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The Mono-logue » Blog Archive » The REAL hidden gems of the Mono Basin and Sierra Nevada

The REAL hidden gems of the Mono Basin and Sierra Nevada

August 7th, 2015 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Sarah Angulo, 2015 Mono Lake Intern.

It’s the middle of summer, and most people have been busy exploring the great fishing spots here in the Eastern Sierra, or spending sun-filled days in the crystal-clear waters swimming all day, or enjoying the company of friends and family beside views of the mountains. While all these things are a must for a summer spent in the Sierra, oftentimes the best part is overlooked (quite literally): the flowers!

If you make it to the top of a Sierra peak, you may be able to see…. sky pilot! Photo by

If you make it to the top of a Sierra peak, you may be able to see…. sky pilot! Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Yes, the flowers may be small and low to the ground, but they deserve to be gawked at as much as the huge mountains on which they grow. In the world of the small, gazing deep into the colors and shapes and patterns of flowers, one can gain a greater connection and appreciation for the work of nature. How these little things have diversified so extensively over time boggles the mind. You can achieve this sense of wonder simply by stopping for a moment or two just to look at them. And luckily, here on the eastside, there are many different opportunities to do just that.

If you spend enough time here, you’ll come to find that there are endless places to explore. From desert to peak, there is something for everyone. No matter where you go, be sure to bring your field guide with you—it will help you become a better botanist. Along with your guide, bring a friend! Together you can struggle through the mysteries of identification and you’ll have an extra pair of eyes to spot a new flower. And with practice, it will soon become easy to recognize some of your favorites blooming throughout the Sierra. Two easy-to-use books for beginners include the Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws, and Wildflowers of the Eastern Sierra and Adjoining Mojave Desert and Great Basin by Laird Blackwell.

While most of the state has the best blooms in the springtime, you’re in luck—the time to see wildflowers in the Sierra is right now. With the recent rains, the flowers have had a new chance to emerge and are putting on a spectacular show. To get you started, here are a few of my own favorites I’ve encountered on my hikes throughout the summer. They can all be found in the Mono Basin and its surrounding watershed, so keep your eyes out! Next time you go on a hike, maybe you’ll be able to recognize a few.

In the desert landscape near Mono Lake, these flowers are quite large and can hardly be missed. Stop for a bit to watch all the insects crawling around in their forests of stamen.

Prickly poppy. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Prickly poppy. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Giant blazing star. Photo by Erica Stephens.

Giant blazing star. Photo by Erica Stephens.

Ascending into one of the many canyons, you’ll start seeing some small, but nonetheless beautiful, flowers that are worthy of notice:

Wallflower. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Wallflower. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Dwarf mimulus. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Dwarf mimulus. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

In the meadows one can find….

Western blue flag. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Western blue flag. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Meadow penstemon. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Meadow penstemon. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

And along the creeks and riparian zones….

Scarlet gilia. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Scarlet gilia. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Crimson columbine. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Crimson columbine. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Alpine lily. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Alpine lily. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

White rein orchid. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

White rein orchid. Photo by Sarah Angulo.

Finally, once you’ve made it to the top of the peak, the lucky ones will be able to see sky pilot, pictured at the top of this post.

These are just a few of the flowers you could come across on a hike here. Add your favorites to the comments below, and keep exploring! You never know what you might find.

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2 Responses to “The REAL hidden gems of the Mono Basin and Sierra Nevada”

  1. avatar Laurel Hoggan Says:

    Thank you for listing the names of the flowers! This was so nice of you to take and post these beautiful pictures and include the flower names. It would be nice to keep this post archived in the “Mono.logue” for ref use for all summer explorers throughout the years. What a lovely gift you have shared!

  2. avatar Richard Beebe Says:

    There was a song back in the 1960s by a British band called King Crimson. I have long carried one of the lines…

    “…a gardener plants an evergreen
    whilst trampling on a flower…”

    I make a point while out on the trail to occasionally look down to see what things are living there at my feet.

    Nice words and photos, Sarah!