Category Archives: Human stories

Chiricahua adventure

    Instead of doing one of our local trips that last only a few hours, Ed and I decided to make the longer trip to the Chiricahua Mountains, southeast of Tucson. We left early in the morning, arriving at Portal, on the east of the range, at about ten o’clock. A brief visit to the General Store, and then to the Audubon gift shop at the Research station, set us up for our drive up the East flank of the mountain range. Clouds

It was a beautiful day, highly complex cloud formations from horizon to horizon. We traveled along Cave Creek, with fast running water and lush vegetation. Then the road took us up to places where we could see for miles. We stopped several times, fascinated with the vegetation that is similar to plants that we know, yet very different. I commented to Ed that this road, on the East side of the mountains, was in much better shape than I remember the West side road to be.

Ed by the road

 Ed introduced me to Salvia lemmoni, a plant or shrub with beautiful red flowers. We saw another plant that we suspected was in the Bidens genus, but we did not know the species. The same was true for a Hedeoma, Ceanothus, Asclepias, Ipomopsis and Geranium. Another fairly large plant with thin leaves, tiny yellow flowers with red bracts around the base fascinated us. I also photographed one of the grasses, Bouteloua hirsuta, Hairy GrammaChiricahua mtns.

As we made our way toward Rustler Park, Ed noticed a lot of smoke in the air. Arriving at the camp site we could see that the Forest Service was burning off piles of brush, a good thing to do, but it discouraged us from getting out of the car and exploring the plant life in the area. A few drops of rain on the windshield suggested we might want to begin the long descent into the valley.
We came to Onion Saddle and saw the sign that said “12 miles to Route 181”. That seemed near enough, but before we had gone many miles, the road condition began to deteriorate. Just after two miles we came to a stream crossing, with flowing water. It was not very wide, but deep enough for me to wonder how our little Honda was going to get to the other side. Foolishly I drove into the gully and immediately got stuck. The car would not go forward or backward. The wheels just spun helplessly in the loose gravel.  On getting out, I lost my balance and would have sat unceremoniously in the water, but Ed caught me just in time.

Stuck
We stood, looking at the situation, and realized that we would never get home without some help. Within a few minutes we saw a Forest Service vehicle approaching from behind us. The driver, face blackened from tending the fires in Rustler Park, got out of the vehicle, surveyed the situation, and very calmly and efficiently pulled us out of the stream. He was wonderful. We talked about the condition of the road and he said that there was another crossing ahead that was even worse.
With that we turned around, retraced our way to Onion Saddle and back down the East side of the mountain, electing to go through Paradise instead of Portal, and with minor tension at some of the crossings, found ourselves on I 10, heading for Tucson. What a trip!

We got home after about 12 hours.
Thanks to a wonderful Chiricahua Plant list produced by US Geological Survey, and one done for the Chiricahua National Monument, I was able to look up most of the plants that I had not been able to identify in the field. Here they are with my tentative identification.

Asclepias lemmonii 1
Asclepias lemmonii – Lemmon’s milkweed

Asclepias lemmoni FL7A close up of a single Milkweed flower

Bidens bigelovii – Bigelow’s beggarticks (no picture)

Ceanothus greggii 6

Ceanothus greggii – Desert ceanothus

Geranium wislizenii FL
Geranium wislizeni – Huachuca mountain geranium

Ipomopsis macombii 5
Ipomopsis macombii – Macomb’s ipomopsis

Ipomopsis macombii 7

Close-up of a single flower

Oxytropis lambertii 5

Oxotropis lambertii – Purple locoweed

Salvia lemmonii 7
Salvia lemmonii – Lemmon’s sage

Schkuria pinnata 5Schkuria pinnata 7

A branch, and an individual flower

All in all it was a great adventure.

 

THE ORCHID LIVES!

