Observations of Flowering Plants and the Main Vernal Pools on the Mesa de Colorado, 5/14/01 to 6/29/01

Chronological Observations

Introduction to this page

Observations 2000 November 4 - 2001 February 23
Observations 2001 February 26 - 2001 March 16
Observations 2001 March 18 - 2001 April 14
Observations 2001 April 17 - 2001 May 10
2001 May 14
2001 May 18
2001 May 23
2001 May 27
2001 May 31
2001 June 4
2001 June 9
2001 June 12
2001 June 17
2001 June 21
2001 June 25
2001 June 29
Later Observations

2001 May 14 (Day 90): Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail. Conditions sunny and pleasant, temperature in low 70s.

Baby frogs are everywhere along the boardwalk, with most of them clinging to the spike rush. I couldn't find any tadpoles in the water, although I suspect a few darted away from me as I approached. I couldn't be certain about the identity of the fleeing critters, since there were plenty of baby frogs in the water doing the same thing. So either the tadpoles are now all baby frogs and toads, or they have gone to deeper water away from the boardwalk. The garter snakes apparently don't care what form their lunch is in, with one hunting its lunch while I was there.

I saw nothing else in the water except the aquatic snails and a single water boatman. All the little creatures must have decided that their time was up, since none have been seen for a week or two now.

There are lovely patches of color along the boardwalk now due to downingia, and a lovely smell. Dragonflies and damselflies have reappeared, with a cluster of ~10 dragonflies escorting me away from the Pool.

I saw no new flowers along the Vernal Pool Trail, but 11 new flowers along the Granite Loop Trail! I've clearly under-appreciated the Granite Loop Trail in the past - it has quite a variety of flowers on it, despite its shortness. The display of Chinese houses takes my breath away now!

2001 May 18 (Day 94): Vernal Pool Trail, Punta Mesa, Lomas Trails; Faultline and Waterline Roads. Conditions sunny, breezy and pleasant, temperature in low 70s.

New flowers continue to pop up all over - I saw 16 new flowers today, on this much longer hike. But to compensate, roughly the same number of species have finished their bloom, so that the total number of species blooming has stayed approximately constant over the past month.

The baby frogs at the Pool have turned into baby toads! Well, not really, but it appears that way. The frogs have apparently begun to disperse from the Pool. A lady told me that on May 15 she saw some frogs along the main Vernal Pool Trail, far from the Pool. The density of frogs is way down at the Pool. I saw ~5 frogs on the boardwalk, and another 5 or so in the water, but none on the spike rushes.

In their place, there are lots of baby Western Toads, with the little stripe down their back. None of the toads were on the boardwalk. Their favorite place seems to be the rocks sticking out of the Pool. I saw as many as 10 clustered on a rock smaller than one square foot in cross-section. Some of the toads appeared to be without a stripe, and therefore Western Spadefoot Toads, but I couldn't tell for sure since they wouldn't stay still.

The Pool smells lovely even before you get to the boardwalk. The downingia is making good displays now. Popcorn flower is blooming over the entire surface of the Pool, but is finishing its display at the very edge.

I began clearing out the curly dock today, and removed all that could be reached from the boardwalk. The hardest part of the job is simply carrying the bags of curly dock back to the trailhead.

One mosquito tried to bite me near the Tenaja just south of the Monument Hill and Faultline Road intersection. Otherwise, no bugs were around, perhaps due to the generally breezy conditions in most places.

2001 May 23 (Day 99): Vernal Pool Trail, Los Santos and Trans Preserve Trails; Hidden Valley Road. Conditions hot and breezy, temperature 84-90° F.

When I arrived at the Vernal Pool Trailhead at ~2:30 pm, it was fairly pleasant, with a temperature of ~84° F and a stiff breeze. I drove over to the Visitor Center, where it was much hotter and much less windy. This is probably fairly typical in the late spring / summer, since the sea breeze hits the south edge of the Mesa de Colorado in the afternoon, and either weakens significantly on the other side of the Mesa or doesn't make it to ground level north of the Mesa.

Returning to the Vernal Pool Trailhead, the temperature was 84° F and hiking was pleasant until the trail left the Mesa approaching Hidden Valley Road. The temperature soared to 90° F and the breeze was gone. Later in the hike, heading back up the Mesa on the Trans Preserve Trail, I could feel the temperature getting more pleasant as I approached the top of the Mesa again.

I was surprised to see that the Mariposa Lily was nearly finished along the Vernal Pool Trail. A number of other flowers that had been hanging on with a small percentage of plants are now finally completely out of bloom. Many trails are now just grasses, with few flowers present.

