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Onyx Summit Hike - Aug 2 2005

I love to roam wilderness areas new to me. The excitement of discovery remains my constant companion as I meander around trailbends and over hills. Will I find a new rock? An edible or medicinal plant I haven’t used yet? Maybe some bobcat tracks in drying puddle mud...\

Prickly Poppy (Argemone munita)
The seeds have been used (roasted and mashed) as a healing salve for burns.

Upon returning to the base of Onyx Peak, I discovered wild Flax (Linium lewisii). I hope to extract some fibers from the outer stem sheath and make fine cordage at the end of it’s growing season.

Mr. Bunny relaxing on a Tumbleweed (Salsola tragus).
Bear scat—another soothing burn salve (just kidding...maybe).
About 150 feet above Blue Sky Meadow Science Institute, where I teach and live for the summer. San Gorgonio mountain is in the background. Still has now in its north-facing valleys.
As I ascend Onyx Peak, named for the mineral that was once mined on it’s eastern flank, I encountered some Pinyon Pine. I was impressed with the low-lying cones presented to me, full of pine nuts. Easy pickings come September...
Pinyon Pine cones—quite resinous to the touch.
I think this is Lake Williams—seems too small to be Big Bear Lake, which would then be just to the left of the photo, out of view. When I gaze upon high-mountain lakes like this from above, the lakes seem tilted, unlevel.
And just to the right of Lake Williams, dumping down into Yucca Valley and the baking-hot-pit-of certain-death Mojave Desert, is Pipes Canyon. As I turned onto a 4x4 side trail to photograph a flower, I was hit in the face with a rush of HOT air on this south-facing slope! Very noticeably hotter...
As I approached the summit the vegetation became stunted; dwarfed, gnarled Mountain Mahogany, Sierra Juniper, Pinyon Pine and White Fir rose only a dozen feet above my head, with shrunken Rose Sage and buckwheat on par with my ankles. I was impressed that there were a few wet seeps up here, given that the area is so dry. Seeps are a sign of active geologic faults and frequent tectonic activity—another reason for me to love this place!
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail clings to the side of Onyx Peak...

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