Two weeks ago I reported finding the rare orchid, Malaxis abieticola. We went back to find it again, and could not find it. We assumed it was eaten, and mourned its lost. About a week later I met the orchid expert, Ron Coleman, with his wife and a couple from England. It turns out that they found it! Ron led me to the very spot, and there it was, a little the worse for wear (the flower stalk was bent), but still very much alive. This time I had my close up lens and could photograph an individual flower.
Malaxis abieticola FL

 

 

A close up of one flower

 

 

 

 
We have just had a reunion with all of our five children. All were born in England. For a time while we lived there we owned an Austin mini (or was it a Morris minor?)  My niece, Dorothy, was staying with us and helping out. All eight of us (Frank, Louise, Dorothy and children ages to 4 to 11, and our luggage for a vacation, piled into our tiny car and drove clear across the southern part of England. (This was before seat-belt laws.)  We made it and had a great little vacation.

At our recent family reunion on the top of Mt. Lemmon, we noticed that our neighbor in a nearby cabin, has a Mini-Cooper, with essentially the same body as the car we owned over forty-six  years ago. She kindly allowed us to pose with her car, showing clearly that the present group would need two or three of them to travel anywhere.

Morris cram

 

Our youngest, Owen, is partly covered by the hatch

SUMMER SIGHTINGS

The June issue of TUCSON LIFESTYLE HOME & GARDEN has an article called: “Blood is thicker than watercolor” by Megan Guthrie. It is a fine write up of the father/son duo, Frank and Owen Rose. This is one of the paintings featured.

-thundering falls

“Thundering Falls” by Frank S Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is a link to the article (pp. 10, 11).
http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=210119&p=10#%7B%22page%22:10,%22issue_id%22:210119%7D

It has been a long time since we have had significant rain here in Southern Arizona, but there are many flowers in bloom in the mountains. There is a field of Lupine (Lupinus palmeri), the only Lupine species growing high in the mountain (4500 feet and above). The flowers are normally blue, but in one patch we saw three albinos.

Lupine white

 

 

An albino lupine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not far away was a rare example of Green gentian, or Deer’s ears blooming (Swertia radiata). These plants have large leaves, (like deer’s ears) and year after year store energy underground until they finally send up a flowering stalk. These can be as tall as eight feet.
Swertia stalk

 

A portion of a five-foot tall stalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swertia radiata7

 

 

An individual flower

 

 

 

 

 

 
Another large plant is Cow Parsnip (related to Hemlock), whose name Heracleum lanatum, means woolly Hercules, referring to the Greek muscle man. The leaves can be larger than dinner plates. The flowering heads have many groups of flowers, and each group has many flowers. These tend to be irregular, with larger petals at the edges of the inflorescence.
Heracleum lanatum3

 

 

 

This plant is about five feet tall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heracleum lanatumFL

 

 

Looking down at the flower head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heracleum lanatum9

 

Two flowers – note how the petal size varies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed and I were hiking along the Mint Spring trail. We came to the site of the old spring, now dried up. Looking up we saw a hillside that used to be covered with Ponderosa pine. As you can see in this photograph, they all burnt in the fire 11 years ago. On one slope I did not see any new trees. About a quarter of a mile north there were many young pines. But the most successful trees after a fire are the Quaking Aspen. These trees regenerate from the roots, and a patch that seems to contain hundreds of trees may be just have one root system underground with many trunks rising out of the ground as if they were separate trees.
snags and sky

 

Looking up at the burnt forest. Note the interesting cloud patterns

 

 

 

 

 

snags and new growth

 

 

A portion of the hillside with new pine trees

 

 

 

snags and aspen

 

A portion of the hillside with new aspens

 

 

 

 
These days the temperature goes above 100 degrees in the valley, but the mountains are cool and beautiful. And the plant life on the mountain is slowly coming back after the fire of 2003, a fascinating process to watch.

FROM EARTH TO SKY

Last Saturday my niece, Marjorie and I went to the Mission Gardens in Tucson (at the Base of “A” Mountain) to witness the celebration of Saint Ysidro. The Tucson Herbalist Collective, of which she is a member, had a booth there.

