Even with August heat upon us, wildflowers are providing a kaleidoscope of color practically in our own backyard in Biledo Meadow. California cone flowers, goldenrod and sneezeweed provide a palette of yellow accented by red paintbrush and purple asters. But the stars of the show, for me, were the scarlet monkey flowers which, I now know from checking The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, will close their lips when lightly touched to trap pollen brought by an insect.
Larkspur growing 7-plus-feet tall, Sierra currants, Richardson’s geraniums with lavender petals accented by purple veins and white angelica also added to the show. Rainier Creek serves an important supporting role as it provides water to the meadow.
At 7,936 feet above sea level, Biledo Meadow is a popular destination for hikers and horseback riders as well. One of the cabins in the meadow was built by Thomas Biledo in 1890 according to Peter Brown in his Yosemite Place Names. He also notes that the proper spelling of the name is Biledeaux according to a Yosemite National Park ranger who knew the man.
“Biledo was a French-Canadian who came to the region in the 1880s, and was employed by the Mount Raymond Mining Company,” Brown wrote.
The meadow has served as a cow camp and is in the midst of a historical mining area of Madera County. The Star Mine Mount Raymond (Raymond Mountain) is just 7,983 feet away.
A 7,000-foot tramway was built to bring mined metals over the ridge from that mine according to the California State Mining Bureau Eighth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist, for the year ending Oct. 1, 1888.
In the report it was anticipated that the tramway would be completed by Dec.13 of that year. A map found at www.pubs.usgs.gov/mf/1983/1417b/report.pdf shows the location of the tramway.
“Silver-lead-zinc deposits located during the late 1800s in the Raymond Mountain area ... resulted in the organization of the poorly defined Mount Raymond mining district,” according to that report. “The Star mine near Raymond Mountain was developed on the best of these sporadic and discontinuous silver-lead-zinc deposits. The mine, served by an aerial tramway and mill, was opened in 1889 and is reported to have produced limited silver and, possibly, lead; it apparently failed to make a profit and was closed the same year. Thereafter, it was operated intermittently by at least two more owners until becoming permanently idle about 1908. The small ore bodies were quickly depleted by open-pit methods, probably during the initial operations. Adequate recovery at the mill may also have been a problem.”
There are a number of ways to access the meadow including a path from Mariposa Grove but with that area closed for restoration, access has to be made from another direction. We drove past Fish Camp about one-and-a- half miles and turned right where the sign shows Goat Meadow snow play area.
Once on the Mount Raymond Road, stay to the left rather than entering Goat Meadow. Staying always left at the forks, you will pass a large pull out area on the left. Keep going until you come to a large metal gate on your left. From here, it is a good idea to walk as the road ahead requires a vehicle with very high clearance.
There is a sign broken in half saying that Mariposa Grove is one mile away and that this is a cross country skiing loop trail. You will be hiking on Sierra National Service Road 5S06. Again, the road forks, going to Long Meadow in one direction. Stay left again on road 5S06X. After some more climbing there is a road to your right that will take you right into Biledo Meadow.