I've been having shoulder trouble lately, and it's kept me pretty close to home. (Driving's a problem and there's a lot of places our very limited rural public transportation can't take you.) Yesterday was the Native Plant Society's annual outing to one of my favorite places - up the Rio Santa Barbara towards La Jicarita Peak. I grabbed a ride, and loaded up the day pack for the first time in ages.
I ain't got a lot by most standards, living modestly. But America's public lands make us all rich - with access to things that only monarchs and the highest aristocrats had in most of the world throughout history. It's been a wet spring, so the wildflowers are pretty good this year. No big story today, it's mostly just pix.
We start at the campground. Most of the rules make good sense, though one wonders why there's that special warning about peeling trees. (Hope it doesn't give anyone ideas!)
Oh, here's some music to go with. It has a bunch of interview first, and the song doesn't start till 4:15 in:
Been a favorite song of mine for ages:
Why don't they ride for their money?
Why don't they rope for short pay?
They ain't gettin' nowhere
And they're losin' their share
They must have gone crazy out there
'Cuz they've never seen the Northern Lights
Never seen a hawk on the wing
Never seen the spring hit the Great Divide
Never heard ol' camp cookie sing
Anyhow, here's some evidence of our non-drought spring. Ferns under the aspens:
Lots of mushrooms around, too, another sign of this year's abundant rain:
People who know their stuff can gather some fine ones these days (as long as you don't get afoul of the rules.) Not just mushrooms either, this is the wild Nodding Onion, which I grow in my garden as one of the loveliest of the allium flowers.
And this is Mountain Parsley:
Angelica, another of the plants with umbellate blossoms, has its medicinal uses:
But ya gotta be careful, there's some fairly similar plants that are deadly poison. This is Water Hemlock, more or less the same stuff Socrates had:
Sweet Cicily (below) is easy to miss. Those little pods have a licorice flavor:
Here's a couple more poisonous ones. This one, Monk's Hood, is one of those things (like the bird, Vermillion Flycatcher) where you simply cannot capture the intensity of its color in a photograph:
This, known as Corn Lily or False Hellebore, is poisonous, too. Stands as tall as I do, with gigantic leaves:
This business of a plant being named "false" seems odd. It's the real thing of what it is. Then again, what do they care what we call 'em? This one's called False Dogbane - no idea the source of the name "dogbane" but I'm thinking it might even go back to medieval Europe:
This called False Solomon's Seal, I guess 'cuz someone thought it looked like some other plant called Solomon's Seal? Like the Corn Lily, it's in the botanical lily family. The flower is really really tiny, maybe the size of my pinky fingernail:
This one - Twisted Stalk - is in the lily family, too. Its flowers are tiny as well, hanging below the stalk like ghostly little spiders:
A lot of the most beautiful wildflowers are tiny. This one's called Shooting Star, for obvious reasons:
This is a modest little flower. I'm including it because it has the cutest name - Wayside Gromwell:
Violets are tiny flowers, too. Again, more or less fingernail-sized. There's purple ones to be found in the Southern Rockies, but this white one's called Canada Violet:
Another small flower is this, the Dwarf Lousewort. Clearly not named by the PR people, but its spiral form looks nice from the top.
This is its botanical cousin, the Fern-leaf Lousewort. They were blooming all over the place, and I took quite a liking to them:
The flowers are quite lovely, though easy to miss if you don't stop and look closely. Too bad it hasn't been given a more lovely name:
The Candle Anemone was found in a moist, sunny meadow:
Hairbell seemed to be mostly in shadier areas:
And the Spotted Monkey Flower's mostly found along streams, almost in the water:
There's a bridge over the Rio Santa Barbara a few miles up from the campground.
I'm thinking it's probably a CCC project from back in the New Deal days. The Forest Service doesn't do much stonework nowadays, even if this craftsmanship is not as fine as on some of the CCC projects. They'd have had to haul the rocks a long ways, or else use local stone without precision cutting. I'm figuring the latter:
There's a lot of penstemon grow around the West, and they're commonly found in people's gardens because they're pretty and easy to grow. This is known as Scarlet Penstemon:
This, the Scarlet Paintbrush, is very hard to grow because it's a partial root parasite, having to grow in conjunciton with certain grasses. So it mostly gets appreciated in the wild, as that can't easily be tamed:
And this is a rare gem, an orchid called Spotted Coralroot which is a root parasite - mixing its roots with those of a tree from whom it draws its food.
If the bridge was a New Deal CCC bridge - and I think it was - then the trail probably got work from them, too. There's steps built in here and there, something the CCC made a lot of during its 8-year tenure. The Forest Service has added some over the years, too. A steady supply of trees come down across the trail. They get cut up with chainsaws these days - though they didn't get to a couple of 'em yet:
I get something like meditative balm for the spirit from taking these kind of pictures. I hope readers of this diary get a small measure of that feeling from them, too.
Our public lands are a national treasure. Since the Reagan years, there's been a a whole generation of neglect as to their maintenance. A few years back, J. Steven Griles of Bush/Cheney Dept. of Interior (before he went to jail for Abramoff-related corruption) said the National Parks had a maintenance backlog of over $4 billion dollars. And that's just the national parks - there's state and local parks, too, and other public lands like wildlife refuges and national forests.
I'm hoping some of the "economic stimulus" money will be spent on maintaining and caring for the fine, but aging legacy the CCC brought to us all, so that in a small way, we can all live like kings used to do.