THC booth

Marjorie at the Booth with Pam Nakai

 

 

 

 

It was great fun seeing the young musicians of the Davis Bilingual School with their Mariachi Band, and the procession of people of different ethnic groups. San Ysidro was famous as a Labrador (Farmer) who enriched the plant offerings that helped to support the population.
Mariachi band

 

The Mariachi Band coming around the corner into the Garden

 

 

 

 

Mariachi band2

 

The musicians relaxing before their next song

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the celebration I caught this picture of some women harvesting in the fields of the San Agustin Mission Garden.
Harvest

 

Women harvesting

 

 

 

 
Wednesday Ed and I had a beautiful hike along Turkey Run. It was a cool day, and though there were not many different species in bloom, some of them, like the wild strawberry, carpeted large sections of the forest floor. The botanical name “Fragaria” is related to our word fragrant.  I tried to smell the flowers, but couldn’t detect any particular odor. The references is to the wonderful smell of the strawberries themselves, which we rarely see in the wild since they are snatched up eagerly by the wildlife.

The False Solomon’s Seal and Star Solomon’s Seal were just coming into bloom. Their botanical genus, Maianthemum, means “May flower”, so this is their month.,
Star solomon seal

 

 

Star Solomon’s Seal

 

 

 

 

 

On the way down the mountain Ed and I were intrigued by the cloud formations. The first was pretty well shaped like a box. The cloud itself stayed very much in the same place for a long time, but its shape was constantly changing. On getting home I found that it was a Lenticular Cloud  (Altocumulus lenticularis), one of the Altocumulus cloud formations. As we drove down the mountain, looking toward the East we saw banks of cumulus clouds (about 3 kilometer altitude). To the right were many examples of lenticular clouds, about twice as high off the ground. These clouds form in areas where the wind currents are in standing waves, so they are held in the same place for a long time. At times we had trouble keeping our eyes on the road because of the fascination of these amazing clouds.

rectangular cloud

 

At first this lenticular cloud was a rectangle but soon it lost one of its corners

 

 

Oval cloud

 

 

 

In a few minutes the same cloud became an oval

 

 

Regular clouds

 

 

Regular cumulus clouds

 

Lenticular clouds

 

 

 

 

A group of lenticular clouds

GETTING CLOSER

Last week a group of us were having lunch after a nature walk. Many of the people in the group were keen bird watchers, so you can imagine their astonishment when they heard the call of an owl in the middle of the day. One woman wanted to see the owl, so she went to investigate. Minutes later she returned, a little bit deflated. “It wasn’t an owl” she explained, “just another bird watcher making owl sounds.” I found out later that some little birds will gang up on an owl to drive it away. By making owl sounds the person was trying to trick some of these little fellows into emerging from the shrubs. I don’t know if he (or she) fooled the little birds. It fooled us.

Today we saw a few birds but I was more interested in getting a close up view of two plants I have known for some time – Bear Grass and False Indigo.
Nolina microcarpa
Bear Grass (Nolina microcarpa) is not a grass at all, but a very large plant in the Asparagus family. In May the plants send up a flowering shoot, four feet or more tall. The species is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are on separate plants. Whereas the flowering stalk is huge, the flowers are quite small, and we were having some difficulty telling which was the male and which the female. Eventually we found some with tiny little flowers clustered on the long stalk. I was able to get a close up of the flowers, and finally can tell the two apart.

