Rambler on the Road – The Interviews

No wild onions were injured in the capturing of this photo

The original plan was to hike each day, upload the pics when I got home and then post that evening.  Well here at the Sierra Suns condos my upload time has gone from 10 seconds per picture to 10 minutes.

I was going to save this interview until the middle of the trip but since I had it all ready I think you will enjoy the intro.  When I called the Mono Lake visitor’s center and asked for the local native plant guru Cathy Rose was the name I was given.  She wrote back immediately and was happy to answer my questions.

> 1.  Your favorite local native Tree/Shrub/Wildflower

My favorite East Side tree, Foxtail Pine (Pinus balfouriana, subsp. austrina), is best seen on the Robinson Lake trail in the Onion Valley area above Independence. I am fond of it because of its beauty, its association with the Bristlecone, and its relative rarity. It is a California endemic.

Foxtail Pine

I also admire the Foxtail of the north, Pinus balfouriana subsp. balfouriana, and I have climbed Mt. Eddy to see it.   I am keenly interested in shrubs. Cliff Bush (Jamesia americana), while common in the high canyons above Bishop, is  harder to find in Rock Creek. The northernmost single plant that I have found grows along the trail at Convict Lake. It  bursts forth from a tangle of old roots growing right out of rock. It is blooming now. Jamesia is a monotypic genus, which makes the plant even more interesting.

Cliff bush

I like tiny alpine plants. Early in the season, right now in fact, one can find Sibbaldia procumbens in many subalpine and alpine locations. Like Potentilla, which it resembles, it is a member of the Rose family, but the five minute yellow petals and the trifoliolate leaf are unique. it is a Linnaean plant, which means that Linnaeus first described it, probably from collections made in Lapland.

Creeping sibbaldia

> 2.  Favorite local hiking trails (no need to give away any secret ones…)

I have long been intrigued by the Convict basin, and over the years I have hiked to all the Convict Creek Lakes as well as Bright Dot and the lakes that feed Genevieve Creek. I have climbed Laurel Mountain and Mt. Morrison, the two magnificent peaks that loom over Convict Lake.

Mt. Morrison and Convict Lake

At the point at which Genevieve Creek runs into Convict Creek, there is a dangerous crossing, but this year the creek is low, and it is a good time to try it.  The walk around Convict Lake is easy and always rich in life. Beyond that, the going is difficult, but the rewards are great.
> 3.  Most despised invasive non-native

I am sad to say that Common Dandelion is now inching its way up into subalpine areas.
> 4.  Important local “green” organizations that you support or work with?

I support local conservation organizations including the Mono Lake Committee, Eastern Sierra Audubon, the Eastern Sierra Land Trust, and Friends of the Inyo. I particularly admire the work of Friends of the Inyo because they actually have a dialogue with the off-roaders and have made some progress in establishing sensible road rules.
> 5.  Rare plants/blooms to be on the lookout for?

I had a great time on a treasure hunt for Sand Lily (Leucocrinum montanum) in the Glass Mountains just east of here.  That’s another monotypic genus, and this location may be the southernmost in the state.

Sand lily

> 6.  Native plants that are slowly disappearing

I’m more concerned about birds disappearing. The plants seem to be holding their own, except for some serious die-offs among the Whitebark Pines (Pinus albicaulis).
> 7.  Biggest threat to local ecosystems and plant habitats

Water is always the number one problem in California, and the Mono Lake Committee and other organizations are trying to restrain DWP from using too much. Mono Lake is saved, but what about the falling ground water table?
> 8.  So many different “vegetative zones” in the Eastern Sierra, have a
> favorite?  Any reason?

When I was younger, the alpine zone was my favorite, probably because my mentor, Carl Sharsmith, specialized in the high, wild places, and I enjoyed following him in Yosemite. However, now that I am 77, I am taking it a little more easily, and I spend most of my time in the subalpine areas, especially Rock Creek, which is closest to where I live.

Thanks Cathy, and I hope to have pictures up tomorrow from our first hike up Glass Creek, just south of June Lake.

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