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Red larkspur and blue curls on the Mt. Lowe trail

June 21, 2008 | 12:01 am

YuccaWhy did I think wildflower season in the L.A. Basin was over in June?

Well, usually when the temps run blood-boilingly high, everything dies a scorching death.

But there I was last Saturday on the trail to Echo Mountain (Sam Merrill Trailhead at the end of Lake Avenue in Altadena) heading for Mt. Lowe — a nice but strenuous 13-mile conditioning hike with 3,800 feet of gain.

Yes it was hot, but, whoa — what's with all the profuse black-and-white sage blooms? And big stalks of red larkspur, something I rarely see on this hike that I've done many times in the last two decades.

As I moved higher — getting to Echo Mountain and staying on the Sam Merrill up toward Mt. Lowe — I saw more great wildflowers: yerba santa, ceanothus and big creamy yuccas (left) standing tall on the hillside. Even wooly blue curls — again, something I rarely see here.

Spoiler alert: I don't know how long these blooms will last, but you may want to head out in the cool of the early morning or late evening to see wildflowers because this is a very exposed route.

The heat pretty much did in my hiking companion; we wound up turning back within a quarter-mile of the summit because he felt so depleted. (At one point he accused me of discarding ice cubes on the trail and pointed to a few whitish rocks.) Our collective cache of six quarts of water was gone well before we got back to the trailhead — and I relied on the kindness of a stranger who handed my buddy his water bottle on the way down and told him to keep it.

Let me know where you're seeing blooms (and what you're seeing!) now that summer is here.

—Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times staff writer

Photo by Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times