But not so the Los Santos Trail. The Mariposa Lily was still blooming strongly along the first descent, accompanied by a field of three spot, another of golden stars, and a bank of golden yarrow. That spot in the drainage seems to just go from a field of one bloom to another.

The bug of the day was a small black beetle. Tens of them usually populated my white T-shirt and white shorts, with several more on my arms. They didn't seem to bite, though, although I did get bit on the back of my neck once by something. The usual gang of annoying gnats was lying in wait in the shade along the Trans Preserve Trail - I got out of there quickly.

There were ~5 good booms, presumably from Camp Pendleton bombing exercises. One of them was loud enough to startle me.

The Los Santos Trail had been nicely trimmed, making it a pleasure to hike. The last time I had been there the annual grasses had fallen across the trail, making it a bit of a struggle to get through.

The Boardwalk at the Pool was awash with baby frogs. There were ~300 frogs on the boardwalk at times! This made it extremely difficult to walk on it, since I had to virtually halt after each step to give the baby frogs time to hop out of the way.

Both toad species are now present, but none of them were on the boardwalk. They prefer the rocks in the Pool and the gravel-covered trail.

I was able to remove all of the curly dock in the bay south of the boardwalk, except for one single plant way out in the water, as well as the curly dock immediately northwest of the boardwalk.

2001 May 27 (Day 103): Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail. Conditions cool and cloudy, almost drizzly.

Toads everywhere! Even at the Vernal Pool Trailhead, the baby toads were common on the trail. One had to watch the trail carefully to avoid stepping on them. These toads were from the small pool along the road, but were found much of the way to the intersection with the Trans Preserve Trail. After a brief interval with no toads, the toads reappeared on the trail from the Main Pool.

The moisture changed the color and texture of the brown partial ring just outside the Main Pool due to a grass. The color was purplish, and the ring stood out much more. The slender tarweed is just beginning to form its yellow partial ring farther out.

A new bench has been placed on the Vernal Pool trail just after it drops from the lip of the Mesa de Colorado. Baby frogs and toads were present in the chaparral portion of this trail as well.

Many new flowers were blooming on the Granite Loop Trail: canchalagua, wild rock rose, mustang mint, fringed Indian pink, redberry (berries), vervain, branching phacelia, and salsify. The fringed Indian pink was much better than I've seen it previously. There was a fair amount of it, and it was up at eye level right next to the trail. A beautiful flower!

The odors of summer plants were in abundance, available to be enjoyed by all who know to rub their leaves. In addition to the lovely strong smells of mustang mint and vervain, there was the beautiful fragrance of slender madia and vinegar weed. The summer bloom is a feast for both the eyes and nose!

2001 May 31 (Day 107): Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail. Conditions warm (79° F), sunny and breezy at 3 pm, becoming cool and foggy later.

The ubiquitous frogs and toads of four days ago are mostly gone. None were seen on the trail, and only a few were at the Pool. The Pool is now dry at the boardwalk, except for puddles of water in depressions here and there.

The lovely smell of downingia fills the air along the beginning of the Trail, from the small pool along the road, and again even before the turnoff to the loop trail through the Boardwalk.

The popcorn flower has mostly finished at the Pool, but the downingia is still at its peak. Just outside the Pool, the brown partial ring from a grass is surrounded by a growing yellow partial ring from slender tarweed. Farther from the Pool, the thread-leaved brodiaea is down to its last few flowers.

Jane and I were excited to see San Diego tarplant in bud! We had looked for this species last year, but apparently on the wrong trails. It seems to be only on the Granite Loop Trail, away from its slender and sticky tarplant relatives on the Mesa de Colorado.

2001 June 4 (Day 111): Vernal Pool Trail, Multiuse (Wiashal) Trail. Conditions pleasant (67-71° F), sunny and breezy.

The Pool is now completely dry at the boardwalk. I observed no frogs today, despite scouring the perimeter of the pool to the south in order to remove more of the curly dock there. I was finally able to snag that lone curly dock near the center of the Pool, which had about 1" of water still in the lowest parts.

While I was at the Pool, a swift compact swarm of insects passed quickly by in about 5 seconds. I wasn't able to identify them since they passed too far from me and too quickly.

The Multiuse Trail has been renamed the "Wiashal" Trail, with a new sign posted in the main parking lot giving a distance of 3.5 miles to Cole Canyon.

The bloom all along the trail was beautiful. I was especially delighted with the violet snapdragon, which saved me from a possible collision with a mountain biker. The biker was descending one of the many steep parts of this trail where the visibility was short, while I was fortuitously off the trail looking at an especially robust specimen. He stopped after he passed me and asked if I was all right, probably thinking I had jumped off the trail to get out of his way. He then told me he thought I was a mountain lion at first. This was not an idle fear, since I had been observing the tracks of a mountain lion along the trail earlier.

