Summer Mint Makes Me Feel Fine

July 20, 2015

A July treat here in Boulder Colorado is the arrival of Summer mint…

Bergamot Flower

This beautiful, aromatic plant is called Bergamot or Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa). While I like it for the gorgeous flower, wild bergamot was considered a medicinal plant by many Native American tribes. It is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. In addition to alleviating bad breath it was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental decay and gingivitis. The leaves have the taste of strong mint. For many years I confused this plant with bergamot orange, an unrelated citrus plant used to flavor Earl Grey tea and make an essential oil (oil of bergamot).

Bergamots all have multiple flowers in dense heads with the pollen producing stamens protruding…

Bergamot Close-up

While Bergamot comes in many colors, here in Boulder it is usually a shade of magenta. We do have some that are white like this one on the Sanitas Valley Trail

White Bergamot Flower

My favorite purple bergamot vista is on the Mesa Trail between the North and South Forks of the Shanahan Ridge Trail. This is the perfect time to witness this yearly minty spectacle. I get there by hiking the North Fork Shanahan Ridge Trail  about 1 mile/1.6 km from the trail entrance on Lehigh Road up to the Mesa Trail and proceeding South. It is about halfway between the North and South Shanahan forks on the Mesa Trail. The total round trip distance is 2.2mi/3.5km from the access point.

Turn left at this sign…

Mesa Trail Sign

From here, it’s a short walk to the vista. I captured this panorama on July 23, 2009 @ 39°57’36.12″N 105°16’47.56″W…

Bear Peak Bergamot

I returned on July 19th, 2015 to capture this image from a slightly different angle…

Bear Peak Bergamot Vista-2 (12x5.4)

When I was there the flowers were being visited by our precious bees

Bee on Bergamot

…and hummingbirds

Bergamot with Hummingbird

The bergamot flowers won’t be there long so now is the time for your visit. The summer mint will make you feel fine and improve your breath.

Shanahan Ridge with Bergamot-3 (10x5)

Perishable Art

June 26, 2015

I can’t understand how people can create perishable art. I would feel awful seeing someone eating my photos, or watching them melt or wilt into oblivion. One of the many things that attract me to photography is its immortality. I have photos of landscapes that, as of the 2013 Boulder flood, no longer exist. Furthermore, now that the internet and digital photography are ubiquitous these photographs have traveled the world and will last until the next Ice Age freezes over the world’s servers.

While I spend most of my time photographing the natural world here in Colorado I am also attracted to documenting other artist’s urban graffiti. In 2007 I discovered this amazing graffito (singular) in a parking lot in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I photographed a section and uploaded it to my website for posterity. I’ve been trying to identify the artist but the trail has gone cold.

Santa Fe Graffito mural section captured on June 11th 2007…

Unfortunately, as I found out on a recent trip to Santa Fe, this form of art is as perishable as ice sculpture. Unless protected it will melt into obscurity.

Santa Fe Graffito melting mural re-captured on June 7th 2015…

The parking lot art gallery containing this and other works belongs to the New Mexico Workforce Connection building in downtown Santa Fe. Here’s a sampling of the creativity currently perishing in this cinderblock museum…

Urban Flora Corner


Here’s a series on careers…





I was feeling bummed after seeing all this until I happened by the Santa Fe Teen Art Center. This is an amazing place where art is nurtured and protected.

Here is the Phoenix that rose to lift my spirits. This fantastic mural is by John Santos. It is explained as follows…

Fenghuang the Chinese phoenix is a symbol of high virtue and grace of power and prosperity. It represents the union of yin and  yang.  When used as a decoration on a house, it symbolizes that loyalty and honesty was in the people that lived there.

Only one phoenix exists at a time and lives every 500 to 1461 years. After birth the new phoenix embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in a egg made of myrrh then deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis.(Sun city in Greek) and places it on an alter for the sun god. Heliopolis in this mural is represented by the Aztec sun calendar. In the background is Quetzalcoatl dancing in celebration of Fenghuang’s journey to the sun god. Quetzalcoatl is known as the patron god of the Aztec priesthood of learning and knowledge and is associated with the morning star Venus. It is also believed that Quetzalcoatl is the originator of the arts, poetry, the inventor of books and the calendar, the giver of maize to mankind and sometimes a symbol of death and resurrection.

