Plant Guide to Dawson Saddle Trail
Introduction and Explanation of Plant Trail Guides
Highlights of This Trail
Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time
The Plant Guide
This trail is one of the most beautiful of the high country. It begins at the highest elevation on the Angeles Crest Highway at 7903 foot Dawson Saddle. After 1.8 miles and 1000 feet of elevation gain, mostly on a ridge with superb views in nearly-all directions, the trail ends at the Pacific Crest Trail. From that junction, you can head east to Mt. Burnham and Mt. Baden-Powell, or south to Throop Peak, Mt. Hawkins, South Mt. Hawkins or Mt. Islip.
For photographs of some of the plants on this trail, as well as some from nearby areas, see Michael Charters' Photo Gallery from June 2009.
The beginning of the trail at and near Dawson Saddle is confusing. Only an old unsigned trail begins exactly at Dawson Saddle. That trail has one short section with poor footing where one risks slipping in an area where a slip would be very unpleasant. That trail meets the newer better trail after 0.21 miles on it, at mile 0.30 on the newer trail.
The trail guide here begins at the new trailhead which is about 0.10 miles east of Dawson Saddle, across from a pullout on the north side of the Angeles Crest Highway, about 0.04 miles beyond (east) of Mile Marker 69.59, signed simply as "Trail" at the Highway. There is a very large sign at mile 0.02 on the trail, saying "Dawson Saddle Trail. Built by boy scouts the summer of 1982 to commemorate the 75th year of world scouting. Total Volunteer hours: 3,540". That sign had been gradually falling down, listing at about 30° in August 2002; 40° in July 2013; 45° in Aug 2014; and 50° in Aug 2015. The sign was then reset in the ground sometime between Aug 2015 and June 2015, since it was listing at only about 15° in June 2016.
For a plant guide to the PCT heading east to the junction with the Mt. Baden-Powell Trail, see Plant Guide to PCT from Dawson Saddle / Throop Peak Junction to Mt. Baden-Powell Junction.
For a plant guide to the PCT heading west to Windy Gap see Plant Guide to PCT from Dawson Saddle / Throop Peak Junction to Windy Gap.
No plant trail guide is yet available for the new trail to Throop Peak from the PCT.
Highlights of This Trail
The trail gives an extensive look at the plants of the high country of the San Gabriels, as well as extensive vistas of the surrounding country. The views are literally from the desert to the sea on a clear day.
The trail has many botanical highlights:
- All the plants seen along the entire trail (except possibly for a few plants in a small patch near Throop Peak) are native plants! Thus this is one of the very few patches of California that looks the same now botanically as it probably did hundreds of years ago, before the introduction of non-native plants from Europe and elsewhere.
- An interesting combination of mat-like perennial plants, inches high but very old; shrubs several feet high flattened by snow and/or wind; and trees almost a hundred feet high standing tall, defying those two forces.
- Four species of pine trees, two of which, lodgepole (Pinus contorta) and limber (Pinus flexilis) pine, are unusual in the southern mountains. One of the species, sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), has the longest pine cone in the world; another, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), has one of the shortest.
- Beautiful old tree-like gnarled specimens of mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius var. intermontanus) in several places along the trail.
- The rare and local yellow-flowered Peirson's lupine (Lupinus peirsonii).
See also Regional Distribution of the Plants on Dawson Saddle Trail.
Number of Unique Taxa On This TrailSection not updated since 2003
Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time
The following table gives the dates the trail was walked and taxa recorded. After each visit, the table gives the total number of taxa on the list and the breakdown of the taxa without positive identification. See Explanation of Plant Trail Guides to understand the symbols below.
Visit Date Visit # # taxa # "?" # "sp" # "~" # "ssp" Comments 6/9/2002 1 36 0 4 0 1 only up to mile 1.06 8/21/2002 2 46 2 3 1 0 8/26/2002 3 46 2 1 2 0 9/17/2003 4 49 1 1 4 1
In addition to the visits above, Jane has made a number of visits to this trail previously without recording all the taxa.
The Plant Guide
See also Flora of Throop Peak Area for a plant list in family order.
Some of the species, especially at the very beginning of the trail, are not present there in all years.
At Dawson Saddle itself in 2014 were about five plants of what is probably Kochia scoparia, which may be a waif here. The plants were vegetative on 18 August 2014. There are also a large number of Russian thistle plants, Salsola gobicola.
In August 2014, the old trail that begins at Dawson Saddle had ~50 plants of Parish's oxytheca, Acanthoscyphus parishii var. parishii (= Oxytheca parishii var. parishii). It also has a single plant of Ribes velutinum. Neither of these species have been seen on the new trail.
