Despite drought, Lake Tahoe wildflowers are blooming | Toree’s Stories | SierraSun.com

Despite drought, Lake Tahoe wildflowers are blooming | Toree’s Stories

Toree Warfield
Special to the Sun

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Wildflowers seem to be in denial of the drought at Lake Tahoe, because they can be found in abundance along just about every trail. Even the basic, rather dusty trail I walk along every day is alive with a profusion of color. Perhaps the generous May rains are responsible.

I've always been an avid walker, and though I don't often have time for a real hike, I get out into the woods every single day, no matter what the weather.

Sometimes I bring the binoculars to scout out birds, other times the camera, but I'm always on the lookout for what is growing on the ground or foraging in the trees.

One of my favorite flowers is the pennyroyal, and I'm quite certain this year is a bumper crop. I usually see a few here and there but this year there are hundreds all along the trail, vast seas of perky purple blossoms. In addition to their beauty, they have a delightful minty smell.

My long-time friend, Franny Bryan, is fortunate to be able to take the hikes that I cannot but is kind enough to share the numerous photographs she captures along the way.

One of her favorite hiking areas is the meadows at the top of Mount Rose Highway, also known as State Route 431. Franny often can be found here exploring the meadow as it is easily accessible and close by.

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A simple hike that is popular with families is the Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail located at the Mount Rose Meadow. It's about a mile in length, is flat and complete with marked trails, pathways and board walk bridges.

For those who desire a longer and more strenuous hike, head through the meadow and enter the forest, following signs toward the Tahoe Rim Trail. This path follows the ridgeline to Tunnel Creek Road with wildflowers along the way and fabulous peeks of Lake Tahoe.

For this hike, leave a car at Tunnel Creek Café or double back to the meadow for a good long walk. This trail is open to mountain bikes on even numbered days of the month, so if you would rather avoid that, the best time to hit this trail will be on the odd numbered days.

It is 9.2 miles from the Meadows to Tunnel Creek Road which is a nice two- or three-hour hike at basically a steady elevation. The hardest part, I think, is coming down at the end!

A similar hike that remains at a steady elevation is along the Flume Trail, access above the lookout on Mount Rose Highway. It's not easy to see but drive up past the first lookout on the left and continue around the curve until you reach the next large turn out on the left side of the road and park there. Cross the road and backtrack a short distance until you see the dirt road heading up.

I adore walking in the woods and find myself thirsting for the knowledge of the flora along the way. So I take the best pictures I can, making sure to include the foliage, load them onto the computer and begin the search. I have not found an online source for identifying wild flowers but if anyone knows of one, please let me know.

Instead, I pour through three guidebooks: "The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada," which has sections on fungi, trees, flowers, insects, fish, amphibians, birds and mammals.

Also "Tahoe Wildflowers — a Month-by-Month Guide" and "Sierra Nevada Wildflowers," both are Falcon Guides. I find almost every flower in one or all three of these books. See my website saveourplanetearth.com for links to purchase these books on Amazon.com.

A friend showed me a rather hidden place that is loaded with wildflowers, such as the Western wallflower, a yellow blossomed biennial and fleabane, a blue daisy-like flower with a bright yellow center, the white-headed mountain pennyroyal and white lupine, just to name a few.

If you are heading up Mount Rose Highway from Incline Village, pass the pullout where you hit the Flume Trail to the next large pullout on the right side of the road.

I actually park there, cross the road and walk up about 100 yards to an unmarked dirt road, which you can also drive in on. Here you will find hundreds of wildflowers all along the path.

The dirt road ends with a view of the lake, and a choice of paths to follow to different areas, which I have not yet explored.

Toree Warfield is an avid nature lover, and writes this column to teach and stimulate interest in the marvels that surround us. See the new website: saveourplanetearth.com to read columns and to find links to bird song recordings, additional photos and other content.