Painting a picture that acknowledges life’s journeys and diverse backgrounds of everyone that have been dedicated to the Teen Center and its mission is reflected in this mural – an outlet for youth expression.

Santa Fe Teen Center Mural

Hopefully this beautiful mural is protected by the artist’s sage advice…

Toy Sign

Here is a sampling of what I discovered outside the Teen Center (it was Sunday so I couldn’t visit the inside of the building)…


Santa Fe Teen Center-1


Teen Center Rear Entrance

I hope to go back and help archive this joyful graphical extravaganza.

While I enjoy the creativity and visual excitement of graffiti, I do have one major exception. There is no excuse for using the natural landscape as a canvas. When this happens it is no longer art; it is vandalism. Artists and taggers have generally shown great respect for Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. Here’s an unfortunate example of vandalism recently inflicted upon the land. Remember, “Only toys tagg natural space”.

Graffito is seen vandalizing Boulder’s Gregory Canyon as reported in the Boulder Daily Camera. (Photo: Lauren Fagan / Daily Camera)

Boulder Grafitto Vandalism

I Like Lichen

May 6, 2015


Lichens are a strange and wonderful life form. They are composite organisms made up from as many as three biological kingdoms; fungus, algae and bacteria. While they all need each other in this symbiotic triangle of life, the dominant partner is a fungus.

Lichens are fungi that have discovered agriculture- lichenologist Trevor Goward

The fungus benefits from this relationship because algae and cyanobacteria produce food by photosynthesis. The algae or cyanobacteria benefit by being protected from the environment by the filaments of the fungus, which also gather moisture and nutrients from the environment, and usually provide stability. This little arrangement works very well as lichens can be found in almost every habitat and geographic area on the planet. It is estimated that 6% of Earth’s land surface is covered by lichen. They are also considered the world’s oldest living organisms. Cooperation is a powerful survival tool and it accomplishes what evolution alone cannot provide in a single creature.

Lichens grow where other things can’t such as desert sand and bare rock. Their trick is to hibernate or shut down metabolically during extremes of heat, cold or drought. When they get wet conditions they reawake to capture solar energy and let their true colors shine. This is because moisture causes the lichen’s surface skin to become more transparent, exposing the colorful photosensitive partner (the photobiont) to light. This transition can happen within minutes. The next time you see some dried-up lichen, sprinkle it with water and watch it wake up.

It has been a soggy week here in Boulder, the cloudy wet conditions are getting to me and I need some color. This is perfect weather for our tiny lichens to come out of hibernation and make the rocks glow with color. Finding them is easy, just seek a place with rocks. Maybe the name appealed to my wishful thinking but I decided to head up Sunshine Canyon (40° 2’1.35″N, 105°18’56.63″W) to see what’s on the rocks. As you can see, the lichen was full of color on this grey and rainy day…

The Rocks Were Alive

The Rocks Were Alive and Photosynthesizing in Sunshine Canyon. Green Algae in the Forest.

This called for my close-up lens (60mm macro). Now everything is revealed in this miniature world…






Lichen Abstract Art

The moss was pretty well soaked too…

Moss Droplets

I interrupted this Abert’s Squirrel’s lunch (this photo was taken with a 200mm zoom)…

Aberts Squirrel

Thanks to lichen It turned out to be a Colorful Colorado day despite the soggy weather.

A Super Weed to the Rescue

December 4, 2014

Sometimes little things can have mighty big consequences.  Here’s a tale about a tiny plant that has the potential to help provide us with clean energy, produce new medications, end world hunger and reduce water pollution. I found it on the way to the South Boulder Creek Trailhead from the East Boulder Community Center

On the Way to The Boulder Creek

On the Way to The South Boulder Creek

To the left of this sign I spotted a green pond full of life in what was otherwise a pretty dormant landscape…

A Splash Of Green

A Splash Of Green

At first I thought it was algae but upon closer inspection I realized that the pond was covered with small plants busy photosynthesizing …

Small Green Leaves Cover the Pond

Small Plants Cover the Pond and Absorb Solar Energy

The Leaves About 5mm in Length

Each is Less Than 5mm In Length

It wasn’t difficult to identify this small plant and to discover the big tales it has to share…

What Is This Little Plant Up To?

What Tales Can This Tiny Plant Reveal?

This was my first encounter with duckweed (Lemna minor) named for the ducks that love to eat it. It turns out that this diminutive plant is of great interest to scientists. Research into duckweed is promoted by the International Lemna Association and the International Committee on Duckweed Research and Applications. A comprehensive genomic study of duckweed was published in February 2014.

