Monte Bello OSP, Black Mountain campout

Having not backpacked since the last time we camped here in 2003, I decided it was time and got permits.

A group of a few friends hiked in from Waterwheel Creek on 9/5/10, taking the road. We started out around 6:00 P.M. It wasn’t uncomfortably warm, unlike our public overnight in 2002, but was around 70F.

An interesting sighting on the road was some lacewing eggs stuck to a broom stem. There was also an alligator lizard that, after pausing, ran into the grass. And, curvy tracks in the dust that we deduced was from a snake.

Poplars near the camp

We got to camp in about an hour, stopping here and there for interesting things (mostly scat). In one spot, we watched a rabbit browse by the side of the trail. A scrub-jay gave an alarm, which caused the rabbit to run for cover. We saw a large unidentified bird fly apparently out of some shrubs on the opposite side of the trail, near where the scrub-jay had called from. When we got up to that point, something hidden in the brush gave repeated calls. It seemed relatively near, and creeping to a few feet in front of the vegetation didn’t stop it from calling. We weren’t sure if it was a bird or something else; it wasn’t chirpy. Here’s a recording from KG’s phone:

A raven croaked at another, and a two rows of swallows perched on the telephone lines.

Lots of dragonflies hunted above our spot (they didn’t seem to make much of a dent in the eye fly population…) After setting up and filtering some water, we went up to the ridge to have dinner. Except for a few deer and a passing bicyclist, we had the place to ourselves. We enjoyed some delectables, and watched Venus and Mars appear. Later, Scorpius and Sagittarius with the Milky Way were visible.

After some relaxed stargazing, we went off to the other hill below camp to see if we could find any critters crawling around. We didn’t see anything, not even one darkling beetle. We looped around the hill on our return, and with the city light blocked, we found Andromeda.

We gave it one more try, the trail behind the camp. We listened to three different orthopteran sounds. Still nothing but a few bats hunting overhead. Back at camp, everyone was ready for some sleep. The crickets and katydids sang us to restless sleep.

During the night, the wind came up and kept flapping one corner of my tent. It was still mild enough for me to get a little warm and have my sleeping bag only partially over me.

In the morning, we had French press coffee thanks to JO. A Bewick’s Wren, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and a Wrentit sang.

We left around 9:30. It was getting warm quickly.

At the ridgetop, more dragonflies hunted. We ran into a few people on the trail. While we were talking with a couple of young women who had come up Rhus Ridge, I saw a large, black insect hovering over the dry grass. It was 20-25 mm. long. JO took a photo, and we could then tell it was a fly, albeit a large one.

Big horse fly, Tabanid?

At the intersection of Waterwheel Creek, we turned right to take the trail we hadn’t on the way in. JO and SO decided to go drop their packs, taking the road, and then meet us on the creek trail. They heard a rattlesnake on their way to meet us. We saw another alligator lizard, fuzzy Clematis, and a gooseberry with big orange fruit. Where we met up, there were large funnel webs; one had a large Agelenid visible in it.

Southern Alligator Lizard

Going this way was something new. At least some of us decided we wouldn’t do it again, especially with a pack. When we got past the woods, it got very warm, and the sparse shade from coyote brush was welcome.

The harvester ant nests along this stretch had big piles of seed chaff.

Back at the lot, the thought of real food inspired us, and we headed off to Hobee’s.

See more photos here.

And here is information on obtaining a permit to camp.

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