Written by Cheryl Lisin
What a beautiful view – you can see snow on the Yolla Bollys from the top of Chemise Mountain! Located along the Lost Coast Trail in the King Range National Conservation Area, Chemise Mountain is easiest to get to by hiking up from Nadelos Campground on Chemise Mountain Road. At the campground, you cross the bridge over Bear Creek with its lush riparian plants, and head up, up, and up! It is 1.5 miles to the top of the mountain with a 778 foot elevation gain. The interesting plants along the way and the view at the top make all that huffing and puffing worth it.
As you climb the trail, you become level with and can look into the canopies of some magnificent trees – fir, madrone, tan oak and chinquapin. If you hike here in spring and early summer, you can see several species of mycho-heterotrophs blooming along the trail. These are non-photosynthesizing plants which get their food from parasitism upon fungi in the soil rather than from photosynthesis. There are red and white striped sugarsticks, yellow Indian pipes and low growing gnome plants of the heath family, and the delicate spotted coralroot from the orchid family.
After switching back and forth several times, the trail makes it up to the ridge, but there is still more uphill before you get to the Mountain top. Here the chinquapin trees are abundant and their spiny nut casings can be seen on the ground. The nut inside is like a miniature chestnut, but usually the squirrels beat the humans to them. If you are lucky, you may spot a rattlesnake plantain plant. Not a planintain at all, but an orchid, the foliage hugs the ground and is beautifully mottled in silver and green. The flowers are white and rise on a stalk in late spring. Farther along, just a few feet past the spur trail to the top, there is a rare occurance of knobcone pines. No other pines are native to this area and the knobcone is limited to just this small stretch. Here they are spindly and don’t acieve great heights, due to the nutrient poor rocky soil of the ridgetop. In more hospitable places, the trees can reach 80 feet, but here the tallest are about 20 feet. The cones are indeed knobby, staying on the tree for many years. Some cones stay so long they are engulfed in new wood as the tree grows around them. They are closed cones, needing fire to open them and release the seeds.
At the the peak (2958 feet), you are treated to the big view to the east, across the Mattole and Eel River watersheds to the Yolla Bolly mountain range and beyond. The view is kept clear thanks to BLM and Nick’s Interns. Once you head back down, it is surprising how fast you get to the campground after all that work it took to get up to the top.