Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Colorado Wildflower Tour - July 2021: American Basin Flower Gallery

 The narrative for this wildflower gallery begins here.

Wildflower Portrait Gallery

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July 16, 2021

American Basin

Rose Paintbrush

Colorado Columbine


Rose Paintbrush

Tiger Beardtongue

Northern Yellow Paintbrush

Colorado Columbine

I was not able to determine which Asteraceae this was without question, but sure is pretty.


King's Crown

Twisted Draba - macro lens

Coulter's Daisy - macro lens

Fringed Bluebell - macro lens

 If you missed it, the narrative for this wildflower gallery begins here.

Colorado Wildflower Tour - July 2021: Part 3

Bonus: Northern New Mexico

Continuation of Part 1 and Part 2

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Sunday, July 18th (continued)

Just past the Combres & Toltec Scenic Railroad tracks at Antonito is the poorly marked Road 12.5. I had never driven in from this direction, only come out, so got briefly lost at the village of Ortiz, but a local youth got me pointed in the right direction. I knew, then, I was going the right way when I drove through the somewhat overgrown New Mexico State Recreation area.

Rio de Los Piños Campground

When the road turns left over a small bridge, proceed straight ahead. Hooray, my favorite site was available! It is a grassy verge along the river before you get to the "official" sites in the campground. I was first directed to this wonderful campground in the fall of my first year with my camper by a ranger at the Tres Piedras Ranger station. I camped at this very spot as the wooded sites in the campground were full. The following year I came again. This time I stayed in the campground, but though it was a lovely site, it didn't have the views of this spot. I resolved that next time I'd set up where I had the first time.

My campsite along the river with the scenic cliffs on the other bank.

I wanted this site again, not only for the view of the river and rocky cliff, but also as it would get full sun for most of the day for my solar panels. With the afternoon rains and heavy clouds the previous days my batteries were never able to fully charge with my one 100 watt panel, although they did accumulate enough charge to energize the camper. I deployed my second, portable 100 watt panel.

From another angle you can see the river and my second solar panel soaking up the photons.

It was warm, but not bad. It was late enough in the day I was able to set up my chair in the shadow of my camper and bliss out on the view, listening to the river babbling. A beautiful evening, too.

Monday, July 19th

Rio de Los Piños CG (continued)

I took a photo walk along the road that leads into the campground and beyond. Although a number of cars and trucks had gone in and/or come out last night, there were no campers at all other than myself. It was a beautiful morning. I took photos of flowers and landscapes, and tried to take photos of birds.

This is the same species as the Colorado Rubber Plant, but I have captioned the photo with the
common name as given in the New Mexico Wildflower reference.

Scarlett Beardtongue, not to be confused with...

Scarlett Gilia

Looks like a good pool to lure some trout.

Rock Spirea, also known as Mountain Spray

Here is a close-up from the plant above so you can appreciate all the tiny blossoms.

As a native son I love New Mexico green chile with a passion,
but I don't understand this branding at all.

Another lovely river scene.

I was very surprised when I first learned these large sandpipers summered on mountain streams.

Cute little critter pausing for a portrait.

There were many butterflies getting mineral supplements from around mud puddles.

After about a mile I came to a cattle guard where a small herd were (was?) congregating beyond. I decided that was far enough and returned to camp.

I'm generally not a fan of decorating nature, but this was clever.

Another scene of this gorgeous area.

I set up my homemade tarp awning to provide shade during the day as there were no trees to shade my spot. I sat in my chair and relaxed all afternoon. A few times I got up to get photos of passing butterflies.

Commercial awnings mount from the top edge of the lower camper section. My home made model
is harder to erect, but has the advantage of shading the raised side panel. Cheaper, too.

Tiger Swallowtail

The richly patterned underwings of Weidemeyer's Admiral

This is the upper side of the Admiral that one usually sees.

The small Clouded Sulphur butterfly.

