About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ocotillos and Willows

Last evening I enjoyed a fine sunset while admiring the blossoms of the ocotillo plant. This thorny, dead looking (most of the year) plant is quite amazing when you think about it. I once watched Bear Grylls, the star of Man vs. Wild, use an ocotillo stalk to roast a rattle snake for dinner.



Bear referred to the plant as “devils walking stick” which I’m sorry to say is not the proper name for ocotillo. Devils walking stick (Aralia spinosa) is a non-desert plant and even though I’m up on many of my plant names, I could never drink a cup of rodent poo tea like Mr. Grylls does in one episode of his show.


Watch Bear drink some yummy tea.



Ocotillo (Fouquieria Spendens) has long stalks with sharp stickers and will grow green leaves when it rains. When water becomes scarce the plant drops its leaves to prevent moisture loss. The coolest aspect of ocotillo is the bright red blossoms that grow on the ends of its stems. I was amazed to see the blooms this spring as we have had no rain in over three months. The desert is certainly full of many amazing surprises



The dogs and I enjoyed a nice walk at the base of the Franklin Mountains and admired a beautiful western sunset. Nighthawks, known as bullbats in these parts, were circling overhead and chasing each other while we rambled around in the desert. We also watched some bats flitting about before we called it a night.



This morning we are taking another short jaunt through Coronado Canyon, a dry wash that drains the Franklin peaks near my house.







The highlight of this trip is the desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), a beautiful flowering tree that you would never expect to see growing in the Chihuahuan Desert. Many people think of deserts as lifeless and ugly, but I’m here to prove otherwise.



Unfortunately the wildflowers this year are not abundant due to the lack of precipitation. Last spring, though, I had many colorful running adventures while exploring the diverse species of wildflowers in our area.



Read my post: The Lifeless Desert

This morning, I begin my hike by strolling up a sandy dry wash while the dogs take off to sniff. I can see Mammoth Rock to my left and a caprock straight ahead. Soon the desert willows appear. They love these arroyos because they hold water a little bit longer than the surrounding desert. I stop to get a few close-ups of the buds and flowers. Beautiful!

Soon the canyon narrows and I must climb and hop from rock to rock. The sides of the gully become very high and I can see the results of torrents of water that have carved away the rock and sand. This would not be the place to hike during a heavy thunderstorm.




I come to a deep hole and channel where one would be sucked down into the raging flood if it were running. The power of water can be seen by the way the earth has been sliced in two.



I continue up the wash and then stop at some boulders to take some photos of the dogs. They always love our off leash adventures and I enjoy the company.



Sierra


Lucy


Taz

Another abundant plant around here is the sotol, a sort of succulent with long serrated leaves. A giant, feathery plume comes up from the middle of the plant to propagate seeds.







 I see a stalk that has tipped over, so I take a closer look to check out the seeds.



After a little more hiking I decide to turn around and head back. Earlier I passed a channel coming into the main canyon drainage. It was there that I saw a very large desert willow full of blooms and I want to get a closer look.



When I arrive at the channel I can see, in the distance, a humming bird enjoying the nectar of the willow blossoms. I climb up on some rocks and sit and watch for a while. A huge bumble bee of some sort is also busy at the tree. The humming bird doesn’t like the competition so chases the bee off.



After a morning of enjoying all that nature has to offer, I’m ready for a hot tasty beverage. After all, it is only 7am and I could use some caffeine about now. I’ll forgo the poo tea and scoot back home for a pot of Joe.

After returning to the car and starting down the hill, the dogs become excited about something in the street. A male gambel’s quail is crossing the road and then we see his mate following. Never a dull moment in the desert southwest!

See you on the trail.

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