Here are some quick facts about this mighty little plant:

-The duckweeds (genus Lemna for water plants) are the smallest, simplest and fastest growing flowering plants known to people who know such things. These tiny plants can rapidly cover enormous bodies of still water such as this duckweed invasion in Lake Maracaibo in 2004

Green swirls of duckweed dominate the center of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 26, 2004.

Green swirls of duckweed dominate the center of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 26, 2004.

-Individual plants consist of a single, flat oval modified stem no more than ¹/4″ (5mm) in diameter

-The flowers are rare and are nearly invisible at ¹/₃₂ (1mm) in diameter…

Tiny Duckweed Flower

Tiny Duckweed Flower

-Despite its flowers, duckweed sexual reproduction is also rare. More often species propagate asexually by forming new plants from vegetative buds.

-Dense populations of duckweed are an important food source for fish and waterfowl. Because the plant contains more protein than soybeans, it is sometimes cited as a significant potential food source for humans as well. Since the late 1960s, scientists have studied duckweed for animal and human consumption (duckweed farming). Because each plant absorbs nutrients through its whole structure, and not just through a central root system, the tissue contains twice the protein, fat, nitrogen and phosphorus of other vascular plants. Millions of ducks can’t be wrong and duckweed may become the food of the future.

-Some of the most exciting prospects in duckweed technology have been aimed at using this plant as a factory for biopharmaceuticals. This technology is making rapid strides towards practical commercialization.

-Since duckweed floats on the surface of the water it is easily harvested. This makes it effective not only as a food source but also as a way to remove pollutants and toxins from bodies of still water.

-These plants also may play a future role in water conservation because a cover of duckweed will reduce the evaporation of water when compared to the rate of a similar size water body with a clear surface.

-Duckweed is a good candidate as a biofuel because it grows rapidly, has 6 times as much starch as corn, and its cultivation does not contribute to global warming. Additionally, it does not compete for land in food production. It is being studied by researchers around the world as a possible starch-based feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. Duckweed just might be a source of cost-effective, clean, renewable energy.

-Our knowledge of its complete DNA sequence yields insights into how duckweeds are adapted for rapid vegetative growth. Their trick is to genetically  mimic the rapidly growing juvenile stages of other plants. The research, simply titled The Spirodela polyrhiza genome reveals insights into its neotenous reduction fast growth and aquatic lifestyle was published in Nature Communications in February 2014. In simpler words, duckweed never grows up!  A trait which could come in handy.

We earthlings have a lot riding on this little super weed that refuses to grow up.

Thank You Duckweed

Thank You Duckweed


Jewels in Boulder’s Banks

September 19, 2014

I’ve been taking Mandy the Dog to the Silver Lake Ditch at the Sunshine Canyon trailhead. She enjoys the snow melted water diverted from the Boulder Creek on her tired old legs…

Mandy Chills Out In Silver Lake Ditch

Mandy Chills Out In Silver Lake Ditch

Today’s tale started at the ditch bank while I was watching this wet retriever. I noticed a shrubby plant with delicate little red and yellow spotted flowers…

Jewelweed Plant on the Bank of the Silverlake Ditch

Remarkable Plant on the Bank of the Silver Lake Ditch

The flowers were remarkable to me for their color as well as their curved spur and pitcher-like shape…

A Pitcher-Like flower with a Curved Spur

A Pitcher-Like Flower with a Curved Spur

When I returned home I searched all of my favorite flower sites but I couldn’t find a match. Before declaring a new species I sought the help of a naturalist friend who identified this uncommon little plant as Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). It is also known as spotted touch-me-not because the ripe seeds explode out of their pods when they are lightly touched.

Jewelweed was used for medicinal purposes by a number of native North American Indian tribes. It’s main value was as an external application for wounds and a range of skin complaints including poison ivy which ironically often grows nearby.