As I was sitting in the shade I saw the grass and clover trembling.
A major pest in my yard, but a cute critter out here in the wilds.

A 360º panorama of this intimate canyon.

It reached a high of 81º and my fridge ran quite a bit, but with both panels in full sun, my batteries achieved full charge and the controller was able to go into Float mode. I enjoyed the evening after a wonderfully relaxing day.

Tuesday, July 20th

Rio de Los Piños CG (continued)

I didn't rush, but decided to head home and not hang around. Seemed like a good idea to get back home before the heat of the day. I drove back out the way I'd come in (but without the wrong turn) and turned right on US-285 headed south.

I stopped in Española for fuel for my truck and for me. Then Santa Fe. Then home.

A successful trip with no problems, mostly good weather, and lots of beautiful wildflowers.

If you missed the link earlier, check out the American Basin Wildflower portrait gallery here.

Thanks for joining me for this portion of my wildflower tour. I hope you enjoyed the presentation. If you have any questions, feel free to email using the link at the top of the page. Thanks.

Colorado Wildflower Tour - July 2021: Part 2

Gunnison Public Lands

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Friday, July 16th (continued)

Slate River Valley

I filled my tank with expensive gasoline in Gunnison and headed up toward Crested Butte. I decided to drive up the road along the Slate River as it was a beautiful area with many places to disperse camp. Was I ever in for a surprise. I guess it's been 4 years since I camped along here. Since then the forest service has instituted camping restrictions - camping in designated sites only. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, in fact it is probably a good idea to help preserve the natural resource. There were many fewer "drive in" sites, but they had added a number of "walk in" areas. However, this meant I was unable to find a campsite anywhere along the road as the area was overflowing with visitors. There were not all that many wildflowers either, so I took no photos. I turned around and headed back to Crested Butte.

Kebler Pass Road

I drove west on County 12, Kebler Pass Road. There were no camping restrictions posted in this area, but there were tents and RVs shoehorned into just about every possible niche. At least there were quite a few wildflowers along the highway and in the meadows. I drove in on several side roads, but found no spot available. Finally, I found a narrow spur off the county road that was not inhabited - maybe because there was no campsite just a 100 foot long double track to nowhere. However, with my pop-up camper I don't really need a site just a space! I backed out as there was not even a turn around at the end of the very short road, then turned around and backed into the road until I was out of sight of the county road and my rig was close to level. My home for the evening.

Camping in the middle of a road to nowhere.

Saturday, July 17th

Kebler Pass Road (continued)

Mule's Ears are ubiquitous in the region.

I decided not to drive farther west this morning. I believe the area is mostly scrublands and wouldn't have as many flowers as I'd seen driving in. Hope that wasn't a mistake. I briefly looked at my maps and thought about where I wanted to head that day - no conclusion, but food for thought. I packed up and headed back east to the big meadow. The meadows and hillsides were covered with wildflowers, mostly bright yellow Asteraceae. I took lots of photos. The diversity of species was much less than in American Basin, but the size & density of patches seemed much higher.

Mule's Ears on the hillside along Ruby Anthracite Creek

East Beckwith Mountain seen across the meadow.

People disperse camp by the trailheads at the big meadow. Cliff Creek, on the south side, provides very limited space, though Dark Canyon at Horse Ranch Park on the north side has a big loop where larger travel trailers and RVs can camp. This time there were many, many large horse trailers there. It's obviously a popular spot for pack trips. There is also a corral.

Ruby Peak

Another view of East Beckwith Mountain

View from along Kebler Pass Road

[A note on camping along Kebler Road: it would not surprise me if the Forest Service implemented camping restrictions in this area similar as along the Slate River. I suspect several sites close to Ruby Anthracite Creek would be closed as being too close to running water. Other areas might be closed to protect the resource, though I don't believe this area has been as abused as the Slate River area had been.]

