Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Lake Berryessa

On Sunday my wonderful boyfriend and I went to Lake Berryessa. I don't remember ever having been to Lake Berryessa before, and it seems ridiculous for me not to have been there before, because I've always lived within a 1.5-hour drive of it, all my life, and for much of my life I lived within a 1-hour drive of it, and it's a pretty big and readily accessible lake to just randomly never go to. But now I've been to it. It was Barry's first visit there also, but his previous neglect of the place was more excusable than mine since he grew up in Arizona and only gradually worked his way north from there toward this end of the state.

I researched the trail options the night before the hike and quickly settled on two: the Smittle Creek trail, which is a fairly flat, 5-mile round-trip, out-and-back trail between Oak Shores Day Use Area and Smittle Creek Day Use Area, and the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, which is a rather steep, 4-mile loop trail at the far southeast end of the lake (the nearest end to us). I decided on the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, because it was nearer to us. However, when we arrived, we found that the trail was closed , shut off behind a chain-link fence for repairs.

So we decided to look for the Smittle Creek trail instead. However, we were already out of range of cellphone signals, and we remained out of range for the rest of the drive, so Barry's cellphone would not give us directions. What it did do was show where we were going (using GPS) and where our intended destination was. It just didn't tells us where any of the streets were between us and our intended destination. But we set out to find our own way, using tried-and-true methods such as "Look for a right turn somewhere. If you see a right turn, take it." Barry was driving, and I was watching our GPS dot move around on his cellphone. Eventually we found the correct turnoff - actually, we found our way all the way from Stebbins Cold Canyon trail to Smittle Creek trail without taking a single wrong turn at any point, and with no particular stress at all over getting lost. Barry even said he likes getting a little lost now and then. This is a very desirable attitude to have when lost. I feel that I have now confirmed that Barry is a good person to get lost with.

This is a basic view of the lake from along the trail, before I get into the chronology of the pictures I took.

Lake Berryessa from the Smittle Creek trail

We parked at Oak Shores day use area, because it was closer than Smittle Creek day use area, and the trail ran between the two. Oak Shores turned out to be quite large, though, and the location of the trail was not immediately apparent. We walked around a bit, and the first thing I noticed was hillsides covered with yellow mariposa lilies (Calochortus luteus).

Calochortus luteus (yellow mariposa lily)

I grow them at home, in a pot on my patio.

Calochortus luteus (yellow mariposa lily)

But I'd never seen so many of them at once before.

Calochortus luteus (yellow mariposa lily) and Brodiaea elegans (harvest clusterlily)

Mixed in with them, toward the bottom left of the picture above, were a few harvest cluster-lilies (Brodiaea elegans). I grow these too.

Brodiaea elegans (harvest clusterlily)

In the lake was an oddly shaped island, like a hat with a wide brim.

island at Oak Shores day use area

We didn't see the trail, though We got back in Barry's truck, and he drove further along the parking lot, looking for either a way back to the main road (so we could drive to Smittle Creek day use area and look for the other end of the trail) or a trailhead. We finally found the trailhead, at the north end of Oak Shores day use area, and set out along the trail. The trail began by curving around this picnic table, which Barry pronounced "the loneliest picnic table."

picnic table at Oak Shores day use area

Barry took a picture of me.

me on the Smittle Creek trail

And I took a picture of him. Look, it's my beautiful boyfriend!


He took another one of me.

me on the Smittle Creek trail

There were blue flowers everywhere. Most of them were Ithuriel's spears (Triteleia laxa), another plant I grow in pots on my patio at home. I'd never seen so many of these in one place either.

Triteleia laxa (Ithuriel's spear)

There were also quite a few twining snakelilies (Dichelostemma volubile). This one is twining around the stem of a yarrow plant (Achillea millefolium).

Dichelostemma volubile (twining snakelily)

These are two more twining snakelilies. They're usually pink. I didn't realize they could be white, but there was definitely a mutant white one here.

Dichelostemma volubile (twining snakelily)

The Ithuriel's spears were the most numerous, though.

Triteleia laxa (Ithuriel's spear)

Practically the whole trail was lined with them!

