The ranch houses sit nestled between mountains on three sides. Spring water pours out of the ground to form creeks on the left and right that each collect in lakes. Morgan and I followed the creek down from the spring to the upper lake by the house, and then all the way to the big lake. At the upper lake I noticed this beautiful purple flower of a silver-leaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium), a poisonous relative of the tomato, which has surprising medicinal uses such as for treating rattle snake bites and colds, though I’m not sure how it was prepared to avoid its poisonous effects.
As we walked along we had to go around many little waterfalls. The most impressive waterfall along this creek was about six feet tall- high enough for Morgan and I to stand under. The water cascaded into a deep ravine, with high walls on either side. We were hot from our walk so far and decided to strip down to feel the water crashing on our shoulders and “baptize” ourselves in the spring water. The water took my breath away as I stuck my head in the waterfall. Even though it was in the upper 80’s outside, the water was very cold from being underground (like 65 degrees, I swear). The pool beneath the waterfall was four feet deep, surprisingly clear and great for sitting in! Definitely a great spot to hang out.
Along the way we saw many butterflies, including swallowtails. I couldn’t manage to get a good enough picture of the butterfly yet, but we found these two black and orange pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) caterpillars. I also noticed this black and yellow beetle, but I haven’t been able to identify it.
The creeks on either side of the mile-long “driveway” join to form the big lake, which is ten feet deep in most places with two islands. When the lake was dry the islands stood high above the lake bed, which was covered in grass and wildflowers. Because the lake just refilled, there are no wetland plants or algae growing in it, and the fish are very small, which makes the lake great for swimming. The bridges out to each island are perfect for jumping from.
The wildflowers out here are incredible, especially beneath overhanging oaks whose branches dip into the water. The dominant colors of May are the gold and red of sunflowers and Mexican Hat flowers, and the bluish purple of mealy sage (Salvia farinadea).
I love the way this flower smells. If I was making a fabric pouch of dried plants to capture the smell of this place, I’d be certain to include plenty of sage. The scent is somehow simultaneously calming and invigorating. As we walked back up the driveway to the house, I rolled these flowers in my hands and enjoyed the aroma. No wonder this is one of the favorite plants of the native bees.