Ohio Pass Road

Instead of braving Crested Butte on a Saturday morning I turned off on Ohio Pass Road that heads south almost as far as Gunnison. I had driven up the road in 2014 when looking for autumn aspen. This time I would be going down. It is a pretty drive, but not much in the way of dispersed campsites, FYI. There were lovely wildflowers especially in the lower reaches, such as at the Swampy Pass trail head, but I didn't take any photos. 

Cochetopa Region

I returned to Gunnison and topped of my gas tank. When thinking of my travels this morning I thought maybe I'd go east on US-50 from Gunnison then turn south on CO-114 through Cochetopa Canyon and see what was beyond. I'd come up through the canyon in 2018 on one of my fall color tours. On that trip I'd come down Cebolla Creek Canyon from Slumgullion Pass. This time my idea was to stay on 114 go over North Cochetopa Pass and explore to the east and south of there.

Cochetopa Canyon did not seem as spectacular as I'd remembered, but on the first transit I'd been totally surprised to find it at all. That probably influenced my memories. Nonetheless, it is very cool.

I did get one great surprise. Around a curve, about the time I noticed a van headed toward me braking heavily, I saw a Bighorn Sheep crossing the road! My first time ever seeing one close enough to see with my naked eyes. So cool, but he was across the highway and disappearing up the side of the canyon before I could even register what I'd seen. Zero chance for a photo.

Cochetopa Creek runs through the canyon and there are a number of areas to pull off. The BLM has added tables to some spots. Where I stopped for lunch there was also a vault toilet. I found shade under the trees and took a few photos after my repast. 

Close-up of the blossoms on the Shrubby Cinquefoil.

Purplish Fritillary butterfly at my picnic spot.

Pretty little Pink Checker Mallow flowers.

I launched the drone to get an aerial photo of this strip oasis.

Aerial view along the creek.

North Cochetopa Pass

Obligatory photo from the pass, crossing the Continental Divide.

After crossing North Cochetopa Pass I checked out Buffalo Pass Campground. It was so early I had no intention of staying, but wanted to see what it was like. It was about a mile off the highway and very nice. The USFS charges only $5 per night. Great for a future stay if the timing was right. I returned to the highway and proceeded south to County Road NN 14 where I cut west to explore that area. I'd seen Luders Creek campground on the map and I figured where there was a campground there might be scenic dispersed camping. The roads were excellent and the lands very pretty, though not spectacular.

At Luder Creek I met two gentlemen who were enthusiastic about telling me about interesting places to visit and camp in the area. We looked at maps and they gave me their suggestions. Unfortunately, their suggestions didn't pan out. Either we had different ideas of what constituted a good campsite or I misunderstood their directions, or a bit of both. 


I drove west past Dome Lakes not seeing where they were recommending for dispersed camping as it was bare country, they had admitted "open". But they were both very enthusiastic about camping at McDonough Reservoir so I thought I'd go find it. To get there I ended up back on FS-788 that I'd traveled in 2018. Not my original intention, but here I was. There were two access roads to the reservoir. The first I tried that should have led to the outlet below the lake had a locked gate about 2/3rds of the way in. Rats. The second was steep road which led to a somewhat claustrophobic campsite that was in fact already taken. There were also several vehicles, probably folks fishing, but I didn't see anyone.

Los Pinos Creek

[Not to be confused with Rio de los Piños where I will be tomorrow.]

At that point I was too far along to want to go back so I continued. As the afternoon progressed I kept looking for a good campsite. I tried a couple side roads that were rough and didn't seem to lead anywhere interesting. I was getting closer to Los Pinos Pass. I'd found a pretty campsite below there on my previous trip, but I figured the view from the pass itself, toward the west, would be best lit by morning light so I wanted to camp before the pass and go over in the morning.