The jewelweed flower’s curved spur contains the nectar it uses to attract pollinators. It has been recently discovered that the shape of this spur is critical to pollination efficiency. The curvature of the spur influences the type of pollinator, the amount of time it spends as well as it’s position within the flower during pollination. The jewelweed flower and it’s pollinators are literally (I never use this term lightly) made for each other. This is an example of coevolution, a concept initially proposed by Charles Darwin. The bees and hummingbirds here in Boulder Colorado are attracted to jewelweed and the jewelweed has a spur to accommodate both hummingbirds and bees. Hummingbirds are bigger and carry a larger pollen payload so they are favored. I looked for a big hummingbird in the act but settled for this little bee…

Bee Find The Target

Bee Finds The Target

Aligns with Runway

Aligns with Runway

On Final Approach

On Final Approach

Pollination Underway

Pollination Underway

If bees could see they way we humans do (they don’t) here’s what the nectar approach would look like…

The Nectar Approach

The Nectar Approach

I also discovered this jewelweed poem by Betty Lies. Click on the title at the bottom to learn more…

We call it touch-me-not, this wildness

tense as a spring: Hands off,

it seems to say, but I know

something wound up

in the heart’s green coils

is crying Touch me. Touch me.

Touch me now. All fall

I have been drawn and drawn again

to one tall stand of jewelweed,

to touch the pendant seedpods,

feel them burst with life.

I understand it’s not just botany

that gives me such delight

running my fingers over their plumpness,

warming them till they explode

and scatter seed.

I have seen hummingbirds

bury their beaks in jeweled cups,

the bees delving so deep

you only know they’re inside

by the flower’s orange tremblings.

This autumn, when my body

keeps its secrets from me,

hiding something deep within,

it pleases me to feel

the life stored in those pods,

waiting for release, first now,

and then again to rise,

to rise after a slow cold winter.

Betty Lies, Jewelweed©

Sanitas’ Salvia Spectacle

August 31, 2014

The flora, fauna and cultural resources on the Sanitas Valley Trail (pronounced san-eh-toss with the emphasis on the first syllable since it is derived from the word sanitarium) make it one of my favorites here in Boulder. Among its charms is a diverse floral display from Spring through Autumn. The heavy rain pattern this Summer has greened the Valley making this an exceptional season for wildflowers. On my last visit with Mandy the dog I discovered that the lower Sanitas Valley has recently witnessed an explosion of tall blue flowers. I have never seen them this big…

A Floral Spectacle in the Sanitas Valley (  40° 1'19.19"N, 105°17'44.89"W)

A Floral Spectacle in the Sanitas Valley (40° 1’19.19″N, 105°17’44.89″W)

After several attempts and help from a few experts I identified these flowers as Salvia azurea (Wild Blue Sage). This hearty member of the mint family attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to the Valley.

This was too good to miss so I leashed Mandy in the shade and I took my camera into this field to capture the pollinators at work and the wildflowers that attract them.

Some of the blue color is provided by Chicory, a beautiful though noxious weed here in Colorado…

Cichorium intybus (Chicory)

Cichorium intybus (Chicory)

Next we come to the Salvia azurea…

Salvia azurea (Blue Sage)

Salvia azurea (Blue Sage)

A few of the Salvia are white…

White Salvia

White Salvia

Bees love this stuff…

Bee on Salvia

Bee on Salvia

Some touches of red are provided by Blazing Star

Blazing Star (Liatris)

Blazing Star (Liatris) with Butterfly

An occasional dab of yellow is provided by Gumweed…

Butterfly on Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

Butterfly on Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

In addition to insect pollinators the Salvia’s nectar is attracting a flock of hummingbirds. This morning there were at least a dozen of them humming about the delicate blue flowers. I’m told that these little jewels are Broad-tailed hummingbirds


Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) Flight on Salvia Azurea

Hummingbird Flight on Salvia Azurea

Hummingbird Flight on Salvia Azurea

Hummingbird Flight on Salvia Azurea

This is hard work for a little bird, it’s time for a break…

Hummingbird on Tree

Tired Hummingbird Resting on Tree

Looks like Mandy needs a break as well. Here this cool trail provides welcome relief for a hot dog…



Boulder Birch Survived Big Chill

June 9, 2014

Paper Birch Vista

“Beneath you birch with silver bark
And boughs so pendulous and fair,
The brook falls scattered down the rock:
and all is mossy there.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When the ice sheets from the Last Ice Age receded from Colorado about 11,000 years ago they left a vastly different environment for the fauna and flora that survived. Colorado’s high altitude encouraged great glaciers, some of which remain to this day (although they are now thawing quickly). This epoch not only wiped out the wooly mammoths, it took out the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) trees as well.
Our Rocky Mountains were covered with Paper Birch until the climate warmed after the glaciers retreated. Now there is one small canyon in Boulder Colorado which is so narrow and protected that it endured the harsh Arctic-like climate and subsequent warming that changed the local landscape. We don’t have any remaining mammoths but we do have a small stand of Paper Birch that survived the post Ice Age warming. This Ice Age-free place is called Long Canyon, sometimes called “the Canyon that Time Forgot”. Let’s go back in time to find our ancient trees.

