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.
Dateline: 30 March 2017
If you’ve never heard of Aravaipa Canyon Edward Abbey’s essay is a good place to start. My three word summary is: Best Creekwalk Ever! My two pieces of advice are: don’t delay, head there as soon as you can, and if you wear low-top shoes find some gaiters to keep down the sand and gravel. We did a two-day through hike from east to west and a longer trip would have given us more time for exploring the side canyons. The flowers were blooming, the creek was at an easy wading level, the reflected colors in the water were mesmerizing, the company was grand, the canyon wrens provided a near-constant daytime serenade, and I could sing the praises of this trip for quite a while. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Light shining through the twining snapdragon.
Watercress amidst the cottonwood fluff.
Saguaros nearly down to the level of the creek.
View at our camping spot near Booger Canyon.
In Spanish this plant is called batamote.
The banks are lined with stately trees.
The trail meanders in and out of the creek.
The cliff rises to form a shelf for the saguaros.
Contrasting rock colors: cream over chocolate.
The stream widens at the west end.
Looking up a side canyon.
Undercut cliff with a small window.
The bright green of the new leaves is reflected by the water.
Eroded cliffs along the way.
Charming grey-white frogs splashed in the stream.
Dateline 14 March 2017
Mid-March is typically the best for wildflowers around the Tucson Basin and this year was no exception. Here is a selection of the most obvious blooms – there were also Blue Dicks, Cryptantha, Desert Evening Primrose, and a few others that escaped the gaze of the camera. Some of them we fondly call “bellyflowers,” meaning they carpet the ground and you have to be on your belly to see them eye to eye.
Arizona blue-eyes or Evolvulus arizonicus.
A stand of lupine.
Lovely owlclover or Castilleja exserta.
Poppy field delights the eyes.
In the genus Pectis.
Filaree or Erodium cicutarium.
Poppies sprinkle a wash with color.
Water in the creek!
Rafinesquia or desert chicory.
Crossosoma or ragged rock flower.
Common fiddleneck or Amsinckia.
Marah, a wild gourd.
Blue phacelia (I think).
White woolly daisy or Eriophyllum lanosum.
Dateline: 4 November 2016
With the temperatures finally edging into cooler weather, the bit of the Arizona Trail that runs by Davidson Canyon became a more appealing option. Our objective was to amble through the Cienega Creek Preserve, so we didn’t cover much territory. We did enjoy the cool underneath the cottonwoods which were still very green for this time of year. We encountered a local red-tailed hawk who watched over us for a time.
A red-tail observes the creek.
Looking north up Davidson Canyon toward Vail on the Arizona Trail.
Entering Cienega Creek.
A young saguaro sheltered by a mesquite.
Ripples on the creek in the shade of the Cottonwoods.
Dateline August 30, 2016
In late August after a few rains the flowers on the mountain were in their glory. The Box Camp trailhead starts at about 8,000 feet and the trail descends gently at the beginning. We did a short out and back with a focus on the flowers. Here’s what caught my eye:
As the trail descends there are lovely views across the valley.
The little creek after the rains.
Spiderwort in its rose colored variation.
Showy beardlip penstemon.
Cheerful paintbrush along the way.
Yellow columbine amidst the ferns.
Striking blue dayflowers.
Clusters of lobelia by the stream.
I’m calling this one stevia – not certain which one.
Dateline 4 October 2016
Just a short hike west from site of the Old Prison Camp, now named after the most famous occupant, Gordon Hirabayashi, is the Sycamore Reservoir. Those wanting a longer hike can continue past the reservoir to either Bear Canyon or upper Sabino Canyon. We opted for an out-and-back to enjoy the cooler weather.
At about the half-way point we stopped at a saddle to savor the view to the west where the line of green showed the presence of the trees on the creek above the reservoir. Inquiring minds were puzzled by the sign which reads: “no rubber tired vehicles beyond this point.” If we had a wagon with wooden wheels and the key to the gate could we proceed along the road?
In an interesting variation, the datura along the trail had a strong purple tone. Until you are quite close to the reservoir, the trail is open with grass a a few shrubs. From the top the reservoir itself is not very photogenic but there are lovely views of Thimble Peak. There were flourishing stands of desert mallow along the trail, which had us confused for a moment because mallow is more commonly found in peachy-orange colors. The berries on the holly-leaf buckthorn were changing from yellow to red. The ferns an shrubs took advantage of every little scrap of shade – as did we!
Ferns line the shady edge of a rock.
Can I bring my vehicle with wooden tires?
View to the west from the saddle.
Berries on the buckthorn provide autumn color.
Contrasting colors blue and orange.