This is a watercolor portrait I did of Bear Grass

 

Nolina microcarpa male and female

 

 

 

The stalk on the left has the male flowers, not yet opened

On the right is the female, with some flowers open and many closed

The penny gives an idea of scale

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa7b male closed

 

 

The male flowers before they open

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa5 male

 

 

Here is a cluster of male flowers, with just one of them open

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa9 male

 

The male flower close up. Note the golden anthers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nolina microcarpa9 female

 

 

This is a close-up of a female flower of the Bear Grass

 

 

 

 

 
Later we came across a clusters of False Indigo plants – Amorpha fruticosa. From a distance it is hard to tell if the plant is in bloom or not. Up close, you can see the flower stalks, with the bright yellow anthers emerging from a deep purple base. I had never been able to photograph the individual flowers before today. I was thrilled to see what they look like. The genus name, amorphous, means “deformed” referring to the fact that each flower doesn’t have the usual form with a number of petals. It just has a single one curled around, with the anthers protruding from it.

Amorpha fruticosa1

 

 

A general view of False Indigo plants in a stream bed

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosaPL

 

 

This shows a part of a False Indigo plant with the flower spikes

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosa5b

 

Here is a flower spike with the flowers on the top portion not yet open

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosa7

Here we see the individual flowers packed in. The yellow balls are the pollen bearing anthers. The flower petals are purple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amorpha fruticosa9b

 

A close up of two False Indigo flowers

 

 

 

 

 

On the home front, I have been watching the golden barrel cactus in our front yard. A few months ago I noticed that one of them was looking a little sickly. On closer inspection I found that I could see right through it in places. Our property is home to many ground squirrels, and I think they found a way of getting to the fleshy interior of the cactus. On the outside, the plants are well defended. Coming from underground, the ground squirrels found the soft underbelly, and have almost completely hollowed the plant out. They did the same to one of the other two. And yet all three cactus plants are still alive! They are gutted, but not totally defeated.

Golden barrell

 

Our Golden Barrel cactus with holes in the middle where you can see right through the plant. Looking at the plant and moving your head around, you can see that it is almost completely hollow, and yet is still alive

A MILLION PLANTS?

Ed and I hiked Marshall Gulch over a week ago. This week his brother, Bob, joined us, and we hiked it again. And what a treat it was! We were able to notice new flower species in bloom, such as Fendler hawkweed (Hieracium fendleri), and Rock jasmine (Androsace septentrionalis) a tiny white flower.
AndrosacePL

 

Rock jasmine – about 3 inches high

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the trail we met a young man with a serious back pack. He stopped to chat with us, but how he had time, I do not know, since, if I heard him correctly, he was hiking the Arizona Trail (about 800 miles long from Mexico to Utah), and had gone from the start of the trail at the Mexican Border, to the Catalina mountains in four or five days. That is a distance of about 185 miles. I confess to feeling a little nostalgic. The trail beckons to me, but I certainly could not stand his pace (about 40 miles a day.) Wow!

We were happy to show Bob the Spring coral root (Corallorhiza wisteriana). This time I was able to get a fairly good photograph. This is the earliest of the mountain orchids.

Corallrhiza wistereanaFL

 

Spring coral root with red stems and a white lip

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also saw the mostly bare branches of Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), with last year’s fruit still on. I wonder why no one has eaten them. Hmm.
Poison ivyFR

 

 

Poison ivy fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our little piece of land in Tucson we like to let nature do the planting. Most of the flowers and shrubs on the property just showed up on their own. They call them “volunteers”. This includes the Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), a perennial shrub that has masses of beautiful yellow flowers. At the back of our property there is a fence, and over the fence a piece of land sloping down to the alley. Most years I ignore this, and it just becomes a wilderness of weeds. A few years ago I got the bright idea of planting Brittlebush in the alley. It can grow quite large, and effectively eliminates weeds. So I transplanted a few seedlings that had “volunteered” in the front of our house. They did not take. A year later I tried again. Again they did not take.
Encelia farinosaPL3

 

 

Brittlebush

 

 
This year I adopted a new plan. They have just finished blooming, so  I harvested the seeds from the many brittlebush plants on the property. I put them in a plastic bag and waited for rain. The forecast said there was a 20%chance of rain today, so I cleared the slope, scattered the seeds and raked them in. We will see if any of them germinate. My wife thinks I may have overdone it this time. Who needs a million brittlebush plants in their back yard?

