In this edition of Mother-Ruckers, Dave Gebauer and Sarah Spinetta travelled upcountry in the Mokelumne Wilderness for a late summer hike and photography session of the still-blooming fields of wildflowers.
One of Dave’s favorite day hiking spots is a remote old mining road, about 4 miles into the forest off Highway 88, which winds uphill through the trees and opens up to a hillside meadow. Much to our surprise, the meadow was still in full bloom, a few just starting to go to seed – and the meadow is located in the general 7,000- to 8,000-foot elevation area, just a few days before September 1!
“I have been coming here since 1980 and can’t remember flowers this late in the year,” Dave said. “It’s almost September, everything is usually
all dried up by now. I remember by August 15, the willows start turning yellow ... and by the end of the month they lose their leaves, but there is no sign of any of that now. We did have 200 percent snow pack this year. Sarah and I sat down in the flower garden and took it all in. The bugs and bees were flying around, and the butterflies carry a silent beauty of their own, painting the sky as they cruise the flowers.”
When Dave goes camping, he decks out his tent like the Taj Mahal; air mattress, down-filled sleeping bag, multiple pillows, a white noise maker, crank radio, solar lamps, zero-gravity reclining chair … the works. When rucking, his indulgence is the multi-use travel-friendly Lazy Monk hammock.
“I always take my Monk on these rucks,” he said. “I enjoy having my chair and bed all in the Lazy Monk hammock, and it also can be used as a shade structure, tarp, or tent.
“Sarah’s back is hurt, so I’m the pack mule, the muscle, for this trip,” Dave laughed. “My ruck is loaded with all this survival equipment, shelter from the elements, of course survival gear, food and snacks for both of us. But my one must-have is the hammock.”
All you could hear were the hum of bees and bugs busy feeding and pollinating, frogs croaking by the spring, birds calling from high in the ancient trees. You could see the butterflies land on damp soil to take a drink, all in wildflowers that sometimes were chest-deep. So much color and movement, all without a care in the world; tiger and zebra swallowtails, baby blue eyes, buckeye butterflies, mustard flowers, indigo mountain lupine, ripening wild gooseberries, dandelions, wild columbines in shades of red, orange and yellow, pink and white crocuses, yellow buttercups.
“As we started our hike up the mountain, Sarah and I were just amazed at how green the mountains are … the wildflowers are 3 to 4 feet high,” Dave said. “It was a very hot day on this hike and it was all uphill on the way up. We didn’t get started until 2 p.m. The air was very thin and we both felt the altitude and went a little slower. We decided to take a break and take all this in, so we put our Lazy Monk hammocks up in this natural garden and enjoyed our dinner. It was just so great, no sound of civilization ... there was a little creek in the background and the whispering of the trees was better than any dining experience for me.
“As we worked our way down the mountain, the sun was lower and all the flowers take on an entirely different look ... the shadows are amazing. If you like taking photos of nature or just want to enjoy the mountains, it’s not too late to take a ride up Highway 88. You can stop anywhere above 5,000 feet and see the El Dorado Forest show its secrets.
“You just don’t see this often … it was a great hike.”
Join Ledger Dispatch reporters Dave Gebauer and Sarah Spinetta, along with other guests, as they traverse through the natural beauty of Amador and Calaveras Counties in Mother-Ruckers. Be sure to download the Interactive News app on your mobile device to watch this week’s Mother-Ruckers Interactive News video featuring Dave and Sarah hiking at high altitudes upcountry in the Mokelumne Wilderness. Look out for the next installment of Mother-Ruckers to see what adventures we get up to.