We start at the South side of the Realization Point parking lot on Flagstaff Road

The Trail is on the South of Flagstaff road at realization Point

The Trail is on the South of Flagstaff road at Realization Point (the traffic cones)

Descend thru the trailhead to the left of the Green Mountain Lodge Sign…

Descend to the Green Mountain Lodge

Descend Past the Green Mountain Lodge Sign

Soon you encounter the upper end of the Gregory Canyon Trail. Go right (West) after crossing the streambed (which was severely rutted by recent flooding)…

Cross the Rutted Stream and head West

Cross the Rutted Stream and Head West

The Habitat Conservation Sign holds a clue of what’s to come…

Paper Birch Clue

Paper Birch Clue

Continue to the Lodge where the trail splits, take the right trailhead into Long Canyon…

Soon the Trail Splits

Soon the Trail Splits

Sorry, no pups allowed because of the sensitive ecology on this trail…

Sorry Pups

Sorry Pups

Here’s the Green Mountain Lodge

Green Mountain Lodge

Green Mountain Lodge

Continue over the bridge…

The Bridge to Long Canyon

The Bridge to Long Canyon

Enjoy the welcoming stream…

Enjoy the Gurgling Stream

Enjoy the Gurgling Stream

Enter the Forest…

The Deep Forest

The Deep Forest

Enjoy the Canyon flora…

Heart-leaved Arnica (Arnica cordifolia)

Heart-leaved Arnica (Arnica cordifolia)

Lance-leaved Chiming Bells (Mertensia lanceolata)

Lance-leaved Chiming Bell (Mertensia lanceolata)

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon)

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Western Wallflower (Erysimum asperum)

Western Wallflower (Erysimum asperum)

Coral Root Orchid (Corallorhiza maculata)

Coral Root Orchids (Corallorhiza maculata)

Enjoy the fauna…

Long Canyon Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

Long Canyon Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

We finally come to the ancient Birches…




Betula papyrifera

The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 1.5 in/38 mm. long growing from the tips of twigs…

Birch Flowers

Birch Flowers Appear In Late May 2015

If you continue 1.1 mi/1.8km to the upper end of the Trail you are on Flagstaff Road where you can catch a quick glimpse of the Continental Divide at the Indian Peaks. Here is where the glaciers went …

Continental Divide Peek

Indian Peaks Peek

This is the end of the tale of the Boulder birches until the Next Ice Age is induced by climate change.

Pasques in the Storm

April 17, 2014

Living on the edge of the Rocky Mountains presents a challenge to things that bloom in early Spring. Temperatures quickly fluctuate from hot to below freezing while a heavy wet Spring snowfall can suddenly blanket the hillsides. What’s a plant to do to protect its sensitive stamens and pistils?

This week we had a warm spell followed by freezing and snow, the perfect conditions for checking out the survival of the most striking of our early flora, the pasque (Anemone patens). Pasque flowers have a showy, beautiful blossom that is composed of 5 to 7 sepals that look like petals. True petals are missing. The plant is common throughout northwestern U.S. up to northern Alaska. Common names include the pasqueflower, wind flower, prairie crocus, Easter flower, and meadow anemone.

I went searching for pasque flowers before the storm on Boulder’s McClintock Trail. I found a few entering the risky world above ground…

The Pasque Before the Storm

The Pasque Before the Storm

The name “pasque” is probably from the Hebrew “paschal”, “relating to Passover”. The pasqueflower begins blooming as soon as the mountain snow melts, about the time of Passover. Another interpretation is that the flower is named for Easter since Pasqua means Easter in Italian.

