T. Chester's Trip Reports For Dripping Springs Trail: 2003 - 2004 Season

1999 - 2000 season
2000 - 2001 season
2001 - 2002 season
2002 - 2003 season

26 January 2004
6 April 2004

See Dripping Springs Trail for a general introduction to this trail. These comments relate only specifics appropriate to a given hike. All mileages below are referenced to the Plant Guide.

Trip Reports

26 January 2004


I hiked to mile 4.82 of this trail, and, unfortunately, the most interesting thing was to see which plants are growing, and which plants are not.

When I was last on this trail, on 12/3/03, almost two months ago, essentially no annuals had germinated anywhere. Hence I surmised that most of this trail didn't get much of the inch of rain we got in Fallbrook on 11/12-13.

The trail must then have gotten some significant rain on 12/25-26, when Fallbrook got 1.2 inches, since some annuals have germinated in a few places:

The spike moss has mostly gone back to sleep.

So unless it rains significantly soon, these annuals may skip the year again here, like they did during the drought. (I don't know if they will germinate from March rains, for example. I'll bet a number of these species wouldn't germinate from August rains, so I don't know how they decide conditions are not right to germinate.)

Some perennials are growing; some are not. Only a few of the many soap plants have baby leaves; most have none. None of the lomatiums or Mariposa lilies have any leaves. Only a very few blue dicks leaves are up, and only a few of the deerweed have leafed out. Most of the numerous wild cucumber on this trail has taken a pass so far; I estimate fewer than 10% are actively growing.

But golden yarrow has leafed out everywhere, as have most of the Solanum parishii and the Keckiella antirrhinoides^2. The one patch of jepsonia has a fair number of leaves.

But if we don't get rain soon, even the Chaenactis et al may give up the ghost.

Other highlights:

6 April 2004


Of course, we did not get much rain, and things were pretty dry everywhere. In fact, it was ironic that the Dripping Springs Campground had just begun its normal Arroyo Toad Spring Closure (the trail is still open). In this dry year, I doubt that there were ever any pools of water in which they could breed.

But even though the rain was minimal, the rain we got in February and March was enough to create a pretty good show, at least in the locations where annuals had germinated. It looks like the February rains germinated some additional annuals as well, especially on the shady north slopes.

James Dillane and I found so many annuals in bloom, ones that I hadn't seen before for the guide, that we struggled to get out of the campground area and onto the trail! Everywhere we looked there was something new and interesting.

I had never botanized this trail post-January in a non-severe-drought year, so it was just a delight to see all the annuals, and even some new perennials on the trail.

The gilias and linanthus took my breath away in places, with almost solid color. They provided the best displays by far. If the id for the linanthus doesn't turn out to be showy linanthus, I'll be shocked!

Three perennials took me by surprise as well:

But the very best treat of the day was finding southern goldfields, Lasthenia coronaria. James immediately recognized them, and I was immensely pleased that I finally got to see this species after seeing zillions of goldfields, Lasthenia californica.

After emerging from the canyon and achieving the top of the open area, there were still essentially no annuals at all. After the delights below, it was sad to see even the geophytes hardly producing any leaves. Most of the soap lilies and Mariposa lilies are skipping this year for any growth at all.

But more delights awaited on the switchbacks up the northwest slopes to the next level. A patch of Indian paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa, was showing off its best colors, almost mocking me for never discovering the plants there before. The best surprise was perhaps a hundred small-flowered meconella, Meconella denticulata, in full bloom in one spot!

I was way too busy recording the new species to keep track of all the species in bloom. My guess is that was a minimum of 60 species in bloom, and perhaps significantly more.

We picked a good day to do the trail. The temperature was probably around 70° F. Since we were in the shade of the campground most of the time, it was quite pleasant. The bugs were fairly annoying, but not bad enough to ruin the botanizing.

We came across two king snakes, who we almost missed due to intensive botanizing!

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Copyright © 2004 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 6 April 2004.