See Notes on the Scientific Names Used At This Site.
An asterisk (*) before the common name indicates a non-native taxon.
The #Pls represents the minimum number of plants of each species visible from the trail, up to a maximum of 99. Note that the number of plants in this guide reflects the number within a somewhat-larger distance from the trail than our previous convention of it being only the number of plants within an arm's-length distance from the trail.
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Mile S # id? Common Name Scientific Name #Pls 0.00 This guide does not follow the old unsigned trail exactly at Dawson Saddle, SR2 (7903 feet). Instead, head east on SR2 to the new trailhead, about 0.04 miles beyond (east) of Mile Marker 69.59. 0.00 Plants at trailhead, in order from west (on the right) to east, beginning at the Jeffrey pine 5 steps to the right of the trailhead. 0.00 r 1 Jeffrey pine Pinus jeffreyi 99 / 9 0.00 r 2 *Jerusalem oak Dysphania botrys 99 / 1 0.00 r 3 giant blazing star Mentzelia laevicaulis 40 / 1 0.00 r 4 rock buckwheat Eriogonum saxatile 75 / 5 0.00 r 5 threadleaf common rabbitbrush Ericameria nauseosa var. oreophila 15 / 3 0.00 r 6 Grinnell's beardtongue Penstemon grinnellii var. grinnellii 99 / 9 0.00 (pinedrops, Pterospora andromedea) 0.00 The trailhead 0.00 r 7 Nevin's bird's beak Cordylanthus nevinii 30 / 2 0.00 l 8 squirreltail Elymus elymoides 99 / 9 0.00 l 9 California brickellbush Brickellia californica 2 / 2 0.00 l 10 Davidson's buckwheat Eriogonum davidsonii 5 / 2 0.00 Begin hiking trail 0.00 11 pussy paws Calyptridium monospermum 30 / 2 0.00 l 12 silky lupine Lupinus elatus 99 / 9 0.01 r 13 green-leaf manzanita Arctostaphylos patula 99 / 9 0.01 b 14 Davidson's lotus Acmispon nevadensis var. davidsonii 25 / 2 0.01 r 15 pinegrove groundsmoke Gayophytum oligospermum 50 / 5 0.01 r 16 santolina pincushion Chaenactis santolinoides 20 / 3 0.01 17 white catch-fly Silene verecunda 15 / 2 0.01 l 18 white fir Abies concolor 99 / 9 0.02 Switchback to right; sign: "Dawson Saddle Trail. Built by Boy Scouts the summer of 1982 to commemorate the 75th year of world scouting. Total volunteer hours 3540. Elevation 7903 feet. USFS". 0.05 r 19 Davidson's phacelia Phacelia davidsonii 6 / 2 0.06 l 20 sugar pine Pinus lambertiana 99 / 9 0.07 l 21 pine lousewort Pedicularis semibarbata 99 / 9 0.07 l 22 broad-seeded rock-cress Boechera platysperma 20 / 2 0.08 l 23 Tehachapi ragwort Packera ionophylla 20 / 2 0.08 r 24 mountain whitethorn Ceanothus cordulatus 99 / 9 0.09 Switchback to left; jct. old path to right that leads now to a steep dropoff in 6 paces. 0.09 r 25 slender woodland star Lithophragma tenellum 99 / 2 0.09 r 26 Southern California draba Draba corrugata 5 / 1 0.09 b 27 beaked penstemon Penstemon rostriflorus 50 / 4 0.11 l 28 southern Sierra phacelia Phacelia austromontana 99 / 4 0.14 r (alpine sulfur-flowered buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum var. minus) 0.18 b 29 curl-leaf mountain-mahogany Cercocarpus ledifolius 99 / 3 0.18 l (snow-plant, Sarcodes sanguinea) 0.19 b 30 one-sided bluegrass Poa secunda ssp. secunda 20 / 2 0.19 l (California cliff-brake, Pellaea mucronata var. californica; clasping-leaved caulanthus, Caulanthus amplexicaulis; a waif of desert pincushion, Chaenactis stevioides) 0.19 l 31 Mojave linanthus Leptosiphon breviculus 99 / 2 0.19 l 32 San Gabriel linanthus Linanthus concinnus 3 / 2 0.19 r 33 woolly mountain-parsley Oreonana vestita 99 / 3 0.19 Switchback to right. 