Religious controversies aside, these early bloomers are important to honey bees and other pollen gatherers to replenish their food stores after a long winter. From an evolutionary standpoint an early flowering niche strategy can provide abundant snow melt moisture and less competition for pollinators

Pasques Get Moisture from the Melting Snow

Pasques Get Moisture from the Melting Snow

One downside of this early bloomer strategy is that early flowering requires survival techniques that enable the plant to withstand harsh climate conditions. In one adaptation the pasque does what we do, it puts on a coat. The plant has evolved a thick silky coat to insulate the leaves, stem and flowers and to protect them from direct contact with snow…

A Coat of Silk Protects the Pasque Plant

A Coat of Silk Protects the Pasqueflower plant

Another risk of early blooming is that the timing of “early” is critical for successful reproduction. We can see that this plant, like many others, depends on the synchronization of snow melt with the early emergence of pollinators. Both of these events are being disrupted by climate change. It is possible that plants like the pasque and the bees that pollinate them will get out of sync. This nasty aspect of rapid climate change is called pollinator dislocation.

Pasque with Pollinating Bee

Pasque with Pollinating Bee

Then the storm came to Boulder, Colorado

The Storm Came and Mandy Was Happy

The Storm Came and Mandy Was Happy

Today the warmth returned to the McClintock Trail so I trudged through the mud to see how well their coat of silk allowed the pasques to survive the snow storm…

Worn Out Pasque Flower Protecting Delicate Pollen

Storm Bedraggled Pasqueflower Protecting Delicate Pollen

This Pasque Survived the Storm Intact

These Pasqueflowers Survived the Storm in Good Shape

Protecting the Future of Pasque Flowers

Protecting the Genetic Future of Pasqueflowers One Flower at a Time

Soon the weather will stay warm and the soil will dry out. Those warm lush slopes of early Spring will look like desert by Summer. Thus by late Spring these tough but beautiful flowers will have completed their life cycle and will toss their seeds into the wind for the next generation. The delicate violet sepals and yellow anther will be replaced by a twisting mass of feathery seed heads ready to fly away and spread the genetic secrets of their survival.

Pasque Gone to Seed

Pasque Gone to Seed

Here’s the handy guide to the Wildflowers of the City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks called Look Closely that led me to the pasqueflowers on the McClintock.

Cold Boulder, Warm Dog

December 12, 2013

It has been cold and snowy here in Boulder Colorado with temperatures dipping well below 0F/-18C for an entire week. Mandy the dog and I went out one frigid morning to photograph our Flatirons right after a storm when the snow is billowing. I guess we were viewed as crazy by photographer Paul Aiken when he took this photo for the Boulder Daily Camera.

Thanks to Paul Aiken for Taking Our Photo!

Thanks to Paul Aiken for Taking Our Photo!

I managed to squeeze the shutter several times before my fingers and toes were starting to hurt so we turned around to head for warmth…

The Cold and Frosty Flatirons

The Cold and Frosty Flatirons

Mandy was disappointed when we started back to the car. She loves the snow and cold and could stay out all day…

Mandy Loves the Cold and Snow

Mandy Loves the Cold and Snow

It Feels So Good

It Feels So Good

After seeing our picture in the newspaper article the next day, several of my friends thought I was wrong to take Mandy out without boots on a cold snowy day. Have dogs become so domesticated that unlike their ancestor the wolf they now need boots?

Japanese researchers have recently uncovered the secret that protects dogs from getting cold when standing on frozen ground. Previous studies have found that dogs can stand on ground as cold as -31F/ -35C without the tissues in their feet freezing. This Japanese study entitled “Comparative Anatomy of the Vasculature of the Dog (Canis familiaris) and Domestic Cat (Felis catus) Paw Pad” is posted in the Open Journal of Veterinary Medicine.

In the dog’s paw pad, the veins surround and run parallel to an artery. Both are in intimate contact so that when the arterial blood flows into the pad surface the venous blood flowing out is in close thermal contact. This establishes a constant temperature difference between arteries and veins and makes for an effective heat exchange. In cold temperatures the warm arterial blood transfers its heat to the adjacent cool venous blood. In this way body heat is re-circulated back to the body core through the venous blood prior to losing heat to the environment. If a foot pad is in a warm environment the blood in that pad will be warm and the heat exchanger will have little effect. When the foot pad is exposed to a cold environment heat loss is prevented by essentially shutting off the paw heat. This means that Mandy has evolved to maintain a warm body and to tolerate cold paws during exposure to cold. Indeed, Mandy’s paws are supported by a circulatory heat exchange that evolved from wolves. This system is also found in penguins, arctic whales, seals and foxes. This discovery has the evolutionary implication that ancestors of the domestic dog lived in cold climates requiring such an adaptation. Sorry kitties but this adaptation does not apply to you. Perhaps your feline ancestors lived in warm climates.

