09 July 2016

Big Laguna

Cleveland National Forest

Picking up my little sister after she has gotten rid of her rental car, we are on another geocache hunt. Today the primary prey is not just the oldest in the county but the oldest remaining in the state hidden in September 2000. Stopping off by the side of the Sunrise Highway, we are joining at least forty other cars of those who are also out to enjoy the area. The area boasts interpretive signs, a kiosk, port-a-potties, and a trash can that is clearly serviced next to a sign noting there is no trash service. The forest is really gearing up to be compliant with the latest ruling on the Adventure Pass in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Many active at their cars are pulling out road bikes to continue along the highway. More are fiddling with mountain bikes for a trail. We head over to the start to find a map of an elaborate trail system and various other bits of information, then head on in.

dirt path in the meadow in the trees
Meadow with sparse pines and very clear, wide dirt paths offer very little navigational challenges.

The trail quickly splits. One side allows bikes and the other does not. We are not sure which way we want to go; we knew there would be multiple and either would be fine. There are a lot of bikes, even some of those narrow tire road bikes, so we turn to where they are prohibited. The Sunset Trail winds away from the meadow into somewhat thicker trees and gains a few views off to the west. This would certainly be a place to watch the sunset.

meadows below
Wandering over to where the land drops away means views of lower meadows and distant western reaches.

northwesterly peak
Closer peaks to the northwest.

To my delight, the milkweed is in bloom. The flowers are so intricate and seem to be built under the pressure of arbitrary restrictions like some piece of origami.

milkweed with residents
The milkweed delights many others as well.

Suddenly I am fairly certain this bumble bee is actually a wasp mimic.

The trail curves around and we find ourselves along the edge of a steep and rocky ravine. The growth is even thicker here. It is quite nice along here.

rocky ravine
Related rocks leave a gap between for water to flow. Today it does not seem to be flowing.

A little further around, we are approaching meadow again. Not just meadow, but a little pond as well. The Water of the Woods is covered in green bits, but looking very wet.

Water of the Woods
The little pond called Water of the Woods.

After the pond, we stick to Sunset Trail just a little longer because I am also hunting a challenge cache. Vern's Rootin' Tootin' Litterbox Gang is a particularly fun one although it does leave us with far too many foxtails to pluck out of our socks. After the distraction, we are back to the meadow and on the prowl for the main event again.

Water of the Woods
Back to the Water of the Woods from a different angle. It is held in place by an earthen dam.

Laguna Meadow
The meadow and an old water control feature.

Wandering the edge of the meadow is quite warm. As we make our way around the edge of the hill to the larger lake, our expectations are not met. It is filled with something, but it is not what is in the little pond.

Big Laguna Lake
Big Laguna Lake seems to be full of cows and something they very much like eating, but not a lick of water.

We head up for our quarry and return to find the cows have nearly all had their fill of the greener stuff in the middle of the lake and sat down. There are signs about saying how delicate this meadow is and then there are these cows. They do not seem to be separated entirely from the delicate parts. We head back along Big Laguna Trail. There are fewer bicycles now.

reeds among the grasses
The darker green are usually thinner reeds, but there does not seem to be the extra water usually found with them.

divets in the rock
Mortars in the rock beside the meadow show a little of the human residents who were here before.

As we come again to the Water of the Woods, it now has a couple sets of ducks with ducklings swimming in it. The one set of ducklings do not seem quite ready to fly, but they are practicing their running takeoffs and how to paddle through the water. Somehow the second seems less coordinated.

red winged blackbird
Redwinged blackbird on a log in the pond.

ducklings on the pond
Duck and older ducklings on the pond.

meadow and low peak
Across the meadow, nearby Stephenson Peak has some interesting communication structures.

As we leave the meadow, there is a bit of fencing against the cows, but we did not find one on the way in. We pop over a low hill and into new meadows before returning to the car.

caterpillar and bees
More milkweed with its more famous and common residents: a monarch caterpillar and some honey bees.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 August 2016

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