Summer comes to the summit

Time for the Snow Plants

Now that the snow is finally disappearing and summer weather is breaking out all over, it’s time for the wildflowers to make their appearance. One of the first to appear is the bright red Snow Plant. This distinctive plant is a very complex organism that grows in the bracken of the coniferous forest that cover the summit area. The plant is symbiotic with its roots gathering nutrients from fungi that grows in the soft soil. Right after the snow melts, the plants grow their bright red stalks that can reach 18 inches in height and then flower and produce seed pods in about two weeks. The right combination of soil and fungi is rare, which is reflected in the relative sparseness¬† of these plants in the summit area.

While you can come upon the red stalks almost anywhere in the forests around the summit, it is usually a lucky find. Fortunately, there is a “grove” of these plants that reliably reappears every year at this time. The grove is located in the forest at the bottom of the unpaved Soda Springs Road that winds down from Serene Lakes towards the Cedars. Onion Creek flows out of the Mt Lincoln watershed and crosses Soda Springs Rd at the bottom of the switchbacks. There is an old logging road with a hut used by the snow survey service and in the forest surrounding the hut there is a large concentration of Snow Plants. The road is open now and relatively dry (a few large puddles are still out there), so if you want to take a look at these beautiful and relatively rare plants, this is the time to go. Normally, these plants are usually dried up by now, but this year’s late snow has extended the season.

Click on map for interactive Google map

Long Lake still snowed in

For those of you that are itching to get out to Long Lake, you’re going to have to wait a while longer before getting out there. Kidd Lake road is clear now out to the west side of Kidd Lake, but after that there is 2-3 ft of snow on the road making it impossible to drive out there without a snow cat. You will need a vehicle with good ground clearance and 4WD. The road is deeply rutted about 1/4 mile after leaving the payment, and requires a lot of ground clearance and there is some pretty thick mud out by the girl scout camp that requires the 4WD. It doesn’t look like Long Lake will be accessible until the end of July.

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