MORE WONDERS OF NATURE

On recent plant walks I have found a number of interesting items. On the 26th of February Ed and I were in Catalina State Park and came across a Prickly Pear, growing out of the trunk of a Mesquite tree. I have seen Prickly Pear growing eight feet high on a Saguaro but this was the first time to see one on a Mesquite.

Prickly perar on mesquit

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March the sixth, I drove alone up the Catalina mountains to the Butterfly trail head. It was surprisingly mild considering I was at about 8000′. I was looking for grasses in bloom, and found some, but was not able to identify them yet. On the way I almost tripped over a “witch’s broom.” This is a condition in which the growth pattern of a tree changes so that the branches and needles are much more thickly concentrated forming a kind of basket shape.  I took two pictures – one on the ground, and the other propped on a tree stump. Reading about it I learned that trees have growth hormones. Some control the way the plant sends out new branches and some inhibit growth. When the hormones get mixed up the tree forms these very irregular masses of branches, twigs and needles that are considerably heavier than normal growth. In this picture you can see a central branch – so small as to be a twig really, that was supporting this mass. Evidently it broke, and the “basket” came tumbling down. I believe it came off of a Douglas fir.
witch's broom1

 

 

 

 

witch's broom2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proceeding along the trail I looked for one of my favorite flowers, the Redfuzz saxifrage. There were still patches of snow on the ground. I learned before that the plant will actually melt enough snow to poke through snow. On this walk I found a few plants with their red buds. By now the buds have opened to reveal these delightful white flowers, harbingers of spring in the mountains.

Saxifraga eriophoraFL

 

Redfuzz saxifrage (Micranthes eriophora)

Picture taken a few years ago.

 

 

 

 

 
Kayla decided to spend her spring break with her grandparents in Tucson, getting away from one of the harshest winters on record in deKalb, Illinois where she is completing her last year of college at Northern Illinois University. She loved the warmth and sunshine, and hiked with us in Molino Basin. On part of her visit the three of us, my wife, Louise, Kayla and I went for a trip to Sedona. On arrival at the visitors center we were told about a trail to the iconic Red Rock Crossing that we had never been on before. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk. At our farthest point we stood at the edge of the fast-flowing Oak Creek. Later we visited the fascinating shops in Tlaquepaque and then drove up Airport Hill to catch the sunset. Hundreds of other people had the same idea. There was something really nice about seeing so many people gathered, hugging each other in the chill evening air, just to watch the sunset.
Before leaving Sedona the next day we hiked in the West Fork trail. On getting home I was inspired to write this little poem about our final walk.

A POEM OF GRATITUDE

by Frank S Rose,  March 12, 2014

The sky overhead is striped with long curving lines of ice crystals
The ground underfoot is red and soft
A cluster of acorn woodpeckers plays tag darting back and forth between the bare apple trees
The air is soft and cool as groups of people make their way up the canyon.

The cliffs of red and ocher block out the morning sun
Up ahead it highlights an enormous Ponderosa pine and lays a patch of gold at its foot

We cross and re-cross the stream tracking damp footprints up the banks of red earth
It is early spring – the bare branches of red osier dogwood give a warm glow to the forest, especially where sunlight touches them
White Candytuft start to appear as we make our way up the canyon first a few – then a cluster, then a celebration.
There are a few yellow mustard plants just showing their colors
We see a thicket of ancient horsetail the great survivors of earlier times

Happy people greet us, including the couple that spoke to us as we waited to get seated at the restaurant last night.
Lively teens and wobbling infants add to the pageant of human life visiting this treasured part of Oak Creek.

We turn around just before stream crossing number 5 (out of 13) and soon are treated to new flowers
The pink Valerian we missed on the way up the canyon, now reminding us how easy it is to overlook nature’s treasures

We complete our timeless interlude to begin the long drive home.