Triteleia laxa (Ithuriel's spear)

Here's an annual I grow in my garden: blue globe gilyflower (Gilia capitata). I'd never seen one in the wild before. The ones in the wild were paler and had slightly smaller flowerheads than the ones in my garden. Probably the ones sold for gardens have been selected for larger size and more intense color.

Gilia capitata (blue globe gilia)

Chinese pagodas (Collinsia heterophylla) are another annual I grow at home and had never seen in the wild before. These, though, looked exactly like the ones in my yard.

Collinsia heterophylla (Chinese pagodas)

They seemed to grow in occasional big clumps, but never scattered between the clumps. There weren't all that many overall, but where there were any, there were many.

Collinsia heterophylla (Chinese pagodas)

These are woolly sunflowers (Eriophyllum lanatum), a perennial I've grown in my garden in the past. I don't grow them anymore because mine were never very pretty - they tended to produce about six stems, each of which would be three feet long and lying close to the ground with one flower on the end, and it just added up to taking up a lot of space with very bare stems. For some reason the ones in the wild were all much shorter and denser and more upright and more covered in flowers. It's probably something to do with the drainage. They were on dry slopes in the wild; they may have gotten too much water in my garden.

Eriophyllum lanatum (woolly sunflower)

Here's a plant I've never grown: silverpuffs (Uropappus lindleyi). They're related to dandelions, as you might guess from the seedhead here, but their seedheads are less fluffy than those of dandelions - more sculptural.

Uropappus lindleyi (silverpuffs)

This next plant is a larkspur (Delphinium sp.), but I'm not sure which species. I'd never seen a white larkspur before. This is probably a white variant of a species that is more commonly blue, because most of the species around here are typically blue but sometimes white.

Delphinium sp. (larkspur)

And here's another plant I've never grown: whiskerbrush (Leptosiphon ciliatus).

Leptosiphon ciliatus (whiskerbrush)

There were some impressive flowers up in the trees too, on the California buckeye trees (Aesculus californica).

Aesculus californica (California buckeye)

Here's a closer view of a California buckeye. I have one of these at home too, but mine is tiny.

Aesculus californica (California buckeye)

The oak trees were also decorative, since they were heavily draped with lichen.

lichen hanging from an oak tree

The last 0.7 miles before we arrived at Smittle Creek day use area were set up as a self-guided wilderness trail, with little numbered posts so you could look up the number on the post in an informational booklet and read about whatever was located at that post. We didn't have the informational booklet, though, so I just started looking at whatever was there and announcing to Barry whatever I thought the booklet ought to say. Like this: "12. Yellow pine tree with woodpecker holes in the bark and acorns stored in the holes. 11. Uh . . . that manzanita there? 10. Smittle Creek flows into the lake here. 9. A box for owls or some other kind of bird to nest in. It looks kind of small for most owls. 8. A bench to sit on and look at the lake and make out with your boyfriend. Let's follow the instructions!"

We didn't see anyone else on the trail at all. We did see a few people at Smittle Creek Day Use Area when we arrived there, but we didn't see any at Oak Shores. We ate lunch at Smittle Creek Day Use Area and then walked back the same way we had come. The return hike went much faster than the way there, because on the way there I had been stopping constantly to photograph things, whereas on the way back, I just zoomed through it all. Barry adapted readily to my speed in both cases; he let me stop as often as I wanted on the way there, and then kept up with me capably on the way back. He is a great hiking partner.

trail near Smittle Creek day use area

On the way back, Barry spotted a dying butterfly. It's a pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor), a native species whose caterpillars can only eat native California pipevine (Aristolochia californica). Barry and I both have California pipevine planted in our yards (I planted his), so we are doing our part to save the species. This particular swallowtail was not saveable, though. It couldn't fly, and it fell over on its side as I was trying to photograph it.

Battus philenor (pipevine swallowail)

In conclusion, Lake Berryessa is a great place for a hike, and Barry is a great person to hike there with. Here are two panoramic photos I took at a single spot along the trail.

Lake Berryessa from the Smittle Creek trail

Lake Berryessa from the Smittle Creek trail
Tags: barry, native plants, photographs
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