0.20 l 34 Parish's needlegrass Stipa parishii var. parishii 30 / 3 0.21 l 35 alpine sulfur-flowered buckwheat Eriogonum umbellatum var. minus 40 / 3 0.25 l 36 wax currant Ribes cereum var. cereum 20 / 4 0.27 l 37 Ross' sedge Carex rossii 5 / 2 0.27 r (Sierra gooseberry, Ribes roezlii var. roezlii) 0.28 l 38 lodgepole pine Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana 99 / 9 0.30 r Jct. with old trail from Dawson Saddle. Prickly cryptantha, Cryptantha echinella, is found 0.03 miles down the old trail. 0.30 r 39 Burlew's onion Allium burlewii 99 / 9 0.31 l 40 toothed wintergreen Pyrola dentata 1 / 1 0.34 l 41 low pussytoes Antennaria dimorpha 7 / 1 0.37 l 42 bitter root Lewisia rediviva var. minor 99 / 5 0.38 Begin open area. 0.39 l (Peirson's lupine, Lupinus peirsonii) 0.39 l 43 southern alpine buckwheat Eriogonum kennedyi var. alpigenum 99 / 5 0.39 Now on ridge for first time. The trail will stay close to the ridgeline for the next 0.4 mile. 0.39 (fir mistletoe, Phoradendron bolleanum, 100 feet south) 0.39 l 44 Sierra mousetail Ivesia santolinoides 30 / 1 0.40 r 45 pine dwarf-mistletoe Arceuthobium campylopodum 40 / 1 0.41 r 46 Peirson's lupine Lupinus peirsonii 75 / 2 0.41 From right to left, view of the three peaks of Williamson Peak with the South Fork Trail below, Waterman Mountain, Strawberry Peak, Twin Peaks, Throop Peak, Mt. Burnham and Mt. Baden-Powell 0.44 47 snow-plant Sarcodes sanguinea 5 / 2 0.56 Trail leaves ridge, now on east (left) side slightly below the ridge. 0.60 Jct. faint trail that merges from the right that leads to ridge. 0.63 Back on ridge. 0.66 l 48 San Bernardino beardtongue Penstemon caesius 50 / 5 0.72 49 plain mariposa lily Calochortus invenustus 1 / 1 0.72 Trail leaves ridge and is just below ridge on east side. 0.77 Trail now goes farther below the ridge. An old trail, in disrepair, is on the ridge. 0.85 r 50 bush chinquapin Chrysolepis sempervirens 99 / 9 0.91 Cross small drainage with lots of lodgepole pine 0.97 l 51 pinedrops Pterospora andromedea 5 / 3 0.97 Cross small drainage with lots of lodgepole pine 1.02 Deep bear clawmarks on lodgepole pine, 6.5 feet above ground, in August 2002. 1.05 Cross small drainage. 1.11 Mt. Baden-Powell now visible again, now on the right of Mt. Burnham. 1.17 First small area burned in 2002 Curve fire. Only spot fires occurred along the rest of the trail, beyond the edge of the main fire. 1.20 Saddle with view of Mt. Wilson, San Gabriel Peak, Mt. Islip, Twin Peaks, Strawberry Peak, and Mt. Waterman. Trees have numerous bear claw marks. Trail heads back to east side of ridgeline. 1.20 r 52 sp wreath plant Stephanomeria virgata or S. exigua ssp. coronaria 1 / 1 1.20 l (limber pine, Pinus flexilis) 1.21 r (spineless horsebrush, Tetradymia canescens) 1.24 b 53 limber pine Pinus flexilis 99 / 9 1.35 r 54 Yosemite rockcress Boechera repanda 1 / 1 1.38 r Unusual closed depression 1.39 The final saddle on the trail. The trail now leaves the ridgeline and traverses the north slope of Throop Peak. 1.44 r 55 Sierra gooseberry Ribes roezlii var. roezlii 2 / 2 1.45 Cross drainage. Many lodgepole pines here. 1.54 Cross middle of three small drainages that join below the trail. 1.62 Cross drainage. 1.67 Cross drainage that is a limber and lodgepole pinecone graveyard. 1.72 Cross drainage. 1.79 Jct. PCT; elevation 8860 feet; end plant trail guide. Off-trail only species given in guide: 0.19 56 clasping-leaved caulanthus Caulanthus amplexicaulis 1 / 1 0.19 57 desert pincushion Chaenactis stevioides 1 / 1 0.19 58 California cliff-brake Pellaea mucronata var. californica 20 / 1 0.30 59 prickly cryptantha Cryptantha echinella 5 / 1 0.39 60 fir mistletoe Phoradendron bolleanum 1 / 1 1.21 61 spineless horsebrush Tetradymia canescens 1 / 1
Copyright © 2002-2016 by Tom Chester, Jane Strong, Walt Fidler, Adrienne Ballwey, Nancy Accola, Keir Morse and Jane Tirrell
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Updated 9 June 2016