Wild Flowers in the Sierras. Beauty at 7500 feet above Lake Tahoe wildflowers flourish in harsh conditions.
Just a few of the Fabulous Flowers
Harsh Environment, delicate flowers
The majestic Sierra mountain range runs along the West side of Lake Tahoe and reach 14,490 ft at their highest point, Mount Whitney many miles away in Southern California. The Sierras around Lake Tahoe are about 10,000 ft above sea level. My favorite walk is along an old flume trail, carved out of the mountainside at around 7500 ft. It was originally a small canal of wood sidings held in place by a bed of large stones. The stones are mainly still in place and some of the old planks lie around the area. The path is littered with old nails that used to hold the flume together. The flume was used to float timber down to a sawmill many miles away. It was built by Chinese work men and there is an area near by called Chinese Camp. It is mind boggling to think of the labor required to build such an intricate system of flumes high up in the mountains with such rarefied air. They must have been very tough people.
In perfect contrast are the drifts of wild flowers that grow there, appearing unscathed after a long winter hidden under many feet of snow. No sooner has the snow gone than out pop the flowers. The fragile flowers are an amazing contrast to the stony, gritty soil that they cling to, displaying cameos of beauty along the way. Even dead flower heads make a stunning display at the end of a hot summer, their job done but going out in a blaze of glory. It would be very difficult to find a backdrop more stunning than the distant azure waters of Lake Tahoe glistening in the sun, over a thousand feet below. Vivid red Indian Paintbrush contrast with the beautiful blue of the Forget Me Not. Cheeky yellow Mules Ears cover barren hillsides .
As you descend to the little stream down below, the flora changes as wetlands provide damp succor to daisy like Marsh Marigolds and other lush flowers. Huge stands of Californian Corn Lilies stride across the water meadows with the occasional Skunk Cabbage, the downfall of many a pioneering family who tried to eat them with deadly consequences. Sweet little Star Gazers so called because they point their flower heads up to the sky when they have been fertilized. Sweet little Elephant heads grow at the water's edge. The flower head sports a "trunk" and two big ears, like an elephant in tiny purple detail.
This is just a few of the beautiful flowers found in the Sierras in late Spring. A hike along mountain trails at this time of the year brings bounteous rewards with the beauty of the flowers as well as the breathtaking scenery. Well worth the effort!
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