angeles.

The entrances to Charlton Flat Picnic Area and to Chilao Campground show evidence of prescribed burning last winter. The deer certainly approve of the fresh green grass growing there.

2:01 pm Pale Swallowtails are the only butterflies flying after 2 pm today.
4:45 pmTom comes to finish up his analysis of the peaks. This time I read the Osborne using the Vernier scale, but make lots of mistakes and give it up.
5:07 pm"Angeles, Vetter Mountain, out of service."
"Copy, Vetter Mountain, seventeen oh seven."

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© Jane Strong, July 2000