Observations of the Main Vernal Pools on the Mesa de Colorado in 1998 - 1999

Introduction to this page.

The plot below shows the pool depth (green) versus time at the boardwalk, which is at the edge of the pool. Hence the depth at the center of the pool is slightly greater than reported here. The plot also shows the total rainfall (blue) at my house in Fallbrook, 11 miles south.

(Click on graph for bigger and better image.)

1998 November 20: The pools look "mowed" from a distance, compared to the tall dead grasses left over from last spring. Last year at this time the ground was nearly bare after the burn, leaving a clean field for short wildflowers to bloom. This year I wonder if the short guys have a chance to bloom.

1998 December 27: No water in any pools yet. No flowers blooming that I could see.

1999 January 28: No water in any pools yet, but of course none is expected until we get about 8" of rain, and we're only halfway there. I saw exactly one ground pink plant that had just started to bloom, just above the adobes on the Lomas Trail, and exactly one patch of shooting stars. The shooting stars were only visible because of the trail. Except just at the edge of the trail, the tall dead grasses completely obscured them. Some of the flowers on the shooting stars were already finished, but there were other plants that had not yet grown a flower stalk.

Trails are in good shape, except parts of the adobe trail are somewhat muddy and slippery.

1999 February 16: Still no water in any pools yet, and still none is expected until we get about 8" of rain. We're getting close - 6.5" in Fallbrook now. The last two years it took just under 8" of rain in Fallbrook to fill up the pools. It is interesting that the last rain did create standing water just on the other side of Avocado Mesa Rd.

The flowers this year are a pale imitation of the blooms last year. Last year, it was worth driving a significant distance in order to see the bloom. This year the bloom itself is hardly worth much effort.

Even if the blooms were as numerous as last year, in most places the tall dead grasses would obscure any patches. Burning off last year's vegetation gives a clear boost to the ability to view wildflowers, as well as removing some of their competition.

Goldfields are now blooming, as are shooting stars, on the way to the main pool. More shooting stars are found toward the adobes after leaving the main pool.

1999 March 18: Short of a flood in the remaining tiny part of the rainy season, there are not going to be any vernal pools this year, which amazes and chastens me, since I have written that:

it looks like it is a pretty good bet that this vernal pool gets 8" of rain in a given year.
Oh, well, live and learn. I'll have to take more seriously the caveat that I gave, but dismissed, on that page!

Fortunately, the bloom is looking pretty good now, better than my pessimistic assessment in February. I found the following in bloom, with each flower listed only for its first appearance as I hiked the following trails:

TrailPlants Blooming
Vernal Pool Trail to Vernal PoolGoldfields, ground pinks, popcorn flower, blue dick, 'yellow johnny-jump-up', filagree, checker mallow, shooting star, buttercup, California poppy, mustard
Vernal Pool to Adobes TrailPearly everlasting, blue grass
Monument HillLupine
Punte Mesa TrailCalifornia Lilac, hoary-leaf ceanothus, purple nightshade
Adobe Loop Trail'upright catkins tree'
Trans-Preserve TrailWild cucumber

The displays are actually pretty good in places, if still not on the scale of last year's displays. Buttercups and goldfields form fields of colors in places, with some nice displays of shooting stars and the 'yellow johnny-jump-up'.

1999 April 16: The vernal pools are still dry, and the recent heat spell undoubtedly dooms any possibility that they will fill up this year. It is curious that the rain of last week and a month ago both left water standing just south of Avocado Mesa Road (at end of Via Volcano Road), but no water in the pools.

There are now some fields of bloom that are quite good. In many different locations, there are fields of pink mallow, blue-eyed grass, and buttercups that are well-worth seeing.

I found the following in bloom, with each flower listed only for its first appearance as I hiked the following trails, except for some of the notable fields of bloom:

TrailPlants Blooming
Vernal Pool Trail to Vernal PoolOwl's clover, goldfields, tall popcorn flower, buttercup, mallow, ground pinks, California poppy, dwarf lupine, mustard, filagree (though it is mostly in seed)
Vernal Pool to Adobes TrailBlue dick, shooting star (most were in fat seed, but some were still blooming!), everlasting, purplish-pink sweet pea, fields of blue-eyed grass, fields of buttercups, 'yellow johnny-jump-up'
Hidden Valley RoadFields of blue-eyed grass and mallow.
Los Santos TrailField of lupine, fields of blue-eyed grass and fields of mallow.

I nearly stepped on a snake (non-rattler) on the trail from the Vernal Pool to the Adobes.

For the first time, I clearly saw the Eastside Reservoir west dam, and the "ring road" on the north that will be just above the elevation of the water, from the Gerkin memorial bench at the "overlook" at the end of the Los Santos Trail.

1999 May 6: The Vernal Pools are green, not a hint of any other color. The Boardwalk at the main pool looks good again, repaired from the vandalism which had lifted up some of the support legs.

Despite the lack of rain, there are still a number of flowers blooming, including fields of lupine at peak bloom, and fields of blue-eyed grass and buttercups that are reaching the end of their peak display. The blooms observed by me, listed as above, are:

TrailPlants Blooming
Vernal Pool Trail to Vernal PoolTall popcorn flower, short lupine, mustard, goldfields, owl's clover, blue dick, California poppy, everlasting, blue-eyed grass.
Vernal Pool to Adobes TrailLupine, purple sweet pea, black sage. There is a stunning display of a hedge of 3 deep blue California Lilac in peak bloom at the adobes.
Adobe Loop TrailPoison Oak, tree trumpet
Punte Mesa Trail"Bladder pod" vine, with ending flowers and beginning pods, a few blooms of hoary-leaf ceanothus on plants that mostly are in the green seed pod stage, deerweed, red monkey flower, fat buds on thistles, a ~5' delphinium-like plant with a salmon-colored flower.
Trans-Preserve TrailA field of lupine on the east slope of Poppy Hill, a 2' high strawberry plant!

Buffalo gnats (aka black flies) bothered me a bit on the Punte Mesa Trail, but were largely absent elsewhere.

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Copyright © 1999-2000 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 7 May 1999.