Red rocks

 

 

 

Kayla and Louise walking toward Red Rock Crossing

Sunset watch

 

 

 

People gathered to watch the sunset in Sedona

Candytuft

 

 

 

 

Wild Candytuft (Noccaea fendleri)

BROUGHT LOW BY INVISIBLE BEASTIES

On New Year’s Day Dave and I had a wonderful hike in the mountains, as reported in my last blog. The next day I started to feel bad, and knew that trouble was coming. Within hours I was into one of the worst coughs I have had for years. It is now six days later, and I still cough a lot (so much so that I have moved into the guest room so that my wife can get some sleep.) The last few days I have managed to get a few hours of work in. I am sleeping  8 to 10 hours a night, and take two-hour naps during the day. Then I watch old movies, etc. I just hold still to reduce the danger of coughing, and count on my body to do its work in getting rid of the invisible enemy.

One lesson I have learned from the movies. Not only do heroes fall for beautiful women, but, amazing as it may sound, some beautiful women are really ugly inside! It is quite disillusioning. And it helps to pass the time.

 

More later when I feel up to it.

GOING HIGHER THAN WE EXPECTED TO GO

We are already into the New Year. This blog has been quiet, since my wife and I went to Minneapolis/St. Paul for Christmas. The drawing card was family – altogether 21 of us at one time or another. That included my wife, Louise, and I, three of our children, (Alan, Elizabeth and Jeremy), their spouses (Lesilee, Mike and Carol), 8 Grandchildren, one of whom had a spouse, and another a boy friend, and three Great Grandchildren. What a wonderful time we had. The snow and icy cold weather were difficult at times, and a treat. Some of us took a one mile walk in the -4 degree temperature, two took a longer hike in a nature center at about the same temperature, three of us walked out onto a frozen lake, complete with ice-fishing holes, trucks and huts. One very cold night, -13 degrees, we tested the suggestions as to “how to enjoy cold weather” first by freezing water filled balloons, then by blowing soap bubbles and watching at least some of them freeze enough to land on the ground and roll around, and throwing boiling water into the air to watch it instantly turn into fine snow.

I guess it was predictable that the most entertainment was provided by Isha, less than two years old, with her impish grin and endless antics.

It seemed a little foolish to travel in such wintry conditions. Our flight were delayed both ways, but we did arrive safely at both ends, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

After only a few hours sleep, I woke fairly early on New Year’s Day and persuaded my friend Dave to go hiking with me. We went to Molino Basin. On the way up the mountain I suggested we visited “our” Rosewood tree. This was a fairly ambitious suggestion, since it involved going off the trail and up a steep hill. I was particularly interested to revisit the tree. It is featured in my book. “Mountain trees”. In lectures I have pointed out that although the tree is less than fifteen feet tall, its trunk suggests that it might be very old. So far I had not actually measured it.

Here Dave, (who is 5″ 4″) has his hiking stick on his head (another 5′) and the top of the stick does not reach the top of the tree, which we think is over 14′ tall.

Rosewood height

It is hard to see clearly in this picture, but the trunk is very complex, and very wide.

Rosewood trunk

We arrived at the tree and realized that we did not bring a measuring tape. Gathering various straps we linked them together and constructed a line that we could wrap around the base of the tree. As you can see from the photograph, this was no mean feat. The trunk is complex with two main trunks and some smaller ones. Dave marked our make-shift ruler so that we could check it when we got back home. We guessed from looking at it, that the base of the tree was about eight feet around.

As we sat and enjoyed our refreshments I kept looking up the hill and to the right. Above us there was a fairly level arm of the mountain, and it seemed to be calling to us. Finally I suggested to Dave that we might want to climb up there. Well, once such an idea is in the air it is hard to resist, so we left our packs and extra gear by the Rosewood tree, and scaled the hill. It was well worth it. We eventually found ourselves on a ridge commanding views from both sides. We could look down, way down, into the Molino Basin, and turning around, to the Tucson Basin even as far as Mexico and New Mexico. What a thrill it was to sit there high in the mountain on a perfect day.

