Report on the July 20-21, 2019 Field Trip to the Gold Lakes Basin

Led by Susan Chalpin, Redbud Chapter of CNPS

Written by Susan Schlosser

ROUTE: Round Lake Trailhead (6600’) – Round Lake Mine – Round Lake (6714’) – Silver Lake (6640’) – Cub Lake –Little Bear Lake (6500’) – Big Bear Lake (6475’) – Round Lake Trailhead

A group of Marin, East Bay, and Redbud CNPS Chapter members visited in the Gold Lakes Basin in the northern Sierra Nevada for a long weekend. This field trip was like a treasure hunt; there were so many flowers.

We began at the Round Lake Trailhead for an all day field trip. This wonderful wildflower and hiking area is located in the Plumas National Forest. Our field trip was approximately 6 miles long with a 1500-foot elevation gain.  The trail to the Round Lake Mine site is along the former mine road to the Round Lake Mine. We appreciated the stonework completed during the mining days, especially on the last mile ascending to Round Lake Mine.  The Round Lake Mine and surrounding craggy peaks are composed of quartz-porphyry. This igneous rock contains deposits of gold within quartz veins. These deposits are found as fissures in the rock formed during mountain building processes.  The mine is now closed and the shaft is filled in. The trail down from the mine, along the shores of Round, Silver, Cub, Little Bear, and Big Bear Lakes, is boulder strewn, has numerous creek crossings, and incredible wildflowers and views. Habitats along our route include forest, gravel flats, moist areas, and mountain chaparral habitats.

The trail starts in on a north-facing slope among a red fir (Abies magnifica), Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jefferyi) and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana) forest. We barely took a step before stopping to admire spotted coral root orchids (Corallorhiza maculata), gay penstemon (Penstemon laetus), wandering daisy (Erigeron peregrinus var. angustifolius) and white-veined shingle leaf (Pyrola picta).  Other forest plants we saw included western fat solomon seal (Maianthemum racemosum), dwarf lousewort (Pedicularis semibarbata), nodding microseris (Microseris nutans), snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea), mountain forget-me-not (Hackelia nervosa), Torrey’s collinsia (Collinsia torreyi), mountain pennyroyal (Mondardella odoratissima) and spurred lupine (Lupinus arbustus).

Highlights of gravel flats areas were large areas of California helianthella (Helianthella californica var. nevadensis), King’s sandwort (Eremogone kingii var. glabrescens), mountain pretty face (Triteleia ixiodes), sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa), sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum), Anderson’s lupine (Lupinus andersonii), woolly mule ears (Wyethia mollis), bilobed larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum), spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), wild peony (Paeonia brownii), scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata), Bridge’s gilia (Navarretia leptalea), stonecrop (Sedum obtusatum), giant red paintbrush (Castilleja miniata),  granite gilia (Linanthus pungens), spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa), and Mariposa lily (Calochortus leichtlinii).  Wild gardens at individual gravel flats had beautiful combinations of wildflowers in huge fragrant masses.

Moist areas included streamside, lakeside and wet meadow areas. Plants we saw in these habitats include bog lupine (Lupinus polyphyllum), corn lily (Veratrum californicum), meadow rue (Thalictrum fendleri), creek dogwood (Cornus sericea), elk clover (Aralia californica), columbine (Aquilegia formosa), red mountain heather (Phyllodoce breweri), streambank lotus (Hosackia oblongifolia), alpine knotweed (Aconogonon phytolaccifolium), plantain buttercup (Ranunculus alismifolius), Sierra laurel (Leucothoe davisae), western Labrador tea (Rhododendron columbianum), western azalea (Rhododendron occidentalis), leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum),  white bog orchid (Platanthera dilitata var. leucostachys), and mountain ash (Sorbus californica).

Mountain chaparral plants were found above the forest area.  Some beautiful species were snow bush (Ceanothus cordulatus), tobacco brush (Ceanothus velutinus), alder leaf serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), alpine paintbrush (Castilleja nana), pine-mat manzanita (Arctostaphylos nevadensis), greenleaf manazanita (Arctostaphylos patula), huckleberry oak (Quercus vaccinifolia), bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata), Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum), ballhead sandwort (Eremogone congesta) and pride of the mountain (Penstemon newberryi).

Everyone enjoyed the field trip. The company was fabulous. The weather was perfect and the flowers were abundant and fascinating. 

Plant List for the trip.

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