Sensational and colorful Spring

Community CorrespondentApril 8, 2014 

The hike along all or a portion of the approximately 4.5 mile Hite Cove trail is an annual outing for many who enjoy the spring extravaganza of flowers that bloom along the banks of the South Fork of the Merced River.

While the familiar orange tufted poppies are the most abundant, they are not the only flora found.

Rosy-pink redbud contrasted with the carpets of poppies. Baby blue eyes, bird's eyes, blue dicks, lupine, and Henderson's shooting stars contributed to the orchestra of color with their hues of blue, violet, and purple.

Indian Pink, with its more orangey-red petals, yellow and orange blazing stars, foothill sunbursts and fiddlenecks also join the chorus of blooms along the trail. Photographers have logged some 60 different species of wildflowers along the trail at different times of the season.

These include Chinese houses, goldfields and lacepod. Poison oak is also prolific along the trail and ticks occasionally hitch a ride on bodies traveling on or near the trail. So hikers need to be aware.

While the water in the canyon is not rushing this year like it does some years, the trail that is classified as "moderate" on has a total elevation gain of 100 feet and has its ups and downs with a steep part at the beginning of the trail.

The trailhead is at an elevation of 1,900 feet with a portion of the trail carved out of the hillside and then descending to the banks of the Merced River and Hite Cove itself.

The first three-quarters of a mile of the hike transverses over private property and those wishing only to enjoy a grand display of wildflowers need only hike two to two and a half miles in.

The trail is an out and back, which means a nine-mile round trip hike for those going all of the way to Hite Cove, and it is closed during fire season.

The trail begins at Savages Trading Post along Highway 140 where the main and south forks of the Merced River join. It is 21 miles east of Mariposa on the right side of the road shortly after passing over the temporary bridges put into place after a rockslide in 2006. Parking and porta-potties are on the left side of Highway 140.

Relics of the past in the form of rusting mining machinery and walls made of stacked stones are found along the trail past the wildflower displays. It is illegal to remove or disturb any of these.

The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service website warns hikers that picking wildflowers is illegal and that rattle snakes are common so "don't challenge snakes."

John R. Hite owned and operated a gold mine in the cove named after him. He discovered it in 1861 or 1862 depending on which source is used.

The mining camp had as many as 100 inhabitants by 1864 and some $3 million in gold was found and extracted from the location in the 17 years he owned it.

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