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The Mono-logue » Blog Archive » Mono Basin high country in bloom

Mono Basin high country in bloom

July 13th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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A Hermit Thrush is perched low and well hidden in a Western Hemlock, singing his ethereal sonata that is simultaneously uplifting and sad. His song echoes through the pines, drifts out over Tioga Lake, and wafts up towards Mt. Dana.

Mountain heather, Phyllodoce breweri, and granite. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Mountain heather, Phyllodoce breweri, and granite. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Sierra Whorled Penstemon, Penstemon heterodoxus. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Sierra whorled penstemon, Penstemon heterodoxus. Photo by Nora Livingston.

This is the perfect setting to wander a trail and discover a new Sierra wildflower every few steps. We find mountain heather, Western wallflower, Sierra whorled penstemon, and pussypaws, wander a bit further and discover a large patch of pinemat manzanita with tiny white bells mere millimeters off the ground.

We hop across a tiny snowmelt creek and hear a pika calling. We quickly find it with our binoculars and marvel at this alpine creature, whose life depends on the hard work of harvest and the pre-planning of hay storage for winter food. Onwards, we find sticky cinquefoil, mountain pride, and prickly phlox, among others. Someone in the group spots a family of Gray-crowned Rosy-finches, a very special high Sierra treat. Here for a minute and then gone, we watch them fly until they are specks.

Elephant's Head, Pedicularis groenlandica. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Elephant’s head, Pedicularis groenlandica. Photo by Nora Livingston.

We finally arrive at a boggy area of the trail where my favorite flower, elephant’s head, is blooming right on the trail, next to Sierra rein-orchid and McCloskey’s violet, all delicate and awe-inspiring. Our plant list grows (and the number of mosquitoes, too) and we’ve all learned quite a bit about the blooms that we’ve walked by many times before in years past, but hadn’t yet become more than acquaintances. Now they seem like old friends.

Sierra Rein-orchid, Platanthera dilatata var. leucostachys. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Sierra rein-orchid, Platanthera dilatata var. leucostachys. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Join us on one of our upcoming Wildflower Waltz guided trips or Natural History Rambles, where we will get to know the flowers that light up the Sierra trails and Mono Basin streams.

Wildflower Waltz: July 14, 8:00am–12:00noon. $65 for members, $75 for non-members. Sign-up today!

Natural History Ramble: July 17, 8:00am–12:00noon. $65 for members, $75 for non-members. Sign-up today!

Wildflower Waltz: July 21, 8:00am–12:00noon. $65 for members, $75 for non-members. Sign-up today!


One Response to “Mono Basin high country in bloom”

  1. avatar Suzanne Scholton Says:

    One of our favorite hikes to check out the wildflowers! It has shown us so many examples of our Sierra wildflowers. Great view as well. Wish we could have been there.