Looking down to our Rosewood tree from our first trek higher up the mountain
MB look down at rosewood
Then I found myself looking up again, and finally mentioned to Dave that he might want to see if we could go higher. Soon he was off up the hill, and then beckoned me to follow. It was steep in some places, but gentle and easy walking terrain in others, ending in a magnificent pile of rocks. We had reached the top! Years ago we had wondered what that would be like. Today, by going in stages, we got there. There was something very wonderful about sitting on those flat rocks and scanning the view. The only jarring notes came from the rumble of cars and the roar of motorcycles driving 500 feet below us.

Dave at the very top of the peak. Snow is visible on the Rincon Mountains in the distance.

MB David at peakMB peak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we got down we looked back up. The highest point in this picture is the peak.

 

As usual we kept our eyes out for flowers, and found two species in bloom – spiny aster and wiry lettuce.

Returning to Dave’s we took out our make shift measuring device, placed it alongside a measuring tape, and found that it was exactly eight feet long!

A HIKE TO REMEMBER

Dave and I hiked in Ventana Canyon yesterday – so named because “Ventana” is Spanish for window. High up the trail you come to a window – about 15 feet high and  25 feet wide.

trail
This map shows the trail we followed. The trails we have hiked are marked in red.

 

 

 
This brought back memories for me. Twenty-eight years ago my wife and I hiked up to the window. The plan was to slog the 9 plus miles up to the Window on the Esperero Trail from Sabino Canyon, (just over 9 miles), have the wedding, spend the night near by, and then in the morning hike down the Ventana Canyon trail, 6.4 miles to where we had parked a second set of cars. But there was a snag. Most of our gear was packed onto three horses that were going meet us, bringing water, sleeping bags, food and the bride’s wedding dress. We waited and waited for them to arrive, and finally decided to head to the Window before it got too late.  As we walked the last two miles toward the Window we passed a lone hiker. Louise and I were at the end of the line. By the time the hiker met us he was mumbling under his breath: “Three days of hiking without seeing a soul, and now I meet a whole damn wedding party.” (There were 11 of us)

After the wedding we headed back the way we had come, going as fast as we could so as to not have to hike too long in the heat of the next day. At a certain point it was simply too dark, so we lay down on the trail where we were, and fitfully slept until the early light of morning woke us. We hurried down into the 109 degree heat of a Tucson summer day. It took quite a while for us to cool down  I had to immerse myself in a tub of cold water. The following day we felt fine.

Whenever I hike in Ventana Canyon, I think of that adventure. Yesterday started cool, but got warmer, even though it is mid December. The first thing we noticed was the very tall grass called Giant Reed (Arundo donax). Some time ago I went to a talk in Sabino Canyon where they spoke of the task of eradicating this very aggressive plant from the Canyon. It had taken over large areas, and was crowding out the native species of trees and plants. Dave and I went off the trail to get a closer look at this member of the grass family. The plant in this picture is 15 feet tall at least. Farther along the trail we saw other clumps of the grass, and commented on how difficult it would be to keep it from taking over Ventana Canyon.

Arundo donax3Arundo donax1

 

 

 

 

 

Above is a picture of just one Giant Reed plant

The plant on the left is at least 15 feet tall.

 

 

After exploring the trail and the stream bed, we came to a nice resting place. There were thousands of seedlings carpeting the ground. I particularly noticed this one. Dicot plants send up a shoot which branches into two leaves (from Dicotyledon, meaning two Cotyledons, or seed leaves). These leaves look much the same in a variety of plants. Then the plant produces new leaves recognizable as belonging to a certain species. In this case we can see from the crinkled leaves, that it is a Phacelia (Heliotrope or Scorpion weed). In a few months the floor of the canyon will be graced with a light purple haze from the beautiful flowers of this plant, mixed in with the blues, golds and whites of thousands of other wildflowers.

Phacelia seedling