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    Sagehen Creek and Stampede Reservoir
    (Sunday, July 20, 2003 in the Tahoe National Forest, CA)

    See also my photo album from this hike, as well as photos from later hikes here in 2004 and 2005.

    Previous hike | Trip home

    Sarah and I parked along Hwy 89 after overshooting our turnout and having to backtrack a bit. This hike was suggested in the excellent "Hiking Tahoe's Wildflower Trails" and we would never have found the beginning of the hike if we hadn't been counting the miles (Approximately 7.4 miles north of Truckee on Hwy 89, on the north side of the unmarked Sagehen Creek bridge). The book suggested meandering both to the west and more formal hiking to the east of the highway, so we decided to do both, as neither were anywhere near long or difficult. We crossed the highway and headed west on the south side of Sagehen Creek.

    Sierra Rein Orchid at west Sagehen Creek We soon found a handfull of flowers including the delightful Sierra Rein Orchid (also known by its less-attractive name, the Bog Orchid) as well as Seep-Spring Monkeyflower, Western Monkshood, Checkermallow, Creek Goldenrod, Showy Daisies, Jacob's Ladder, California Aster, Ranger Buttons, and a large meadow of Yampah - yeah! It was nice doing a hike so completely opposite of my usual mountain hikes, here just slowly following a use trail and keeping our eyes downward, watching for flora and fauna. We passed many more Sierra Rein Orchids - apparently they like the damp soil near the creek. After moseying around for a half hour or so, we went back to the car to hike along eastern Sagehen Creek.

    Hairy Paintbrush at east Sagehen Creek There was a much more heavily-trodden path leading east on the north side of Sagehen Creek, and several groups arrived as we started out. Many of them had dogs, which were clearly thrilled to be playing in/around such a nice gentle creek. We hiked along, passing Hairy Paintbrush, some huge Dandelions, a few Crimson Columbine, and a lot of past-their-prime Mountain Roses. We were a little disappointed to be late for the roses, as their abundance suggested that this would be a fragrant paradise when they were in full bloom. The sides of the trail were completely covered with them for a ways!

    The trail wound in and out of the forest, near and farther from the creek as we gently climbed. The book said there was a fenced-off wildflower garden near Stampede Reservoir, to protect at least a small patch of wilderness from being trampled by livestock, so we kept our eyes out, but didn't see any signs of it. "Perhaps its farther down the trail," we thought. We passed Fireweed, an Anderson Thistle, and a patch of Scarlet Gilia before coming to a long meadow, completely covered with Mule Ear Sunflowers. They too, alas, were past their prime, and only a few had scraggly flowers left on them. In bloom, they must be a sight (and smell) to behold, as there were thousands and thousands of plants!

    Yampah-covered meadow near Stampede Reservoir We came to a lovely meadow near Stampede Reservoir, covered in Yampah and Sagebrush. The fragrance was almost overpowering at times, but wonderful. We still hadn't seen any trace of a fenced-off wildflower garden. By now we were suspecting that perhaps the fence had been taken down, as we'd seen absolutely no evidence of livestock. There was a trace of barbed wire along the creek side of the trail, which might have been the fence's remnants. We went towards the reservoir, but upon seeing motorized boats in it, decided to admire it from a distance (and in the shade - it was pretty warm!), found an inviting stump, and had some snacks, then headed back towards the car the way we came.

    This was a great nature hike, easy and accessible by just about anyone with the inclination to do it. Late July was definitely a few weeks past the best time to visit (rumor has it there is an amazing meadow of Camas Lilies in May), but there were still plentiful flowers to enjoy.

    Hike Stats:
    Distance: ~5mi
    Total Time: 3h 15m
    Elevation gain: ~500 feet
    Difficulty: 4 - an easy stroll
    Scenery: 6.5
    Wildflowers: 8 - in full season, it would definitely be a 10!
    Trail condition/markings/etc: 6
    Overall rating: 7

    Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
    Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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