What’s Behind NCAR Mesa?

There is a magical place in Boulder’s Open Space and it is west of the National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR)  This is one of my favorite spring  photography hikes so I thought it was high time to go west behind I.M.Pei’s Mesa Lab to capture some of this season’s magic.

Behind NCAR Mesa

I drove to the NCAR parking lot to access the NCAR Mesa Trailhead. Be sure to take time to enjoy the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail, a short, spectacular and informative nature trail on the top of the Mesa…    

Walter Orr Roberts Nature Trail

Here you will find the trailhead west…    

NCAR Mesa Trailhead @ 39.977332,-105.278466

Follow this trail west past a big green water tank and you will be rewarded with a sweeping vista of the foothills. Bear Canyon and Peak are on the left (south)… 

The Vista West of NCAR Mesa @ 39.9774,-105.281414

Soon you will see this twisted pine on the right of the trail… 

Twisted Pine Bow

The warm south-facing slopes and mosture from the Bear Creek make this an ideal wildflower hike. Here are some additions to this season’s wildflower bouquet

This  pretty little violet called Viola adunca is a species of violet known by the common names hookedspur violet, sand violet, and western dog violet. It is native to North America…    

Western Dog Violet

This blue flower is Linum lewisii (Linum perenne var. lewisii), known as Lewis flax, blue flax or prairie flax, is a perennial flowering plant native to western North America…    

Blue Flax

This poisonous lily is known as Anticlea elegansis is very lovely to look at,  just don’t eat it…    

Death Camas

This dark blue beauty known as Delphinium nuttallianum  is commonly called larkspur (from the spur on the flower), early larkspur and Nelson larkspur…    

Early Larkspur

A sure sign of springtime is this brilliant yellow pea plant known as Thermopsis montana. It is commonly called golden banner    

Golden Banner

This bright yellow beauty known as  Lithospermum multiflorum is commonly referred to as Puccoon or Fringed Puccoon and is a Forget-Me-Not    

Forget Me Not

Astragalus proximus is a member of the pea family…    

Purple Peas

This pretty bright yellow cluster of flowers is a Erysimum capitatum or Western Wallflower. It is member of the mustard family and is known for variation of petal color on a single plant…    

Western Wallflower

This strange brown plant is a Pterospora andromedea or Pinedrop. It is brown because it lives in a symbotic partnership with mycorrhizal fungi and does not require chlorophyll (or sunlight). They derive all their carbon from their friendly fungi partner, which entirely cover the outside surface of the roots. This is a cool example of the process of coevolution…  


In addition to the floral show, the geology behind NCAR  provides a geological history of the Rocky Mountains… 

Reveling the History of the Rockies

As the weather warms and the snow melts from the high country Bear Creek provides a wonderful place to chase waterfalls. There are water views all the way up Bear Canyon. To get there take the NCAR Mesa Trail to the Mesa Trail north to the Bear Canyon Trail

Bear Creek Falls

Up the Creek

 It’s still a bit early in the season for this creekside aspen grove

Creekside Aspens @ 39.969433,-105.297518

Bear Canyon is also great place to view raptors…   

Raptor Nest

On my way back to the trailhead I was reminded why one needs to stay on the alert when in natural places. I almost ran into this juvenile rattlesnake in my haste to return to the car…   

Baby Rattlesnake Alerts Me

Baby rattlesnakes are born venomous but cannot rattle and are often more aggressive than the adults…   

Don't Fool With Baby!

4 Responses to “What’s Behind NCAR Mesa?”

  1. Connie Clancy Says:

    Fantastic Rich. I really appreciate knowing what the flowers are called as I usually can’t find them in my book. Beautiful photography!

  2. alisonmf Says:

    Dear Richwolf
    what a lovely place. I’m very interested in the wildlife of the Rockies as we are coming to see my daughter who works there, and particularly the many flowers you have photographed, some of which I have never seen. (I live in England). Not so sure about rattlesnakes though!

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