Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flora and Fauna of Mt. Lemmon

I thought all I would have to offer today would be flora, as I haven't had much luck getting good photos of animal life on the mountain, but as you will see in a bit, yesterday I was pleasantly surprised.
     Our hike wasn't an unmitigated pleasure, but on balance it was worth every bit of discomfort - and I experienced quite a bit. As I was pulling my gear out of the closet, Joe misheard and thought I'd said I needed new boots. "No," I said, "I love my boots. They're fine." But in fact, it had been quite a while since I'd worn them, and I'd forgotten that I'd pulled out my supercool expensive insoles to put into some sneakers a few months ago. We don't wear our boots on the drive up, and I didn't realize till we were probably halfway up to Marshall Saddle that I was hiking with no insoles at all (thick socks and general distraction kept me from noticing right away). But I survived.
     We took the Mint Spring Trail from the end of Carter Canyon Road 1.7 miles up to Marshall Saddle, then came down Marshall Gulch along the creek, 1.2 miles to the picnic ground at the end of the extension of Summerhaven's main street, which probably has a name though I don't know what it is. From there it's a little over a mile back to where we parked the car.
 Though the damage from the 2003 Aspen Fire is still evident, recovery has been dramatic, with aspens, in fact, leading the way, along with locust trees. The Ponderosa pine seedlings are looking good, many of the 3 or 4 feet tall now, and of course ferns and other flora came back very quickly.
 A year or two ago we got lots of elderberries from this bush, but they're not quite ready yet. If you look closely, you may be able to spot some dark umbels of berries, but also lots of blossoms still. I've loved elderberries since I was a kid growing up in Idaho and was so happy to find them here in Arizona,

along with Indian paintbrush.

We've had some good monsoon rains so there are lots of fungi on the mountain, most of which I'm afraid I can't identify.

 The fungi in the following two photos are the same kind, the first very small, the second much larger. They were also much pinker in the flesh than in the photos.

 The mushrooms above were as big as dinner plates and had apparently grown up through and around the dead twigs.  The bright orange fungi below were tiny, the biggest bits no larger than my thumbnail,
 which was also about the size of the caps of these little yellow mushrooms (note their size in comparison to the pine needles).
 Woolly mullein is softer than toilet paper and more environmentally friendly, should you find yourself in need.

Shortly after we began the hike down from the saddle we spotted this little guy, who was only about an inch long. We see them often up there, but have never had one sit still so patiently to have his portrait taken.
Likewise these yellow-eyed or Mexican juncos, whom we see so often along the trail we've come to think of them as its guardians or maybe a welcoming committee. This one wasn't bothered at all by us, keeping busy almost at our feet until we'd taken all the pictures we wanted. As you can see in the second photo, it's been banded. Maybe that's why it let us get so close.

In the rocks rising up along the stream, we find tiny secret gardens like this one of moss and lichen, fern and oxalis, things we can't easily sustain in our desert gardens  below.

The water is very clear; its golden cast comes from the tannin it leaches from the roots of oak trees.

It was after 5:00 when we started down the mountain, and we could see that it was raining south and west of Tucson (in fact, it had rained at our place on the far west side). We stopped at Windy Point 
to look out at the mountain-ringed bowl that contains our city and to marvel at the skies that changed as we gazed at them, 

and then, as T.S. Eliot says, it was time "at the end of all our exploring . . . to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time," because that is how it always is, or should be. And so "We shall not cease from exploration," whether in our back yard garden or on the back side of a mountain, near or far away.

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