Monday, June 16, 2014

Two old broads on the Widforss Trail

My friend Cheryl and I hiked the Widforss Trail on Friday. Before anyone gets excited about me hiking ten miles, let me just say that Cheryl is 77. As in seventy-seven. Years old. I know!

She was here almost two weeks and left for home this morning. I'm going to miss her. Last night she and I and another friend who works here met for dinner, where Cheryl said we are an inspiration to her. The other friend and I looked at each other with our jaws hitting the floor and told Cheryl that she's the one who's the inspiration. It's true. I've been asking myself, way back in the recesses of my mind, how long I'll be able to do the lifestyle I'm so enjoying now, and across the table from me sat my answer.

We took our time on the trail. It took us about eight hours, less a half-hour to stop to talk to a Preventive Search and Rescue (PSAR) ranger who was on patrol, another half-hour to talk to a German couple who gave a roll of the eyes when I mentioned George Bush (apologies to the Bushies out there, but ain't America great that we can say things like that?), and another half-hour or so for lunch, but even so, at that rate we moved at a mosey. It was fine.

This trail was high on my list because I read somewhere that there are a lot of wildflowers there; it did not disappoint.

Not a dozen steps onto the trail and we found this cute rodent. Chipmunk? No, a ground squirrel. I'd never heard of ground squirrels until I got to Arizona. That's how travel is educational.

There are full, lush stands of ferns, mostly full-fledged, but some still have emerging fronds.

And so it begins - uphill. Why does everything seem uphill around here?

The Widforss flirts with the canyon rim, curving inland more often than offering views of the canyon. Some people give a waggle of the hand when asked how they like this hike because they prefer spectacular views all along the way. I compare it to living in the Pacific Northwest: yes, it rains a lot, but when the sun and mountains come out, you can't imagine a more beautiful place to be.

I've noticed this cross-hatching on tree stumps and wonder if it has anything to do with encouraging faster decomposition. A hiker before us, though, took it as an invitation to set up a game.

I checked out a wildflower identification book from the park library and think I've discovered a half-dozen new species because I can't find most of the flowers I've come across, but this one is in it. It's a bristly hiddenflower, from the borage family. It's a perennial, growing about three feet tall, and has large flower clusters at the top of the stem and smaller ones at stem/leaf junctions. The flowers themselves are less than 1/2 inch across.

The trail skirted the canyon again, here giving a look at the Transept Canyon.

Who could not enjoy a walk in the woods when it's like this?

This silver-blue feather was just a couple of inches long. Maybe from a Stellers jay or a western bluebird? The electric blue at the tip makes me think jay.

The sinuous elbow of ponderosa pine made me think of my sister, who'd love to have it for her woodworking. Beautiful lines.

More canyon.

I would say this is perennial cranesbill/white geranium with its own personal pollinator, except the book's photo shows petals that are pointed rather than clipped like these, which you can't see, and there are ten stamens here as opposed to five in the book. Otherwise, it's identical!


I was sure this was Solomon's Seal or false Solomon's Seal, but when checking online (because the book didn't have this either), these flowers don't look anything like it. These could be last year's flowers but if they were, they weren't brittle as they should have been.

Fire scars are on the trunks of these ponderosa pines. The one on the right is dead and has fractured into a huge splinter. Ponderosas can withstand fire better than some other trees because they have very thick bark and they self-prune - they shed branches that form several feet up the trunk which offers protection from ground fires.

This is a new pin needle cluster, just emerging from a sheath that encapsulates the needles. I need to find out more about this because I haven't seen a lot of this cottony stuff.

Here we were nearing the turn-around at Widforss Point, and lunch.

Thanks to a ranger for clearing the path.

I also need a reptile book. What great camoflage!

I was surprised to see prickly pear cacti at this elevation but here's proof.

The view from Widforss Point, well worth the hike.

Hiking compadres, ready for lunch and to sit for a while.

Someone left this message right next to the trail.

I have no idea but can't wait to see it in bloom. The bud is about four inches tall.

Heading back on the trail, and why is it uphill? Wasn't it uphill coming in?

Another new species. At first I thought the petals had insect damage but not all five; they're just deeply lobed. Pretty, and not more than an inch across.
I thought this might be elderberry, a member of the honeysuckle family, but it's not tall enough. Elderberry is at least six feet tall and these are about three. Nice bugs, though.

The park brochure says to allow two hours for the five-mile round trip, which has to be a typo. Even four hours for the ten-mile hike would be moving fast. More and more, in so many aspects of my life, I'm learning the truth that it's not the destination, it's the journey that matters.

Thought of the day:

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and invigorating rivers, but as fountains of life. - John Muir