Boulder Birch Survived Big Chill

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…

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

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.

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4 Responses to “Boulder Birch Survived Big Chill”

  1. Connie Clancy Says:

    Great photos! We did the Gregory Canyon to Green Mt to Bear Canyon yesterday. We were surprised at the “new” river near the Green Mt Lodge. Connie

    >

  2. Linda Hansen Says:

    Great job , Rich!!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. barry halpern Says:

    Really fascinating. The pics do tell the story!

  4. Perishable Art | Tales from the Trails Says:

    […] photographs have traveled the world and will last until the next Ice Age freezes over the world’s […]

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