The chamise and slender sunflowers along the trail were in full bloom, producing fields and patches of color. Clearings along the trail were filled with pretty blue and purple skunkweed, and yellow and white pincushion flowers.

On the way out, I even observed some circus beetles (stink bugs) mating. I'm amazed at how many things I've seen this year by being out on the trail much more frequently!

2001 June 9 (Day 111): Vernal Pool Trail, S. Los Santos, S. Trans Preserve Trail, Multiuse (Wiashal) Trail. Conditions sunny, breezy and warm (81-83° F) at 3:30 pm.

Although still warm at 3:30 pm, the breeze and flatness of the terrain made the hike pleasant enough. I picked up a pocketful of trash along the Vernal Pool and Los Santos Trail, which included a baby's pacifier. This was the most trash I've seen on the trail for quite some time, probably due to only one or two messy people.

A few of the little black beetle flies were still around, but not nearly as many as a month ago on this trail. The mustard and annual grasses are beginning to fall into the trail again, despite having been cleared away a month or so ago.

Summer is evident nearly everywhere except at the Pool. The mustard is nearly finished, the sticky tarweed is about to bloom, and today I observed the first red poison oak leaf and the first "dried flowers" on the California everlasting. There are deep cracks in the mud on the Trans Preserve Trail.

But at the Pool, spring is still in the air. From afar, the lush green of the spike rush reveals the existence of this oasis. Up close, the downingia is still in full bloom, with its lovely scent perfuming the air, and the first coyote thistle is in bloom. The bloom does indeed smell like bologna up close! There were even a few baby frogs on the boardwalk while I was there.

I removed the curly dock to the northwest of the boardwalk. I estimate that I have now cleared about 50° of the pool (as measured from the center).

On the way out, a baby king snake was crossing the trail just ahead of me. I waited for the little snake to make its way off the trail.

I revisited the Multiuse Trail just to confirm the id of the violet snapdragon, observing the interesting long pedicel connecting the flower to the stem.

2001 June 12 (Day 114): Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail, Multiuse (Wiashal) Trail. Conditions cloudy and cool (65° F) at the Vernal Pool Trailhead at noon, becoming sunny and pleasant later.

The Pool remains at full bloom, surrounded by the lovely fragrance of downingia. That bologna smell is becoming more evident as the button celery increases its bloom.

The Granite Loop and Multiuse Trails are still lovely with a wide variety of flowers. Interestingly, the showiness of the bloom overall has gone up in the last few weeks, after the decline from mid-April to the end of May.

I hiked with Elizabeth Schwartz today, and one of the things she enjoyed best was the sight of the "golden grasses waving in the breezes". Perversely, the grasses are so common that many people don't stop to take note of how beautiful they are! It was good to stop and revel in the display.

Elizabeth is very familiar with botanic gardens and native plant nurseries, and said she was delighted to see in the wild flowers she had only seen "in captivity"!

We saw perhaps a dozen species of butterflies, including a large one that flew right into my face as I was watching it approach.

2001 June 17 (Day 119): Vernal Pool Trail, Adobe Loop Trail, Punta Mesa Trail, Monument Hill Road, S. Trans Preserve Trail. Conditions hot, sunny and breezy: 91° F at 2:20 pm at the Visitor's Center; 86° F at 2:52 pm at the Vernal Pool Trailhead.

It felt more like 10-15° F cooler at the Vernal Pool Trailhead than at the Visitor's Center, due primarily to the stiff breeze. This breeze, and the levelness of the trail, made the hike comfortable enough.

The small pool closest to the trailhead has an almost complete ring of yellow due to slender tarweed. In contrast, the other small pool doesn't seem to have much yellow at all, and the Main Pool has only a path of yellow covering ~30° of its 360° perimeter.

The downingia nearest the boardwalk is now ending, going from full bloom five days ago to only 40% bloom today. The farthest patch, near the center of the Pool, appears to still be at full bloom. The button celery is still increasing its bloom. As a result, the first smell when you hit the boardwalk is now bologna from the celery, followed by the sweet smell of downingia.

Gnats were bothersome on the Punta Mesa Trail, making it unpleasant to stop and admire the plentiful flowers.

On Monument Hill Road west of Monument Hill itself, three small rectangular-sized burns were conducted last week for research, with sides of ~hundreds of yards. Each patch is a different size, with the largest patch ~(2-3 x 4) times larger on each side. One patch has a very small corner (~10' on a side) separately burned, separated by a mowed area from the main burn. The odor of a fresh burn is still pungent.

