In May, I decided to take my camera to explore Lewis Creek Trail, just 7 miles south of Yosemite. The creek is named for Washington B. Lewis, one of the Park’s early superintendents and is a few miles of us along Hwy 41 heading north.
Part One: The trail and the bugs
This is a favorite walk among locals, who enjoy the pleasures and beauty of this beautiful wide stream and falls without the hubbub of entering the Park itself. There is rumored to be a hot springs near the lower Corlieu Fall, half mile round trip downstream from the trailhead.
Several rustic bridges criss-cross the creek upstream on the 3 mile easy round trip to Red Rock Fall. The trail has been improved and a viewing platform over Corlieu Fall was built this year.
Maybe, now, you will feel that you are with me as I walk the trail.
The trail is lined with moss covered pines, oaks and airy blooming dogwoods, giving it a dreamy northwestern atmosphere. Wildflowers are all along the trail and many are unfamiliar to me, which I love! It will be fun to ID them all and learn more about them.
By June the creek is lower and the ground and mosses begin to dry and fade.
I saw a colony of Smooth horsetail, Equisetum laevigatum, along the stream at one point and thought it was the usual thing, a non-native run wild, but no. I find out that it is a California native.
An overcast bright day is the best for photographing the trail, creek and flowers along the way. Red Rock Fall is the reward at the end of the trail, a cool place to have lunch even though there are no tables or benches.. Every photo I’ve seen has that same tree fallen into the stream of water.
On the way back I noticed the ladybugs. It would have been easy to miss them all together, but I was looking sharp for flowers and instead saw these. The Convergent Ladybug, Hippodamia convergens, is the most common of any ladybug. Its head has a white edge and two white lines that “converge,” like two slanting lines. These at Lewis Creek were orange, but they can be red as well and all have 13 black spots.
Their range is throughout the United States and most lady bugs hibernate in garden debris during winter, but if they live in the West, they hibernate in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. They lay eggs, the eggs hatch, and the new bugs then fly down to the valleys to voraciously eat as many aphids as they can. They return to the mountains for nearly nine months of the year.
Wikipedia says ladybugs eat aphids by biting the aphid, sucking out the juice, then pump the aphid with more juice and suck it out again. Yum! Who knows what other horrible things are going on in the garden?
I was amazed to see these swarming ladybugs on my walk at the end of May. They formed huge masses, known as beds, on the Hartweg’s Iris and on the pine straw. These large concentrations can contain several hundred gallons of beetles, a measure I don’t usually consider when thinking of ladybugs. These ‘beds’ are normally found in the Sierra mountain range near rivers and streams where it is cool, which is exactly the conditions along Lewis Creek.
Part 2 Lewis Creek: The Wildflowers
If you live in the Mountain Community around Oakhurst, it’s prime time for a day trip to Lewis Creek trail.
The wildflowers and native bulbs are blooming and after the rain all the moss will be lush and green along the shady trail. It’s 1/2 mile to one waterfall if you go right and 3 easy miles to the other waterfall if you go left on the trail.