Dateline 13 March 2018
I can say that the dawn over the Catalinas was lovely on Tuesday. As the days are continuing to be warm we started earlier but didn’t escape the the noon-day heat. I figured it was a last chance to see if any spring wildflowers would be in evidence given how little winter rain has fallen so we took off on the Sweetwater Trail which has previously hosted a variety of flowers. In contrast to other years, not much was in bloom. We saw evidence that the blue dicks were leafing out but the only flowers we spotted were a single poppy, some fairy duster, and desert zinnia. Still there was plenty to enjoy: the breezes as we approached the saddle, the rocky bench just as our feet were tired, the play of light and shadow as the clouds rolled over.
Shiny – like packing tape!
Baby barrel cactus.
A friendly bench.
Can you see an image on the rock?
Patteran left by those who have gone before.
We ventured along a loop in the Saguaro East monument that started on the Douglas Springs trail and continued back via Three Tanks and the Garwood trail. It was tricky to capture the cloudy morning light. The prickly pears looked especially dry and we all hoped the clouds would turn to rain – we’ll have to keep waiting it seems. A pleasant way to start the day!
At the start of the trail.
Dramatic shadows on the Catalinas.
Heading up the trail.
The skyline looking west.
Contrasting shape and color.
The hot weather has hung on longer that I ever remember in Tucson. We headed up the mountain in search of cooler weather – the coolness only lasted while we were in the shade. Still it was a beautiful day on the Bellota Trail which heads east from Molino Basin and over a saddle to join other trails. We settled down on the east side of the saddle to do some sketching and headed back for the shade of the oaks after it warmed up. The Bellota Trail bears the same name as the Bellota Ranch. The acorns of the Emory oak are known as bellotas and are prized as sweet and tasty.
View to the east of the Bellota Trail saddle.
Oak and manzanita country on the Bellota Trail.
The clouds begin to move in.
Hummingbird trumpet, Epilobium canum (formerly Zauschneria californica).
The call of the Aspen Draw trail in November is the gold of the aspen leaves in combination with the the pink-red of the maples. Most of the leaves have fallen and the fall treasures are already beginning to fade. It’s nearly time to take our explorations to a lower elevation for the winter.
Fallen leaves ornament the evergreens.
Yellow and red leaves cover the trail.
A last spot of gold.
A touch of sun on a cloudy day.
Dateline 24 October 2017
The mountain beckoned and we decided to start the Green Mountain trail at the top and walk to the lower end. Time had passed since any of the group had done that and various “social” trails near the trailhead confused us momentarily so we were happy to reach the first signpost. The footing for the trail requires attention in places as there is loose scree. Some of the early summer’s wildfires had reached parts of the trail and it seemed that there was more loose rock washed on the trail in the burned areas – still the fire did not greatly impact the level of shade trail-side. While the trail is noted more for the vistas than the fall colors, the yellow leaves of the native grapevines brightened the areas close to the streambeds. After we crossed the saddle the wind picked up which was nice as the day was getting warmer. Towards the end of the trail once we reached the stream the poison ivy provided bright fall color!
Aspen brighten the trail.
Eerie rock formations in the distance.
Hedeoma or mock-pennyroyal.
Bright spots of color – grape leaves.
Vibrant leaves of a young shrub.
A touch of red.
Well, a red-letter day is a holiday (a day where the number is written in red on the calendar so it stands out). We all agreed that today was a red-letter hike for two reasons: the weather was perfect and we saw all sorts of red flowers as well as a creature with red stripes.
Spring and fall find the Green Mountain Trail dressed up with flowers. Any time is a perfect time to “saunter.” I recently came across an explanation of the origins of the verb saunter: from à la Saint[e] Terre, traveling to the Holy Land. While this is probably just a pleasant story, walking in the woods or the wilds is no less a pilgrimage and the walk would be less enjoyable if we didn’t stop to greet the plants and flowers.
I find I have been observing more and photographing less, so here are today’s highlights.
A glimpse of Thimble Peak and the Santa Ritas.
Santa Catalina Indian Paintbrush. Castilleja tenuiflora
Indian Paintbrush, possibly Castilleja lanata
Arizona Mountain kingsnake, our friend with the red stripes on black.
A little green to complement the red!
Mountain marigold frames the dry creek.
Manzanita meets madrona, adding to the variety of reds.
Dateline: 8 April 2017
I took a recent opportunity to explore the chaparral region of California’s Santa Monica Mountains by heading up to Will Rogers State Park in the hills above Sunset Boulevard. The park is nestled in the hills next to Topanga State Park and next time I’ll take a longer stroll. This time the Inspiration Point Loop was just right. It had rained overnight and even late in the morning the plants were sparkling with water drops.
The showstopper of the day left me so entranced that no photos were taken – a flight of wild parrots. I also thoroughly enjoyed the twining snapdragon, but the photos were underwhelming. It turns out that blue-flowered Solanum Xantii, unlike many of the nightshades, is a native of the Santa Monica chaparral. There was lots of ceanothus, in fruit and in bloom. Here’s a small selection of what was in bloom.
Big pod ceanothus.
Ceanothus in bloom.
Bright yellow along the trail
Blue and yellow brighten the side of the trail.
The vine and the shiny shrub intertwine.
Looking toward the ocean on the way down from inspiration point.
On the way to inspiration point.