BoSEHS - Wright Lakes Basin (Days 4 and 5)

Mark Walker MWalker at
Sun Aug 29 02:30:46 EDT 1999

Butterflies of the South Eastern High Sierra:
(a field report from the uppermost wilderness which follows a 9-day trek
shared by my son and I and BSA Troop 661 of Mission Viejo, CA)

Day Four - Cross Country to Wright Lakes Basin (8/9/99)

We slept in a bit on the morning of the fourth day of our trek, since we
were only going to be hiking a short 4 miles.  The hike was to be cross
country, however, without the aid of any trail.  The destination was the
Wright Lakes Basin, a wonderful bowl shaped area below the 13,000 foot peaks
that make up the Mt. Whitney Wilderness.  There are no less than a dozen
lakes in this basin, the lowest being above 11,000'.  The lakes are full of
trout - mostly Golden Trout, with some quite large indeed.  But I'm getting
ahead of myself...

Our hike on this day was quite pleasant, and the butterflies made themselves
known very early - like before 10:00 a.m.  The first to show up were Hydaspe
Fritillaries (Speyeria hydaspe), beautiful golden butterflies with creamy
(unsilvered) spots on the underside of the hindwings.  As we hiked up over
the Bighorn Plateau, I spotted more Euphydryas editha - flying from one
little blossom to another.  The walking was difficult here, as the ground
was quite sandy.  Soon, the sandy soil gave way to large boulder hopping.
This is difficult to do with a 75-pound backpack on your back.

As we traversed our way down into the basin, we stumbled upon a high alpine
meadow that was covered with flowers.  It didn't take long before I was
surrounded by flying insects, and my pack was left to lay where it was
dropped.  Many of the scouts by now were completely convinced that I had
lost my mind.  Others, (like my son), knew that there was nothing much to
lose in the first place.  They were completely comfortable at the site of me
frolicking about with the insect world.

This high altitude meadow gave way to more of the Behr's Sulphurs.  As
before, these could be seen "hopping" from one place to another, quickly
disappearing in the tundra grass.  There were also many Agriades, which I've
always thought were a ssp. of Arctic Blue, but I see on the NPWRC site they
are being called A. podarce (Sierra Nevada Blue).  The male butterfly has
almost a silvery blue color on the upper side, with distinctive markings and
brownish hue on the underside.  The female is all brown on top.  There were
also several coppers flying here:  Lycaena xanthoides (Great Copper),
Lycaena hellioides (Purplish Copper), and Lycaena cupreus (Lustrous Copper).
The latter can be immediately identified by it's strong reddish-orange color
on the upperside.  It's always a welcome site at high altitudes.  Also more
Checkerspots and Nevada Skippers.

The one butterfly that I saw here that rather amazed me was Colias eurytheme
(Orange Sulphur).  I saw both males and females at this meadow, though both
appeared to have very large marginal bands.  The male marginal band covered
over one third of the forewing.  These butterflies were not strays.  They
were completely at home, and were even observed in mating ritual, at 11,500
feet.  Not much alfalfa up there.

While fishing above 12,000' I saw a single Pontia sisymbrii (Spring White),
the only White Pierid seen all week. 

Day Five - Lay over day at Wright Lakes Basin (8/10/99)

More butterflying in the alpine meadow areas.  Most of the day was spent
fishing, though, and we found that different lakes had different species of
trout.  One lake was full of Rainbows, while others were full of Golden.
It's all good eating, mind you, and it was a welcome replacement for freeze

After a nice nooner in my sun-warmed tent, I went out to check on our bear
bags (no box provided up here).  Things looked in order, and then it started
to snow.  Snow in August is always a bit wierd.

Mark Walker.
Red Roofing it in Laredo, TX

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