Posts Tagged ‘OSMP’

Winter Solitude

January 6, 2016


Winter solitude –
in a world of one color
the sound of wind. –Matsuo Basho

Dried Flowers in the Snow

When the flowers have dried and snow covers the ground there is quiet beauty in Winter’s solitude. It is as if life is suspended while waiting for the natural world to reawaken.

A recent snowfall motivated me to capture some quiet solitude here on Boulder Colorado’s Open Space and Mountain Parks trails

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Solitude can be found in small things too…

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Moving closer reveals the feathery crystals of surface hoar on the snow. This frozen frost is beautiful but deadly

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My close-up lens exposes a world of crystal fragility…

Fern Crystal-3



Fern Crystal-2 edit

This is close enough to see individual ice crystals…


Hoar Frost Crystals

In a few months the snowmelt will nourish our early spring flowers and sustain the reawakening of the natural world for the next cycle of life.


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.

Sizzling Sumac on the Homestead

October 25, 2012

“Now by the brook the maple leans
With all his glory spread,
And all the sumachs on the hills
Have turned their green to red.”

– from Indian Summer /William Wilfred Campbell

South Mesa Fall Sumac Vista Captured 1 October 2012 10:30am @ 39°56’25.45″N 105°15’36.88″W

Snow is on the way so it is time to return to the South Mesa Trailhead to celebrate the spectacle of fall in sumac country before it fades to white. This fall mosaic is tiled with sumac…

Crimson and Gold Mosaic Under The Pines

Rhus aromatica gold and Rhus glabra crimson tiles…

Rhus aromatica Gold

Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac) Crimson

Both plants are related to but much kinder than their evil cousin Toxicodendron rydbergii (poison ivy). This family includes several species (Cashew, Pistachio, Mango) of economic importance. The drupes of the genus Rhus are ground into a deep-red or purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. A drink made from the drupes is known as Sumac-ade.

Mandy and I decided to hike up the newly rerouted Homestead Trail. A steep section up a mesa was replaced with a switch back offering sweeping views of Eldorado Mountain and the South Boulder Creek below. Our hike starts at the South Mesa Trailhead. After a short walk across the South Boulder Creek bridge we pickup the Homestead Trail which starts next to the Dunn House. Be sure to read the interpretative sign, this area is rich with cultural artifacts. There is even a downloadable audible walking tour available from the City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department.

The Dunn House marks the Towhee Trail

We follow the trail to the Homestead trailhead and go west…

Go Left Up the Mesa

We climb above the South Boulder Creek  with views of the canyons and mountains to the west…

The Trail Provides Views of Eldorado Canyon and Mountain Mandy

I found a great spot on the mesa to set up my panorama tripod to capture some large vistas of Eldorado Mountain and Eldorado Canyon State Park. Can you see the Mickey Mouse Climbing Wall? Click here to open a 360 degree view.

View from the Homestead Trail (39°56’18.81″N 105°16’9.29″W)

Just then an Amtrak train went chugging up Eldorado Mountain on its way west via the route of the California Zephyr

I Think I Can…I Think I Can

More South Boulder Creek Color

View from the Ridge

Some Cottonwoods Add Yellow

Who Needs A Bridge Across the South Boulder Creek?

With color in the camera we are ready for the snow. Soon it will look like this.
South Mesa Winter Sumac Captured 23 Feb 2010 9:07 am @ 39°56’25.45″N 105°15’36.88″W

Blue Mist on the Ridge

May 17, 2012

Thanks a recent rain the wildflowers here in Boulder have exploded. One of the most colorful Spring wildflower displays is on the North Shanahan Ridge Trail. This is where you will find a prolific member of our beloved Rocky Mountain wildflowers, the Penstemon.

Limited to North America there are over 250 Penstemon species. A member of the snapdragon family, Penstemon can be found in a wide variety of habitats ranging from the mountains of Guatemala to the tundra of Canada and Alaska.

The Penstemon currently covering our Ridge are of the blue mist variety (Penstemon virens)…

Blue Mist on the Ridge Captured 15 May 2012 10:30am @ 39°57’53.19″N 105°15’51.77″W

Blue Mist Penstemon

The name Penstemon is derived from the Greek for five stamen. Another common name results from the most distinctive feature of the genus, its prominent staminode, an infertile stamen. The staminode takes a variety of forms in the different species; while typically a long straight filament extending to the mouth of the corolla, some are longer and extremely hairy, giving the general appearance of an open mouth with a fuzzy tongue protruding and inspiring the common name. Penstemon virens is commonly known as Front Range beardtongue.

Front Range Beardtongue

Snow Roller in Boulder

March 5, 2010
Mandy the dog and I were hiking on the Second-Third Flatiron Trail  the morning after a light snowfall here in Boulder. This trail starts about a mile from the Chautauqua trailhead. It is short (0.3 mi long; 300 ft elevation.) and very pretty, winding up to a secluded alcove at the base of the Second Flatiron (@ GPS 39.988748,-105.293148). It is especially nice when the snow makes fantastic shapes on the boulders and the rocky talus slope  just east the base of the Second Flatiron. When we reached a steep incline (@ GPS 39.988097, -105.293513) we were presented with this strange winter gift which leads to today’s tale…

A Strange Snow Roller…

At first I thought that this was the work of hikers but the lack of tracks in the snow ruled out human intervention. A quick search revealed that this formation is known as a snow roller. A snow roller is a natural meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed as chunks of snow roll down hillsides or are blown by strong wind. They are rare because they depend on three conditions all of which existed when we were there : the snow was covered by a layer of ice to which snow will not stick; the layer of ice was covered by wet, loose snow with a temperature near the melting point of ice; and wind or gravity must push the snow into a roll. Other names for this formation are snow pipes, snow onions and snow logs. 

...Rolled Down the Slope in Boulder

Sometimes a snow roller becomes hollow since the inner layers, which are the first layers to form, are weak and thin compared to the outer layers and can easily be blown away, leaving what looks like a donut. This is called, you guessed it, a snow donut.  I have not encountered any snow donuts in Boulder but a recent sighting  in Seattle was covered on National Public Radio.  Mandy and I will be on the lookout for winter trail donuts from now on. 

Snow Donut photo: Mike Stanford


More from South Boulder Creek

October 24, 2007

This late fall weather reprieve has given me the opportunity to capture more fall color. Most of the color is along the low lying creeks so I hauled my panorama equipment to the South Mesa Trailhead yesterday to get some shots of the Creek and of a stand of trees off of the Homestead Trail.

Let me digress for a few words about panoramas. In order to appreciate the sweep of our scenery it is often necessary to take extremely wide angle shots. This usually results in the need for a lot of cropping which degrades the final image detail (resolution). In other words, it doesn’t look very good. Most of today’s digital cameras permit image “stitching” either in the camera or through the use of computer software. The resulting photos can, if done carefully, result in large detailed photos. I have a special (heavy) panorama tripod to help me align the individual photos which gives me great results. Here is a shot of the South Boulder Creek which consists of 9 horizontal photos. Can you find any seams?

Fall South Boulder Creek Vista

Other places with great color include the Boulder Creek, Shadow Canyon and Gregory Canyon. For a quick colorfull hike check out the Sanitas and Red Rocks Trailheads off of Mapleton.

Hurry before it’s a winter wonderland. 

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