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Mariposa Lilies

Posted Jun 14 2011 12:16am

 With the California sun beginning to show its true form, I was thinking that the time was right to expect to see the Mariposa Lilies begin to start showing themselves. They are more of a late season flower, and they seem to love the open grassy meadows and hillsides. Some can be found in the shade, but most prefer the golden sun. If you get some morning fog or clouds, they will very stubborn to open up at all. If the sky is patchy, you might get a glimpse of their true color as a teaser, but their full display is not seen unless you get at least decent sunshine. You won’t find them just anywhere, but there are plenty of places where they can be enjoyed. Some of my favorites include Sierra Azul, Sunol, Almaden Quicksilver, and Rancho San Antonio. The Mariposas will appear in many other locations as well, but my favorite place to see them is in the southern region of Henry W. Coe State Park.

The Phegley Region of the park is an especially good place to look for them because not only is the terrain and climate ideal, but if you cover enough ground there, you can see at least 3 distinctly different color variations of Mariposas on the same hike. Various trails in the region have excellent displays, but the different color variations seem to group together. There are lots of other species that are still around too, and the area is home to lots of different birds and other wildlife. The trick is to get off of the flat areas at the bottom of Hunting Hollow. You will need to put in some uphill to reach the best displays. Very few of the Mariposas will be found at lower elevations, although they will populate the slopes as well as the meadows. The steepest trail in the area is Steer Ridge. Watching my GPS I noticed that the first mile up Steer Ridge was a bit over 1000 feet exactly. That matches the infamous Hobb’s Road “short cut” section for sheer leg burn. Some of the other trails are more gradual, but all of them have potential for nice displays. The slopes will usually have the yellows which will be streaked with dark purple and traces of orange, with a few white ones mixed in, having nice purple and yellow accents that look like air brush work. Along the interior trails you can enjoy more of the white variety, plus many of the rose colored, or pinkish variation, also with nice air brush accents. Another color variation I often see looks like a pale purple with smaller accents and broader pedals.

The route used on this hike begins at Hunting Hollow. We hiked up Steer Ridge to Wilson Peak. We took a little rest there, before heading down Wilson Peak Trail to Grizzly Gulch Trail. From there we hiked on to Wagon Road and along the road to Wilson Camp, and back down to the flats by way of Lyman Wilson Ridge Trail. This is just one example on which we saw quite a few Mariposas. There are lots of route variations to be used though. Just make sure you pick a mostly sunny day. We had almost picked a bad day, but the sun finally came through. There was a 10K run at Hunting Hollow that day, but the racers were sticking to the flat section. The trail in the flats is also popular with cyclists and horse riders. Up on the higher trails though, it’s a different world.

Click here to see my 2011 photos on flickr
Click here to see my 2010 photos on flickr
Click here to see my 2011 track log on EveryTrail
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