I turned south on FS-790, a gravel road that looked promising and on the map looked like it led to interesting places. After about two miles I came to a dirt road through large open area of low scrub. To the side was a grassy area that looked to make an acceptable camp site. I found a level spot for the camper and was just unlatching the roof when there came a terrible racket. Apparently around the bend was a camp where youthful voices were yelling and gunning their unmuffled ATVs. Glad they started up before I made camp. I re-latched the roof and got out of there. I continued on the gravel road, but it soon became apparent it would go through miles of repetitive hillside with little chance of campsites.

I drove back to the "main" road and continued toward the pass. In a mile or less I saw a little dirt road off to the north marked FS-821. About a mile up the road I found a nice campsite in a little meadow. It even had a good view south toward what I believe to be Stewart Peak.

Finally, a deluxe dispersed campsite with no noisy neighbors.

A Western Wood-Peewee high in the treetops.

Sunday, July 18th

Aerial view above my campsite looking toward the peaks.

I took a wildflower photo walk before packing up. There were lots of species in the rough meadow where I camped that I had not seen in other areas of this trip.

The etherial Prairie Smoke flower.

Sego Lily lies close to the ground and is easily overlooked.

View up toward my campsite.

Hippio's Cinquefoil and Scarlett Gilia.

Yarrow in a sunny spot.

Another species of Cinquefoil and Tiger Beardtongue.

Showy Daisy is found throughout the region

Los Pinos Pass

View along the road at Los Pinos Pass

The road I'd camped along was only about a half mile before the pass. I stopped a couple times along the road for photos. 

An aerial view from a bit farther down the pass.

Colorado Rubber Plant likes a sunny roadside. Reportedly the plant has latex in its roots.

Richardson's Geranium

Sand Aster also likes a sunny spot.

I'd been seeing Western Tanagers throughout the trip. This is the only photo I managed to get.

Yet another Cinquefoil. This one is very small and hugs the ground.

When I got to the junction of Cebolla Road I decided to head north a short ways. I had not explored that direction on my previous trip. The map showed the Mason Family State Wildlife Area and farther on the Cebolla Creek campground. The Mason Wildlife Area was very nice. It is a small, neat campground in a wooded area along Cebolla Creek. Note however, the faculty is only for those with a valid Colorado Fishing or Hunting license. This is apparently a new restriction. 

I continued along. For a number of miles the road passes through private property - mostly summer homes. The Forest Service Cebolla Creek campground farther north is tiny with two small sites next to the road. It was pretty, but probably not a destination. I turned around there and headed back south. 

Aerial view looking up Cebolla Creek Canyon.

Entering the canyon from near the junction.

When I came down Cebolla Canyon in 2018 I got caught behind the fall cattle round-up for much of the way. This resulted in my impression of the canyon being much longer. Measuring it after the fact, the canyon is about 15 miles long from the junction of FS-788 and CO-149. It remains a beautiful canyon with the small stream flowing between steep cliffs and forested slopes. There is one small campground suitable for small campers and another with walk-in sites. There are maybe a half dozen dispersed campsites along the road. I stopped for photos a few times along the canyon road. 

A close-up of a rose bush along side the road.

Interesting cliff formations along the road.

Though common in desert regions of Utah, this primrose clung to the edge of the road.

A field of flowers between the road and the cliffs.

Red Paintbrush

Don't know if you can see it, but these blossoms were definitely pink.

This patch of Tiger Beardtongue was near the head of the road.

(At the head of the road at Slumgullion Pass the larger campground there has been re-opened and it is lightly used, though it has fewer trees now after the dead tree removal project along CO-149. It is also at a higher elevation than many are comfortable with.)

When I reached the top I turned east and south on CO-149. I stopped for a picnic lunch at Spring Pass. I didn't want to brave the potential crowds in this area, but was interested in another night or two camping if I could find a nice spot. I had one in mind in far, far northern New Mexico if it was available. I should be able to reach it by late afternoon.

I drove down the Silver Thread Highway past Creede, though North Fork, stopped for gas in Monte Vista, and turned south at Alamosa.