Friday, May 16, 2014

Mount Diablo after the fire

North Peak Trail

When the Morgan Fire tore through the eastern slopes of Mount Diablo in September 2013, acres of chaparral and oak grassland were charred. Now seven month later wildflowers and fresh grass have softened the stark post-fire landscape.

Perkins Canyon (accessed off Morgan Territory Road south of Marsh Creek Road) may be the best area to explore. Visitors have reported massive Mount Diablo globe lily displays there. Further up the mountain, rare fire poppies may be blooming on the flanks of North Peak.
Charred chamise on Mary Bowerman Trail

On Thursday I hiked 1.5 miles out and back on North Peak Trail as well as the 0.7 mile Mary Bowerman loop, both in the summit area.

I did not see any rare flowers, but was thrilled with a few patches of densely-packed flowers on North Peak Trail about 0.7 mile from the Devil's Elbow trailhead. Chinese houses, wind poppies, Mount Diablo fairy lanterns (globe lily), and red larkspur carpeted the hillside in places. From the trail patches of orange were visible on North Peak, but the heat caused me to turn back. If you do trek out to North Peak (it's about 3 miles out and back from Devil's Elbow), try Prospectors Gap Trail for fire poppies. They look quite a bit like wind poppies, but fire poppy petals are more crinkly and the center of the flower is not tinged purple like wind poppies.
Wind poppies on North Peak Trail

Up on Mary Bowerman Trail it's alarming to see how close the fire came to the summit. I'm very grateful that fire crews stopped the blaze and saved the stone building.

Some plants seem to be succeeding post-fire rather spectacularly. Poison oak, unfortunately, is thriving. California bays were re sprouting under their charred skeletons. The chamise on Mary Bowerman Trail is yet to recover. Phacelias were abundant everywhere in the burn area, big patches of chia thrive in sunny spots, and I saw quite a few flowers new to me, including whispering bells and penstemon. There are many wallflowers, clarkias, and mariposa lilies on North Peak Trail.

Check this Bay Nature map for the burn area. Save Mount Diablo's map is exceptional and invaluable in hiking planning. Nerds for Nature are soliciting post-fire photos. SF Chronicle article has a list of flowers to seek. My Mary Bowerman Trail page has directions to that trailhead -- Devil's Elbow is just below the summit area. Cooler weather should make hiking more enjoyable this weekend. Bring lots of water and get an early start!

See more photos on my Facebook page.

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