Interestingly, each burn had different degrees of completeness. The easternmost burn left some individual seed stalks of wild oats untouched, as well as some purple needle grass plumes. A ~3' x 6' patch remained completely unburned in the center as well. Outside of these anomalies, the rest of the vegetation looked to be completely burned.

2001 June 21 (Day 123): Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail, Waterline Road, Vista Grande Trail. Conditions warm and pleasant: 81° F at 3:59 pm at the Vernal Pool Trailhead.

There are only nine species of flowers blooming along the Vernal Pool Trail before the Pool, and most of them are nearly finished or just barely beginning. Such a contrast from the days when there were ten species blooming in the first 100 feet of the trail!

The show at the Main Pool is also over except for the button celery, which is still coming into full bloom. The downingia next to the Boardwalk is almost completely finished, and the brass buttons are completely gone. The slender tarweed is ending, with some patches of it finished. Consequently, the odor of bologna is strong, unmitigated by any other smells!

But the chaparral areas are still ablaze with bloom. The chamise, although ending, is still creating acres of white bloom. Interspersed throughout are lovely plants such as mustang mint, fringed Indian pink and the yellow Mariposa lily.

Along Waterline Road, at the creek crossing, is a cluster of different plants, such as Hooker's evening primrose, hedge nettle and seep monkeyflower. It is surprising to come across such a collection suddenly. Along the same drainage at its intersection with the Vista Grande Trail is a multitude of white-whorled lupine, most with their last few flowers. This was undoubtedly a stunning spot a month ago, and I made a mental note to catch the display here next year.

Unfortunately, there are numerous invasions of salsify along Waterline Road and the Vista Grande Trail. I nabbed the buds and seeds from four infestations and cut down the plants. But directly south of the Granite Loop Trail is a forest of salsify, with perhaps ~50 plants in full seed. It'll have to remain until another day, since it is past sunset when I get back to the car.

2001 June 25 (Day 127): Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail, Waterline Road. Conditions warm and pleasant, with a stiff breeze: 80° F at 2:40 pm at the Vernal Pool Trailhead.

The yellow ring due to slender tarweed around the small pool nearest the trailhead is fading to yellow / tan, and about half the slender tarweed at the Main Pool has finished blooming. The downingia bloom is nearly completely finished. The winecup clarkia (farewell-to-spring) is down to its last few blooms, and the sticky tarweed has opened its first blooms along the Vernal Pool Trail. The plants confirm that summer is here, right on time!

I spent over an hour removing curly dock south of the boardwalk. By doing so, I noticed that the curly dock was often associated with the "black upright sticks" found scattered about the pool. However, Zach Principe told me later that these black sticks were due to prickly lettuce from two years ago, when the lack of any water in the Pool caused prickly lettuce to nearly take over the Pool. I also pulled the loosestrife growing in the circle in the boardwalk, and found that it had choked out all the native plants in about four square feet.

I drove to the Visitor's Center, and hiked down Waterline Road to remove the salsify. I was utterly dismayed at the large numbers along Waterline Road even before the junction with the Granite Loop Trail, and was only able to remove 5-10% of the salsify in the forest below the junction. At least one snake kindly moved out of my way as I wended my way slowly through the tall grasses!

Even with gaiters, I had to spend 5-10 minutes getting the stickers out of my shoe laces and off the tongue of my boots. Experiences like this make one appreciate a good trail.

2001 June 29 (Day 131): Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail, Waterline Road. Conditions hot and sunny at the Visitor Center at 3 pm, becoming warm and pleasant after 5 pm.

Zach hiked with me to the Cole Creek crossing on Waterline Road, and we keyed out two plants: spike primrose and green dock. The skullcap eluded our keying; it turned out that it was because the information in Jepson was incomplete. I later found a webpage devoted to the species, and our skullcap exactly matched a rare subspecies not previously recorded at the SRP, the southern skullcap.

By the time we finished, the temperatures had cooled enough to make the hiking pleasant. The plant show is declining on the Granite Loop Trail, with the chamise, canchalagua, mustang mint and leafy daisy near their end. But the first bird's beak and sacopellote bloom has appeared, so another, but less spectacular, show will soon occur.

The slender tarweed display is nearly over at the pools. There is only a faint trace of yellow in the ring around the small pool near the trailhead, and it is very brown in and around the small pools. The Main Pool is still green; the button celery is nearly at full bloom; but the downingia is completely gone. There were ~50 baby frogs on the boardwalk, the first time in several weeks I had seen any frogs. Perhaps the strong odor of bologna attracts them back to the Pool!

The first tarantula of the season (seen by myself) was busy farther along the Vernal Pool Trail.

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Copyright © 2000-2001 by Tom Chester.
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Updated 20 September 2001.