Mandy deserves our envy, not our pity, in the cold. I wish my toes and fingers didn’t hurt on a day like this…

Snow billowing off of the Boulder Flatirons

Snow Billowing Off of the Boulder Flatirons

Maroon Reflections

August 22, 2013

Fortunately for photographers North America had two sets of Rocky Mountains. The first peaks, known as the Ancestral Rocky Mountains, rose to lofty heights before erosion began to wear them down. The sediments from these giant mountains created a huge mudflat in central Colorado. The Ancestral Rocky Mountains were completely eroded away by the time the modern Rocky Mountains formed. The present mountains lifted from the earth elevating a few of these maroon mudflats with them. Those remnants of the first Rockies, known as the Maroon Formation, can be viewed at the Maroon Bells (Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak) in Aspen, Colorado as well as at the Flatirons above Boulder, Colorado.

Since I have already taken a gazillion panoramas of my hometown Boulder Flatirons I went to Aspen to get a dawn panorama of the “Deadly Bells” reflected in Maroon Lake. I tried this before but got rained on for 4 days. This time the weather cooperated and I joined a lineup of photographers at dawn…

Photographers Flock to the Maroon Bells

Photographers Flock to the Maroon Bells…The Most Photographed Mountains in Colorado

Here’s an upside down photo I captured from the reflection of Maroon Bells on Maroon Lake. Note the rocky sky…

The Maroon bells as Reflected In Maroon Lake

The Maroon Bells as Reflected In Maroon Lake

The dawns light forms a line which slowly descends the Bells…

The Bells at 5:45am

The Bells at 5:45am on 16 August 2013

The Bells at 6:10am

The Bells at 6:10am on 16 August 2013

Here’s someone’s timer-driven camera capturing a sunrise animation from a series of images…

Capturing an Animation of Sunrise on the Maroon Bells

Capturing a Video of Sunrise on the Maroon Bells

Later that morning I captured this view from an aspen grove above the Lake…

Maroon Bells From Aspen Grove 14 August 7:15AM @  39° 5'55.78

Maroon Bells From Aspen Grove 14 August 7:15AM @ 39° 5’55.78″N106°56’34.61″W

Maroon Lake forms the headwater of the Maroon Creek which flows down beautiful glaciated Maroon Canyon and on to hydrate the thirsty town of Aspen…

Maroon Creek Headwater

Maroon Creek Headwater

The flora of Maroon Canyon fill my memory…

Sunflowers Help Frame The Bells

Alpine Sunflowers (Tetraneuris grandiflora) Help Frame The Bells

The Fireweed is profuse…

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Aspen Groves grow where the pines cannot…

Aspen Groves in the Maroon Canyon

Aspen Groves in the Maroon Canyon

Fossils show evidence of long times past…

Fossil Evidence of Early Vegetation

Fossil Evidence of Early Vegetation

Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) call this place home…

Ptarmigan with summer plumage

Ptarmigan with Summer Plumage

This one views me with some suspicion…

Soon the snows will fall and these feathers will be replaced with white ones

Soon this Rocky-Colored Camouflage will be replaced with Snow White Plumage

A small herd of Rocky Mountain Mighty Moose (Alces alces) has recently moved into the Canyon. Here’s a mom getting some breakfast, my first photo of a female moose…

Moose Cow Getting Breakfast.

Moose Cow Getting Breakfast.

Snack break over, it’s time to get back to her calf…

It's Time to Find Baby

It’s Time to Find Baby and Get Some Privacy

This is the only yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) seen on this trip…

Yellow Bellied Super Marmots Did Not Reveal Their Presence

Yellow Bellied Super Marmots Did Not Reveal Their Presence

There were many sightings of Mountain Mandy in Maroon Canyon however…

Mandy (Canis lupus familiaris) takes a Break

Mountain Mandy (Canis lupus familiaris) Takes a Break

As does this grasshopper critter (I need some crowdsourcing help to identify this insect)…

Giant Grasshopper?

Giant Grasshopper?

It was a delightful week thanks to the Maroon Formation and I even captured my inner Summer panorama. I hope to go back in the Fall to collect some more colorful pixels.

Maroon Reflections

Maroon Reflections 14 August 2013 8:15AM MDT @ 39° 5’53.57″N, 106°56’32.52″W


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