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Alder Creek Falls Hike

Harlequin lupine always put a smile on my face and they are in their prime bloom right now, right along the trail, on the way up to Alder Creek Falls. There were many other colorful wildflowers, including larkspur, pretty face, paintbrush, dogwoods, snow plants and the beautiful mariposa lilies.

Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 13 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 4,023′ – 5,839′
Date: May 23, 2014
Maps: El Capitan Topog

There is more than one trail to get to Alder Creek Falls. You can hike up from Hwy 41, come in from Glacier Point Rd. via Westfall Meadows, or up and over from the Chilnualna Falls Trail but we chose to come up from Chilnualna Rd. One big reason we came up this way is because we get to pass through an area that has quite a few harlequin lupine, which you don’t often see.

We headed to Wawona, turning right on Chilnualna Falls Rd. We then drove about a ½ mile and parked in the small turnout on the right hand side with a bear box. The trail begins on the other side of the road.

Last year we hiked this trail on May 3, and you can access my blog about that hike.

This year the harlequin lupine display was bigger and better! Along the trail, there were a few places that had small fields of nothing other than the harlequin lupine. All of them were blooming, but each was individually distinct. Some had more yellow, some more pink. Did you know that the plant was named for Army physician Dr. Charles Austin Stivers, who first collected it in 1862 near Yosemite? Now you know!

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We also saw a few of the purple colored blooms of the lupine that is more common to the Wawona area.

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The trail led us through a shady area with a carpet of bear clover, also known as mountain misery. Small white flowers were blooming on this greenery. (Photo of me walking on the trail by Gail Gilbert)

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I think this flower is called Indian pink.

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Note the couple of small white puffy clouds as we headed up the trail that morning.

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As the trail circled around the western aspect, we saw the bright orange colors of paintbrush.

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There were a few places where trees had fallen across the trail but they were not an issue for us. We either climbed over them or walked around them.

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We reached a fork in the trail and headed to the right. The left hand fork is the trail that comes up from Highway 41.

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With the recent rain that we had, along with hot weather, I was surprised to find a few dogwood flowers still hanging on.

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Different types of mushrooms were poking their way up through the dirt. These were right on the edge of the trail.

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Striped coralroot was also right along the trail. What a beautiful and unique flower!

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And we saw quite a few snow plants.

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The trail met and continued up the old railroad bed that the Yosemite Lumber Company, renamed the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company in 1934, utilized. It was almost like we were walking back in time while we walked along this gentle grade. We could see remnants of the old railroad bed that included railroad ties and rails. Old chokers, metal cans, abandoned fenced areas, ditches and ponds told us a sketchy story of what activities occurred in this area in the past.

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We could hear Alder Creek Falls before we could see it as we rounded the bend. See anything different about the cloud cover?

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We wandered up the trail for a while past the falls, following Alder Creek. This area was much wetter and lush with different plants than we had seen lower down and we spotted some flowers that we hadn’t seen on our hike up.

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Even leaves of grass were beautiful with drops of rain sitting on them.

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Along the trail we could see that this area was trying to tell us a story about its prior use. This is the spot where we started seeing old corrals, ponds and evidence of human occupation. I could make out leveled areas that almost looked like some sort of building had been there long ago. I could see where ditches or flumes had diverted the water in this area and even what looked like an old mill pond to me.

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As we walked next to Alder Creek, the branches of the red alders that give this creek its name caught our eye. They were just starting to leaf out.

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What a surprise we had when we came across these corn lilies. They were the first ones that we had seen this year and they were so beautiful, especially with the different ways that the light was hitting them. Raindrops were on some and lots of bugs were hanging out for me to take pictures of.

The corn lily is one of the most poisonous plants in Yosemite and has caused violent illness to those who have eaten it. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but especially the roots. Corn lily is poisonous to animals as well, but as a rule they do not eat it because of its sharp, burning taste. The flowers are also poisonous to insects and heavy losses in honeybees sometimes occur. It is a beautiful plant to look at and take pictures of but not to consume.

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We came across a couple of old railroad rails and I checked out the markings on them. To me, it looks like they were made 1910 in Illinois. That could be the patent date though.

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More corn lilies with bugs!

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We wandered back to a spot where we could see Alder Creek Falls while we had our lunch. And those clouds got a little darker. We started feeling a few drops… then a few more.

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Before we headed down the trail after lunch, we thought it would be a good idea to put our rain jackets on. It was a good call because we had rain for about half the walk down the trail.

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Although we were moving fairly quickly down the trail, we managed to spot a few mariposa lilies. They were so pretty. They are white when you see the sides of the flowers but they had a lovely surprise inside them. . .and I’m not just talking about the bug being the surprise. Look at that design!

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Even more harlequin lupine were showing off for us on the way out.

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I think spring is the best time to do this hike because the wildflowers can be so beautiful. Another reason to do this hike in spring and preferably not a hot day is because there is a stretch of trail toward the bottom that is out in the open and can be darn hot.

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Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupinus_stiversii
http://www.yosemitehikes.com/wildflowers/red-orange-flowers.htmL
http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/yosemite_nature_notes/46/2/corn_lily.html
http://www.yosemitehikes.com/wildflowers/corn-lilies/corn-lilies.htmL
http://yosemitevalleyrailroad.com/LOGGING.COMPANIES/YLumber.Cards2.html
http://lifeinyosemite.com/the-best-yosemite-waterfall-no-one-ever-sees-111

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